Israel is a country that is worth devoting a year of life there. You may have heard me or another TanenbaumCHAT staff member already say this, but I would like to expand on this point even further. Over the past ten years between 10-20% of our graduating class has elected to spend a year in Israel after high school. While we are very proud of this achievement, I would like to see even more of our graduates spend their post high school year in Israel. TanenbaumCHAT should be a leader in this area.
Promoting a gap year in Israel is not just a TanenbaumCHAT initiative. We are not alone. Harvard University was one of the first elite universities to encourage applicants to take a gap year. Princeton University set a goal of sending a tenth or more of newly admitted applicants for a year of social service work in a foreign country. The President of Princeton argued that a gap year gives students a much-needed global perspective, adds to their maturity, and gives students a break from academic pressure.
Canadian universities are very open to gap year programs. In general, students have no problem getting deferrals. The only snag seems to be if a student defers in order to participate in a gap year program that grants credits. In the latter case, universities fear this will mean reduced income for them. Leaving aside their reluctance to grant credits, universities are united on one point: a gap year experience can make a post-secondary education more meaningful.
I’m a proponent of a gap year in Israel not only because it gives students a year to mature, temporarily exit the self-imposed academic pressure cooker, and discover aspects of themselves unrelated to their future profession. But also because it will help our students develop a meaningful, enduring, and loyal relationship with Israel. In the world we live in today, a relationship with Israel cannot be taken for granted.
When graduates spend an extended period of time in Israel, they get a sense of what it feels like to be an Israeli. They have the opportunity to see Israel with all its complexities and find their place in building an even stronger, more vibrant Israel.
I know spending a year in Israel disrupts the ordinary trajectory of Middle School-High School-University-Career. I know I am asking TanenbaumCHAT families to think differently. That’s why I suggest that parents begin the conversation with their child in Grade 9 and not wait till Grade 12. The TanenbaumCHAT staff are prepared to discuss gap year with any family at any time. They include Rabbi Eli Mandel, Tamara Rebick, and Margaret Klompas at TCW, and Judith Shapero and Richie Stoll at TCK. At both campuses, families can always feel free to speak to Rabbi Yeres or me.
My goal is to make a gap year in Israel normative and thereby help all of us make a significant impact on our children, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel.