New Jewish Cross-Denominational Program as a Gap-Year Program to Begin this Year
Tzedek America is a nine-month residential program based in Los Angeles, designed to encourage students to embrace their passions, explore what drives them and find meaning in their lives, before they enter college. Using an experiential method – that includes travel, social justice internships, adventure programming and shared responsibilities – participants will begin to see firsthand the challenges facing America today and gain experience of what it will take to help solve them.
Tzedek Americans will spend the academic year living communally in a supportive and creative environment in a large house in urban Los Angeles, close to USC, so they can take advantage of college activities at the USC Hillel. Throughout the year, they will be involved in service projects locally and nationally.
Each participant will take on an internship with a social justice non-profit organization in Los Angeles and Southern California, working on one of four issues selected by participants including food justice, education, poverty alleviation, and environmental causes.
“My goal was to create a program where teenagers can articulate their Jewish beliefs and redefine their Judaism before they head to college,” said Avram Mandell, founder and executive director. “I want to have an impact on teens, on their identity, on making them good people, on helping them figure out their way through this world, and using Judaism to do that.”
As to how many participants are to take part in the program, Mandell says that “Our goal is 10 to 20 for the first year. We hope to expand the model in 3 to 5 years.”
Tzedek Americans live together in shared housing; they work together, learn together, and often spend Shabbat and holidays together. The experience teaches leadership, communication, and will help build their self-confidence and begin to make a difference in society. These experiences will enable Tzedek Americans to create successful and purposeful lives.
The program, according to Mandell, will “work hard to incorporate all of the denominations and secular Jews as educators in this cross denominational program.”
Tzedek America is currently accepting applications for the 2015-2016 academic year. To apply, or to find out more, visit www.tzedekamerica.org.