Shalem is an educational enrichment program which integrates the pillars of study and action into a cohesive whole designed to provide participants with a true Shenat L’immud U’Ma’aseh. It offers invigorating, extensive limudei kodesh (Torah lishma), as well as college courses for credit. The academic portion of the Shalem program is operated in conjunction with the American Jewish University in California and participants may be eligible to earn up to a full year of college credit while in Israel on Shalem. Additionally, the students volunteer with children and the elderly, help animals and work with Hadassah Hospital, at Yad VaShem, and many more volunteer placements. Students have the option to experience the army and visit Poland. Our Shabbatot together are spiritually uplifting and inspire fascinating group discussions that spark thought and lead to personal reflection.
Living among Israelis and absorbing Israeli culture is an important part of the complete Israel experience. Therefore, the students of Shalem travel on special siyurim (field-trips) and visit important sites that are meaningful to our history. They have the zechut to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors in this Holy Land and fulfill the mitzvah of dalet amot. They also learn Hebrew in Ulpan. They see enthralling shows and participate in adventurous activities. In addition, every so often, interesting guest lecturers share pearls of wisdom and heart-felt stories.
For those who also want to explore the Jewish world outside of Israel, our Olami programs take students on a series of week-long journeys to explore Jewish communities and history around the world.
On Shalem, participants come to appreciate Israel as residents, rather than as tourists and their experiences are fostered by the time they spend volunteering, learning and speaking Hebrew, traveling all over the country and living with fellow participants in neighborhood apartments. Rather than spending a year seeing Israel solely through the window of a classroom, Shalem participants become intimately involved with Israeli communities and develop deep understandings of what it means to live in Israel.
By living in their own apartments, often for the first time, and learning to shop, commute and share space with roommates, participants develop important life skills that help them even after their year in Israel. All apartments are single-sex and the number of students in each apartment varies depending on the size of the apartment. A madrich/a lives in the building to ensure safety and adherence to halacha. Each apartment receives a stipend and is responsible for shopping and cooking together.
At the beginning of the year students are oriented to the community, local shopping establishments, bus routes and other relevant information about the neighborhood. In addition to a variety of volunteer placements and learning opportunities, each Shalem semester is enhanced with various cultural events, seminars, Shabbat hospitality and activities with Israeli peers and adopted families. The Shalem schedule includes weekly kvutzah (group) meetings and apartment activities run by madrichim, weekly tiyulim (excursions) and free evenings and Shabbatot during which students are encouraged to explore on their own.
One of the most fascinating parts of the Shalem experience is the ability to live in and come to understand two diverse regions of Israel. Over the course of nine months, each Shalem participant lives both on Kibbutz Yavneh, a religious kibbutz, as well as in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem.
The Kibbutz movement has been a focal point of Jewish development in the land of Israel since the early 1900’s. Shalem takes students off the standard tourist path to enable them to take advantage of the wide variety of cultural encounters and unique living situations otherwise unavailable to them. Being in Israel for the year allows the participants to experience living on a kibbutz, where they have the opportunity to assist Israeli kibbutzniks with daily activities and to partake in the special circumstances that arise in a collective religious community.
Founded in 1929, Kibbutz Yavneh is located in the Southern coastal region, three miles east of Ashdod. The founder of Kibbutz Yavneh dreamed of building a cooperative community and building a religious study center in the tradition of ancient Yavneh, an ancient city which became a Jewish spiritual center after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Yavneh’s population is approximately 900 people, consisting of 400 members, 250 children, and 250 volunteers. The primary languages spoken are English and Hebrew. In the summer, the climate is hot and humid, while in the winter cool and rainy. Yavneh is proud of its agriculture which includes field crops, such as cotton and fodder, fruit tree orchards, such as olives and avocados, poultry houses, and the largest poultry incubator in the country, as well as a large cow shed. Industrially speaking, Kibbutz Yavneh holds the second largest canning factory in the country as well as the only watch manufacturing company in Israel.
Services on the kibbutz include a dining room, kitchen, children’s houses, laundry and sewing room, carpentry shop, metal shop, garage, electrical and plumbing facilities, a mini-market, post office, hair dresser, and specialty shops. Yavneh’s leisure accommodations are also fun-filled. There is a large outdoor sports area, a swimming pool, and a closed circuit TV. Participants are invited to take part in all cultural and festival events, and enjoy Shabbat with the special flavor unique to a religious kibbutz.
Some of the work places on Kibbutz are in the orchard, dairy barn, the famous Adi watch factory, working with kids and animals, in the kitchen etc. During the night time there are extra activities. The Kibbutz grounds are beautiful and there are multiple options of things to do in the evenings. Kibbutz families adopt the students and provide a sense of warmth and a feeling of home.
The largest city in the country, Jerusalem is a multi-cultural melting pot comprised of residents from a myriad of different religions, cultures and ethnicities. While in Jerusalem, students live in Baaka, in the heart of the capital. Participants are given a monthly bus pass that allows them to explore every inch of Israel’s capital city and participate in weekly siyurim and volunteer placements in the Old City, Yad Vashem and the Biblical Zoo, just to name a few. Jerusalem is also a wonderful place to spend Shabbat and chaggim with more synagogues per capita than any other city in the world. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of all the art, theater, music, sports, museums and cultural centers that Jerusalem offers. Volunteer placements in Jerusalem may include, but are not limited to, the Biblical Zoo, Hadassah Hospital, the Rusty Mike Radio Station and more.
One of the ways to truly understand Israeli society is through a military experience. Marva is the army program run by the Israeli Defense Forces and an opportunity which Shalem participants can choose to take advantage of during the last section of the program. (Marva is not part of the IDF and is not considered actual army service). Marva is an 8-week program and each week is dedicated to a different topic. The participants go through physical and emotional army training. They wear uniforms and are under military discipline and rules. The army program includes learning how to shoot a rifle, learning survival skills, field training, self-defense, topography and navigation, meeting Israeli soldiers and observing live drills with the different army units. It also includes learning about famous battles in Israeli history and learning about the different units in the Israeli Defense Forces.