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Connect Jewishly Through Honeymoon Israel

By JEWISH JOURNEYS, NextGen

“I never could have predicted the true impact of this experience—we had the most incredible trip that I am certain has changed our lives forever. We found new ways to incorporate Judaism into our family, we learned new perspectives, and most importantly, we found a new community to create and share memories with for years to come.” 

Allison & Sam, Atlanta 

For many young couples, it can be tough to find an entry point into Jewish life and decide how practices and traditions will shape their family. Honeymoon Israel offers a way in: immersive group travel to Israel lets couples from the same city encounter and explore history, tradition, and identity on their own terms.

The program engages couples in an open-ended inquiry into how they connect to Jewish life and how they’ll incorporate Jewish values and traditions into their families. Honeymoon Israel supports couples in their exploration of Jewish life and traditions and fosters the organic development of community. The journey continues once travelers return home through alumni events and programs.  

Honeymoon Israel builds groups that are reflective of the entire community, welcoming couples who are both Jewish, interfaith, Jewish by choice, multi-racial, LGBTQ+, with disabilities, married, unmarried, with or without kids, and more. Federation is proud to support the work of Honeymoon Israel in championing and engaging young couples in and around Atlanta.  

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By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog, GLOBAL JEWRY, INNOVATION, Jewish Camp Initiative, JEWISH JOURNEYS, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

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Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship Registration is Open!

By GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

Many teenagers look for exciting opportunities to grow and learn after high school, rather than jumping directly into college. They want to explore their interests; they want to travel, manage their finances on their own, and learn how to subsist on more than just mac and cheese. For these young adults, a gap year is the experience of a lifetime.

JumpSpark is proud to partner with The Zalik Foundation to provide scholarships to Jewish young adults that take a gap year in Israel. Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship applications are currently open, and they are an incredible resource for Atlanta’s adventurous Jewish teens!

Masa is a partner in the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship. Sheryl Korelitz, Masa’s Director of Gap Year Recruitment for Masa North America, says “The dynamism of The Zalik Foundation in combination with the JumpSpark team is creating true culture change in the gap year space. Masa is proud to be a partner in this effort, and we are already seeing other communities looking to Atlanta as a model and guide for Israel teen engagement.”

According to a recent Masa study, Israel Immersive: The Key to a Strong Jewish Future (2022), “long-term programs [such as a gap year] in Israel are an essential investment in the next Jewish generation, cultivating personal growth, a desire to contribute to the global Jewish ecosystem, and a genuine motivation to lead.”

Gap year programs offer teenagers the ability to strengthen their identity, grow a stronger connection to Israel, and deepen their understanding of Jewish peoplehood. The survey notes that 72% of alumni agreed that their gap year in Israel “helped [them] grow as a person.”

Ariel Goldt went on a gap year in 2021-2022, and traveled with the organizer Nativ. She now goes to the University of Alabama and agrees with the survey respondents who say their gap year prepared them for life beyond high school.

She says, “Now that I’m a freshman in college, and talking with my friends who are also freshman who came straight from high school, they’ll encounter situations that stress them out, and those same things don’t phase me. After learning to handle them on my own in another country, it makes taking care of those things in a college town a lot less intimidating.”

“I’m trying to convince my younger brother, who is a senior right now, to take a gap year,” Ariel says. “My parents are big fans of the program; they think it’s the best thing ever.”

During the 2022-2023 school year, JumpSpark awarded scholarships to 28 Gap Year Fellows, and they’re hoping to increase that number to 35 for the 2023-2024 school year.

This Atlanta-specific Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for teens to expand their knowledge of Jewish peoplehood and deepen their understanding of Israeli history and culture. Rich Walter, Federation’s Chief of Programming and Grantmaking, adds “we are investing in [these young adults] as future leaders and influencers and investing in their personal growth and development.”

All Fellows receive a $10,000 scholarship towards participation in one of several pre-approved Israel gap year experiences. Participants gather eight times throughout the Fellowship for specialized opportunities unique to the Atlanta teens, including participation in a new two-day leadership program supported by the Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Legacy program, a Shabbaton in Atlanta’s Israeli partnership region, Yokneam-Megiddo, and a Thanksgiving celebration with Atlanta lone soldiers and Israeli dignitaries. Fellows will also participate in the Masa NextStep Conference, with special sessions for Atlanta Fellows focusing on leadership on campus, plus additional strategies for participating in Israeli activities, courses, and organizations on campus.

Fellows who commit to volunteering or working in the Jewish community during the summer following their gap year (May-August 2024) are eligible to apply for an additional $5,000 Service Subsidy. They will design a unique experience for their summer that reflects their year of growth in Israel and encourages others to consider a gap year. This work may take place throughout greater Atlanta, and could include working at a summer camp, interning at a Jewish organization, working at an Israeli-based NGO, or other options.

Applications are open now and close March 31. Click here to apply.

Contact Susie Macker at smackler@jewishatlanta.org for questions about the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship. Teens in all high school grades and their parents can also connect with our Gap Year Concierge Michal Ilai at milai@weberschool.org to learn more about gap year programs and find the right program for you.

Learn more about Gap Year opportunities from two past recipients in this video:

RootOne Lets Teens Experience Israel 

By JEWISH JOURNEYS

RootOne is a program powered by The Jewish Education Project and seeded by the generosity of The Marcus Foundation. Each summer, RootOne helps thousands of Jewish teens travel to Israel on a journey that will shape the rest of their lives. Last summer, RootOne supported 129 Atlanta teens to experience Israel for themselves.   

Lainey Weissman went on one such trip with a group of rising 11th-graders from Camp Coleman. There was a group of teenagers from Atlanta who all attended together—they began their journey at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and were able to bond before even meeting up with the others on their trip.   

“We shared our experiences from all different parts of Atlanta,” she says. Having a group of people from her hometown made her feel more at ease right away. “We had a debate about which was best: Willy’s, Moe’s or Chipotle, and only the Atlanta kids knew what Willy’s was.”   

RootOne trips offer a diverse range of programs to fit any interest. Whether a student is interested in sports, entrepreneurship, or social justice, they can find an Israel experience that will speak to them. But Lainey says that some of her favorite moments on the trip happened on the bus in between activities—the casual downtime “was such great bonding experience.”   

Israel journeys funded by RootOne are highly educational, even before students step on the plane. Groups learn about all sides of Israeli life and culture, from the familiar to the nuanced. American travelers meet Israeli peers and make connections that will span the globe. Lainey says, “I have heard about these places for so long and seeing them in real life was such a cool experience.”   

When asked what surprised her most about Israel, she says, “There are so many cats! But really, it’s how similar it is to America. Obviously, they are different cultures, b