March 23, 2021

A Gap Year and Its Impact and Influence

Tags: 2021, Israel

Nancy Gorod is the Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Shearith Israel.

As a Jewish educator, I encourage a Gap Year experience to many of the High School teens I work with.  It is an experience that is unparalleled for the growth and development of a young person.  Not only in their Jewish identity, but in all aspects of life.

Your four-year university experience can wait.

Get rid of the attitude that “I want to just get on with my path, so I can finish and move to the next phase.”

Friends, this is part of your path.  It not a GAP in your path.  It is part of your journey.

When we were looking into this opportunity for my first child, the director of Nativ, Yossi Garr, said “It is not a year off.  It is a year on.”  That has stuck with me ever since.

As a parent, I could not be more satisfied and feel truly fortunate that I was able to provide this experience for both of my children, currently aged 26 and 23.

I had mixed feelings of excitement and sadness as we were at the airport as they were embarking upon their year experience in Israel.  I will never forget the shifting around of items in their huge bags to make sure that each weighed 50 lbs. or under!  But that is an article for a different time!

I felt they were safe, secure, and very well taken care of the entire time they were there. We kept in contact with each other with ease.  Back a few decades ago, when I was away in Israel for a year, I clearly remember lining up at the pay phone with a token each week to call my parents!  Thankfully, times are vastly different now, and we can talk to our children in a variety of ways.

 Every time I heard my WhatsApp tone on my phone, I would know it was Natan (or 3 years later, Ilana) sharing news or just saying hi. 

I lived vicariously through their excursions and experiences.  We were fortunate to be able to visit each of our children while they were there, and they proudly and confidently showed us around. It was a joy seeing my children acting as tour guides in Israel.

Confidence and growth.  Those were the most evident outcomes I witnessed in my children.

And they have friends for life.  Shared backgrounds and  a shared immersive experience created bonds that cannot be broken.  I remember my daughter telling me that these people “just get her.  They are like me.” Hearing and seeing them interact with their Nativ friends all these years later is evidence of the value of these relationships.

I will never forget when we were moving my son into his Freshman dorm room at the University of Michigan, he said to us how easy it was.  He said “I have already done this.  I have learned how to live on my own, cooked my own meals, made my way through a new city. I am looking at these other first year students and feel so much older and experienced then they are.”

Both my son and daughter have become impressive leaders in their respective communities.  Of course, there are other things that contribute to these qualities, but the experience they had during their year in Israel between High School and College is a big influence. 

Related Stories

Planning Early: How I Spent my Senior Year Preparing for my Gap Year
August 16, 2021

Planning Early: How I Spent my Senior Year Preparing for my Gap Year

By Zoe Glickman
When I got to the start of my senior year and the overwhelming question of “what are you doing next year?” became the subject of every conversation between peers, parents, and teachers, something inside of...
Continue Reading
Final Learnings From Our Engagement Manager
August 13, 2021

Final Learnings From Our Engagement Manager

By Annie Fortnow
“I hope to gain a better understanding of what obstacles woman must deal with every day and how to become a better leader to impact my community.”  “I hope to further my leadership experience and learn new ways to...
Continue Reading
A Word from our New Director
July 26, 2021

A Word from our New Director

By Nathan Brodsky
JumpSpark is pleased to announce Nathan Brodsky will lead JumpSpark as our new Director. As a kid growing up in Sarasota, Florida, I often looked at the copy of The Jewish Book of Why that...
Continue Reading
We’re Hiring
July 7, 2021

We’re Hiring

By developer
We’re ready to expand the JumpSpark team! JumpSpark is the Jewish teen initiative out of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and we’re hiring for two full-time positions. Do you think you have what it...
Continue Reading
COVID’s Ripple Effects on Youth
June 3, 2021

COVID’s Ripple Effects on Youth

By Atlanta Jewish Times
Jewish Atlanta is responding to the mental health fallout of the pandemic on today’s youth, from specialized services and counselors to programs to help parents and camps. Annie Fortnow, said helping parents “ultimately supports the...
Continue Reading
Jewish Teens Guide To Understanding the Current Israeli-Palestinian Crisis
June 2, 2021

Jewish Teens Guide To Understanding the Current Israeli-Palestinian Crisis

By Jewish Boston Teens
Resources and opportunities for connection and conversation for Jewish teens, parents, educators and professionals. The current situation in Israel is complex and there are many narratives, viewpoints and resources filling our news and social media...
Continue Reading