TEL AVIV — It sounds like a dream offer: an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for the full month of January, based in Tel Aviv, the beachside city with warm winter temperatures that inarguably is Israel’s most exciting metropolis.
Even better, participants won’t have to use up vacation days from work for the trip. If all goes according to plan, their bosses will recommend them for the experience, and the month in Tel Aviv will count as professional development.
That’s because this is no beach vacation.
It’s a unique opportunity for early-career professionals working in Jewish organizations to get a career boost while having an immersive Israel experience.
The monthlong professional development program scheduled for January 2024, called the Sullam Israel Residency, offers young professionals in Jewish organizations a chance to enhance their skills while immersing themselves in some of the most vibrant elements of Israeli culture and forging connections with fellow participants and Israelis peers. This first-of-its-kind program, being introduced by Birthright Israel Onward, isn’t just about advancing careers; it’s meant to deepen Jewish identity, foster meaningful connections and cultivate professional growth.
“Jewish communal professionals play a key role in engaging North American Jews with Israel,” said Gidi Mark, Birthright Israel’s CEO. “We hope that giving them a transformative way to experience Israel and bolster their careers with a journey of learning, growth and discovery will deepen their connection to the country and strengthen their ability to serve as a bridge to Israel and its people for years to come.”
A group of philanthropic foundations is funding the pilot program, and the curriculum is being designed by M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education. The focus is on Jewish and Israel education, with the idea of giving participants a comprehensive understanding of Jewish communities’ history, values and contemporary challenges as well as valuable skills to become better professionals in their communities.
Participants will live independently in single rooms in shared apartments in Tel Aviv. Among the key subjects the educational component of the program will tackle: Israeli history, politics, innovation and social diversity; Jewish study, ritual and spirituality, and Jewish peoplehood. The program will also help participants develop dialogue and facilitation expertise to create safe spaces and embrace complexity, and facilitate networking opportunities with Israeli professionals.
The monthlong experience will also include Shabbat retreats and plenty of independent time. So it wouldn’t be a crazy idea to pack a beach towel and sunscreen.
The Sullam residency focuses specifically on Jewish communal professionals. Participants in the first cohort of this selective program must be nominated by their work supervisors or managers and gain acceptance in a competitive application process. Anyone working full-time in Jewish communal service who has been in the field for at least 18 months but no longer than five years may apply. Non-Jews are welcome, too.
The application deadline is Sept. 15.
The funding covers nearly all of participants’ expenses: accommodations, round-trip airfare from select North American cities, educational programming and seminars, meals during educational sessions, Shabbat retreats, basic medical insurance and ground transportation within Tel Aviv. Participants are expected to remain in the field of Jewish communal service after their Sullam experience.
This program is an outgrowth of Birthright Israel, which offers free 10-day Israel trips to Jews ages 18 to 26 designed to strengthen their connections to Israel, their Jewish identity and one another. Since its founding in 1999, Birthright has brought over 800,000 young Jews to Israel from 68 different countries.
Birthright runs numerous follow-up programs through Onward Israel and has facilitated the participation of an additional 20,000 people in various Israel- and Jewish-related internships, academic programs, and fellowships. In addition, more than 1,200 Jewish young adults have participated in Birthright Israel Excel, a 10-week business internship program in Israel.
To apply or recommend an employee for this experience, visit Sullamresidency.com.