Pardes Year Program for Gap Year Students

Program Description

The Pardes Year Program offers you the opportunity to delve deeply into Jewish ideas, texts and personal questions – empowering you to make Judaism your own. You’ll come away with skills, knowledge and inspiration under your belt, a lifelong community of passionate peers and mentors, and the life-changing experience of living and learning in vibrant, fascinating Jerusalem.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, the Year Program is open to a limited number of exceptional gap year students. Pardes is not for the average gap year student. It is an opportunity for the mature, self-reliant, self-motivated student only. The vast majority of Pardes students are college graduates and older, so the Pardes Gap year student is someone who is looking to surround him or herself with a mature student body. Most Pardes students are very independent and enjoy thinking critically. We are looking for students who are mature, independent thinkers, excited about immersing themselves in a full time, co-ed Jewish learning environment, and are serious about continuing their Jewish journey in Israel.

Students participate in seminar-style classes and havruta (partner study), and create a tailored program to reflect their interests, including three specialty tracks (see below). Classes include Talmud, Bible, Jewish Philosophy, Modern Jewish History, and much more. Multiple levels, from introductory to advanced, are offered in parallel – including a Text & Today class.

For a taste of dynamic community life at Pardes, both in and outside of the classroom and Beit Midrash, click here. (Note that not all the information on the regular Pardes website is applicable to gap year students.)

How many other gap year students will be at Pardes?

We estimate up to 2-4 gap year students will be at Pardes, integrated with the rest of the older student body.

When does the Pardes program start and end?

The Pardes academic year is Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018 – Thursday, May 31, 2019.

What types of courses are offered?

We offer courses in the areas of Bible, Talmud, Prayer, Hasidut, Halakha, etc. Course schedules and descriptions for 2017-18 are available here on our website. The schedule does not vary much year-to-year, so this year’s schedule will give you an idea about course offerings the following year. Updated schedules are usually available in May.

Do I need to be at a certain level of Hebrew to come to Pardes?

Hebrew plays a vital role in text study. Therefore, depending on your level of Hebrew, Pardes may require that you devote at least a month during the summer to improving your Hebrew proficiency. A list of recommended ulpanim are on our website, here. The list is updated every March.

Is there free time during Pardes?

Yes. Evenings after classes, most weekends and holidays are free. On some Shabbat and holidays, Pardes students are invited to each other’s homes, and the homes of faculty and board members. In addition, for gap year students we will arrange adoptive families in the neighborhood who will offer an additional layer of hospitality and general support. The 2017-2018 academic calendar will give you a sense of how much vacation time to expect.

Click here for more information about the Pardes Year Program (please note that not all information on the Year Program page is applicable for Gap Year students).


There are two gap year students at Pardes this year. These students are fully integrated into the Pardes post-college community in every way. See picture below of Sam Strickberger (right) and Micha Thau (left), in the Sukkah they built themselves.

Micha Thau writes:

An 18 year old from LA sits at a table with a woman from Uganda and a Human Rights Lawyer from France and they learn Torah together: this is Pardes. It’s home to brilliant scholars Egalitarian, Orthodox and otherwise who baffle me every day with their unparalleled knowledge of Torah, Talmud and Rabbinic tradition. From a universalist look at Torah classics with Michael Hattin, to a particularistic study of Halakha and Women with Rachel Berkovitz to Biblical Grammar with Howard Markose, the bevy of class choices and caliber of study has been astounding and powerful. I am learning to be an adult, cooking my own food, washing my own clothes and cleaning my own house. My freedom as a gap year student is unmatched to any other program and demands an equally unique level of personal responsibility that challenges me to grow every day. I walk into the beit midrash daily knowing I will learn something new and cultivate a greater love for and deeper connection with my Judaism. For someone who values diversity, ultimate independence and openness, this is the best place I could be.

Micha Thau is from Los Angeles, California. He is a graduate of Shalhevet High School.

Sam Strickberger writes:

At Pardes, I have found a cohort of thoughtful, curious, and warm individuals whose insights have challenged me and expanded my learning. The diversity of the group is not only unique in the world of serious Jewish learning, but exemplifies the millennia-old Jewish belief that more opinions, more different takes, create better and stronger understandings. (R. Yochanan is quoted as praising the 24 objections/24 different ways of reading the same text that his colleague Resh Lakish would bring to him.)

I wanted to focus on sharpening my textual skills, while remaining engaged with the material and finding classes that appeal to my interests. I have found an intense Talmud class to grasp the transition from Temple to Rabbinic Judaism through debates on whether one can blow the shofar on a Rosh Hashana that falls on Shabbat. I have found a Tanakh class, whose close reading of the unfolding Exodus drama exemplifies the urgency and relevance of a 3,000 year old reality to the 21st century. Its discussion of despotic tendencies, systems to dehumanize the other, and emphasis on self-reliance instructs my current worldview.

At Pardes, I have found top Jewish educators whose excitement is contagious—where even a Biblical Grammar class is filled with laughter and engagement—and whose brilliance and breadth of Jewish knowledge and worldly applications makes me thankful to have chosen a year of learning here.

Sam Strickberger is from Washington, DC. He attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School through eighth grade and graduated from the Sidwell Friends High School. 

Who can apply? What is the application process?

You must be nominated by an educator in your school or Jewish organization. Click here to access the nomination form. After you are nominated, you will then receive the written application form. Once your application form and non-refundable $100 application fee are received, you will be interviewed by the Dean. You will receive an answer about acceptance within a month of your interview (no later than mid-February). If you are accepted, a $1000 deposit is due by Feb. 28, 2018 to secure your place. Full balance is due by May 1, 2018.

What is the application deadline? What is the nomination deadline?

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Applications will only be emailed to those who are nominated.

I am an Israeli citizen. Can I go on the program without getting drafted by the Israeli Army?

Yes, by contacting your local Israeli consulate and requesting a yearlong deferral from the army. (Find your local consulate by visiting If a participant has Israeli citizenship, it is essential that s/he obtain the yearlong deferment from military service as well as a valid Israeli passport prior to departure. Israeli citizens should be aware that they cannot stay in the country for more than 12 months without endangering their future immigrant rights if they choose to move to Israel. Compliance with applicable laws is the responsibility of the participant. Pardes cannot accept responsibility for the failure to heed this information or its applicability in any particular situation.


What is the cost of Pardes for gap year student?

Cost for the year is $16,900. There is an additional $100 non-refundable application fee.

What is included in the cost?

Included in the cost are accommodations, program tuition and partial utilities. In some rare instances, the students may require additional monies for the cost of utilities (Pardes covers up to 500 NIS per month per student). The program cost also provides for another Pardes student or Pardes alumna/us to serve as the gap year students’ madrich/a (counselor). This person lives with the gap year students and is available to them 24/7.

What is not included in the cost?

Students need to pay for their health insurance, class books and source books, cell phone bill, food, Pardes trip/event registration fees, travel inside (and outside) the country as well as entertainment.

Are scholarships available?

As a Masa program, students may qualify for limited financial help from Masa. Click here for more details about Masa.

There are many outside sources for financial aid from national and regional sources.  Click here for potential sources for additional financial aid.  If assistance is needed beyond what is listed above, please contact the registrar at

If I pay the non-refundable application fee now but can’t get enough financial aid, will that application fee be refunded?

No. The application fee covers the administrative costs of processing your application and is non-refundable.

If a student leaves mid-year, does s/he receive, a refund?

Once the Pardes year officially begins, only very partial refunds are possible and not in all cases. Should a student leave mid-year, a decision regarding a partial refund will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Can I earn college credit while at Pardes?

Pardes does not offer college credits or grades and post-high school students who participate in our program will learn Torah “lishma,” as do all other Pardes students.

Should I apply to college before attending Pardes?

We advise that participants apply to college while in their senior year of high school and request to defer admission for one year. Many universities are more than happy to do this but applicants are responsible to check with the school to see what the policy is. Some universities will not allow credit to be transferred if it is earned during a “deferred” year. In this case, the applicant can often reapply while in Israel in order to get the maximum transferred credit possible.

Can I apply to college while at Pardes?


What is the housing like throughout the year?

Students will live in apartments located near the Pardes building which is located on Pierre Koenig St. in Talpiot, Jerusalem. The roommates will be encouraged to discuss the levels of Jewish observance that will be practiced in the apartment (kashrut, Shabbat, holidays). Pardes staff is available to provide guidance in this matter.

Does the program observe kosher dietary laws? Shabbat?

Any food served in public forums by the program is kosher, and official Pardes programs are shomer Shabbat. When participants are out on their own, they decide their own level of Shabbat and Kashrut observance.

I am a vegetarian/vegan. Will that be a problem?

Israel is a great place for vegetarians/vegans because there is a large variety of food available. Pardes always has many vegetarian and vegan students.


What type or insurance coverage will I need during my time at  Pardes?

Gap year students at Pardes are required to purchase medical insurance provided by the Egert and Cohen Insurance Company, one of the leading health and traveling insurance companies in Israel. There is a student price of $1.30 per day. Since there is no coverage for pre-existing conditions and limitations apply (see table of benefits), students are encouraged to maintain their health insurance from their country of origin. Doctors affiliated with the Egert and Cohen (Harel) insurance plan are located throughout Israel, many are English-speaking (in Jerusalem) and participants can easily arrange to see one, no matter where they are located at the time.

What happens if a student gets sick during Pardes?

If you would like to see a doctor, a Pardes staff member or a madrich/a will help you arrange an appointment. In most instances, the medical coverage will cover all doctor visits (as long as proper procedure is followed—it works similarly to an HMO in the US).

If I take regular medication, will I be able to get those medications in Israel?

If possible, you should bring a year’s supply of medication to Israel. If it’s not possible to fill a year’s supply in advance, you will need to bring a prescription from your doctor, including the generic name of the drug. You will then need to see a doctor in Israel to get a prescription that will be honored by Israeli pharmacies. It is important to note that neither the cost of the doctor’s visit nor the cost of the medication will be covered by the Egert and Cohen insurance. Therefore, you will need to be prepared to pay. Alternatively, if friends or family are planning on visiting during the year, they can bring refills of the prescription with them. Participants or parents should check with their physician and insurance company in regard to specific drugs available in Israel.

The safety and security of our students is our primary concern. Pardes outlines our safety and security guidelines in our student orientation book. In times of heightened tension in Israel, we regularly speak with the student body as a whole about various ways they can continue to feel safe. We have an SMS emergency system in place, whereby we can send important security information to each student’s cell phone and each student has a faculty emergency contact. Faculty and staff are available to answer questions about this and other topics on an ongoing basis.

What kind of supervision is there during the year?

Pardes students are generally college graduates and older. While they enjoy support of faculty and staff, we expect them to be self-reliant. For gap year students, we will have a madrich (counselor) to help navigate any areas of uncertainty. This madrich is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. In addition, at the beginning of the year, all participants receive materials with the emergency contact information for staff members and are told how to reach a staff person in an emergency.

In addition, Gap year students will have the option of being matched with a local “adoptive family.” The adoptive family will be available for general support and Shabbat/holiday home hospitality.

Please note: Pardes is not for the average gap year student. It is an opportunity for the mature, self-reliant, self-motivated student only.

Are participants allowed to use public transportation?

Pardes Gap Year participants are allowed to use public transportation.

Are participants allowed to go to the Old City in Jerusalem? The West Bank?

In general, participants are allowed to go to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and Jewish towns in the West Bank. We advise our participants not to visit Arab East Jerusalem or any areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. These and all security guidelines are subject to change depending on the security situation.

What is your policy on drug use and drinking?

As an institution of college graduates who have come to study classical texts, we rarely encounter issues with drug use or alcohol abuse. Drug use is illegal in Israel and is not tolerated at Pardes. The legal drinking age in Israel is 18 years old and, while moderate alcohol consumption takes place at social and religious gatherings, Pardes does not condone excessive drinking while on our program.

How much spending money do you recommend?

We recommend planning on spending $3,500 and $4,500 for personal expenses throughout the year.

Do the students have cell phones? Access to email? Fax? What is the best way to communicate with family outside of Israel?

Pardes has a relationship with IsraelPhones but there are many other companies as well, all who offer the option to have an American number, making it convenient for family and friends abroad to keep in touch. Internet is available at Pardes. Pardes has a fax which students can use for a small fee.