Commonly Asked Questions

Who Should Apply?

What do you mean when you say on your website that, “Fellows come from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds,” does that include me?

My mother isn’t Jewish, does that still count?

I strictly observe the Sabbath and keep Kosher, will I feel comfortable on this program?

Do I need to be part of a Jewish movement or denomination?

What criteria do you use in selecting Fellows?

How many Fellows are selected?

Where are your Fellows from?

How old does an applicant need to be?

Do I need to know Hebrew?

I’ve been to Israel before, can I still apply?

 

The Application Process

 

What do I need to include in my application?

How do I apply?

What is the application deadline?

When will finalists be notified that they will be interviewed?

When are final decisions made?

Do you have a waiting list?

Why do you require applicants to write multiple essays?

What do you look for in a letter of recommendation?

How do I submit letters of recommendation?

I have questions, who do I contact?

 

The Fellowship

What is the academic component of the Bronfman Fellowships?

Who staffs the Fellowship?  What do you mean by “Faculty”?

What does a “Fellowship Year” mean?

 

Is the program really all-expenses-paid?

What is your security policy?

What does a typical day on the Bronfman Fellowships look like?

I’ve never been to Israel before, will I still be able to visit major sites?

What are the living arrangements?

Is it possible to keep Kosher while on the trip?

I have a particular dietary restriction or allergy (gluten free, vegan, etc.),do you provide for this?

Is it possible to continue a serious extracurricular commitment (ie. music or sports) while on the trip?

Does the program include daily prayer services?

How do you celebrate the Sabbath?

What kind of interaction do we have with Israeli students?

 

What do you mean when you say on your website that, “Fellows come from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds,” does that include me?

We seek to identify Fellows who represent the widest possible range of Jewish affiliation, background and observance.  Some Fellows are religiously observant and attend Jewish day schools, others have never had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or consider themselves atheist.  We welcome applications from anyone who is interested in serious discussion and exploration of what Jewishness means for him/herself and for others. There is no religious requirement for the program other than that you self-identify as Jewish.  

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My mother isn’t Jewish, does that still count?

Yes, we have Fellows from interfaith families.

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I strictly observe the Sabbath and keep Kosher, will I feel comfortable on this program?

Our program allows for participants to maintain their Sabbath observance and all meals are Kosher.

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Do I need to be part of a Jewish movement or denomination?

No, we want as diverse a group of Fellows as possible, including those who have gone to a Jewish camp for years and those who do not identify with any particular denomination.

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What criteria do you use in selecting Fellows?

We look for participants who have a strong academic background, leadership potential, intellectual curiosity, emotional maturity, and an interest in exploring his/her Jewish background.

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How many Fellows are selected?

Each year we choose 26 Fellows, usually 13 boys and 13 girls.

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Where are your Fellows from?

We have Fellows from all over the United States and Canada.  Fellows have a range of educational backgrounds including those who attend public school, private school, and some who attend private Jewish high schools.

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How old does an applicant need to be?

You must be entering the twelfth grade of school in the Fall of 2017 and be born before July 1st, 2001.

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Do I need to know Hebrew?

No.

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I’ve been to Israel before, can I still apply?

Yes.  Some Fellows have been to Israel before either with their families or through an organized program.

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What do I need to include in my application?

We ask for two (2) short essays and one (1) long essay of 500 words, two (2) letters of recommendation from individuals who know you well (at least one of which must be from a guidance counselor, school principal or teacher) and your high school transcript through Grade 10. We do not require any sort of standardized test scores.

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How do I apply?

Our application is online through a webhost called ReviewRoom.  To apply, fill out an interest form which begins the application process.

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What is the application deadline?

January 4, 2017

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When will finalists be notified that they will be interviewed?

Candidates are notified by the end of February if they will be invited to an interview.  Interviews are held in New York and California.  If cost of travel is a burden, we can assist with this expense.

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When are final decisions made?

Fellows are selected and notified by the end of March.

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Do you have a waiting list?

No. However, each year we select several alternates from the pool of candidates interviewed in the instance that one of our selected Fellows cannot participate in the Fellowship.

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Why do you require applicants to write multiple essays?

Our reviewers look to the essays on our application as a way of understanding how an applicant thinks.  Our best advice – use your own voice.

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What do you look for in a letter of recommendation?

Recommenders should speak to your personality, both academically and socially.  If they can provide examples of what makes you stand-out and their sense of your potential, this will help provide us with a full picture of you.  Recommenders do not need to discuss your Jewish background or identity unless they have particular insight into this aspect of your identity.

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How do I submit letters of recommendation?

You will be asked to put in the names and contact information for your two recommenders, who will then be contacted by Ava Charne through ReviewRoom electronically by email. They can submit their recommendations online through ReviewRoom.

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I have questions, who do I contact?

 For questions, call 518-475-7212 or email info@byfi.org.

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 The Fellowship

What is the academic component of the Bronfman Fellowships?

The Bronfman Fellowships strives to intellectually challenge our Fellows, and provides many formal and informal educational opportunities. Each weekday begins with an intensive and intimate educational seminar (Shiur, in Hebrew) facilitated by faculty members who are experienced rabbis and educators. The seminars encompass a variety of topics, selected by faculty to allow for rich debate and discussion as well as close-reading of varied texts.  This past year, our seminar topics included poetry in conversation with the bible, Jewish and Palestinian nationalism, and theological variation in Jewish history. Many of the most powerful academic experiences on Bronfman come from the interaction between peers as they think about big ideas together.

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Who staffs the Fellowship?  What do you mean by “Faculty”?

Our faculty consists of professors, Rabbis, and Jewish educators with extensive experience facilitating conversations and learning with young people, including a number that have been consistently named to Newsweek’s Top 50 Rabbis list. In addition, Fellows are accompanied by two alumni who are there to provide support, lead additional conversation sessions, and maintain security.

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What does a “Fellowship Year” mean?

After the end of the Summer Fellowship, your experience with The Bronfman Fellowships continues through a year of learning, seminars, and additional projects. The group meets twice during the school year, once in December as part of the trip our Israeli Fellows make to America and once for a weeklong seminar in New York around late March.  During the senior year, Fellows complete a “Ma’aseh” or community action project, during which Fellows take an idea that they are passionate about and bring it to their home communities. A Bronfman alumnus serves as an advisor for each project, providing a further connection to the 700+ alumni community.

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Is the program really all-expenses-paid?

We cover all of our Fellows’ expenses, including their flights to Israel from JFK and their food, lodging, and travel over the summer.  Fellows are asked to pay a small fee to offset the costs of the two follow-up seminars. Financial need is never a barrier to participation and subsidies are available for travel to the interviews, to JFK for the start of Fellowship and for Fellowship Year programming and travel.

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What is your security policy?

We constantly review our itinerary in light of security considerations and keep in close contact with the Israeli security forces and the American Embassy. Fellows will always travel in the company of staff members. Our full security policy: http://bronfman.org/sites/default/files/security_document_website.pdf

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What does a typical day on the Bronfman Fellowships look like?

Each day revolves loosely around a particular theme, such as “Language, Text, and Identity” or “The Challenges of Democracy.” To explore these topics, we bring-in headline-makings speakers and undertake relevant site visits to spark discussion. Fellows participate in college-level seminars daily, rotating classes taught by our Faculty on a variety of topics. We also ask Fellows to keep a written journal and share their writing in weekly discussion groups.  Read here about a day in the life of a Bronfman Fellow, and see our summer itinerary for a more detailed schedule. 

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I’ve never been to Israel before, will I still be able to visit major sites?

Our Fellows will see a variety of Israel’s archaeological, religious, and important sites, including Masada, Jerusalem’s old city, and Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum). We will also spend time in Tel Aviv, Tsfat, and the Negev desert along with many other interesting spots.

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What are the living arrangements?

 Fellows are housed in dormitory-style accommodations with four Fellows per room.  There are separate hallways for boys and for girls. We have a small kitchen and multiple common spaces available for the Fellows’ use.

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 Is it possible to keep Kosher while on the trip?

All of our meals are Kosher.

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I have a particular dietary restriction or allergy (gluten free, vegan, etc.),do you provide for this?

We accommodate all dietary restrictions to the best of our ability, and are happy to consult with each Fellow to ensure that their needs are met.

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Is it possible to continue a serious extracurricular commitment (ie. music or sports) while on the trip?

We encourage our Fellows’ passions and are happy to accommodate any practice that they feel they need to continue during the summer. There are running routes close to where we stay and there are periods of free time where practice is possible.  We have even encouraged serious instrumentalists to rent equipment for musical practice.

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Does the program include daily prayer services?

Our curriculum does not require Fellows to pray daily.  However, we can make arrangements for interested Fellows to attend daily prayer services while the group is situated in Jerusalem.

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How do you celebrate the Sabbath?

We strive to make the Sabbath a comfortable and meaningful experience for all of our Fellows. We are fully Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) and do not travel on Shabbat. We have a communal dinner on Friday evening and our staff members escort groups of Fellows to various prayer options. On Saturdays, Fellows can visit local synagogues and eat a casual lunch at Faculty member’s apartments.

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What kind of interaction do we have with Israeli students?

Bronfman runs a parallel Fellowship in Israel called Amitei Bronfman for young Israelis in their junior year of high school. We select a cohort of teens from diverse backgrounds to participate in a Fellowship year made up of eight seminars, one of which involves a trip to the US. The American and Israeli Fellows come together in the middle of the summer for a week for an educational seminar (mifgash). Fellows spend a weekend in a homestay with an Israeli Fellow.

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