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Gap-year program Shvilim expands from Norwegian to US, European and Israeli Jews

The summer program will welcome 20 “carefully selected participants who will go through a rigorous application process and exams,” says spokesperson Noy Assraf.

Participants on the Shvilim gap-year program in Israel. Credit: Courtesy.
Participants on the Shvilim gap-year program in Israel. Credit: Courtesy.

The Jewish gap-year program Shvilim, which has previously focused on young Scandinavian Jews, is expanding to include those from the United States and Europe.

A collaboration of Norway’s Jewish community and the Upper Galilee Leadership Institute—in partnership with the University of Oslo, Kol Ami (the Jewish Agency), Meitarim and Anti-Defamation League—Shvilim was founded in 2014. It has brought young people from Denmark, Norway and Sweden to Israel for an “extensive curriculum of study, travel and dialogue,” stated the organization.

This year, the program announced that it is open to 18- to 22-year-old European, Israeli and American Jews, both observant and secular. “With the addition of new partners, the program is now poised to become a leading provider of Jewish education and cultural engagement worldwide,” it said.

Shvilim runs for 10 months, most of it in Israel. The 2023 iteration involves study in Israel, coursework in Judaism and dialogue for democratic citizenship at the University of Oslo. It further involves “traveling around the Jewish world to learn about the fight against antisemitism, Jewish and non-Jewish pluralism, as well as skills for leadership and dialogue. This includes studying in Norway, and trips to the U.S. and Europe.”

The program, which starts in August, will welcome 20 “carefully selected participants who will go through a rigorous application process and exams,” Noy Assraf, a Shvilim spokeswoman, told JNS.

She added that “while the program has expanded to a worldwide audience, in the first year, we will prioritize quality over quantity to ensure a meaningful and transformative experience for each participant.”

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