Press Release October 21, 2020: The Bronfman Fellowship to Hold Summer 2021 Program in Berkshires

October 21, 2020

The Bronfman Fellowship to Hold Summer 2021 Program in Berkshires
Decision, Based on Guidance From Multiple Health Authorities, Offers “Best Possible Opportunity for a Superb In-Person Immersion Experience”

The Bronfman Fellowship will host our transformative Fellowship program for rising 12th graders at a Kosher retreat center in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut for the summer of 2021. This one-time decision to hold our summer experience in the U.S. instead of Israel was made in close consultation with public health experts, in response to the pandemic.

Safety is of paramount concern to the Fellowship. Locating the program domestically in 2021 offers the greatest possible opportunity to safely bring our group together for the summer and continue our tradition of immersive in-person learning and community-building. In 2020, we conducted our summer immersive program virtually in response to COVID-19. In proceeding with domestic in-person programming for 2021, we are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Camping Association (ACA), Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), and state departments of health.

“The decision to hold our summer 2021 programming in the U.S. instead of Israel was made with a heavy heart, but under the circumstances, our primary goal is to offer the best possible opportunity for a superb in-person immersion experience that also prioritizes health and safety,” said Becky Voorwinde, executive director of The Bronfman Fellowship. “By making this decision early in the school year, we are giving our future Fellows and their families important clarity around what the summer will look like. Between now and then, we will spend every waking moment creating the most meaningful, engaging, transformative immersion experience possible for our 35th cadre of Bronfman Fellows.”

This year, as in the past, The Bronfman Fellowship will select 26 outstanding North American teenagers for an intellectually challenging year of programming, beginning the summer between the Fellows’ junior and senior years of high school. The program educates and inspires exceptional young Jews from diverse backgrounds to have a significant impact on the world as community builders, deep thinkers, moral voices, and cultural creators.

The 2021 summer program will be held at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a 400-acre campus featuring a lake, hiking trails and lush meadows, in the foothills of the southern Berkshires.

For 35 years, Bronfman Fellows have built a pluralistic community through a transformative, intellectual and personal journey in which they learn to see the world through a lens broader than their own. Together with a diverse faculty of Rabbis and educators, Fellows explore a wide range of Jewish texts, from classic religious works to contemporary poetry and philosophy, using these sources to spark conversations, engage with stimulating existential questions, and achieve a deeper understanding of themselves and one another. 

In addition to learning with stellar educators, Fellows also have the unique opportunity to engage with leading intellectuals, artists, and religious and cultural leaders. Past speakers have included journalist Matti Friedman; poet Joy Ladin; musician and Yiddish scholar Anthony Russell; and Torah scholar Dr. Avivah Zornberg.

The 2021 summer will feature an expansion of our Visiting Artists program, which gives Fellows access to hands-on art-making in conversation with textual analysis—empowering them to add their voices to Jewish cultural life. Last year’s visiting artists included musician Alicia Jo Rabins, visual artist Jessica Tamar Deutsch, and Aaron Henne, the artistic director of theatre dybbuk.

The decision to hold our 2021 program domestically was not taken lightly, and we are eager to resume our programming for North American Fellows in Israel in future years. We remain committed to building meaningful relationships between Israeli and North American Jews, and firmly believe in the educational value of travel to Israel for Jewish young people. 2021 Fellows will have the opportunity to engage with their Israeli peers from our Israeli program, Amitei Bronfman, through virtual meetings and an Amitim trip to the U.S. scheduled for winter of 2021.

The Fellowship year will continue after the summer with monthly virtual experiences and a winter and spring seminar in the U.S. The dates are as follows:

  • Summer Seminar: July 6 – August 2, 2021
  • Winter Seminar: December 2 – 7, 2021
  • Spring Seminar: April 8 – 12, 2022

Apply Now!

Applications for the 2021 Fellowship are due December 14, 2020, and are available online at bronfman.org. High school students in the United States and Canada who self-identify as Jewish and who will be in the 12th grade in the fall of 2021 are eligible to apply. The Fellowship is a pluralistic program for Jews of all backgrounds; prior Jewish education is not required. Students are chosen on merit alone.