Is the Fellowship running during the pandemic? What’s happening in 2021?
Yes, we are running during the pandemic! Read about our programming during COVID-19 here. The 2021 Summer Seminar 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 Berkshire Mountains in Connecticut.
We are committed to doing whatever can reasonably be done to bring the Bronfman Fellows together for an in-person immersive experience in the Summer of 2021. To increase the odds of that happening, we have decided to host the Summer seminar at a retreat center in Northwest Connecticut (Isabella Freedman). We are continuing to monitor the situation closely, are working with public health experts and sharing resources and information with other residential summer youth programs.
After running our 2020 Fellowship summer entirely online, we exceeded our expectations for what could be accomplished over zoom through the deep conversations, intense learning, and hilarious antics the Fellows got into.
We plan to bring the 2020 Fellows together in person as long as we can do so safely. Our team is hard at work exploring all of the factors and contingencies that will allow for a successful in-person summer program, and we will only end up on zoom if external factors force us to change plans.
Unfortunately, the 2021 Bronfman Fellows will not be traveling to Israel together as a group. We can offer a better experience to our Fellows by avoiding the extraordinary uncertainties, restrictions and risks that come with the international travel portion of our program.
We hope to resume bringing Bronfman Fellows to Israel for the immersive Summer portion of the Fellowship year as early as Summer 2022.
The safety of Fellows and staff is our top priority, and we will adhere to appropriate health standards. We are working with a public health expert as well as umbrella camping organizations to put in place best practices to avoid unnecessary risks this coming Summer. The situation is evolving, and the details will not be finalized until much closer to the summer.
We are encouraged by a CDC report featuring four overnight camps that operated successfully in Summer 2020 without a Covid outbreak. Learning from these camps as well as the many schools that are opening without major incident will give us a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.
The exact details and plan will be shared with Fellows and parents as we get closer. Participants should be prepared to adhere to various restrictions or testing protocols as advised by our health experts.
The protocols we are developing for Summer 2021 are under the assumption that a vaccine will not be widely available by the time our program starts. We will continue monitoring the situation and follow best practices.
We are looking for outside-the-box thinkers who are passionate about deep dialogue and intellectual exploration. People who enjoy having philosophical conversations late into the night, who love to learn, and who aren’t afraid to ask the Big Questions. You do not need to be a top student to be a Bronfman Fellow; we value innovative thinking and creativity more than a high GPA. There’s no “typical” Bronfman Fellow: we’re looking for people with a diverse set of backgrounds, talents, and interests, who can bring many different perspectives to the group, and who want to explore their Jewish identity in an intellectually stimulating environment.
The Bronfman Fellowship is for intellectually adventurous young people who want to see the world through a lens broader than their own. An opportunity unlike any other, it’s a space where Fellows can give free rein to their curiosity and explore issues with depth, candor, and joy, all while having fun and forming friendships to last a lifetime. The reasons to apply are virtually limitless – here are just a few:
We are committed to building a community from as wide a Jewish spectrum as possible, including but not limited to diversity in religious and cultural affiliation, race, ethnicity, spiritual beliefs, place of origin, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and political views. As a diverse community, we have the opportunity to learn from one another and to appreciate and value distinctiveness as a source of strength.
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. Read more about our commitment to inclusion, pluralism and diversity on the Fellowship.
Yes. We have many Fellows from interfaith families. There is no religious requirement for the program other than that you self-identify as Jewish.
Our program allows for participants to maintain their Sabbath observance. We are fully Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) and do not travel on Shabbat. All of our food meets OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher standards. Our educators are supportive of Fellows’ halachic commitments, and are available to answer questions and provide guidance. We strive to ensure that the religious and spiritual needs of all Fellows are met and respected.
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. Read more about pluralism on the Fellowship.
Each year we choose 26 Fellows.
We have Fellows from all over the United States and Canada. Since the Fellowship’s founding in 1987, they have come from 319 cities, representing 41 states plus the District of Columbia, and four provinces. Click here to see a map of Fellows’ hometowns.
Fellows have a range of educational backgrounds including those who attend public school, private school, and some who attend private Jewish high schools.
Students must be at least 16 years old by the time of the summer Fellowship, which takes place between 11th and 12th grade.
For the 2021 Fellowship cohort, you must be in 11th grade in the Fall of 2020 and have been born before June 28, 2005. (Students who will be in 11th grade in the Fall of 2020 who were born after this date must wait until the Fall of 2021 to apply for the 2022 Fellowship cohort.)
Students currently in 12th grade who were too young to apply last year (born after June 28, 2004) are also eligible to apply.
For the 2022 Fellowship cohort, you must be in 11th grade in the Fall of 2021 and have been born before June 26, 2006 (Students who will be in 11th grade in the Fall of 2021 who were born after this date must wait until the Fall of 2022 to apply for the 2023 Fellowship cohort.)
Students who will be in 12th grade in the Fall of 2021, who were too young to apply last year (born after June 28, 2005), will also be eligible to apply.
Fill out our interest form to be notified when the 2022 application opens. (Applications generally open in early September.)
We welcome all identities, orientations and genders to apply to the Fellowship. We strive to maintain an open atmosphere and encourage Fellows to bring their whole selves to the program. Fellows have ample opportunity to self-identity around gender and sexuality, and to explore and engage with LGBTQ Rabbis and thinkers through their writing or as speakers. We have been trained by Keshet, an organization that works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life, and have been designated an LGBTQ safe zone by them.
Yes! Give yourself the chance. The best applications are ones where you can be yourself. Show us how you think and what you care about. In addition, many students say that applying to Bronfman and thinking deeply about our essay questions has helped prepare them for the college application process, and given them access to information about other wonderful Jewish experiences.
We ask for two (2) short essays and several short answers, a brief video response, two (2) letters of recommendation from individuals who know you well (at least one of these letters must be from a teacher. The other can be any non-relative who knows you well, including another school professional, Rabbi, employer, etc.) and your high school transcript through Grade 10. We do not require any sort of standardized test scores.
The 2021 application is closed. The 2022 application will open in early September. Please sign up for our interest list to be notified when the 2022 application goes live.
No, there is no application fee.
The application deadline is generally in early December.
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.
Candidates are notified by mid-late January if they will be invited to an interview. Interviews will be held virtually in February 2021.
Letters of notification are sent by email and/or postal mail by early March.
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.
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.
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.
When you fill out your application, you will be asked to enter the names and contact information for your two recommenders, who will then be contacted electronically. They can submit their recommendations through our online application system.
The Bronfman Fellowship is a need-blind, merit-based program. We do not ask for any financial aid forms.
We are an all-expenses-paid program, and ensure that financial need is never a barrier to participation; subsidies are available for any ancillary fees related to the programming, if needed.
The Fellowship Year begins with a transformative summer experience in Israel (assuming the safety of travel) between 11th and 12th grade. In 2021, this experience is taking place in Connecticut due to COVID-19. After the summer, you will continue through a year of learning, seminars, and additional projects. The group meets virtually every month during the school year and in-person for seminars in the winter and spring, usually in the Northeast U.S. Click here to read more about the Fellowship Year.
Pre-Summer Virtual Orientation: Date TBA
Summer Seminar: July 6 – August 2, 2021
Monthly Zoom Sessions: Dates TBA
Winter Seminar: December 2 – 7, 2021
Spring Seminar: April 8 – April 12, 2022
See our application roadmap for more information.
We cover all of our Fellows’ expenses, including their food, lodging, and program travel over the summer. Fellows are asked to pay for domestic travel to seminars, and a small fee to offset the costs of the follow-up seminar.
Financial need is never a barrier to participation and subsidies are available for domestic travel and for a Fellowship Year programming fee.
Fellows participate in college-level seminars daily, rotating classes taught by our Faculty on a variety of topics. These seminars are not graded in any way, nor do Fellows receive tests or homework; the Fellowship promotes learning for learning’s sake and strives to intellectually challenge our Fellows. 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-making speakers and undertake relevant site visits to spark discussion. We also ask Fellows to keep a written journal and share their writing in weekly discussion groups. Fellows frequently have the opportunity to go on hikes, do art projects, play music, and do other fun activities (see below). Read here about a day in the life of a Bronfman Fellow during the summer.
We always incorporate fun activities into the Fellows’ daily schedule. We often go on hikes, and there are opportunities for camping and cook-outs under the stars. Fellows are able to express themselves through art projects, singing and playing music. When safe, we have attended concerts, art shows, and street fairs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
At our home campus, Fellows enjoy impromptu games of frisbee and basketball, as well as yoga and morning jogs. At the end of the day, Fellows are often found hanging out in the Mo’adon (common room), writing and reading for fun, kicking back for our weekly movie night, or continuing an exciting conversation begun earlier in the day.
The Bronfman Fellowship is, above all, a space of learning for learning’s sake. An intellectual program without tests, homework, grades, or judgment, where Fellows can give free rein to their curiosity and explore issues with depth and candor. The Fellowship strives to intellectually challenge our Fellows, and provides many formal and informal educational opportunities. During the Fellows’ summer in Israel, each weekday begins with an intensive and intimate educational seminar 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. In recent years, 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. Read more about what the Fellows learn.
No, Fellows are not given any homework or assignments outside of their daytime seminars. In this unique learning atmosphere, Fellows are able to pursue interests, passions, and modes of thinking that they may not be able to explore during the school year.
Our Education & Programming Director is the lead staff member on-site, overseeing a team of educators.
Our faculty teaches the Fellows and leads them in facilitated conversations. They consist of professors, Rabbis, and Jewish educators with extensive experience, including a number that have been consistently named to Newsweek’s Top 50 Rabbis list.
In addition, two alumni madrichim (counselors) and a logistics coordinator are there to provide support, lead additional conversation sessions, and maintain security.
Fellows are housed in dormitory-style accommodations with 3-4 Fellows per room. (Note: This arrangement may change in the summer of 2021, to ensure Fellows’ safety during the pandemic.) There is plenty of indoor and outdoor common space for the Fellows to use, and a kitchenette available between meals.
Yes! All of our food meets OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher standards.
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. We seek to partner with Fellows and their families when managing a food allergy. We have had Fellows with a wide range of food allergies over the years, and would not want this issue to prevent someone from participating in the program. If a Fellow has severe and/or life threatening food allergies, we work with their family to develop a plan that will allow for a safe and nutritious experience. Be mindful that Fellows may travel during the course of the program, and we have less control over food options when on the road. We are able to provide sealed meals in the main dining hall that can accommodate most needs. If specially prepared meals are required from an outside caterer, the added cost will need to be incurred by the Fellow’s family. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about your unique situation.
Similar to food allergies, we seek to partner with Fellows and their parents to make sure everyone’s medical needs are accounted for on the Fellowship. That being said, the Fellowship involves travel around Israel, long days, and other elements that may be challenging to overcome. If there are special accommodations you would require to be a participant on The Bronfman Fellowship, please contact us to discuss the possibilities.
We encourage our Fellows’ passions and are happy to accommodate any practice that they feel they need to continue during the summer. We have a huge campus with ample outdoor space for all sorts of athletic activities. We encourage Fellows to bring musical instruments, art supplies or anything else they might use.
Our curriculum allows time and space for Fellows to pray on their own daily, and works with the Fellows to organize group services on Shabbat.
We strive to make the Sabbath (Shabbat) a comfortable and meaningful experience for all of our Fellows. We are fully Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) and do not travel on Shabbat. Shabbat is a brilliant communal experience on the fellowship. Fellows partake in the vibrant spiritual life of Jerusalem and attend services on Friday night.
Fellows share communal meals and are invited to faculty homes for intimate Shabbat lunches. They also study core Bronfman texts with a faculty member on Shabbat afternoon, and entertain one another with Parsha Players – an age-old Bronfman tradition of improvisational performances of the weekly Torah portion.
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 2021 American and Israeli Fellows will come together in December or April.