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. It is our hope that the 2021 Fellows will be able to meet in person. If international travel is not possible, we will explore domestic alternatives, or run the program in a virtual format. Apply for the 2021 cohort.

I. Who Should Apply?

We’re 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.

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.)

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

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.

II. The Application Process

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.

Apply for our 2021 cohort here. If you’re too young to apply, sign up for our interest list to be notified when next year’s application goes live.

The application deadline is December 14, 2020.

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-January if they will be invited to an interview.  Interviews will be held virtually this year.  In past years, they have been held in New York, Chicago and California.  If the cost of travel is a burden, we can assist with this expense.

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.

For questions, call 518-660-3090 or email office@bronfman.org.

III. The Fellowship

The Fellowship Year begins with a five-week, transformative summer in Israel in between 11th and 12th grade.  After the Fellowship summer, your experience with The Bronfman Fellowship continues 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 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 follow-up seminar. 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.

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. Read more about how we handle safety and security, and click here to read our full security policy.

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 in Israel, and see our summer itinerary for a more detailed schedule.

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. In the past, we have attended concerts, art shows, and street fairs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At our home base in Jerusalem, 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 (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. 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 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 (madrichim) who are there to provide support, lead additional conversation sessions, and maintain security.

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.

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

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 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. 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.

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.

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. Shabbat is a brilliant communal experience on the fellowship. Fellows partake in the vibrant spiritual life of Jerusalem and attend services on Friday night. On Shabbat morning, they attend services or join local alumni for meaningful alternative activities. 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 American and Israeli Fellows come together in the middle of the summer for a week for an educational Context seminar.  Fellows spend a weekend in a homestay with an Israeli Fellow.