The Fellowship During the Pandemic

2022 Fellowhip Year:

For our 2022 Fellowship, we were thrilled to return our summer programming to Israel, followed by a Winter and Spring Seminar in the U.S.  

All 2022 Fellows were required to be fully vaccinated.

2021 Fellowship Year:

We hosted our 2021 Summer program in-person at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut. 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. Locating the program domestically in 2021 offered 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. Hear from the 2021 Fellows in this video.

Highlights of the summer at Isabella Freedman included:

  • A pluralistic team of high-caliber educators who inspire Fellows with a diverse range of perspectives and create a space for meaningful intellectual exploration.
  • A group of innovative Visiting Artists who guide the Fellows on a journey of self-discovery and artistic creation. The Visiting Artists also have the opportunity to work on their own independent projects and contribute to the world of North American Jewish art.
  • Fellows were immersed in a beautiful, relaxing, natural environment for an in-person experience this summer. They had exclusive access to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a 400-acre campus featuring a lake, hiking trails and lush meadows.

Read more: Press release October 21, 2020: The Bronfman Fellowship to Hold Summer 2021 Program in Berkshires.

2020 Fellowship Year:

Our 2020 Fellows have completed their Fellowship year – although it was a challenging time, in the midst of the pandemic, their experience was deeply transformative and meaningful. 

The Spring Seminar, which was held in April 2021 at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, marked the first time that Fellows got to see each other in person after nearly a year of virtual experiences. This joyous return to in-person learning featured significant Fellow-led learning sessions that included creative writing, Jewish text study, scientific discussions, and new rituals. Read more about this seminar.

Before the Spring Seminar, the Fellows engaged in immersive virtual experiences for their summer program and follow-up seminars.  In response to the pandemic, we rapidly harnessed technology and trained our educators to create a robust virtual program for our Fellows, encapsulating the best that Bronfman has to offer. It was amazing to see how deeply the Fellows connected with and learned from one another. They formed deep friendships, took part in intense intellectual debates, talked late into the night with their “roommates,” sang together, bonded over movie nights and virtual sleepovers, engaged with challenging speakers and educators, and delved deeply into a rich tapestry of Jewish ideas and perspectives. In many ways, it was a typical (as in, “typically extraordinary”) Fellowship Year!

2020 Programming highlights:

  • Our faculty and guest speakers were as pluralistic, dynamic, and intellectually challenging as ever.

    Watch our 2020 summer behind-the-scenes video on YouTube!

  • The N. American and Israeli Fellows met in small groups online to allow them to have more personal, in-depth conversations with one another.
  • For the first time, we added arts tracks to our curriculum, taught by leading innovators in the field of Jewish art. The workshops use art to bring Fellows together and empower them to add their voices to Jewish life. Before the summer started, Fellows received a box of art supplies and other items to get their creative juices flowing. Read more about our arts tracks.

Our Programming and Education Director, Jake Marmer, has written about how we created an immersive educational community online.

Here’s what our Fellows had to say about the 2020 Fellowship Year:

The fellowship is absolutely crucial for intellectual stimulation and widening of one’s world view. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
– Marina R. (’20)

You’ll make some of the best friends that you could imagine. These are people with whom you’ll explore the depths of yourself and have a truly transformative summer. It’s this unimaginably incredible combination of intense intellectual learning, real camaraderie, and emotional investment. It allows you to reconsider all the things you’ve taken for granted in your Judaism and your community within the context of 25 Fellows and a staff that loves and supports you, not to mention the vast alumni network.
– Tal B. (’20)

Everyone bends over backwards to give you some of the best, most intellectually challenging, fulfilling, and inspiring weeks of your life.
– Sam L. (’20)

It genuinely changed the way I think about the world so much. I have grown religiously and developed a deeper passion for Judaism and text study. I have thought about things I didn’t even know were things to think about, and I made such amazing friends…
– Kate O. (’20)

Often I can have deep conversations with very interesting and thoughtful people my age, and I can have Jewish conversations with Jews my age. It’s really unique, though, to have so many deep, Jewish conversations with such smart, interesting, and thoughtful Jews my age.
– Gideon R. (’20)

This summer was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve made so many great connections – even over Zoom! Even virtually it is a life-changing experience.
– Daniel S. (’20)

The fellowship surmounted virtual barriers and created a community of intellect, discourse, and joyful encounters through which I was able to create relationships with a depth I didn’t know was possible through the computer screen.
– Ava B. (’20)

I felt challenged, valued, and enthusiastic each week. I know that I have found life-long friends and mentors through Bronfman. I was not entirely certain when I first applied, but take a chance and be yourself, I promise that it is worth it.
– Laila B. (’20)