With large numbers of 2020 Jewish high school graduates deferring their enrollment to college — in order to avoid one semester, and perhaps two, dominated by online classes — one Israeli nonprofit is jumping into the gap.
BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change, a Tel Aviv-based group that promotes Jewish learning and social activism, is teaming up with the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto to offer a three-month internship program that will help young Jews stay busy and engaged in their communities.
The program is for 18-year-olds in the OFJCC service area, and there will be a matching cohort in Israel. It will be held from September through December, a period when many recent high school grads would have been having their first college experiences.
“There is a new need in the field that we can respond to,” said Nir Braudo, deputy director at BINA.
Braudo said the original plan was to start the program by flying 15 gap-year students from the U.S. to Israel to meet with a same-size group of Israeli students. But the Covid-19 pandemic scuttled that, and now each cohort will engage in programming without traveling.
But the two groups will have virtual meetings, Braudo said.
“They will celebrate Jewish life together. They will do Shabbat together,” he said.
Founded in 1996, BINA was established “as a response to the breakdown in public trust and unity during the aftermath of the  assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,” according to its website. BINA supports a pluralistic Israel and has created a network of secular yeshivas in the Jewish state.
The program, LEAP, is based on BINA’s stated values of learning, experience, action and peoplehood.
“We will bring the learning, experience, action and peoplehood elements together to inspire our young people to do more for themselves and their communities during this challenging time,” Zack Bodner, CEO of the OFJCC, said in a release. “This will be an important opportunity for us to create a new experience at a critical time in shaping the Jewish future.”
The OFJCC has had to cancel much of its programming because of the pandemic. On June 22, it announced it would lay off about 21 percent of its staff and slash its budget by one-third.