So is this a Fellowship or is it more like a gap year program?
One of the unique features of the DFI is that it is a carefully balanced combination of both of these things. On the one hand, Fellows are provided with a stipend which enables them to go off and develop themselves, their leadership abilities, and their knowledge of Israel and Judaism in an individualistic way which fits the Fellowship model. At the same time, however, the DFI places a very high value on the DFI Learning Community in which Fellows share, learn and grow with each other. We value all aspects of the DFI Fellowship Program equally.
Zionist, Anti-Zionist, and Everything In Between
I consider myself a Zionist. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. We are a broadly liberal and Zionist program, if Zionism is defined as the ongoing movement to secure a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. (Full Disclosure: We also believe in the Palestinians’ right to national self-determination and we look forward to celebrating whatever resolution to the conflict Israelis and Palestinians may reach together.)
I consider myself post-Zionist, anti-Zionist, or simply don’t use that Z-word. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. But only if you believe that “Jews have the same right to national self-determination as all other peoples.” (It is also possible that you can be a good fit for the DFI if you are a principled anti-nationalist and believe that there should be no states at all.) If you believe that Jews are uniquely ineligible for a nation-state of their own, the DFI is not likely a good fit for you.
I’ve noticed that the work of the Dorot Foundation in Israel is channeled through the New Israel Fund. Does that mean you are only interested in Fellows with a left-wing leaning regarding Israel and the region?
Absolutely not. The DFI is a community with a wide range of political, religious and social beliefs. This diversity is a value we hold when constructing each unique cohort of Fellows. We believe that functioning in a diverse political and religious learning community undoubtedly brings challenges, but also brings increased opportunities for growth and learning.
Religious, Secular, All-of-the-Above, None-of-the-Above
I am religious. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. Our DFI Community includes Fellows from across the religious spectrum. As a program, we are shomer Shabbat (observing the commandments of Shabbat). At no point will an observant Fellow be required to compromise their halachic commitment.
The Kashrut policy of the DFI is that at all official events we will provide food which is under the Kashrut supervision of the local municipal rabbinical authority or the State Rabbinical authority. On the very rare occasions that this is impossible (something which has occurred, for example, when visiting a Muslim community or when the community visits Budapest), we will always inform Fellows well in advance so that they can make suitable arrangements to cater for their needs. We have a similar approach to all personal dietary needs (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc).
I am a Secular Jew. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. Our DFI Community includes Fellows from across the religious spectrum, including those who are secular and anti-religious. We believe that there is value in the wisdom tradition of the Jewish people and that knowledge is power (and hence, Jewish knowledge is power in Jewish contexts). Therefore, for example, Fellows are required to learn traditional Jewish texts. Furthermore, Fellows are urged to remain in Israel during all Jewish and Israeli holidays, and may observe or not observe holidays however they choose.
I am not Jewish. Am I eligible?
To be eligible for the DFI, one must be Jewish prior to the start of the program year in August, either via parental descent or conversion.
I am a Jew of Color. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. The DFI celebrates the rich diversity of the Jewish community, in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. In recent years, our Staff has worked with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant to improve the experience that Jews of Color (JOCs) have during the DFI and we wholeheartedly welcome JOCs as we wish to more fully represent the rich spectrum of Jewish experience in the US.
I am an LGBTQ+ Jew. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. The DFI affirms and welcomes people from all backgrounds, including but not limited to a wide variety of sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
I am not a typical learner. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. “This is not university!” is among our (many) taglines, in part, because we value the effectiveness of experiential education for adult learners. We work hard to provide differentiated learning opportunities among Fellows and to meet the learning needs of each throughout the year.
I have limited mobility. Is this program for me?
Absolutely. The DFI strives to provide the richest possible experience for every Fellow regardless of whatever challenges they may face (including those that are visible and those that are not). This requires trust, honest and open communication.
As the DFI is committed to social change, are you only looking for full-time activists to be part of the cohort of Fellows?
The DFI community has proudly welcomed doctors, artists, journalists, lawyers, academics, activists, and many others. A person's professional path is not a deciding factor in their acceptance to the Fellowship. What is important to us is a recognizable track record, commitment and ability to lead in matters regarding reform, innovation and social change.
Will I be given permission to study in some of the famous Yeshivot in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak?
Assuming that you have determined with the DFI Educators that this piece of Jewish learning is important and relevant to your Personal Learning Program, in order for it to be approved it has to fit the following criteria: it has to take place in an institution that provides equal access for women to all texts (or would provide that access theoretically, even if it happens to be a single sex institution); it is determined by the DFI to be a non-coercive Yeshiva; and, it is situated geographically within the Sovereign State of Israel. If the Yeshiva in question does not fit these criteria, you may choose to study there in your free time and at your own expense.
When it comes to the Shabbat weekend we spend together, what happens regarding prayers? Is Shabbat kept fully?
The planning of this weekend is in the hands of the Fellows and, again, the diversity of the community is both a challenge and a gift. Institutionally, we expect that there will be the opportunity for everyone, in public spaces, to be able to fully observe a traditional Shabbat, should they so choose. There may well be a variety of group activities, but these won't include travel or the use of electricity. There are likely to be prayers, for those who choose to participate in them; however, the nature of how they are conducted will be part of the planning process for the group. In private spaces such as bedrooms or in areas not occupied by the group, there is no expectation of how people will choose to enjoy their Shabbat.
Why does the DFI fly off to Budapest in the middle of the year?
Placing ourselves in Budapest as North American Jews provides us with a mirror through which we can more deeply explore who we are, to learn about others, and to have new encounters. In Budapest, we confront the broad historical narrative which both precedes and coincides with the stories of North American Jewry and Israel. We meet a contemporary Jewish community which is simultaneously thriving and threatened. Importantly, we are invited to confront specifically the many assumptions and variables that define our unique experience and privilege as North American Jews. We also place ourselves in contemporary Jewish Europe and celebrate and struggle with all that conveys.
I have a work commitment through to the end of the August. Is it okay to arrive in Israel a little bit late?
No. We plan the Fellowship so that all elements of the program are vital and we expect full participation at all times.