Who is age-eligible to participate on a Mitzvah Corps program?
Summer programs are available to rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, as well as to rising college freshmen.
Do participants need to be immunized to attend Mitzvah Corps?
The Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. Medical exemptions are granted in rare cases. Please contact us regarding any potential exemptions prior to registration. For more information, read the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.
What are the physical requirements for participation on Mitzvah Corps?
The physical requirements of each Mitzvah Corps vary, depending upon the type of community engagement, local infrastructure development, and access to resources in remote communities. Each program’s individual FAQ tab elaborates on its specific requirements. If there is a concern about a teen’s physical capabilities, please contact our office so we may help identify which of our programs may be a good fit.
Where is Mitzvah Corps located?
Mitzvah Corps programs operate each summer in various cities around the world. Each location has been chosen based on its unique features, communities of innovative thinkers, and ability to immerse participants in the authentic daily lives of its citizens.
When do Mitzvah Corps programs run, and how long are they?
Our programs are staggered throughout the summer, beginning in late June and running through mid August. They vary in length from 11-29 days.
Is it possible to participate on multiple Mitzvah Corps programs in one summer?
Yes! In fact, participants who register for multiple Mitzvah Corps experiences receive $100 off each subsequent program after the first. Many of our trips are designed to begin on the same day that another trip ends, to allow for a seamless transition from one program to the next.
What is a typical day like at Mitzvah Corps?
Generally, a typical day on a Mitzvah Corps program includes three primary components:
(1) Engagement with the local community through the lens of social justice. Depending on the site and the day, this may include volunteering, speaking with community leaders, meeting with individuals and organizations who are having a positive social impact, or more!
(2) Supplemental learning and application of relevant values. Each program offers an in-depth contextualization of the issue the participants are exploring, and an exploration of dynamics in the realm of service learning. Participants will address sensitive topics such as power and privilege, the language of volunteering, and how to be an effective ally.
(3) Community building and social experiences. An important part of living in a new place is the ability to experience it! Having free time to explore (within boundaries), participating in local cultural events, or even just a few hours to decompress with peers, is a part of daily life on Mitzvah Corps.
The specific schedule of each Mitzvah Corps experience varies, depending upon the issue focus and location, and you can find sample itineraries on each program page.
What are the housing accommodations like? How are rooming assignments made?
The housing setup varies by program, and may include college dormitories, sorority or fraternity houses, hotels, or hostels. Regardless of the type of location, each accommodation meets our standard of safety, security, and cleanliness.
Participants on Mitzvah Corps programs are housed in rooms by self-identified gender, with either private or same-self-identified-gendered communal bathrooms. Our values and policies actively welcome participants of all genders, transgender, and non-binary people, and we will gladly work with any family to create a comfortable living environment that meets the needs of each teen.
The number of participants per room is dependent upon the number of beds available; each teen will sleep in their own bed (with the exception of some overnight excursions, where some teens may share a queen or king sized bed for no more than 2 nights in a row). In order to facilitate a cohesive group dynamic, room assignments are determined by the staff, and we do not consider roommate requests.
Will there be documentation of community service?
Yes! Upon completion of the program, each participant will be provided with a letter detailing the work accomplished. We will also gladly sign any supplemental paperwork required by a participant’s particular school.
Please note that Mitzvah Corps constitutes a wide range of community engagement and social justice activities to count toward “community service” hours, and that not all of our programs contain a significant amount of traditional volunteering. If you have specific community service requirements to complete, please be in touch with our office in advance for additional details and clarifications to ensure that your needs will be met.
What is included in the cost of a Mitzvah Corps program?
Each Mitzvah Corps tuition covers all food, housing, during-program transportation, social activities, and programmatic materials during the program itself. Teens may wish to bring extra spending money for snacks, souvenirs, or to do laundry if they so choose, but all of their necessities are covered in the tuition.
What is NOT included in the cost of a Mitzvah Corps program?
The cost of travel is NOT included in the tuition.
For domestic programs, participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the program location.
For all international programs, participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the domestic meeting point.
For most international programs (except Israel), Mitzvah Corps arranges round trip international airfare for the group from the domestic meeting point to the international location. The international airfare will be billed separately and is not included in program tuition. In some cases, it may be possible for families to use award points or miles rather than dollars; please contact our office to discuss this option.
For Mitzvah Corps Israel, our partnership with NFTY in Israel allows us to benefit from the bulk ticketing discounts they’re able to negotiate with the airlines for round-trip flights to Tel Aviv. Therefore, the cost of this international round-trip airfare is included in the program tuition.
Is scholarship assistance available for Mitzvah Corps?
Yes. Please refer to our Financial Assistance & Savings page for information about Mitzvah Corps financial incentives, scholarships, and additional financial aid resources.
Where do the Mitzvah Corps groups meet at the beginning of each program?
Participants arrive at either the domestic program location, or the domestic meeting point for an international program, by plane, train, or car, depending upon their origin. It is the responsibility for each participant to organize their own transportation to Mitzvah Corps.
Upon registration, families will receive detailed instructions on booking travel to that particular program. Once completed, the itinerary will be submitted to Mitzvah Corps, and staff members will be on site at the airport, train station, or program to greet them upon their arrival, and will accompany them back to their point of departure upon conclusion of the program.
Prior to the program commencement, all participants will receive additional instructions on where to meet the staff upon arrival, as well as contact phone numbers to reach them in case of emergency. Mitzvah Corps staff are on site in advance of the program, and remain available and on site upon its conclusion until each participant has arrived home safely.
What are Mitzvah Corps’ health, safety, and security protocols?
We are dedicated to providing safe and secure environments for our participants and staff, and the health and welfare of our communities are always our top concern. While operating immersive programs in real cities around the world carries some inherent risk, we work hard around the clock to ensure our safety standards and practices are the best they can be. In each program location, we connect with local safety and health officials to ensure we receive the utmost in care and support from their services; additionally, we are in touch with the government tourism offices in our international program locations to confirm our routes and destinations are secure. The staff are familiar with the locations, and will communicate any relevant guidelines and boundaries clearly to the participants.
Does Mitzvah Corps accommodate dietary restrictions?
Yes! We have welcomed many participants with food allergies and restrictions, and can easily accommodate vegetarian, dairy- and gluten- free diets, as well as work around most food allergies. However, since our programs are operated in various communities, hotels, and dorms, we cannot always guarantee access to a completely nut-free kitchen. Please communicate with our team as early and thoroughly as possible about any dietary concerns in order to ensure that we can create a safe dietary environment for each participant.
How does Mitzvah Corps handle illness or injury during a program?
The health and safety of our participants is our primary concern during the summer, and we work hard to ensure they are getting adequate sleep and hydration, and are taking proper safety precautions during all activities. However, living in close proximity to a group of peers, increased exposure to new elements in new places, and experiencing a variety of physical activity is unavoidable, and on occasion, participants do become ill or injured.
In the event that a participant is unable to fully participate, we assess their ability to modify involvement with the group, or the need to remain behind for the day, and provide adequate staff supervision as necessary. Furthermore, we have relationships with local doctors, and are always within a close proximity to urgent and emergent care facilities, should the need for either arise.
We assess any potential illness or injury on a case-by-case basis, and in any situation where the health of a participant is in question, the parents or guardians will be contacted.
What is a typical packing list for Mitzvah Corps? What kind of clothing is appropriate?
The guidelines below are generic across all Mitzvah Corps programs. A full packing list will be provided upon registration, and will include specific items for each site.
We dress informally at Mitzvah Corps, and it is not necessary to buy new clothing. Participants should be prepared to spend time outdoors in the summer heat, indoors in air conditioning, engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking or swimming, and get their hands dirty. High-heeled shoes, designer clothes, expensive accessories, or inappropriate attire (intentionally tight or revealing) are neither necessary nor encouraged.
Towels, pillows, and linens are provided on every Mitzvah Corps program, but participants should bring their own toiletries. Laundry facilities are often available; in those cases, detergent is provided but the cost of laundry is not included in the tuition.
Personal cell phones and iPods are allowed, both for safety reasons, and to allow participants to use their functions to appropriately document their experience. There will be free time each day for teens to call home; however their use is not permitted during structured group time.
Mitzvah Corps is not responsible for any lost, stolen, or damaged items.
What if a potential participant is not a member of a URJ congregation?
Although Mitzvah Corps is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, participants come from a variety of Jewish and interfaith backgrounds, including Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, and unaffiliated or alternative movements. We gladly welcome this diversity! However, as we are supported in part by the dues received from URJ congregations, participants who are not members of congregations affiliated with the URJ pay a surcharge of $200.
How Jewish is Mitzvah Corps?
Part of the Mitzvah Corps mission is to connect Jewish teenagers with opportunities to understand how Judaism empowers them to play an active role in the pursuit of justice. While participants do not sit in classrooms and study, say a prayer before or after every meal, or hold a formal service daily, relevant Jewish values are incorporated into all of their activities. There is no expectation that participants will be familiar with Judaism, however they should be prepared to learn about its roots and applications in the realm of social justice.
Is Mitzvah Corps Kosher?
In terms of Shabbat observance, Mitzvah Corps follows the guidelines of the Reform Jewish movement. While we typically do not engage in volunteer work on Shabbat, the groups are active by cooking, traveling, writing, and using electricity.
As far as meals, we do empower our teens to make their own dietary choices. Meals provided by Mitzvah Corps will not serve trayf (shellfish or pork), or meat and dairy in the same dish (ie, chicken alfredo), but may include the option for teens to combine if they so choose (ie, a taco bar with meat and cheese offered on separate trays). Meat served is not typically kosher; participants who eat only kosher meat may choose from the vegetarian options. Some meals are eaten in local restaurants, and in those instances, participants are free to make any dietary choices they’d like.
Who are the staff at Mitzvah Corps? What is the staff/participant ratio?
We take a great deal of pride in our staff members, who provide a stable and caring environment for participants throughout the duration of the program. Our staff is comprised of older college students, graduate students, and professionals in various fields including education, social justice, and more, each with experience working with teens, in immersive settings, and in social justice environments. All Mitzvah Corps staff members have completed a rigorous interview process, with reference and background checks. They attend a mandatory staff orientation prior to the summer, and will have training in CPR, First Aid, and safety and security protocols. Our staff/participant ratio is never more than 1 to 10.
For information about being on our staff, click here.