What Makes This Program Unique

KIVUNIM Americas is not your average summer program.

In these four weeks, you will go farther from home but get closer to your fellow Americans — North, South, and Central — to your connection with Judaism, and to yourself.

  • Travelers from the U.S. will be joined by members from the Jewish community in Costa Rica and Mexico, having fun together while forming an unforgettable bond across borders.

  • KIVUNIM Americas features impactful on-the-ground programming and immersive Spanish language opportunities.

  • Alumni of KIVUNIM: New Directions came together to create KIVUNIM Americas, inspiring the next wave of critically thinking, passionate leaders and strengthening the network KIVUNIM has fostered since 1999.

Arenal Volcano, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Making the World a little smaller

KIVUNIM Americas has partnered with Jewish community leaders in two incredible locales. These on-the-ground experts in both Costa Rica and Mexico have collaborated with KIVUNIM to provide the best experience possible - one that means more than simply checking-off travel destination boxes.

Visiting a new place is one thing. Encountering a new place with your peers — people who know the territory but have never experienced it quite like this — is the recipe for an altogether more impactful program. KIVUNIM Americas participants and our in-country partners are embarking on a journey to eschew stereotypes and form meaningful, lasting bonds. Who was once a stranger becomes a friend. What was once a land far, far away starts to feel a little less distant.

Help us make this big world a little smaller.

Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, Mexico

Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, Mexico

Experiential learning and authentic language encounters

KIVUNIM America recognizes the importance of learning while traveling. Yes, we’ll spend time relaxing ocean-side, but we’ll also challenge students to interact with their surroundings, to ask insightful questions, to absorb. The KIVUNIM model pays careful attention to the the kind of museums, cultural events, and local experts that make it onto the itinerary. High on our priority list are activities that inspire deep thought, motivate critical conversations, and present a new perspective. Participants can look forward to beautiful vistas and sunny beaches, as well as tuning in intently to learn lessons only learned on the road.

Language does not take a backseat in an experiential learning environment, but rather permeates and enriches any and every moment of the journey. Over 300,000 Jews speak Spanish across Latin America. Participants will be able to converse with their Costa Rican and Mexican peers in English — and perhaps bond over a mutual background in Hebrew. However, nothing is quite so immersive as interacting within the local languages. All KIVUNIM Americas students, regardless of their comfort level in Spanish, will have the opportunity to taste the flavors and feel its rhythm in natural, authentic settings — something not afforded to them in most U.S. classrooms. They’ll be encouraged to give their knowledge a test drive in the field. They’ll be positioned to learn words and try out new phrases. They’ll return home to the United States emboldened and excited to improve their language skills.

KIVUNIM gap-year students with the Dalai Lama in Jerusalem

KIVUNIM gap-year students with the Dalai Lama in Jerusalem

How did This Adventure Begin?

KIVUNIM Americas was borne of alumni inspired by their gap-year with KIVUNIM: New Directions. While New Directions focuses on Israel and Jewish Diaspora communities across the Eastern Hemisphere, Daniel Starosta (Alum of 2008-2009) and Daniel Magerman (Alum of 2011-2012) envisioned a complementary program, taking the connective power of KIVUNIM to Latin America.

The pair arrived at their idea following parallel paths. Starosta has strong family ties to Latin American Jewry, growing up in the United States, but never too far from his Jewish roots in Mexico and Venezuela. For him, Spanish and Hebrew and family traditions have always been closely linked, and a Latin American Kivunim extension always seemed like the natural evolution. Magerman grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia to parents of Ashkenazi descent and as part of the fourth generation living in and around the city. He studied Spanish in high school and fell in love with the idea of forming connections with people in another language. In November 2017, Peter Geffen, Founder of KIVUNIM: New Directions, put the alumni in touch, encouraging them to go forth and build.

Since then, the two Daniels have endeavored to develop and facilitate a KIVUNIM program that harnesses the formative experiences from their gap-years — and offer such an experience to more young minds. They have recruited others to join in this project, forming the KIVUNIM Americas Alumni Committee. The emergence of KIVUNIM Americas is evidence of just how strong an impact KIVUNIM has on its students. Alumni are empowered to create new, far-reaching, difference-making initiatives. Participants of KIVUNIM Americas will become part of our network, uniquely positioned to be the best-informed, critically thinking Jewish leaders and global citizens with real-world knowledge.