Young Judea’s Year Course program brings talented and committed high school graduates to Israel for a year of learning, volunteering and discovery. Talia Niederman, an 18-year old from New Jersey and a lifelong participant in Young Judea, recently got back from her gap year in Israel. Needless to say, she had a life-changing experience.

Although she’s super busy this summer working as a counselor for Young Judea’s Camp Tel Yehuda, Niederman took some time to tell Repair the World about her background with service, why she felt compelled to join Year Course, and how she and her fellow YC’ers created a program to help women in need.

What is your background with service and volunteering – is it something you’ve always been passionate about?
Yes, I’ve always thought it was important to incorporate some form of social action into my life. In high school I was very involved with Young Judaea and did a lot of volunteering and service through the movement.

How did you hear about Year Course and what inspired you to participate?
Well I’ve been involved with Young Judaea since I was 10. I think it was around 9th grade that I told my parents I was going on Year Course. They weren’t originally too crazy about the idea. Throughout my time in Young Judea I was always hearing about all the amazing things YCers were doing. Back in the States we would try and parallel them in whatever ways we could. I remember the first event I ever planned was making sock dolls for the Darfuri refugees (a group the Year Course two ahead of me worked with heavily). Hearing all the things I did about my predecessor, I would be crazy not to have gone on Year Course.

What types of programs did you work on while you were in Israel?
I volunteered in a four places over the course of the year. In our Jerusalem section I worked at an after school program for Ethiopian Jews. In Bat Yam I worked at a battered women’s shelter and the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, and in Arad I volunteered at a foster home. Each of these was roughly three months.

What experience had the most personal impact for you?
The most impactful thing for me was Garin Kol L’Nashim. Six (which eventually turned to seven) of us created this Garin to combat various women’s issues in Israel. It was from the Garin that we got the inspiration to work at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center and the battered women’s shelter. We also collected 400 toiletry items for a shelter for sex trafficked women, created two education kits for people in America, made t-shirts from which we donated the profit to the battered women’s shelter, and continuously kept a blog.

The Garin not only helped us to help the broader community, but it gave us a forum to discuss various women’s issues with each other. By the end of the year it was me and three others. The four of us really built a wonderful and proactive community together, for which I am extremely proud and grateful.

Find out more about Young Judea’s Year Course program and how you can get involved, here.