Spotlight on Tivnu: Building Justice

The Jewish Review is featuring a profile each of the 18 local beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 2022 Annual Campaign.

TIVNU: Building Justice | 503-673-3644 |
Area of service: Social Justice
2022 Allocation: $14,400
MISSION: Tivnu’s signature program is its nine-month gap year program, designed to connect participants Jewish life and social justice through individualized internships as they create a home together in Portland. Tivnu hosts shorter programs for day schools, synagogues and youth groups.

Steve Eisenbach-Budner founded Tivnu in 2014 to give participants (ages 17-20) experience with hands-on grassroots work, communal living and outdoor adventure while exploring links between Jewish life and social justice. 
Participants spend four days a week at an internship tailored to their passions and the needs of partner organizations. Internships include immigrant rights advocacy at organizations such as Innovation Law Lab, mentorship for LGBTQ kids through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and construction at Portland’s tiny house communities and Safe Rest Villages. New internships this year included the gardens at NAYA (Native American Youth and Family Center), post-incarceration addiction treatment at Men’s Residential Center, and Gallery Go Go, featuring artists from marginalized communities. Tivnu invites other local social change organizations to connect about potential internships next year.
Almost all Tivnu participants engage in construction as part of their experience. “My favorite thing about coaching Tivnu construction is helping young people become fluent with power tools and see how useful and exhilarating it can be to deploy these sorts of tools,” says Tivnu Construction Coach Erik Brakstad. “There’s no substitute for the confidence you get from seeing your work rise up from the ground to the rooftop.” 
In addition, as Eisenbach-Budner points out, “a big piece of the program is learning tangible life skills such as budgeting, cooking and working as a group.” Plus, he says, “the program takes advantage of camping, hiking, rafting and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.”
Funding from the Jewish Federation and private donors is important to maintain Tivnu’s engagement with local organizations and commitment to never turn away qualified applicants for financial reasons.
Program Director Adinah Miller oversees a rich curriculum of learning, engaging with a variety of social justice topics examined through local, national and Jewish lenses.
“Tivnu attracts participants from all parts of the Jewish world, from traditionally committed to radically innovative,” she says. “They live together, work together and play together while growing in their commitments. We’re not looking for one kind of Judaism that can serve everyone; we’re helping our participants create a lifestyle of passion and dedication that uplifts all kinds of Jewish expression.” 
Tivnu will hold a Gap Year Info Session at 5 pm, March 21, on Zoom. You can sign up on the Tivnu website.
For more information, to volunteer or to suggest potential internship partners, email Tivnu Outreach Coordinator Leanna Parsons at


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