Frequently Asked Questions

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What is JustCity Leadership Institute?
JustCity Leadership Institute is an innovative precollege program in Jewish change leadership, brought to you by The Jewish Theological Seminary, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Camp Ramah, and United Synagogue Youth. From Sunday, June 26, to Sunday, July 10, 2016, you will build a network of peers who are also committed to learning change leadership skills, positive social change, and bringing their newfound skills home so they too can make a difference in their communities. Students will live together in the JTS residence halls in single-sex suites, and engage in Jewish text study with JTS faculty. Afternoons will be devoted to learning in the field, and evenings and weekends will be spent further exploring New York City.

Is the program co-ed?

What does a typical day look like?
Monday through Thursday, you will spend mornings in class and afternoons doing skill-building programs throughout New York City and meeting with changemakers in a variety of fields. Fridays will be spent doing group service projects and engaging in field trips around the city. Evenings and the weekend will be devoted to further exploring the city, building community, and celebrating Shabbat. (See below for more information).

A Typical Day (Monday–Thursday)

8:00–9:30 a.m.: Prayer/reflection and breakfast in the residence hall
9:30–11:00 a.m.: Class
11:00–12:30 p.m.: Class
12:30–1:30 p.m.: Lunch in the Dining Hall
1:30–5:00 p.m.: Field Learning
6:00–7:30 p.m.: Dinner
7:30–11:00 p.m.:   Evening activities / free time
10:30 p.m.: Curfew

In addition to classes and workshops, you will make friends, go on field trips, engage with Jewish arts and culture, and have time for summer fun.

How old do I have to be to participate in the program?
JustCity Leadership Institute is for rising high school juniors and seniors-those students entering 11th or 12th grade in fall 2016.

I just graduated from high school. Can I still apply to JustCity Leadership Institute?
Please contact us to discuss it. While our programs are geared toward rising high school juniors and seniors, some exceptions may be made.

How many students participate in JustCity Leadership Institute?
Our maximum number of students is 50 per session. This is a great size for teens to make new friends and still get personal attention from staff.

What is your staff-to-student ratio?
We have a staff-to-student ratio of 1:6.

Can students commute?
JustCity Leadership Institute offers commuter options for students who live in the New York metropolitan area. Please contact us at for more information.

Does JustCity Leadership Institute count toward my high school's community service hours?
Yes, JustCity Leadership Institute participants will accrue about 10 hours of community service that can be counted toward their high school requirements. You will receive a certificate of completion that can be provided to your school and included in your college applications. Additionally, students are charged with going back home to their communities and continuing the service that they committed to while participating in JustCity.

Will you provide college prep for participants?
Yes. In addition to acquiring leadership skills, you need to succeed in college. JustCity Leadership Institute offers admissions and college success workshops designed to help you learn about choices, better understand the admissions process, and gain effective strategies for translating your high school and Jewish leadership achievements into a college application that stands out. Here are just a few of the workshops that will be offered:

"Starting Your College Search"

"Evaluating Jewish Life on Campus"

"Building Your College Application"

"Writing the College Admission Essay"

"Interviewing Skills"


What classes will I take at JTS?
JustCity Leadership Institute is designed for future change makers-highly motivated and intellectually curious students who are eager to engage with today's social issues. Students will participate in two morning classes. Our seminar classes focus on the place of social justice within Judaism, and use Jewish texts to inform and inspire your work. Our skill-building classes focus on developing the tools needed to incubate innovations and maximize your social impact. Instructors challenge students to think deeply about their personal Jewish and social justice journey and how each of you can lead change at home and in the world. Instructors are thought leaders in the Jewish community and committed social justice activists. Please see our About Our Staff page to learn more.

Are there any prerequisites for JustCity Leadership Institute?
JustCity Leadership Institute is open to Jews of all backgrounds who are excited to learn and want to make a meaningful difference in the world. While classes are rooted in text, all primary and secondary sources are offered in both English and Hebrew.

No Hebrew proficiency or prior experience with Jewish texts is required.

Will we have homework?
All JustCity Leadership Institute classwork happens in the classroom—the program does not require any homework as afternoons and evenings are devoted to skill-building field trips and breakout sessions.

Will I need to pay additional fees for course materials?
No. All books and materials will be provided for you.

Will I be graded for my class?
JustCity Leadership Institute's emphasis is on participants' personal journeys and growth, so you will not be graded for your classwork. In lieu of an official transcript, instructors can provide an evaluation on official letterhead for you, if you desire. These evaluations can be copied and included in college applications as supplemental recommendations. You will also receive a certificate of completion.

Can I receive college credit for the class?
No. Students do not receive college credit for JustCity Leadership Institute.


What kind of Jewish programming do you offer?
JustCity Leadership Institute is an inspiring Jewish summer experience for young people. In addition to Jewish learning and action, we offer you a unique opportunity to deepen your Jewish identity in community with your peers. All programming (classroom study, community service, and field trips) is filtered through a Jewish lens, and we offer transformative Shabbat experiences as well. 

What does Shabbat at JustCity Leadership Institute look like?
After a busy week of learning, Shabbat offers participants a special opportunity for renewal and community. Through festive shared meals, prayer or reflection, and ritual, Shabbat synthesizes JustCity Leadership Institute's unique approach to Jewish living and provides a gateway to deeper meaning. Shabbat will begin and conclude with group services, and we will host scholars-in-residence (social justice leaders in the field and esteemed JTS faculty) who will join us for meals and share their wisdom. Shabbat also provides an opportunity for informal discussion groups: on Saturday, students can opt into different cohorts based on area of interest (Israel, arts and culture, gender, sustainability, hesed [loving-kindness], etc.) for peer learning, or take advantage of the vibrant Jewish resources on the Upper West Side. All Shabbat programming will help cultivate connections among Jewish values, activism, and identity in a way that is personally resonant for each student.

I'm not religiously observant—do I have to participate in the Jewish programming?
Participants of JustCity Leadership Institute come from all parts of the country and reflect diverse religious attitudes, affiliations, and expressions of Judaism. We believe that spiritual practice is one of the key ways that, as Jews, change leaders, and social justice activists, we connect to the holiness of our tradition, link to our community, and sustain our work. Participation in the core of our Shabbat experience - services and meals - offers a powerful space for community cohesion and reflection. By asking everyone to take an active role in this programming, JustCity Leadership Institute aspires to prepare students for Jewish adulthood by providing spiritual and lay leadership training. We hope to foster a pluralistic and egalitarian environment that both respects and stretches all our students; we will work to accommodate different approaches of prayer and ritual as much as possible.


What will we be doing after class and on the weekend?
Time spent after class and on the weekend will be a mix of activities and excursions to various places all over New York City, as well as right on campus. Afternoons are devoted to large group volunteer projects around the city: creating an elementary school mural, "greening" a neighborhood park, delivering meals to Jewish senior citizens, and serving in a soup kitchen. Additionally, you will take guided tours through historic Jewish neighborhoods of New York City to learn about the history of Jewish social activism. We will also offer stand-alone college prep workshops on such topics as "How to Begin Your Search," "How to Write a College Essay," and the "Admissions Interview." You will also take tours of JTS, Columbia University, and Barnard College.

During evenings and weekends, we'll participate in chaperoned field trips (concerts, bike rides, canoeing on the Hudson, sports events, theater, etc.), group service projects, and evening programming with JTS thought leaders and professors. There is also a wide range of suggested activities for students who would like to venture out in Manhattan on their own or with friends (while staying mindful of the rules, of course).

How much spending money should I bring?
The suggested amount of spending money is about $75 to $100 per week. This will vary depending on how often you dine off campus, travel throughout New York City, etc.


Where will I be living?
JustCity Leadership Institute residents live on the JTS campus in our undergraduate residence hall, located on the Upper West Side. The residence hall is fully equipped and their central location enables students to take full advantage of the cultural wealth of New York City. Bus and subway connections are close to the residence hall.

At JTS, we have created an atmosphere for Jewish living in the residence halls that complements the academic experience. All students in residence are guided by a carefully selected group of Resident Advisors (RAs) and counselors who assist students, facilitate hall activities, and help foster a sense of community and friendship within their residence hall. Principles of respect, understanding, leadership, and social responsibility are emphasized by the live-in staff. In addition, Shabbat observance is expected in all public areas of the residence hall.

Please note that telephones are not provided in the dorm rooms; we strongly encourage you to bring your own cell phone(s), as you'll be out and about for much of the day. We do not provide sheets, towels, bedding, etc., for students. There are a variety of stores in the area where housing items can be purchased if you wish.

Will I have roommates?
Yes, living with a roommate within a real college dormitory setting is an important part of your precollege experience. Students live in apartment-style, single-sex suites. Each suite is equipped with its own kitchen, bathrooms, and common area. Roommates are assigned based on students' responses to a housing questionnaire.

What is the food like?
The JTS Dining Hall is a social center for the JTS community, as well as for the Columbia University and Barnard College communities. Dining services provides a wide range of food options, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. All meals are kosher under the rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Joel Roth, rav hamakhshir. Meals are varied and cater to just about every taste. For example, freshly baked muffins, hot and cold cereals, a hot buffet, and fresh fruit are available at breakfast. Lunch offerings include soups, hot and cold buffets, sandwich bar, assorted fresh vegetables, composed salads, and fresh fruit. JustCity Leadership Institute dinners are either catered in or cooked "family style" with staff in the residence hall. Additionally, students have the option of preparing meals in their individual kitchens. Our residence hall maintains the laws of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws).

Does JustCity Leadership Institute have a dress code?
While JustCity Leadership Institute does not have a formal dress code, we do expect students to be mindful of their appearance, and to dress appropriately at all times and in each situation. We ask that you bring at least one or two "business casual" outfits for special programming. You may also bring tallit and tefillin with you for weekday morning services.

How safe is the JTS campus?
Your safety is one of our highest priorities. JTS is located in Manhattan's Morningside Heights, which is also home to Columbia University, Barnard College, Manhattan School of Music, and Union Theological Seminary. The neighborhood has a "college-town" feel and is among the safest in Manhattan. During orientation, JustCity Leadership Institute participants will take part in a workshop on New York City "street smarts" with a member of the JTS security staff so that you learn to be alert and aware of yourselves and others. Security guards monitor the residence hall and main campus 24 hours a day and only those with JTS identification may enter.

If you enroll in JustCity Leadership Institute, you must also assume responsibility for your behavior and comply with all regulations designed to protect the health and safety of participants. We take curfew and sign-out procedures very seriously; violating these policies will result in disciplinary action and/or dismissal. In keeping with policy and legal restrictions, we have zero tolerance for substance use, violence, harassment, and stealing. Unacceptable student conduct will result in disciplinary action and/or dismissal. Details of the social policy are sent to each admitted applicant.

What should I bring with me?

Business casual and/or Shabbat attire
A jacket
Active wear
Water bottle
Alarm clock
Blanket, comforter, towels, pillow, extra-long sheets (mattresses are TWIN-XL)
Book bag, knapsack, key ring
Clothes hangers
First aid kit, sewing kit
Laundry detergent
Personal care products, flip-flops for the shower
Cell phone
Hair dryer (optional)
Laundry bag (optional)
Camera (optional)
iPad or laptop (optional)
Tallit and tefillin (optional)


JTS is easily accessible from all New York City metropolitan area airports, train and bus stations, and by car. Students commuting to campus daily take the #1 Broadway local subway or one of several buses (M104, M4, or M60) directly to JTS. All admitted students receive detailed travel instructions.


When is the deadline to apply?
Applications are available on the website. The deadline to apply is April 1, 2016. Admissions decisions will be made on a rolling basis.

When will I be notified of the decision?
Decisions are made on a rolling basis. You should get a decision within a month of the office receiving a completed application. It is up to the student to make sure that all parts of the application have been received by the office.

What are your rates?
Tuition for JustCity Leadership Institute is $2,750, which includes all programming fees, room, and board.

Do you offer scholarships?
JustCity Leadership Institute offers limited scholarships to students who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. To be considered for a scholarship, applicants must submit a complete JustCity Leadership Institute application and the separate scholarship application by April 1, 2016.

Scholarships are granted on a first-come, first-served basis, and awards are made until funds are depleted. Funds may be depleted before the application deadline. We cannot guarantee that all applicants who apply before the deadline will receive scholarship assistance.

Can I have the application fee waived?
Students who apply to JustCity Leadership Institute by February 15, 2016, will have the $50 application fee waived. If you are concerned about the fee, please contact our office at, and we will be happy to discuss the matter further.

What is your payment and refund policy?

A nonrefundable payment of $1,375 is due upon a student's acceptance into the program to guarantee his or her place. The remaining tuition is due in full no later than June 15, 2016. No refunds will be made after June 15 of any portion of the tuition for any reason. Students will not be allowed to register or participate in the program if payment in full has not been made.