JustCity Leadership Institute

About JustCity

The JustCity Leadership Institute is JTS’s award-winning pre-college program, training high school students in the fundamentals of Jewish change leadership in collaboration with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Camp Ramah, United Synagogue Youth, and American Jewish Society for Service.

Each summer, JustCity brings rising juniors and seniors together to live on JTS’s New York City campus, take college-level courses, engage in social justice work, and build community through vibrant Jewish programming.

What You’ll Do As a JustCity Participant 

  • Learn firsthand from changemakers throughout New York City, gain the tools to make lasting impact, and create personal action projects to lead change at home and in the world
  • Explore the Jewish values that impel us to transform society, develop and strengthen your  leadership skills, and deepen community while experiencing the excitement of college life
  • Form lasting friendships with a diverse network of ambitious teens from around the country

Summer 2016 Dates: June 26–July 10

The Schedule

Monday through Thursday, you will spend mornings in class, while in the afternoon you’ll be engaged in 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 going on field trips around the city. Evenings and the weekend will be devoted to further exploring the city, building community, and celebrating Shabbat.

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 I
11:00–12:30 p.m.: Class II
12:30–1:30 p.m.: Lunch in the Dining Hall
1:30–5:00 p.m.: Field Learning
7:30–10:30 p.m.: Evening activities / free time
10:30–11:00 p.m.: Community meeting
11:30 p.m.: Curfew

Classroom Learning

Our instructors challenge students to think deeply about their personal Jewish and social justice journey and how each student can lead change at home and in the world. Instructors are thought leaders in the Jewish community and committed social justice activists. Students will participate in two morning classes:

  • Seminar classes focus on the place of social justice within Judaism, and use Jewish texts to inform and inspire your work.
  • Skill-building classes focus on developing the tools needed to incubate innovations and maximize  social impact.

Jewish Programming

JustCity Leadership Institute offers 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 as opportunities for daily prayer/reflection.

Living on Campus

Students live on the JTS campus in our undergraduate residence hall in apartment-style, single-sex suites. The residence hall is fully-equipped, and its central location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan enables students to take full advantage of the cultural wealth of New York City.

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

Tuition and Application

Tuition is $2,750 (includes all programming fees, room, and board)

  • The application deadline is April 1. Admissions decisions will be made on a rolling basis once a complete application is submitted.

Apply to JustCity


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 completed JustCity Leadership Institute application and the separate scholarship application by April 1.

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

Apply for a JustCity scholarship

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does JustCity Leadership Institute count toward my high school’s community service hours?
A: Yes, JustCity Leadership Institute participants will accrue approximately 10 hours of community service. 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 returning  to their communities and continuing the service that they committed to while participating in JustCity.

Q: Will you provide college prep for participants?
A: Yes, 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 topics that will be covered:

  • Starting Your College Search
  • Evaluating Jewish Life on Campus
  • Building Your College Application
  • Writing the College Admission Essay
  • Interviewing Skills

Q: Are there any prerequisites for JustCity Leadership Institute?
A: 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.

Q: What does Shabbat at JustCity Leadership Institute look like?
A: 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). Shabbat also provides an opportunity for informal discussion groups. Students can opt into different cohorts based on area of interest (Israel, arts and culture, gender, sustainability, 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.

Q: I’m not religiously observant—do I have to participate in the Jewish programming?
A: 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, such as 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.

Q: How safe is the JTS campus?
A: Your safety is our highest priority. 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 participants learn to be alert and aware of themselves and others. Security guards monitor the residence hall and main campus 24 hours a day and only those with JTS identification may enter.

Q: Will I receive college credit for this program?
A: Unfortunately, students do not receive college credit for participating in JustCity.

Contact Us

If you have questions, or want us to send you information, feel free to contact us anytime at justcity@jtsa.edu or (212) 678-8832.