Rabbinical Students' Delegation FAQs


How much does the program cost and where do those fees go?

The fee for RSD is only $200 per participant. However, the actual cost of the program is closer to $3500 per participant, but the program is significantly subsidized by generous donors.

Costs for the program include round-trip airfare, accommodations, in-country transportation, meals, purified water for drinking and cooking, tools and materials for the group’s work project, AJWS group leader expenses, and host-organization administrative costs.

Please note: Program fees do not include inoculations/medications, entry or exit taxes, or personal items such as hiking boots, which might need to be purchased.

We ask that as a group RSD participants commit to raising at least $ 15,000 (approximately $900 per person) upon their return to support the work of AJWS in the Global South. Fundraising is an integral skill to gain as a social change-maker and an excellent way for volunteers to engage others in their work.

When does RSD take place?

RSD usually takes place in the first two weeks of January during the winter break of most rabbinical schools and early/mid June. For more specific dates, please e-mail Sarah Mulhern smulhern@ajws.org.

Who is eligible for RSD?

American Jewish World Service RSD’s admissions process seeks to identify candidates who possess the potential to provide outstanding professional leadership that will shape the future of American Jewish community’s commitment to global justice.

We encourage all students who are pursuing graduate degrees which will lead to positions of Jewish communal leadership to apply for RSD. We hope to receive applications from future Jewish educators, cantors, rabbis and other Jewish communal leaders.

We welcome applications, irrespective of denominational affiliation, gender, racial or ethnic origin, disability or sexual orientation.

How many applications are accepted for RSD?

Depending on our host site, we accept 16 - 18 students for each trip.

What does a typical day look like?

On a typical day, the group will wake up at around 6:30 a.m. and engage in sacred space - a participant led opportunity to share spiritual intention for the day. Then participants will eat a hearty breakfast. At around 8 a.m., participants begin their work project. The group will work until lunch, followed by a learning session and perhaps a chance to rest. After an early dinner, the group will have another study session and perhaps a scheduled activity with the host community.

What are the accommodations like?

Depending on the host community, participants will either sleep in rustic dorms or in a community building, such as a clinic or a school. Beds range from hammocks to wooden bunk-beds to foam mattresses on the floor. Bathroom facilities might include flush toilets, latrines or outhouses.

What is the food like? How do I keep kosher on RSD?

Depending on the host community, participants will eat either in community members’ homes or in a central location. Food is usually quite simple (beans, rice, fruit, vegetables, tortillas), always ample and strictly vegetarian. Individuals with particular questions regarding kashrut should contact Adina Mermelstein Konikoff directly at akonikoff@ajws.org. Shabbat meals will be cooked prior to Shabbat.

What is the RSD Scholar-in-Residence?

Each year, AJWS invites a distinguished Jewish scholar to join in the RSD, work and learn alongside participants, and offer a unique series of educational sessions to complement the AJWS service-learning curriculum.

In January 2013, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn,Nathan Cummings Foundations, will serve as our scholar.

Past scholars-in-residence include:

  • Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Congregation Bnai David-Judea, Los Angeles
  • Rabbi Sydney Mintz, Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco
  • Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School
  • Rabbi Danny Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, Director of Outreach and Community Development at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality
  • Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Director of Social Justice Track, Director of Admissions and Faculty member, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
  • Rabbi David Teutsch, Director, Levin-Lieber Program in Jewish Ethics at Reconstrutctionist Rabbinical College;
  • Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, Vice President, Leadership Programs for the Wexner Foundation;
  • Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun;
  • Rabbi David Ellenson, President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion;
  • Devorah Zlochower, Former Rosh Beit Midrash of the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education;
  • Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Founder of Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values;
  • Rabbi Or Rose, Instructor of Rabbinics and Jewish Thought at Hebrew College and
  • Leibel Fein, a founder of Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Moment magazine, and The National Jewish Coalition for Literacy.

What kind of work will I be doing?

Work projects vary widely between host communities. Past work projects have included building schools and community centers, digging ditches to lay water pipes, and farming. Work projects are always identified by and serve the needs of the host community.

In many ways, the work of participants on RSD begins when they return to the US, and work to energize the broader Jewish community. The international travel aspect of the delegation is the beginning, not the end of the work.

Who is in charge?

RSD is overseen by Adina Mermelstein Konikoff, and the program is led by trained AJWS staff and group leaders. They are expert facilitators and educators, and are certified in emergency first aid. For health, safety and security reasons, the AJWS group leaders are ultimately responsible for the well-being of the group.

How will group prayer work and what will happen on Shabbat?

The group will not engage in formal weekday prayer together. Each morning, the group will engage in sacred space - a participant led opportunity to share spiritual intention for the day. Time will be available for individual participants to pray, if desired. Shabbat will be planned and led by participants. Typically, after an initial group planning conversation, participants divide into groups of three or four to prepare the various components of Shabbat including prayer, meals, learning, and other activities at the discretion of the group.