Achva, a Young Israel program, runs co-ed tours for Jewish high school students with an Orthodox day school background. Achva has been running great summer trips since 1981. Our many years of experience sets us completely apart from others. The program is an incredible synthesis of touring, fun and friends that just cannot be beat. Here is some more information about our programs.
About the Tours
While some might try to compare us to a summer camp, Achva offers so much more. Achva goes to great destinations all over the globe. Once you arrive at the tour’s starting point, Achva travels by air-conditioned coach bus to the best sites and attractions around. Every day on Achva is another new and exciting adventure; there are no days for just sitting around. Please review the itineraries for each of our programs to get an idea of what we mean. Of course, at the end of each fun-filled week, Shabbat features free time to relax, lively Shabbat meals, topical Torah sessions and an uplifting davening.
Room and Board
Strictly kosher food is provided three times a day either by Achva’s caterer, or local kosher restaurants and/or hotels. Regarding accommodations, Achva often stays in 2.5 – 3 star hotels and/or an occasional motel but each Achva tour is different, so it is difficult to generalize. See information about each program for more on accommodations and meals.
About the Participants
Achva gets applicants from all over North America and beyond. While many come from the Northeast of the United States, Achva participants have also come from Florida, California, Texas, Tennessee, Canada and many other communities all over North America. In past summers, we have even had participants from Europe and Israel. Achva participants are best described as Modern Orthodox teens looking to travel, make new friends and have the best summer of their life, while in a religious environment.
A Group Leader, also referred to as the Head Counselor, and counselor staff accompany every group. The Group Leader is an experienced professional who is responsible for the overall operation of the tour. He/she will guide the tour and ensure that everyone is safe and sound. He/she will also interface with parents regarding those issues where it is appropriate for parental involvement. The counselors, who are generally college students (or recent college grads), are there to help and assist the participants to get the most of their summer. There are three or four counselors assigned to each bus (approximately 35 to 45 participants). A technical coordinator (TC) also accompanies the tour. The TC is there to assist the group with various needs and drive participants to an urgent care, doctor or hospital when necessary. We do not have a doctor or nurse accompanying each group. On Achva Israel, a medic accompanies the group to handle emergencies and other medical needs. If you have special medical needs, please contact our office to discuss those needs well in advance. Group Leaders, counselors and TCs will be announced as they are appointed and are normally available to meet parents at the Achva Orientation.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Achva Israel, scholarships are not normally available from Achva for our programs. In some cases where we have extra space, limited discounts may be available to those with real financial need. We will help people with whatever documentation is necessary to receive any potential scholarship money from outside sources if available.
Any Other questions?
There is a lot more to say about Achva. If you need additional information, please contact us.
Achva was started in 1981 by Mr. Richard Stareshevsky. Programs were originally offered for multiple grades and there was even a collegiate division. Richie served as the very popular director of Achva for 20 years while he solidified its reputation for running great tours for Modern Orthodox young people. Originally begining with Achva Israel, during the 1980s other tours where added such as Achva East and West. There is no question that Achva would not exist today without Richie’s efforts and those efforts are much appreciated by the thousands of participants who went on the programs during his tenure. He moved on to other worthy endeavors after summer 2001.
The current director of Achva, Roger Braverman, started in late 2001. Roger has sought to continue in the great Achva tradition while at the same time striving to constantly make the programs better and better. Roger and the entire Achva staff are proud of our long tradition of successful programs and look forward to additional success in the future.
Q. How has Covid-19 affected your tours?
A. For the safety of our staff and participants, all our tours were on hiatus for summer 2020. G-d willing, we are planning to run this coming summer if conditions return closer to normal and, if necessary, will take appropriate precautions to ensure the health and safety of all those participating.
Q. How long has Achva been around?
A. Achva started providing tours to Israel in 1981 and has been running amazing trips to various places ever since. We especially love hearing from the many parents that tell us that they went on Achva and are now sending their kids. For many Achva families, sending kids on Achva is a family tradition.
Q. Who are the counselors?
A. The counselors are a group of talented, dedicated and hard working individuals whom we have carefully selected to join our team. All newly hired staff are either someone we know personally or come highly recommended by camp/youth professionals. Staff member’s names are posted as the summer approaches.
Q. When is the last day I can apply to come on Achva?
A. Waiting for the last minute to apply is rarely a good strategy. We have seen many people miss out an Achva tour because they waited too long and then decided too late to register. We continue to accept applications until we run out of space. When that will happen is very difficult to predict. If a program does not fill up, we keep taking applicants until a few weeks before the trip leaves. To find out the status of a particular program, send us an email or give us a call.
Q. Who else is going?
A. If the past is any indication, then the answer is a really great group of kids. If you want specific names, however, we will not give out a list of registered participants for privacy reasons. We are happy to provide you with an idea of the types of kids we have, and more general information like what schools they go to and where they live. Chances are that if you sign up, your friends may do so as well. Your best bet is to give us a call and we will be happy to discuss the types of kids we have and whether Achva is right for you.
Q. Does everyone get in?
A. No, not everyone. Every summer we end up rejecting a few. But the vast majority of the people who apply for Achva are accepted and make wonderful participants. Achva requires two written recommendations and carefully screens all applicants by checking references. We know that what makes Achva great is not just where we go but the caliber of the participants.
Q. What if I need to leave the tour early?
A. If you need to leave a little early, we can usually accommodate. Please give us a call to discuss your situation. A family simcha or family vacation should not stand in the way of attending an Achva program.
Q. How much time is spent on the bus?
A. Achva’s programs are travel programs and that means we move around a lot. Generally, that travel is by bus. However, the number one misconception about Achva is that we spend all day on a bus. The vast majority of the day is spent at sites and attractions. We make every effort to minimize unnecessary time on the bus. Many kids find the bus rides fun and a chance to relax, socialize, listen to music or watch shows. Buses in America have bathrooms for emergencies in addition to the frequent rest area stops. Overall, participants feel the bus rides are actually a fun part of the trip.
Q. What if I am taking medication?
A. Achva does everything possible within the context of a travel program to accommodate kids with various medical conditions and who require various types of medications and treatments. No nurse or doctor travels with the program but we do utilize local medical professionals whenever necessary. Please give us a call to discuss your circumstances and we will give you an honest appraisal of the situation.
Q. Are there any discounts?
A. We offer discounts for multiple children (sibling discounts) and limited early-birds. You can give us a call if you wish to discuss financial options such as spreading out your payments over the year.
Q. What does the Achva staff do the rest of the year?
A. Believe it or not, people ask this question. Of course, putting together great summer trips is a year round effort. Work on the following summer actually begins right after the programs return home.
Have more questions?
I guess you are going to have to pick up the phone and call the Achva office!
Achva is designed and suited for religiously observant boys and girls. Therefore, all participants will be expected to abide by common Modern Orthodox practice. This applies to all areas of conduct including, but not limited to, the following: participant’s manner of speech, midot and behavior towards other participants. It also includes keeping Shabbat, Kashrut and attending tefilla three times a day, as well as the laws of the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av. (Applicants for whom keeping basic halachah would be a problem and/or a burden should not attend the program.)
Programming on Shabbat will feature educational sessions and shiurim in addition to lively Shabbat meals and davening. There should also be time to socialize and catch up on sleep. In no case does the program violate the laws of Shabbat, nor may its participants. Of course, this includes prohibition on all use of electronic devices even in the privacy of your own hotel room.
The tour maintains high Kashrut standards, consistent with the policy of Young Israel. Participants are expected to maintain Kashrut standards at all times during the tour. This includes free time at theme parks, shopping areas, etc. Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action up to and possibly including expulsion from the program.
All participants will be expected to treat each other with the proper respect and kindness. The Achva staff will not tolerate anyone not relating properly with their fellow participants.
Behavioral Standards and Policies
Acceptance to Achva is based on written recommendations, suitable references, and in some cases, an interview . We reserve the right to accept or reject any candidate as we deem appropriate. Anyone who has had behaviorial problems participating on similar programs or in summer camp should not expect to be accepted to Achva.
Achva has specific rules and policies which all participants must agree to adhere to before being accepted into the program. Achva reserves the right to remove any participant from the program for their own safety or the safety of others. Drinking, smoking, or drugs not prescribed to you by a physician have no place on any Achva program; neither does improper conduct between boys and girls. We have very strict policies in this regard and will not hesitate to send anyone home who is involved in any such activity. While we rarely need to do this, we absolutely will when necessary.
Achva’s top priority is the safety and health of every participant. This reflects in how we run our tour. Participants will never be left alone anywhere at any time. Participants will be expected to stay with the program at all times unless he/she has is accompanied by a counselor. During free time at an attraction, participants will be expected to stay in groups and never walk around by themselves.
Participants will have a curfew each night at which point they are required to be in their rooms. Leaving one’s room, barring medical emergency, after final curfew will subject that person to strong disciplinary measures.
Everyone must have water and a head covering with them when walking in the sun. The counselors will make every effort to make make sure everyone is drinking sufficiently to avoid dehydration. However, it is ultimately the participant’s responsibility to drink enough. Anyone not properly prepared will not be allowed to participate in outdoor activities.
All participants must act appropriately in the hotels especially when other guests are sleeping. Anyone who cannot avoid disturbing other guests in the hotel should not be coming on the program. Depending on the circumstances, those disturbing other guests, even after repeated warnings, may be subject to repercussions up to and including dismissal from the trip.
Each person on the trip is responsible for his or her own suitcase and all belongings. No one should leave their bags unattended. Achva cannot take responsibility for lost or damaged items during the tour.
Achva maintains a dress code on the program to ensure an atmosphere where all participants are comfortable and reflects the Orthodox nature of the program. Anyone not dressing in accordance with the dress code will be asked to change clothes. If you have a question regarding a particular item of clothing, just ask us about it.
For Shacharit, boys must wear long pants and girls must wear skirts. For Mincha or Maariv, depending on our location, this rule is usually waived.
For Shabbat, no jeans or jean skirts, t-shirts or sneakers. More specifically, boys must wear either slacks or nice Khakis (not cargos, all pockets should be on the inside.) Boys’ shirts must be button-down dress shirts, long sleeve or short (no polo shirts). Girls’ attire should reflect the dressier Shabbat atmosphere as well.
Shabbat on Achva is one of the highlights and the proper clothing helps create the beautiful Shabbat atmosphere that everyone enjoys. The Shabbat dress code applies for the entire 25 hours of Shabbat while outside your hotel room. If you don’t bring appropriate attire for Shabbat with you, you will either need to buy new or have your parents ship you the proper clothes. Please be sure to pack accordingly.
Swimming in bathing suits is separate for boys and girls. However, privacy cannot be guaranteed and hence our policy requiring one-piece bathing suits. In oceans, rivers and waterfalls, participants must stay dressed when swimming together, with bathing suits underneath shorts and rash guards/dark t-shirts.
Proper behavior between boys and girls is dictated by halachic practice and common sense. Boys are not allowed in girls’ sleeping areas and vice versa. Anyone violating this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal from the program. Sexual conduct of any sort may be grounds for immediate dismissal from the program. Any inappropriate, unwanted or unnecessary touching between boys and girls will be subject to appropriate consequences.
Participants will be encouraged to wash for bread and bench after meals. We will endeavor to make sure benchers are available if participants do not have their own.
Withdrawal or Expulsion
Withdrawal or expulsion, for any reason, after the start of the program, will result in the forfeiture of all funds paid. No refunds will be given when someone leaves in the middle for any reason. Furthermore, the cost of additional air travel or other method home is solely at the expense of the participant’s parents.
While we do not expect anyone to be expelled from the program, there have been times when an individual decides to test the Achva staff to see if we are serious about the rules. To their dismay and displeasure, he or she will end up on a plane ride home at their parents’ expense.
Grounds for Dismissal
We understand that the vast majority of you would never get involved with such matters. But, for the sake of clarity, we have listed them here so you should be fully aware that violation of any of these rules (among others) would be cause for immediate expulsion from the program at your own expense with no refund.
Any of the following will get you immediately expelled from the tour:
Should the Achva staff deem it necessary, an individual may be sent home for his/her own safety or the safety of other tour members or his/her inability or unwillingness to follow instructions from the staff.
The determination to dismiss a participant from Achva is at the sole discretion of the Achva administration. There are no refunds in the case of dismissal. Furthermore, you must be prepared to retake responsibility of your child upon dismissal. If you are away on vacation and your child is expelled from the program, you MUST make arrangements to have him/her stay with relatives or friends. Staying on with the program will not be an option upon dismissal.
Participants are expected to be careful with hotel property and to avoid disturbing other hotel guests. Parents will receive a bill and must pay for any damage intentionally or unintentionally caused by a participant to the hotel or any other private or public property. Participants are responsible for any damage to their hotel room during their stay.
Learn More about Achva
There are a number of ways to find out more details about our tours, now including Zoom Informational Meetings. Of course, you are always welcome to give us a call at 212 929-1525 ext. 181.
We will be conducting meetings/information sessions over Zoom. Meetings explore all aspects of what parents and potential participants might want to know. Please proceed to our Informational Meeting Sign-up Form to see upcoming dates and get the details for the one you prefer.
These meetings are not to be confused with the Achva Orientation, which is specifically for registered participants to find out all the details they need to prepare for the summer. Usually conducted in May, the Orientation session allows parents to meet our summer staff and ask specific questions about getting ready for the tour.