Finances and Financial Aid - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Finances and Financial Aid

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Timeline (Before Departure) Action Check
3-4 months Apply for Financial Aid (Scholarships and Federal Student Loans)  
  Apply for Masa  
  Apply for other financial assistance  
1-2 months

Plan your budget for Israel

  Decide how you will do your banking abroad  
  Call your bank and card companies  


Apply for Financial Aid (Scholarships and Federal Student Loans)

To be considered for merit or need-based HUC-JIR scholarships please submit your HUC-JIR Scholarship Application by February 14, 2020.  Links to the HUC-JIR scholarship application are sent to all applicants and accepted incoming students by the  HUC-JIR National Office of Recruitment and Admissions directly. 

Students wishing to apply for need-based scholarships must fill out a FAFSA (for US citizens) or CSS Profile (International students) to be considered.  The deadline is February 14, 2020.

Federal Stafford Loan paperwork submission deadline:  July 1, 2020

Please go to here  to find the instructions for filling out your 2020-21 FAFSA or CSS Profile to accompany your HUC-JIR Need-based scholarship application.

Federal Student loans will automatically be awarded to students who have completed a FAFSA.  Federal loan award letters will go out in the late spring of 2020.

Federal Loan paperwork submission deadline:  July 1, 2020


To see an updated list of outside scholarships scroll down to “Financial Aid and Scholarships” then “Outside Scholarship List”

All questions regarding financial aid (except MASA) should be directed to:

Ms. Roseanne Ackerley, Director of Financial Aid, Hebrew  Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; 212-824-2206


Apply for Masa

MASA offers grants of $3500 or needs based scholarships of up to $7500 to all non-Israeli HUC-JIR Year-in-Israel students between the ages of 18-30, who have not previously received funds from them, participated in a MASA program, or in an Israel program for more than 4 months.  For information and application form, follow the link  Be sure you press the button for 2020-21 programs.

Very important: The number of MASA grants/scholarships available are limited, and the sums may vary. MASA approves the grants and scholarships on a first-come-first-serve basis so be sure to apply immediately.

When you complete the application form online, please inform Nancy Lewitt, Head of Student Life  She will then confirm to MASA that you are an incoming HUC student and they will begin processing your application.  If you are applying for a needs based scholarship, you will have to send Masa supporting documents as outlined on their application form.  

Should you be allotted a MASA grant/scholarship, the funds are transferred directly to HUC-JIR and will be distributed by our Cincinnati Business office for you to use for living expenses while in Israel. MASA awards are posted to you student account half in the fall term and the other half in the spring term.  Disbursement dates can be found here.

Please note that the MASA grant/scholarship is the only financial aid that is processed through HUC-JIR Jerusalem. All questions regarding MASA should be directed to Nancy Lewitt

Apply for other financial assistance

Students have found the following resources to be helpful when seeking financial aid:

Plan your budget for Israel

Note - The budget below was prepared for the 2020-2021 Academic Year. 

The following is an estimate of expenses for an 11-month stay (July through May) in Israel. These figures are based on students sharing an apartment with one or two roommates. The "Miscellaneous" expenses are based on a no frills estimate. It depends on personal lifestyle, how much students go out to eat, attend cultural events, travel, etc.  Some students find that they spend considerably more than what is estimated in the below chart. Also remember to take into account additional expenses incurred while settling in. 

(for special events, dinners, sports, etc.) (Fee paid in cash directly to the Jerusalem campus at the beginning of the program.)    
 *Pre-Ulpan (Optional prerequisite program not counted in the Cost of Attendance total) $1,250  $1,250
Transportation (plane fare, local and intercity busses/taxis) $3,500 $3,500
Health Insurance -  if travelling out of Israel, $2.- per day (estimate of 15 days included in the total) (Health insurance paid directly to the Jerusalem campus in cash or check at the beginning of the program.) *Students participating in Pre-Ulpan can be covered by health insurance at the rate of an additional $1.5 a day during the duration of this program. $600 $600
Books and Supplies (Readers for RAB/DFSSM courses will require a cash payment at the beginning of the program) $1,000 $1,000
Room and Board, including utilities $16,000 $16,000
Miscellaneous living expenses 

(food,laundry,minimal entertainment, very limited travel, etc.)

$4,000 $4,000
Voice Lessons (optional for cantorial students) $0 $1,200
Transportation/shipping $1,250 $1,250
Personal Accident Insurance $100 $100
Housing (additional $300/mo, plus 1/2 utilities) $4,000 $4,000
Ulpan (non-HUC) $1,000 $1,000
Health Insurance $600 $600
Touring (with the school) $350 $350

Miscellaneous living expenses 

(food,laundry,minimal entertainment, very limited travel, etc.)

$4,000 $4,000
TOTAL FOR SPOUSE $11,300 $11,300


Transportation $1,250
Living Expenses $3,300
Health Insurance $515
Israeli School Registration $250
Hebrew Tutoring $480
School Enrichment Programs (compulsory) $700
Day Care Center  $1,500
Summer Camp (per session) $300
School bus $800
School books and supplies (compulsory) $150
TOTAL ADDITIONAL COST (per child) $9,245


A sample of what things cost in Jerusalem:

(The prices listed are in dollars and have been converted at 3.53 shekels per dollar, the rate on 01/25/2018)

Speed Stick Deodorant - 3.50
Pantene Shampoo - 6.00
Dove Liquid Bathing Soap - 4.70
Colgate Toothpaste(100 ml) – 5.50
Cornchips – large bag – 5.50
Cottage Cheese – 1.60
Carton of Milk – 1.50
Carton of 12 eggs - 6.50
Bag of Chocolate Chips – 3.00
1 kilo of Sugar – 1.50
Skippy Peanut Butter – 6.30
1 kilo of cucumbers – 1.50
Starkist Tuna – 2.20
Cheerios Cereal – 5.00
Oreo Cookies - 5.30
Haircuts - 25 – 60
Taxis – 6.00 – 10.00 (to almost anywhere in Jerusalem)
Local Bus and light rail – 2.00

Most of the locally made products are just as good (just different!) and you can save money shopping "Blue and White".  And no less important, part of being in a different culture is experimenting.


Decide how you will do your banking abroad

Israel’s currency is the New Israel Shekel. (NIS) Since the value of the NIS may change during the year, it is best not to convert a large sum of dollars at any one time, but instead to convert small amounts as you need them. Due to international money laundering regulations, in the last few years it has become very difficult for a tourist to open an Israeli bank account. We highly recommend that you explore other options. Most students maintain bank accounts back home and use their ATM cards to withdraw shekels at ATMs in Israel, which is simple and convenient. When planning your budget, take into account transaction and transfer fees.

You will not need to bring shekels with you from the States. The exchange rates will be better at Ben Gurion Airport than at your local bank, and even better in Jerusalem. If you take a taxi or sherut from the airport most drivers will accept American dollars.

Helpful information to help you decide about your banking:

Dollars US dollars are available at some ATM machines—useful for paying rent, though some landlords accept checks and many prefer shekels.

Paying Bills Abroad  In general, it is advisable to designate someone to have Power of Attorney for you back home. This person would then be able to maintain your bank account, write checks for bills, and handle other financial transactions while you are in Israel. Most credit card companies will now allow you to pay your bills on-line by debiting your checking account in North America. Current students recommend this procedure and advise that you arrange for it before leaving for Israel. Keep in mind utility bills in Israel can be paid in shekels at the post office, the bank, and often over the phone with a North American credit card.

Money Changers Another option for cashing dollar checks or converting currency is at a money changer. These are small shops, located downtown, in some malls and on main thoroughfares. Most, but not all, will cash checks and take a small commission. Generally the rates they pay are slightly less than banks, but they are open all day and are more convenient.

Wire Transfers Most banks in North America will transfer funds electronically to an account in Israel for a charge of approximately $45. The money will appear in the Israeli account very quickly, within a couple of days, sometimes even hours. However, it requires someone to physically go to the bank at home to arrange the wire transaction. Thus, unless someone you trust already has access to your bank account, you will have to arrange it before your departure. Make sure to ask your bank at home whether they perform this service and its cost. Some banks allow you to do this for free on their banking apps.

If you decide to open a new account, students have recommended:

  • Umbrella Bank: An American on-line bank, with no charge for taking money out at ATMs in Israel, up to four times a month.
  • Commerce Bank: An American bank based on the east coast, it offers free ATM withdrawals overseas.
  • Capital One No Hassle card does not charge a fee.
  • Don’t bother with traveler’s checks – bad exchange rate and not popular
  • Open a checking account with Charles Schwab. 
  • There are two important things to look for, whichever bank you end up choosing, for your time in Israel: You want to avoid foreign transaction fees for running your card in Israel, and you want to avoid an additional charge at ATMs for using your bank internationally. (There will almost always be an ATM fee on the Israeli bank side, so you want to avoid an additional charge from your bank)
  • Western Union: Money transfers from Western Union can be made through the Israeli Post Office. The recipient can collect the money in Israeli shekels in almost every post office in Israel. There is no need for the student to produce a credit card or traveler’s check nor does the student need a bank account. The money is transferred within a matter of minutes For details, call 1-800-CALL-CASHSM or visit their website. In Israel, call 02-500-5313. Before using Western Union to send or receive money, check to see if your banking app offers a money transfer free of charge.
  • Get the Venmo app (iOS, Android), to simplify splitting bills or paying other students back for purchases they make on your behalf. Venmo is not available to download outside the US, so if you are planning on using it you should download it before you come to Israel. You can continue to use it after arriving here.

Israeli Bank Accounts

Due to international money laundering regulations, in the last few years it has become very difficult for a tourist to open an Israeli bank account. We highly recommend that you explore other options. However, a 2019-20 YII student advises the following:

“Banking in Israel is a bit of a nightmare. That said, it is entirely possible. I went to Bank HaPoalim (bear Ben Yehuda) and, in order to open an account, was required to produce the following: a valid passport, student ID, a letter from the college stating that I was enrolled, and a deposit. I believe the minimum was 2000 NIS. It took many visits over the course of a week to complete this seemingly simple task. That said, I was ultimately issued a check book and a bank card. A few things to know: Israeli banks keep weird hours. For example, HaPoalim closes at 2pm on Tuesdays. Also, one can only make foreign deposits before 4pm. There are also limits to how much you can exchange at one time. Visits to the bank for any reason require that you have your passport with you. You should also expect to be there for some time. Shekels can be deposited in the bank machine, but foreign currency must be converted. There is a fee for this conversion. The banking rates are reasonable unless you’re trying to link your Israel account to your US bank. No word yet on closing the account.”



Call your bank and card companies

Check the services at your home bank before coming to Israel.

 Make sure you know in advance what fees you will/will not acquire while abroad.

  • Make sure you notify your bank in advance so they don’t put a hold on your account once charges arise from abroad.
  • Some banks (in particular Chase) consider Israel a "high-risk area," and as such will continuously contact you as purchases are made. There appears to be no elegant solution to this.

Visa, Mastercard, and American Express 

Check with your credit card company to see what services are available to you while you are in Israel. Most credit card cash advance transactions can be completed in Israeli banks but you can only receive shekels (which can then be exchanged for dollars.) You will be able to withdraw up to the available cash limit on your card. Most credit card companies will begin to charge you interest on your credit card account from the time of a transaction rather than after the due date of your next credit card statement. Therefore this kind of transaction can be quite expensive and funds should be deposited in your credit card account before you withdraw funds in Israel. Students should check with their credit card company as to the rate of interest charged on cash advances.

Important: We advise you to notify your credit card company that you will be in the Middle East for a year to make sure they don’t put a “hold” on your account because of “suspicious foreign purchases.”

 If you keep your current account open there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Any ATM card with a Cirrus, Plus, or STAR System should work in Israel.
  • Any ATM/debit card with a Visa logo is accepted at any bank in Israel.
  • Check with bank or credit card company regarding credit card fees.
  • Internet access to your account will prove invaluable.
  • Mastercard ATM cards will only work at a limited number of banks
  • Try to bring a spare ATM card in case one becomes de-magnetized. This will save you the cash-less weeks waiting to be sent another card.
  • Arrange to pay your credit card bills and check your account online.
  • You may want to open an emergency account in the States in case you have trouble accessing your normal account 
  • Be sure to bring phone numbers of your banks and credit card companies.
  • Leave deposit slips, as well as all account information with someone at home, so that s/he can access it in case of emergency.
  • You will not be able to access money from savings accounts.
  • Take out large sums at once in order to avoid many withdrawal fees.