Participation in a program that places Jewish North American young adults as volunteer teachers’ aides in Israel has grown from 68 in the program’s pilot academic year, 2011-2012, to 170 in the 2012-13 academic year, Masa Israel Journey announced on Thursday.

“The program also expanded its geographical reach, placing volunteers in seven cities (up from five) for the 2012-2013 academic year,” Masa Israel, which is partnering with the Israeli Ministry of Education in running the Israel Teaching Fellows program, announced in a statement. “With the United States’ lingering economic challenges, Israel Teaching Fellows has seen a surge in applications from high caliber recent college graduates who are forgoing the job search for meaningful service opportunities abroad.”

“Teaching in Israel gives young college graduates a meaningful volunteer opportunity, while helping them build a stronger resume for when they return home,” said Masa Israel’s North American director, Avi Rubel. “In addition, Masa’s Israel Teaching Fellows are strengthening the connections between the American and Israeli communities.”

Masa Israel Journey, a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government, runs service, internship and academic programs for young Diaspora Jews in Israel.