DFW-area collegians gain experience through Onward Israel
By Deb Silverthorn
Eighteen Dallas-Fort Worth residents settled in this summer at Onward Israel, an internship program for professional, personal and cultural growth.
“Onward Israel’s madrichim and coordinators provided the perfect program to be here for an extended time, to learn and to feel a part of the country,” said Aidan Jacoby, a junior at UT-Austin and a finance and Plan II major. His internship was with BDO Israel, one of the country’s top five business-oriented accounting and consulting firms.
“Some of my favorite moments have been random bus rides or sitting at restaurants with Hebrew-only menus,” said Jacoby, the son of Karla and Dr. Rick Jacoby, of Plano. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to feel Israeli rather than as a tourist.”
Onward Israel, which began with 265 participants in its first cohort in 2012, has had 1,850 so far in 2021 and more than 12,000 in its 10 years.
The DFW residents from UT Hillel include Alon Barazani, Clay Fischer, Zach Hite, Dorothy Isgur, Ben Levkovich, Max Shusterman, Lily Stern and Mark and Sarah Weisberg. Locals participating in Onward Israel Government & Politics Summer, IGT Summer, J Internship, Pittsburgh Summer and Vanderbilt Onward Israel programs were Katie Bendalin, Etan Cohn, Yael Even, Noah Hovav, Ariella Mitchell, Evan Pearlman, Ross Rubin and Haley Taub.
“Connections made, by the influence of Israel’s people and eco-space, are transformative. We’re in touch with past participants weeks, months and years after their programs and it remains meaningful and impactful,” said Ilan Wagner, Onward Israel’s president and CEO, who made aliyah in 1986 and helped create the organization. “Our interns, with personal and professional growth, leave with life-changing experiences, memories and friendships.”
Participants work 15 to 20 hours weekly, with their respective professional teams, then gather on nights and weekends, and enjoy Shabbatot, trips around the country, visits to kibbutzim and socializing at restaurants and clubs alongside their Israeli peers.
“I’ve spent summers in Israel with family, even joining my cousins’ Tzofim (Israeli Scouts), but the chance to work at Herzl Center, at the World Zionist Organization, was amazing,” said Yael Even, a journalism major at the University of Arkansas and the daughter of Merav and Eyal Even of Frisco. “Without Theodor Herzl, none of this would be possible, and his dreams allow us to build on his legacy.”
Offerings include internships related to arts and culture, communications, innovation and start-ups, computer science and coding, engineering and research, finance and economics, law and entrepreneurship, marketing, business and technology, science and health tech, social justice and community services and sustainability and green energy.
“The Onward team helped match internships regarding our academic interests and career goals,” said Ben Levkovich of Plano, the son of Svetlana and Alex Levkovich. “I’m interested in finance; pre-med students work at hospitals, sports management majors worked at sport tech companies,” said the UT junior, who worked at venture capital agency Sarona Partners, reviewing applications for new startups to add to the company’s portfolio.
“Everyone enjoyed their internships and the opportunities here have already propelled my career, while still a student,’’ said Etan Cohn, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University, whose experience as a data scientist at Myndlift, a neurofeedback therapy company, fits right into his career plans.
“This was my first internship and I enjoyed programming, attending meetings and working on projects with my mentor,” said Cohn, the son of Debbie and Dan Cohn of Plano. “I made great friendships and I look forward to Shabbat at Hillel and hanging out with new friends in Pittsburgh.”
College students and young professionals aged 19-27 from around the world are connected through resume-building opportunities: internships, academic study and fellowships, providing a global, cross-cultural experience.
Onward Israel programs, offered from six to 10 weeks, are subsidized up to 70% by the organization, private donors, and local Jewish communities and institutions including Hillel, the Jewish Agency for Israel and Masa Israel Journey. Included is housing for in-person components, room and board, laundry services, transportation for activities and programs, educational programming, insurance, and program staff and supervision.
The program also includes hybrid arrangements in Israel and at the participants’ home base. Two “winternships” will be offered later this year with an Israel component and a hybrid plan to extend the program.
The first Career Passport experience, from Oct. 4 to Nov. 4, is tailored for people who are already working remotely back home. Based in Tel Aviv, the $1,000 program fee includes housing, shared workspace, weekly tours, enrichment programming and networking opportunities, Shabbat dinners through OneTable, basic medical insurance and local ground transportation.
Whether still in college, or already in the workplace, Onward Israel programs offer an immersive way to experience the Jewish homeland.
“At work, I was involved with software design, marketing and product design. I traveled, I played ultimate Frisbee with the national team and I made friendships and memories that will last forever,” said Evan Pearlman, the son of Rachel Pearlman Bloom and Russ Pearlman of Plano. He is a junior at Michigan State University; his internship was with Digital-Clay.
“The Tel Aviv beach sunset and standing at the Kotel with people dancing the hora could only happen in Israel. Israel is completely magical and I got to live the emotional dream.”
For more information, call 212-339-6941 or visit onwardisrael.org.