Onward Israel Sets Up Students with Internships
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Onward Israel Sets Up Students with Internships

Hillels of Georgia sent 32 students to Israel this summer as part of their Onward Israel program, where they completed a six-week internship in their intended field of study.

A rising sophomore at Georgetown University, Nathan plans to major in government and minor in film and media studies as well as statistics, hoping to eventually get into a career creating digital content for campaigns or  covering them for the Atlanta Jewish Times and other media outlets.

Students visit the Atlanta Community Adaptive Fitness Center in Ramat Gan, named for Atlantans’ generous support of the center.
Students visit the Atlanta Community Adaptive Fitness Center in Ramat Gan, named for Atlantans’ generous support of the center.

Hillels of Georgia resumed its Onward Israel program this year, sending 32 students to Israel to immerse themselves in the culture while participating in internships during their six-week visit to the Jewish state. Students lived in apartments with Israelis and worked alongside them in their internships, enabling students to experience Israel in an “intimate” way, according to Elliot Karp, CEO of Hillels of Georgia.

The program included a variety of trips, including visiting the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s partnership community of Yokneam and the kibbutz of a Hillel Israel fellow.

Onward Israel goes beyond the typical Israel trip, with immersion in Israeli culture but also more personalized opportunities.

Karp told the AJT, “The genius behind Onward Israel is the ability to provide students with a quality internship in their field of study or future career choice, while enabling them to live in an immersive fashion in Israel for six to eight weeks. They really learn more about Israeli society, culture and the Israeli people.”

Students during a night out in Tel Aviv.

Students began the trip with a special welcome from outgoing University of Georgia Hillel Director Roey Shoshan, who planned a special dinner and night out for the students in Tel Aviv. Shoshan also organized a full day for students focusing on Atlanta’s connection to Israel, particularly through the Federation. The group visited the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan, a facility sponsored with the support of the Federation and many Jewish Atlanta donors, and heard from athletes at the center.

Center director Boaz Kramer said, “We were honored to host our first post-COVID visitors without masks and with lots of hugs! Where else but Atlanta would our first visitor be from? The relationship between the very special Jewish community of Atlanta and the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled is making a difference.”

Students went on to visit Yokneam, where they spent time with members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in the city. Later the same day, students spent time with lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces from Atlanta as well as future shinshinim (young Israel emissaries) from Atlanta’s partnership region who will come to work in the Atlanta Jewish community next year. Students also visited the kibbutz of one of Hillel’s Israel fellows Elinoy Granot, who is serving at Kennesaw State University and Georgia Tech. Onward Israel students met members of the kibbutz and learned about its history.

While the trips were a highlight of the program for many, it was only a small part of the overall experience students received. As Karp described, “They’re living like they’re residents and citizens in the state. So it’s a wonderful career-building and Jewish-identity Israel-building connection.”

Onward Israel students during a kibbutz visit.

Onward Israel had been delayed for a year because of COVID, but Karp knew that the program would “be back in business this summer with a period of quarantine and COVID testing, as required by the Israeli government.” The program was considered a success, with Karp highlighting the opportunities it created. “The students work side-by-side with Israelis in the internships and live in communities with Israelis. It is a truly immersive and amazing experience.”

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