This summer, intern in Israel

This summer, intern in Israel

'Onward Israel' gives students hands-on experience in Tel Aviv companies

An Onward Israel internship puts participants in the heart of hi-tech Tel Aviv.

Did the taste of Israel – acquired on Birthright or through a youth group program – leave you hungering for more?

Are you between 19 and 27 years old?

Do you have June and July open on your calendar?

Could your resumé use a boost?

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has the perfect program for you.

“Onward Israel” will immerse you in Israeli life, letting you choose from hundreds of possible two-month internships in Tel Aviv, working with companies in fields as diverse as finance, music, fashion, and hi-tech.

At the same time, the program will take care of the nitty-gritty of living in a foreign county, providing dormitory accommodations, organized trips around the country, and even Hebrew classes.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Joshua Blumberg, a University of Michigan student from Croton-on-the-Hudson who went on an Onward Israel program last summer. “The trip was amazing. The group was amazing. My internship was incredible.”

“Onward Israel will provide an extraordinary opportunity for 20 young men and women just setting out on their careers,” said Jayne Petack, the federation’s incoming president. “What could be better than interning in Tel Aviv, one of the top business centers in the world?”

The Jewish Agency for Israel launched Onward Israel four years ago as a middle ground between the short-term Birthright Israel trips and the long-term Masa programs that last the better part of a year. This summer will be the first time the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is bringing the program to area residents and their children.

The federation began considering applications for its 20 available slots last week. Participants will pay $500 and provide their own round-trip transportation to Israel; in Israel, they will be provided with food and board. The fee reflects a significant subsidy from the federation as well as from the Jewish Agency.

“This is another high-quality program that will help build Jewish identity and connect young people to Israel and the world of being Jewish today,” said Jason Shames, the federation’s CEO. “We need to continue to invest heavily in the youth and, in particular, in college and post-college [students] to help connect them.”

The North Jersey participants will be based in a dormitory in Bat Yam – 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv. While Bat Yam is largely a bedroom community for Tel Aviv these days – something familiar to natives of North Jersey – it also boasts Israel’s finest surfing beach.

And Onward Israel participants will have time for surfing. The internships are scheduled for four days a week, with a fifth devoted to educational seminars. But weekends – Friday and Saturday, as weekends run in Israel – are free.

Mr. Blumberg said that his Onward Israel trip last summer was his fourth time in Israel. He interned for Autodesk, a leading software company whose Tel Aviv office does research and development. That experience gave him “a bit of an edge. It has been a really great benefit for me and certainly helped me in my studies.”

The previous summer, he had an internship in New York City. His colleagues in the Tel Aviv office “seemed happier to be there than the experiences I’ve had in the States. Everything is more laid back. The dress code is not as strict. I didn’t have to wear business formal attire to work. Nice jeans and a button-down shirt were perfectly acceptable. It made for a more encouraging environment.”

He found Israelis friendly and supportive – especially during last summer’s war, with its missile alerts.

“Several co-workers gave me their cell phone numbers and said if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call,” he said.

Ora Niknamfard graduated from New York University last May, and now works for a software company. She said her internship in Tel Aviv with Onward Israel was “absolutely” useful. The perspective she brought from her time with a Tel Aviv startup proved exciting to the New York company that hired her.

Not being a fluent Hebrew speaker was no problem for her. “The company has a policy where unless everyone in the room speaks Hebrew as their native language, everyone speaks English,” she said.

She had traveled to Israel on Birthright the previous summer. That was “a fantastic experience,” but Onward Israel was incomparable.

She said the educational seminars that took place each Tuesday “afforded a cool perspective on Israeli politics and culture.” Her favorite was a day trip to Haifa. “It was just a really great day of seeing a new Israeli city.”

She also made “amazing friends, having lived with them in a new city for two months. These friendships I hope will continue for a long time.”

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