Each summer, thousands of North American college-age students experience daily life in Israel—and what it takes to succeed there professionally—through Onward Israel’s two-month professional internship in Israel. More than 12,000 young adults have participated in Onward since 2012, attracted in part to the program’s accessible length and affordable price, making it one of the fastest-growing and impactful programs in the Jewish world.

My summer on Hillel Onward Israel Jerusalem was without a doubt one of the most incredible summers of my life…It was really amazing to have gone on a program that gives its participants the freedom to explore Israel as they wish. I interned at the Hebrew University Givat Ram in the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department…Even today I am still in touch with the professor I worked with, as we are continuing our work together over email. Onward Israel Jerusalem intensified my passion for the land of Israel, gave me valuable research experience to take back to Cornell, and allowed me to personally connect with the land I consider to be my home.
– Emily, Hillel Onward Israel Jerusalem, summer 2017

Israel’s vibrant economy, thriving technology and innovation sectors, and

multi-cultural landscape make it an ideal place for college-age students looking to have a resume-enhancing experience that builds life-skills and can help them when they enter the workforce. Because they are immersed in the Israeli workplace and society—they are placed in housing and have opportunities to tour the country—participants return home with greater knowledge, sense of connection, and engagement in Jewish life and Israel. Evaluations of participants before and after the program show that they increase their knowledge about diversity and variety in Israeli life, society, and politics; their sense of responsibility and connection to Israelis and the Jewish people; the ability to explain to others why being Jewish and engaging with Israel are important; and knowledge of Judaism, Jewish communities, and the diversity of approaches to Judaism.

So far, I have come to the conclusion that Israel is everything Alaska is not! Unlike in my hometown, here, in Jerusalem I am bombarded with the sound of traffic the minute I walk out my front door. The food, the sights, the music, and especially the environment are very different from anything I grew up with. Being in Jerusalem and working in the museum has given me a stronger understanding of the history of Israel, which means a greater appreciation of the ground I stand on today. I am here in Jerusalem basking in all the glory of my people’s hard work and could not feel more fortunate and more welcomed.
– Aidan, Onward Israel Arts and Culture, summer 2018

Importantly, research shows that these changes in participants continue for years after they return home. Other key findings from Onward Israel’s numerous evaluations, conducted by Rosov Consulting, show that:

  • Internships and the framework for personal growth attracts young people with the potential to deepen their connection to Jewish life. More than 75% of participants have spent less than three months in Israel prior to the program. More than 90% of participants define themselves as Conservative, Reform, or Just Jewish.
  • Participants are overwhelmingly satisfied with their internship and 90% of employers recommend to their peers to absorb interns.
  • Alumni make plans to return to Israel and become more involved with Jewish and Israel activities back on their college campuses (Onward Israel is particularly attractive for Birthright Israel alumni who want to return to Israel).
  • Onward Israel’s partnership model with Israeli businesses and organizations gives participants a customized experience and enables partners to achieve their own objectives.

I think Onward gave me a push to bring people together and explain more about Israel in a way where I could use my knowledge. I was a lot more informed. Maybe before, I could have also done it, but it gave me more confidence.
– Onward alumnus

Engaging in day-to-day life in Israel with all of its complexities and challenges gives participants an appreciation of the country and realistic and sophisticated understanding of both Israel and Jewish life. Building on this proven model, Onward is poised to engage even more young adults. It aspires to reach 5,000 annual participants by 2023 and to help bring half of all young adults who experience Israel before college or through Birthright Israel back to Israel for a second, more intensive experience. These participants, like their predecessors, will return home more connected, engaged, and inspired to become involved in Jewish life and Israel experience on campus and within their Jewish communities.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of Onward Israel. To learn more about Onward Israel please visit www.onwardisrael.org.