As their plane landed in Israel on June 2, a cohort of 24 college-aged youth from Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach knew they were “home.” Thanks to your support of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, the next generation was able to strengthen their connection to their rich heritage through our Onward Israel program. The program provides an opportunity for South Palm Beach County young adults, ages 19-27, to live and intern in Tel Aviv, Israel, for eight weeks over the summer.

Living together as a community, our interns participated in hands-on work at Israeli work places and in group travel, exploring meaningful, educational topics. Our participants also enjoyed a plethora of social engagements, including a Shabbaton weekend in our Partnership community of Zichron Yaakov. Being the first group to travel to Israel since the onset of the pandemic, our interns had a lot to share.

Bruce Steinberg finally made it to Israel after a very long wait.

“Getting to the moment of being in Israel is so special to me. My journey to Israel actually started a little over a year and a half ago. I was supposed to go on the Onward program last summer in 2020, and then the pandemic got in the way. Then, this summer with the conflict and everything surrounding it, there was still so much uncertainty on whether or not I would be able to get to spend the summer in Israel. I feel so lucky to have had the experience with 23 of my peers and close friends.” – Bruce Steinberg, University of Florida

Sydney Lubetkin deepened her connection to Israel.

“Onward has deepened my connection to Israel by allowing me to immerse myself in Israeli culture, meet new Israeli friends, and travel around the country on various trips while gaining valuable work experience through my internship.” – Sydney Lubetkin, Florida State University

Jonathan Swartz found family in Zichron Yaakov.

“We did not come to Israel just to work, we came for an experience to meet and form relationships. I think, that through the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, the Partnership program, and all of the wonderful host families, we really got to experience that this weekend. It was something special and I know that I will come back, and hope that we can continue to foster this relationship between Boca and Zichron Yaakov, so that my kids one day can be here.” – Jonathan Swartz, University of Florida

Chani Stark interned at Federation supported Bet Elazraki Children’s Home.

“I am majoring in Psychology, while minoring in Child Development. My passion for working with children has led me to interning at Bet Elazraki Children’s Home. This non-profit organization houses more than 200 at-risk children from a variety of (disadvantaged) backgrounds. Working with such resilient children has not only taught me so much about how children cope with trauma, but it also has given me a novel perspective on my life. The children and staff treat me as if I am part of their family and have welcomed me with open arms. I have the privilege to meet with the psychologist, as well as the social workers, to discuss what it is like working with such children. I am looking forward to the many meaningful memories from this summer that will last me a lifetime.” – Chani Stark, Florida State University

Lucas Topper connected to a new community of friends.

“Though I go to University in Boca, I did not grow up with the people on the program or know too many people coming in, so before my arrival I was a bit nervous. Any thoughts I had were quickly put away the moment I met other people on the program. The connections I made both personally and through work will be continued when I’m home and carried with me to my future career.” – Lucas Topper, Florida Atlantic University

Alana Portnoy a proud Bat Mitzvah!

“The Onward program has connected me to my Jewish heritage in ways I could’ve never imagined. Being immersed in Israeli society has taught me to appreciate my heritage and even pushed me to become a bat mitzvah while here. The opportunities and memories made this summer are the ones that I will cherish for the rest of my life!” – Alana Portnoy, Florida State University

As the program comes to an end…

The 2021 South Palm Beach County Onward Israel cohort returned home in late July. While we are so happy they spent the summer away, forming new relationships, creating special memories, and gaining pivotal career skills at their internships, we are ready to welcome them home, where they can continue to grow into incredible adults. Our next generation of leaders is eager to lead their community toward a deeper connection to Israel and Jewish community.

The cost for interns to participate in Onward Israel is generously subsidized by our local partners, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, the Judi and Allan Schuman Center for Israel Engagement, the William and Anita Newman Foundation at the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation.