Lisa Bolman, a senior at The Ohio State University, first traveled to Israel as part of a class trip in the eighth grade. In the years since, she has developed a passion for the field of occupational therapy while also dreaming of the chance to return to Israel. So when she heard about Onward Israel, a program run jointly by The Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, she knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
Onward Israel, which Bolman discovered through Ohio State’s Hillel, provides an immersive and transformative resume building experience. Participants spend a summer living with peers from their local communities while interning in their desired fields. During their “down time,” they go on weekend trips, attend educational programs on Israeli history and culture, and participate in a seminar on the history of the Jewish people. Bolman worked at the Holland Center, a rehabilitation facility for infants and toddlers with special needs. At the Holland Center, located in the Tel Aviv, she observed and assisted with OT, physical therapy, speech therapy and family counseling.
“For eight weeks, I was in one classroom of 13 children,” Bolman says. “I helped the teachers with their daily tasks and I also got the chance to see firsthand the kinds of therapy I will provide one day as I pursue a career in OT.”
Before that day comes, however, Bolman will have to earn a master’s degree. She says that having completed Onward Israel, she has an edge in the competitive application process.
“I have already spoken to major OT programs’ representatives and my experience in Israel sets me apart,” Bolman says. “My experience at the global level not only diversifies my resume, but also has solidified that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. My internship was a lot more hands-on than most opportunities in the United States.”
While the internship focus is a major focus and draw for Onward Israel. The program also reaches participants at much deeper and often spiritual level as they experience daily life in the Jewish homeland. For Bolman, it was a chance to think deeply about who she is as a young Jewish adult and what that means to her.
“I got to see Israel from a local perspective, not as a tourist,” Bolman says. “For two months I got to be an Israeli, assertive and self-sufficient. Navigating Israel made me grow a bit. I thought about my Jewish identity over the course of the summer through all of our programming and travel. This has had the most lasting impact on me.
“I can only hope that more people get to have a similar experience, to really love Israel by living there. [Onward Israel] is an amazing way to build your resume, explore Israel and learn about it in a whole new light.”