Guest Post: Sycamore High grads get on-the-job experience in Israel

Originally published in Sycamore Living

Four Sycamore High School graduates are spending this summer as interns in Israel. They are part of a group of fourteen college students from across the greater Cincinnati area taking part in Onward Israel, a program that places Jewish students in internships in their chosen fields of study in Tel Aviv. Funding for Onward Israel is made possible through a post-high school Israel travel grants program funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and administered by Cincy Journeys at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.  Through the Cincy Journeys program, and with additional funding from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Cincinnati Onward Israel interns are in the unique position of participating in this incredible experience for free. 

So what’s it like to intern in Israel? Let’s ask them!

My name is Dana Coleman and I am a Sycamore High School graduate and a rising junior at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  At Emory, I am in the business school, focusing on marketing and real estate.  In Israel, I have an internship with Operad, a marketing company that specializes in online and social media advertising for a variety of clients.

One of my assignments is managing Tillys.TV, a branch of, but with an emphasis on video.  Tillys is a specialty retailer of skateboarding and surfing clothes and accessories.  My job is to find “influencers,” such as Red Bull and ESPN, that I can collaborate with and offer them incentives to advertise Tillys.TV.  A popular tactic of mine is to offer the “influencer” video time on Tillys.TV in exchange for advertising on their website or social media platform. 

I love my internship not only because I knew what Tillys was before I started, but also because I am learning a lot about my interests in a fun way.  Operad is very inclusive and treats me like a full-time employee, which has made the adjustment to work life and living in Israel smooth and easy.  Everyone is so friendly and I have even been invited to gatherings outside of work.

Separate from my internship, I often go to the beach and explore Tel Aviv. My apartment could not be in a better location; it’s positioned minutes from the beach and right in the center of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.  I live with eight people, which sounds hectic, but we operate like a family. Every time someone walks in the door he or she is greeted with “How was work today?” Leaving work and heading straight to the beach is hard to beat, so I am enjoying every second of my time in Israel before my internship and program end!

My name is Eddie Rivin, and I am a rising junior at the University of Cincinnati and a proud Sycamore High School alum. I am an accounting major, but here in Israel, I am working at a nonprofit organization called The Ethiopian National Project (ENP).

ENP provides services such as summer camps, leadership programs, and other support services to Ethiopian immigrants in order to empower them to thrive as newcomers in Israel. The majority of ENP staff are volunteers like myself who are assigned to a “base” program where we volunteer two to three times a week. My base camp is located in Ramlah where my fellow volunteers and I organize educational and fun activities for children who are on summer break. In addition, the board has recently made some progress with American investors and the United States Congress in terms of financial support. The ENP board feels strongly that there is hope for a substantial financing opportunity from these investors and my supervisor has asked me to compose a plan of action for ENP to expand into the United States. The plan includes an analysis of services they should offer, locations they should be in, and who their competitors would be. I have learned a lot in my short time at ENP. The most eye-opening part of working at ENP thus far has been witnessing the enormous amount of work that it takes to smoothly run a nonprofit organization. 

So far Israel, especially Tel Aviv, has been unbelievable. Traveling with my peers who have similar interests and backgrounds has been a great experience because, whether it be going to the beach, going out to dinner, or exploring Jaffa, there is always someone interested in going with you. This summer is turning out to be even better than promised!

My name is Gabrielle Peck, and I am a rising junior at Northwestern University and a proud member of the Sycamore High School Class of 2014. I am studying neuroscience and global health, and I aspire to go to medical school. I am currently working as a volunteer at a geriatric hospital, Ateret Rimonim, which is located in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Tel Aviv. My day-to-day tasks include organizing activities for patients, such as cooking, painting, and singing, assisting in physical therapy sessions, and inserting splints to prevent hand clenching, amongst other responsibilities.  The patient-centered and exceptionally thoughtful care that this hospital provides speaks to the quality of the Israeli healthcare system. 

In addition, I admire the internship culture here. All of the hospital employees are unequivocally devoted to providing a positive internship experience. They do not want me to do tasks I do not find meaningful and treat me the same as any other employee. This has made me feel truly welcomed and has allowed me to gain valuable work experience.  

As for living in Tel Aviv, I love it! The microcosmic, cosmopolitan city is like if New York City met Los Angeles. We live five minutes from a beautiful beach equipped with a boardwalk which hosts hundreds of cafés, restaurants, and shops. The people here are friendly and welcoming, which makes Tel Aviv feel like home. With that said, I did have to adapt to Israeli life. Here, Sunday is the new Monday, drying racks, toaster ovens, and sinks replace luxuries such as dryers, ovens, and dishwashers, and it is perfectly acceptable to be absurdly blunt when speaking with Israelis due to their eminent outspoken and candid nature. But of course, that is all part of the fun. I look forward to what the next seven weeks in Tel Aviv will hold! 

My name is Matthew Zimerman and I’m a 2013 graduate of Sycamore High School. I’m a rising junior at the University of Cincinnati. My summer in Israel began with a 10-day national Taglit-Birthright trip and a few days spent with my sister who lives in Tel Aviv, before I joined the Cincinnati Onward Israel group for orientation in Jerusalem.  After the Onward Israel orientation, we headed back to Tel Aviv and settled into our apartments, which I must confess, are quite amazing, and only a two-minute walk to the beach. After spending the first weekend relaxing on the beautiful, white sand beaches, learning the area, and adjusting to our new surroundings, it was time to start our internships. This summer I’m interning at start-up called SaferVPN, which specializes in Virtual Private Networks. As we wrap up the first week of work, I can already say that I have learned a ton! Right away, they put me to work, and my responsibilities grow by the day! On just the second day I was already working with the CEO to create a business proposal for a massive prospective client.

Israel is nothing short of amazing, and we have already had so much fun, it seems hard to believe we have only been here for such a short amount of time. Living in Tel Aviv is fun and exciting, and also challenging at times, considering the language barrier, but I’m excited for the rest of the program and the many wonderful activities and excursions on our itinerary. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity provided to me by The Jewish Foundation and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati


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