Pittsburghers Share their Experiences Overseas

Onward IsraelAn initiative of the local Shapira Foundation
Onward Israel transforms young adults through 6-10 week professional internships with Israeli businesses and organizations. Israel’s vibrant economy, global reputation for technology and innovation, and multi-cultural landscape makes it the perfect place for a resume-enhancing experience as well as for connecting Jewish students with their Jewish identity.

Onward Israel’s Pittsburgh cohort receives generous support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Read about Pittsburgh participants’ experiences in Israel below.   

Learn more about Onward Israel


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Diller Teen Fellows: Daniel Lebowitz
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Daniel Lebowitz & Diller Teens

Hello, I'm Daniel Lebowitz. As an active teen in the Pittsburgh community, I have participated in numerous programs, both religious and secular; however, Diller Teen Fellows Pittsburgh was the program that impacted my life the most. At first, I was reluctant to be part of Diller Pittsburgh Cohort 6, but quite quickly my feelings changed. 

Daniel LebowitzGrowing up in the North Hills, I could count my Jewish friends on one hand. Three months into the Diller program, I had gained twenty Jewish, best friends from all across Pittsburgh. I had two Junior Counselors who looked after me like an older brother or sister would, and I had a program director who I could always count on to support me and my development as a Jewish teen and leader. The fifteen month program strengthened my Jewish identity, provided me with a greater Jewish community and sense of belonging, furthered my knowledge of Judaism, and strengthened my connection to Israel. 

Daniel LebowitzThe Diller Teen Fellows program had such a profound impact on me that I ended up deciding to apply for, and later accept, a position as a Junior Counselor of Diller Pittsburgh Cohort 8. This fifteen month program afforded me the opportunity to continue to grow as a Jew, but this time I also had the opportunity to help provide an incredible experience for the fellows (as my Junior Counselors did for me). Without Diller Teen Fellows Pittsburgh I would not be the leader,  the Jew, and person I am today.

Onward Israel: Abigail Netelson
Monday, July 31, 2017

Abigail NetelsonShalom from the Holy Land!! My name is Abigail Natelson and I am an incoming junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Religious Studies. My internship is with Green in the City at Dizengoff Center's rooftop hydroponic farm. 

While this is my third trip to Israel, it has been vastly different from the other two tourist-based experiences by allowing me to provide for myself independently. Between my work schedule, program activities, cooking, and socializing, I have developed skills in time management and have become an overall more efficient person in completing my tasks for the day. Since there is only one week remaining, I can safely state that one of the biggest benefits of this trip is learning how to navigate a foreign city as a young adult--if you can do that, you can do anything! Learning to find affordable and available places to shop, eat, and spend time with friends is important to maintaining a sustainable and happy lifestyle, and I was so fortunate to have been assigned to an apartment and program that allowed me to experience adult life in the heart of Tel Aviv. Onward Israel gave me the foundation for experiencing urban life as a young adult and also the freedom to customize it to my own desires! I also learned that my favorite Israeli fruit is a specific type of date from the shuk (:

Please feel free to contact me at ahn12@pitt.edu, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program. 

Onward Israel: Roy Faigenbaum
Monday, July 31, 2017

Roy FaigenbaumShalom! I’m Roy Faigenbaum, a rising Senior at the University of Pittsburgh from Philadelphia, majoring in Political Science, Urban Studies, and Philosophy. The best part about the triple major combination that I am engaged in is the unique mentality that I find myself approaching situations with; Political Science leaves me critical, while the Urban Studies allows me to understand certain dynamics, and the Philosophical addition presents me with a method of questioning different from most of my peers. For this reason, I have found my work this summer at My Truth to be particularly engaging.

My Truth is a nonprofit, nongovernmental social startup created by a team of Israeli Defense Forces reservists to share the extraordinary moral dilemmas faced by Israeli soldiers on a daily basis. As the primary fighting force for a nation constantly besieged by terrorism and warfare, the IDF is no stranger to international criticism. However, opprobrium towards the soldiers themselves commonly comes from stories presented unjustly by anti-Israeli organizations. My Truth has made it their mission to counter these false narratives by sharing stories of difficult circumstances, told by the engaged soldiers themselves, and how the situation was carried out. Following an intensive vetting process, these videographed testimonies are posted online for anyone across the globe to watch, with each story accompanied by a complete written transcript in both Hebrew and English.

I was brought in along with two other U.S. students to intern for My Truth. Our intended role was to serve as consultants regarding the NGO’s English-written work, as seen from the perspective of those in the United States. Hoping to tap into the large demographics of both Jews and Israel supporters across the U.S., My Truth sought validity regarding how to best portray itself and in what manner. Going into it, I expected to serve in more of a supportive role, making minor tweaks when necessary but primarily continuing the work that has already been established. However, it was quickly identified that a formal U.S.-style organizational plan was necessary to go forwards. After creating this master plan for the U.S.-appealing side of the startup, the work began. Everything from identification of social media targets to crafting a donor relations strategy was undertaken; even a new Wikipedia page was made!

This summer has provided me with an opportunity that I never would have imagined occurring if I remained in the States. I was most excited to come to Israel for the cultural aspect, with the work aspect being seen as a welcome addition to help me gain experience. As we venture into our final days here, I’m realizing that I gained such an intricate understanding of the mentality of the country in an international sense that could not have been matched by any number of books read or tours taken. The experience of working for an organization created and led exclusively by IDF reservists provided me with both knowledge and an outlook that I hope to forever carry. It ended up being the internship that defined my cultural awareness, not the other way around!

Onward Israel: Elli Warsh
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shalom!!! I’m Elli Warsh from Westfield, New Jersey. I am a junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Health Services with a focus in Community Health Assessment. This summer I am interning at StarTau, a startup accelerator at Tel Aviv University. 

After visiting Israel with my family following my Bat Mitzvah, I felt an immediate connection to this land. The opportunity to go on Birthright was unbelievable, and then Onward Israel thus far has even furthered my love for Israel. It is such a unique concept to become a part of a culture and even a workforce for this extended period of time. Writing this as I am about to finish my second week here, I can honestly say that I have become accustomed to much more of the city of Tel Aviv than I ever thought possible. This week we went on a graffiti tour of Tel Aviv, which showed me a unique cultural aspect of the city that I had not known about before. We also went on a scavenger hunt for different and more uncommon foods at Carmel Market. I have been exposed to so many new people, ideas, foods, and even lifestyles that I hope I can come back to America with a whole new perspective on things. I am so excited for the next six weeks here!

Please feel free to contact me at emw89@pitt.edu, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program.

Onward Israel: Emily Rollman
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Emily RollmanShalom! I’m Emily Rollman, Pittsburgh native and incoming Junior at Tulane University in New Orleans.

This summer I have the opportunity to intern at Jacob Peres Office, a strategic communications and design consultancy firm. Each day on the job is different. I spent my first two days accompanying a group of foreign journalists as they covered various aspects of Israel’s art scene and current cultural events, like Jerusalem Design Week, Design Museum Holon, Israeli design cooperatives, and the new W hotel opening in nearby Jaffa. Since then, I have eagerly taken on new tasks including reaching out to various brands/artists and asking permission to publish their works in a trend book for a client, finding new journalists to add to the company’s database, painting large wooden backdrops for an upcoming photo shoot, and assisting other team members however possible.

I enjoy seeing all aspects of the business by working with both the PR and Creative/Strategy teams on different projects for various accounts. While my days are hectic with assignments, meetings, and learning various aspects of the business, I always leave the office feeling positive and excited for my upcoming days at work. I can’t believe how fast the first two weeks flew by and I am looking forward to what the next six weeks have in store!

Onward Israel: Alli Bernstein
Monday, July 24, 2017

Alli BernsteinHello, My name is Alli Bernstein and I am from Pittsburgh. This August I graduate from Kent State university with a BSc in Tourism Management with a minor in Business. I’m passionate about travel, and love seeing and experiencing new things wherever I go! My junior year, I studied abroad with Semester at Sea in spring of 2016, and it was an adventure of a lifetime. I went to 12 countries and 26 cities but never got the chance to live anywhere for more than a week. This is my third time in Israel and I couldn’t wait to be back. I decided to do Onward because it would give me the opportunity to not only be back the Holy Land again but to experience and immerse myself in the culture.

This summer I am working for Israel Experience doing marketing for their Long Term English Speaking department. Working with the people who help run the program I am on, has given me an insider prospective on the company. My boss and everyone in the office is making this internship one of the best parts about my time here. I have learned so much already and am loving my internship. I am lucky enough to be staying in Israel until September and will continue working with Israel Experience until my family comes to visit. This will be their first time in Israel and I can’t wait to show them all around and hope they fall in love with it as much as I have.

Living and working in Israel this summer has opened my eyes to new and unique possibilities. It has helped me grow personally and professionally, even though my journey is only half way over. I am excited to see what the next few weeks in Tel Aviv has in store for me!

Feel free to contact me at Abernst3@kent.edu for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program. 

Onward Israel: Jamie Barishman
Monday, July 24, 2017

Jamie BarishmanShalom! My name is Jamie Barishman and I am a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh, where I am studying Mechanical Engineering. Mechanical Engineering is an interesting major because of how broad it is. After taking some classes and overall learning more about what I can do with this major, I decided I was very interested in the research and design aspect. Upon learning about the multitude of opportunities here in Tel Aviv, I knew I had to participate in this amazing program! I am so beyond happy and grateful Onward Israel was able to find me my current position! 

This summer I am interning at Versatile Natures - located in the heart of Tel Aviv! It is in Hotel Rothschild, on the Autodesk floors! In my opinion, it is one of the coolest offices I have ever seen! The experience of working with both Autodesk and Versatile Natures is like none other.Versatile Natures is a startup that works to make construction sites safer and smarter. They are a data mining and artificial intelligence platform that works to help construction workers and their headquarters build more quickly, efficiently, safely and less costly. I work directly with the CEO’s of the company who are so actively involved this company. I am currently working with one of the founders of the company where I am completing research on a project while also using Autodesk software to design it. 

I am surrounded at work by numerous 3-D printers and robotic arms, both big and small. These printers are available to print some amazing things! The other day we had a little show-and-tell type of meeting with the other participants from Pittsburgh. I was going to bring a bracelet that I had printed (but I accidentally broke it on the bus ride home from work). I quickly attempted to print a little screw and bolt and within 15 minutes it was complete and I had my object for show and tell! I love being in my office with such an amazing view and with such brilliant and smart people! I would participate in this program again in a heartbeat- living and working in Tel Aviv is truly an experience like no other.

Onward Israel: Rachel Adelsheimer
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rachel AdelsheimerHi! My name is Rachel Adelsheimer and I am from Pittsburgh. I go to Penn State University and am majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with the goal of becoming a Speech Pathologist. This summer, I am interning at Gan Bein Cremim Vesadot in Rishon Litzyon, which is a kindergarten for eight boys with Autism. I work with speech therapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists that come to the Gan daily.

The first time I came to Israel was ten years ago with my family, and I immediately fell in love with the country. I knew that I wanted to come back with my summer camp, Emma Kaufmann Camp, when I was sixteen and I did. I felt a much deeper connection with Israel when I came with over forty of my friends four summers ago. I came back to Israel this May for birthright and then started Onward a few weeks later. My trip with my summer camp and birthright made me feel very connected to my Jewish heritage and traveling around the whole country, but Onward has truly made me feel like this is my home. Onward has been an experience much different than all of my trips to Israel. I never thought that I would be able to navigate Tel Aviv as well as I am with my terrible sense of direction. Onward has given me the opportunity to work abroad and become immersed in a culture that is much different from America. 

Last weekend I was given the opportunity to travel with my mom to Atlit, where we stayed with the host family she had when she was here thirty years ago. This trip was very special for me because I was able to reunite with my mom's host family and experience another part of the country. I was in Atlit ten years ago, but did not appreciate it as much back then. We also visited my mom's Druze friends which was a very new and cool experience for me.

I cannot believe that we are already over half way done with this experience. I don't know how I will be able to leave in a few weeks. Hopefully I will be able to come back next year when I am studying abroad in Barcelona! 

Please feel free to contact me at rachel.adelsheimer@gmail.com, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh Program.

Onward Israel: Anneliese
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

AnnelieseMy name is Anneliese and I am a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in psychology and accounting. My Placement Coordinator Brittney, managed to find the perfect internship that combines both of my majors. I'm interning at a small financial startup company called Genie. Genie was started by my boss who one day, realized she was not living the life she wanted but didn't have the financial ability to accomplish her goals. Because of her experience, she wanted women to be more financially knowledgeable and independent in order to live the life they want, and started Genie to accomplish this. At Genie, we match women with someone called a Genie, a financial guide or expert, in order for the women to reach greater financial independence and stability in any way they wish, from finding the confidence to ask for a raise to learning how to invest their money. 

This internship couldn't be more perfect for me. I've taken many business classes, but I've learned as much about business in this past month from my boss and all the research I've done at work by applying what I've learned and being a new member of the FinTech community. Because it is essentially just my boss and I working full time at Genie, I've gotten hands on experience with just about every aspect of starting a company. I spent the first few days researching our first topic of interest: salary negotiation and asking for raises, allowing me to apply my psych major. I've been able to dive into the reasons why women either don't realize they are making less than their value, or don't ask for the salary they know they deserve leading to the wage gap, a global trend. I also had the chance to work on our website, published only a few weeks ago, to help with formatting and wording. 

My favorite thing I have done at Genie, however, was reaching out to women to hear about their personal experiences with salary negotiations. I found dozens of women-only business and entrepreneurial Facebook groups and reached out to some women in these groups who had successfully negotiated their salaries and were willing and excited to share their stories with me and Genie. I FaceTimed with some of these women one day to talk with them more about their salary negotiations. This experience impacted me because I felt how passionate they were about helping Genie's cause, and how proud they were to share their success to inspire other women. They were able to tell me why it was different and difficult for them as women, but also why is was so rewarding and what they did specifically in order to get the raises they deserved. I can't wait to bring my experiences back to America with me and apply them to my studies, but more importantly to my future career. I'm proud to be having a huge impact on this incredible early-stage startup and can't wait to see Genie grow and change women's lives.

Onward Israel: Eric Baum
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Eric BaumShalom! I am Eric Baum from Pittsburgh, PA. I study Political Science at Miami University. I am interning for BrightBug Media, a start-up company focused on specialized e-commerce.

My time in Israel so far has been amazing. I feel a deep connection with the city of Tel Aviv, the country of Israel, and the Israeli people. The energy in this city is extremely welcoming and as an American Jew I truly feel at home here. The opportunity to participate in Onward Israel has given me a chance to live and work in an environment that few people get to experience. Working on an international stage especially in Israel is a very unique thing. It has given me valuable work experience and the ability to deploy my skills in many different areas of life. Some of my favorite parts of this experience so far was visiting northern Israel and staying with a host family in Misgav, Dialogue in the Dark at the Children’s Museum, and taking walking tours of Tel Aviv. I look forward to the second half of this experience and knowing it will be just as amazing at the first. This trip has given me so much and I hope that I can take what I have learned and carry it throughout the rest of my life.

Please feel free to contact me at baumes@miamioh.edu, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program.

Onward Israel: Wadi Hawar
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wadi Hawar
For the last four weeks, I've been working for an organization called Wadi Hawar, a refugee advocacy organization targeted at integrating Sudanese refugees fleeing the Darfur Genocide into Israeli life, either for future residency or for them to support themselves until they are approved to move to another country. Wadi Hawar also connects refugees with legal council and other specialists they need to confront challenges and injustices they face in Israel.  

Most of my time has been spent working with my boss Adam, a writer and social activist who is also a Darfuri refugee. We are working on Adam's third book together, a novel that tells the story of a fictional Darfuri village through the eyes of a young boy names Sabur and his grandmother Argon. Our hope is that the narrative with give English-speaking readers a way to gain an understanding about a culture they have little or no exposure to. Recently, I've also been spending time teaching English classes, alone or with Adam. 

Overall, my internship feels like an exciting blend of Social Work and English Writing experience, and I'm really happy to have found an internship that provides me with so much room for creativity and interpersonal communication across cultural lines.

Onward Israel: Nika
Monday, June 26, 2017

Onward Israel

I’m Nika and I’m an upcoming Sophomore at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. I study Environmental Engineering and am interning at Zalul—a small water protection organization that combines legislation and activism. Being at Zalul has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was worried at school that perhaps Environmental Engineering wouldn’t be as great as in theory, but this internship has restored my faith and reassured me that I am in the exact field in which I want to dedicate myself. 

On my very first day, my supervisor had me write a three-page report on Annex VI of MARPOL, which is a plethora of technical jargon that essentially sets limits on different kinds of air pollution allowed by ships on seas. I was immediately thrown into the water (pun kind of intended) and given the opportunity to actually do meaningful work, unlike the busy-work internships we’ve all seen depicted in movies and TV shows. And now yesterday, just three weeks into our internships, I went to the Knesset in Jerusalem as an activist with Zalul. I was given the trust of my supervisor and CEO to directly speak with Knesset Members and ask for their support in our projects. We gave the Minister of Environmental Protection a giant water bottle sculpture that I helped to make that reads, “Elkin, Size Matters!” And he thoroughly enjoyed it!

Being so directly involved in the way legislation will be changed makes me feel so much more important than I felt before. I have a voice that can be heard and can make a difference. To be given such an amazing opportunity has made my long-term goals something entirely feasible; something to be conquered. I feel unbelievably empowered. This internship is a hallway of empty doors, and I can’t wait to cross their thresholds.

Onward Israel: Gabriel Kaufman
Monday, June 26, 2017

My name is Gabriel Kaufman and I grew up in a small town called Jenkintown right outside of Philadelphia. Approximately 5 minutes from my house is Cheltenham High school: both Benjamin Netanyahu and Lil Dicky, two notorious tzaddikim, attended this High School. Although Cheltenham and much of the surrounding area is very Jewish, my town is not. In fact, I was one of only eight Jewish students in my entire high school. It is for this reason that I felt such an urge to join so many Jewish organizations at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, I am the president of Chabad at Pitt, The Vice-President of Alpha Epsilon Pi, and a pretty active member of Hillel JUC.

My connection to the Jewish People didn't start when I became a student at The University of Pittsburgh. It started long before that. In 1996, I was born in Misgav Ladach, a hospital in Jerusalem. Up until the age of six, my family and I lived in a suburb right outside of Jerusalem. A few months before my seventh birthday, my family decided to move to Philadelphia. And although for the majority of my life I no longer physically lived in the State of Israel, I always cared for the country that I was born in. That is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to go back to Israel this summer.

From May 3rd to June 7th I studied at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, and from now until August 2nd I will be completing the Onward Internship Program. Both experiences have been surreal, and more importantly, both experiences have taught me so much about the place I call home.

Over the course of this past month and a half, I have created a lifetime of memories. One that is particularly important to me is a memory that I shared with my grandmother. My grandmother lives in Netanya and has suffered from Parkinson's for the past ten years. In the past year, my grandmother's condition has taken a turn for the worst. My grandmother no longer speaks or opens her eyes; she is a shell of the women she used to be.

Last week I visited my grandmother, and for the most part, the trip was underwhelming. Prior to my departure, my aunt begged me to sing to my grandmother. At first I was little bit hesitant to do so because firstly my singing sucks and secondly, I don't really know any songs. After about two minutes of arguing, I realized that my departure was contingent on me singing a song. The song that I sang was Kol Ha'olam Kulo written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. During my rendition of this song, my grandmother opened her eyes and smiled at me. This moment only lasted about a minute but I will remember this memory for the rest of my life.

Thank you Onward for giving me the opportunity to come to Israel and experience some of the best moments of my life thus far.

Please feel free to contact me at glk10@pitt.edu, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program. 

Onward Israel: Arielle Herzberg
Monday, June 19, 2017

Arielle HerzbergHi my name is Arielle and I am an incoming Junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Psychology and on the pre-Physical Therapy track. I am interning at Tel Aviv University in the Physical Therapy Department as a lab assistant.

When I thought about coming to Israel to get work experience it was a no brainer. I enjoy this country so much and could not wait to return. Although this is my third time in Israel it is a very different experience than the last two times. I am no longer a tourist, but a member of Israeli society. My knowledge of the Hebrew language has never been more crucial. I had trouble getting to my first day of work and I was able to find my way there by speaking to the bus driver in Hebrew, which was extremely satisfying. I also feel extremely lucky to be living right next to the beach. I have been taking advantage of the beautiful sunsets by the Mediterranean by running right when the sun is going down. I am looking forward to the rest of this summer to learn more about Israeli culture and gain more skills in becoming an independent working woman. 

Please feel free to contact me at Ariherezereg@gmail.com, for any questions or more information about the Israel Experience, Onward Pittsburgh program.

Onward Israel: Emma
Monday, June 19, 2017

EmmaShalom from Israel! I'm Emma and I go to the University of Pittsburgh. I'm a junior Chemistry major and my internship this summer is working in an Organic Chemistry lab at Bar Ilan University. How fitting! The process of finding an internship for me was exciting and also nerve wracking. I heard back from multiple professors at both Bar Ilan and Tel Aviv University in the Chemistry and Psychology departments. I decided to go with the one I currently have because it has the most to do with my major and what I want to do as a career. I'm so grateful to be a part of my professor's team this summer! 

Going in on the first day, of course I was nervous. I wasn't sure if they were going to be welcoming or not, considering I'm just a 19 year old American girl with little experience in a lab. However, I was pleasantly surprised as everyone was so welcoming and nice and they even gave me stuff to do on the second day! It hasn't even been a full week yet and I am learning so much. I can't wait to see what the summer has in store!