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Faces of Federation

Brawerman & Onward Intersect – Meet Eric Berger

Every summer, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles sends a cohort of Jewish college students and young professionals to Tel Aviv for eight weeks to intern with companies and organizations suited to their professional interests. Participants not only gain international job experience, but also bond as a cohort and learn more about Israeli society through touring days across the country, supplemental programming and lectures, and Shabbatons with all Onward cohorts.

The Federation’s Brawerman Fellowship was created to add meaningful leadership skill building to students’ college experience. Fellows receive training and a lasting connection to Jewish life through retreats, a trip to Israel, local and overseas community service opportunities, and a $40,000 college scholarship over four years.

Eric Berger, a Brawerman Fellow, traveled to Israel this past summer on Onward Israel and shared his summer experience with us. Check out his reflection!

My Onward Israel experience was one of personal, professional, and Jewish growth. It was the ideal way to see and try many new things before graduating college. It was also a lot of fun and a great way to make many new friends.

Personally, the opportunity to live in another country was challenging but rewarding. Onward made the transition as smooth as possible, but there was just enough unfamiliarity to push me to leave my comfort zone and explore Israel with an open mind. I got to see a new culture alive in front of me and build connections with people who have very different backgrounds from me.

My internship at SHARE was incredibly rewarding as well. My coworkers were excited to have me in the office, and we quickly built a relationship beyond just work. I felt trusted and valued as an employee and was given responsibility for projects that were both challenging and fulfilling.

Lastly, being in Israel was a great way to further understand my Jewish identity. It was a surreal experience to be in a place where Judaism was the norm, and the systems, cultures, and people of the country align with the values and needs of the Jewish people. Being able to live Jewishly without adjusting to a different national culture let me inspect my own values in a brighter light. Though I left Israel with more questions than answers, I lived very real experiences that helped fortify my beliefs and widened my perspective.

 

I would not have gone on this adventure if it wasn’t for the Federation’s Brawerman Fellowship. On this trip, the mission and goals of the Fellowship started to make sense. Leadership and Jewish values are both lifelong pursuits, and I am now at the time in my life where I am living experiences and learning lessons that will aid me. Traveling to a new and dynamic country, with no hesitations, is an amazing way to reflect on how I will respond as a leader in unfamiliar situations. I am leaving the experience confident in my abilities and eager to learn even more.

As much as I’d love to be eating hummus on the beach in Jaffa, I am happy to be back on campus full of new experiences and perspectives, finishing this chapter of my life. For those interested in Onward, I highly encourage you to participate. Do so with an open mind and set a goal for yourself to never do the same thing twice. Whether it’s your walk home from work, the restaurant you eat at for dinner, or just the mindset you have as you make your way through the city, try to keep things constantly fresh. Eight weeks can go by extremely quickly, and you want every experience to be exciting and powerful!

For those who are seniors in high school, I highly recommend applying for the Braverman Fellowship. It’s a life changing program filled with many leadership opportunities, travel, and a $40,000 college scholarship. What more could you ask for?

Eric is currently a Senior at Indiana University, studying marketing.

Applications for the 2019 Brawerman Fellowship are now available. To learn more and apply, visit JewishLA.org/Brawerman. Applications are due by February 19, 2019.

Applications for Onward Israel Summer 2019 are now open! To learn more about Onward Israel, visit JewishLA.org/Onward or email OnwardIsraelLA@JewishLA.org.