Becoming A Bat Mitzvah on Baltimore Onward Israel


Ava Meltzer, UMD rising senior (class of 2022)

Through the Baltimore Onward Israel program, I was able to travel to Israel this summer for the first time in my life. As expected, my summer was filled with beautiful sites, delicious food, sandy beaches and blue skies. But there’s more to Israel than what originally met my eyes, and this trip was more than a typical tourist visit. I was able to discover the complexities of Israeli culture through Jewish traditions, interactions with friendly locals and education every day. I was also able to experience first-hand the most important religious sites of Judaism. 

I was given a truly meaningful learning experience of Judaism and what being Jewish means. With my blossoming connection to Israel and Judaism, I developed a deep pride for being Jewish. My trip to Israel went beneath the surface and with my newfound sense of identity, I eagerly wanted to become a Bat Mitzvah. 

I was able to become a Bat Mitzvah during our last group trip to Jerusalem. It was a wonderful way to bless my summer in Israel and my life going forward. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the experience was just that much more special. 

As I stood tall in front of my friends and the hundreds of people from the Jewish community visiting the Western Wall that day, I felt proud to be Jewish in a way I had never previously felt. My experience goes to show that it is never too late to become a Bat Mitzvah. 

Moving forward, I have certain rights and responsibilities that I am committed to uphold. I will always work towards social justice and equality. I will always help those in need with loving-kindness. I will always value and respect human life. And I will never steal, lie or be envious. 

Becoming a Bat Mitzvah has strengthened my forever connection to Israel and my dedication to Jewish life and community. Thank you, Baltimore Onward Israel, and my madricha, Yael, for making the experience possible, and thank you to all my friends who were there surrounding me with love.

Ten college students recently participated in the Onward Israel program, an 11-week hybrid internship program subsidized by The Associated and uniquely crafted this past summer for our Baltimore cohort, adhering to health and safety protocols. These students all hail from Baltimore but attend universities around the country.

Over the years, Baltimore Onward Israel has successfully provided participants with long-term, meaningful connections to Israel and a strong commitment to Jewish life upon returning home.


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