Tal Mars, a rising senior at Bexley High School, was selected for a Bronfman Fellowship, a cohort of high school students who visit Israel together and participate in a yearlong program on pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts.

Tal, 17, is among the 33rd cohort of “intellectually curious” North American students who applied as 11th graders receiving the fellowship, according to a news release. Of 230 applicants from diverse Jewish backgrounds, 26 fellows were chosen to participate in a five-week program of study and travel in Israel, followed by the year of programming.

Tal, who is the daughter of Rabbi Sharon and Or Mars, said her father brought up the idea of applying for the fellowship about two years ago. She said she read up on the program and worked hard on her essays, as she felt it was a great opportunity to meet peers with similar interests. 

“I kind of wanted to find my people where I could have a deep Jewish connection with them, and I just couldn’t really find that in my small town of Bexley,” Tal said. 

The group will go to Israel in June, where they will study Jewish texts, Hebrew, have many discussions and explore Israeli cities. She said she’s expecting very busy days. 

The fellows also interact with Israeli peers who were chosen through a similar selection process as part of the Israeli fellowship counterpart, Amitei Bronfman.

The Bronfman Fellowship was founded in 1987 by the late Edgar M. Bronfman, formerly CEO of Seagram Company Ltd., and a Jewish philanthropist. 

“Edgar Bronfman would have relished the opportunity to get to know this year’s fellows,” said Becky Voorwinde, executive director of The Bronfman Fellowship, in the news release. “They are a passionate, inquisitive, talented and incredibly bright bunch. I look forward to seeing them challenge and inspire one another and their communities throughout their lives.”

A Columbus Jewish Day School graduate, Tal said when she gets back from Israel, over the course of the year she and the other fellows will have regular video chats to reconnect and learn together.

“I’m very excited for it and I’m excited to meet these awesome people,” she said. “I already have one connection, which just proves how small the Jewish community is – but I expect nothing less.”

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