Post 3: Final Thoughts

I did achieve my learning goals, which remained consistent throughout my internship. Going into this internship my goals were to advance my professional network and receive feedback that will help me be a better colleague. I wanted to try something new and expand upon my existing skill set. 

My internship was incredibly helpful in clarifying my career interests. For someone who is interested in advocacy, I would advise them to be open minded. There are lots of different agencies in both the private and public sector, and experience is the best tool. 

Nonprofits are complex and have many different departments. Understanding that you want to work for an agency is simply the first step in determining your career goals. Throughout my various internships, I have worked with development, social media, community services and with a marketing team. I would urge a student looking for advice to reach out to members of different departments. Not only will it help you decide what you want, but it expands your professional network. The more people at an organization that are willing to vouch for you or write a recommendation, the better. 

Specifically for the field of Jewish nonprofits, I would advise someone to ask those in your office what brought them to the field. In such a niche field, I have found that professionals frequently have interesting stories and helpful guidance. Meet with anyone that will meet with you and consider all advice, even if it is unsolicited. Many organizations work together, be nice to everyone. Of course, kindness is always a good idea. In a niche field, you want your reputation to be positive.

I would advise someone interested in the non profit or advocacy field to thoroughly research an agency prior to applying for a position. While it is valuable to leave your comfort zone, it is important to check that you support the organization’s mission. Familiarize yourself with the founding and history of the organization. Read about when they have realized press statements and what their positions are. It feels incredibly fulfilling to feel you are making a difference but doing so when you disagree with the organization’s goals is detrimental to success. 

Photo from my first day at AJC when we lobbied Congress. Throughout my internship, I prepared briefing papers for visits to Congress.

I am proud of the work I accomplished this summer and the skills I gained. One major project was regarding African nations’ relationship with Israel in the United Nations. For decades, countries in Africa have frequently voted against Israel in the United Nations. My job was to write briefing papers which described the relationship between Israel and various African countries. From there, I analyzed why different proposed solutions and ways to amend these relationships. This was an extensive research assignment and I am proud of my contribution. 

As a rising senior, this is likely my last summer internship as I enter the professional workforce. The skills I have gained through my internships, and the work I did this summer prepared me for my next steps. I feel prepared because I have a better knowledge of what I want to do. I also feel confident that I have professionals who can help me achieve my goals.

The Halfway Point- Lessons Learned So Far

My new work environment has exceeded my expectations for my summer internship. I find the work I am doing to be meaningful and feel like a valued member of the department. The projects assigned to me have been thought provoking and I have received mentorship from other members of the office and fellow interns. Transitions can be difficult, but I feel well adjusted and am set in my routine. 

Many lessons I gained in college have prepared me for the modern American workplace.  College teaches us to be diligent, take pride in our work and follow the instructions to meet requirements. On the contrary, academia teaches us how to be curious, ask questions and explore our interests. We are taught to capitalize on our skills and improve upon our weaknesses. All of this has translated into valuable preparation for the workforce.

In many ways, the world of work is quite different from university life. In college, a class is eighty minutes and our free time outside the class is our own. The standard American work day is much longer, and while breaks are encouraged, it is expected that we are productive throughout the day. As students, we wake up and more or less know what the day will hold. We know our extracurriculars, jobs, clubs and classes. Class syllabi limit the number of unexpected assignments. In contrast, work is much more exciting and surprises can arise at any given time. 

Through this internship, I am improving my research skills. As I enter my senior year, being more confident in my ability to conduct research will prove valuable. I am also becoming better at time management. I am learning how to make the most of my day and keep myself organized. My schedule can be unpredictable and hectic, and I live through my planner. I am also learning to maximize my productivity in my 9-5:30 workday. This was in part my realizing that it is necessary to take breaks from my desk. Sitting in front of a computer and focusing can be difficult, so now I run up and down the stairs several times a day. Seriously, it works! 

Now that I am settled in, I am working to be stay organized.
My desk at AJC! I live through my planner, which is always front and center on my desk.

An unexpected skill I have learned is self preservation. Humanitarian work, advocacy and politics can be draining, and at times, depressing. I find this work to be extremely rewarding and continue to believe this is the right career path for me.

In Judaism, we are taught to have a moral obligation to help those in need and create a better world. This concept is called tikkun olam, which translates to “repairing the world.” So, while this can be exhausting, knowing that I am fulfilling a mitzvah, a Jewish commandment, is empowering. 

– Sarah Berkowitz

Post 1- First Days and First Impressions

For my summer internship, I am working at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). AJC’s mission is to, “enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.” Since its founding in 1906, AJC has opened thirty four offices worldwide and collaborated with thirty seven international Jewish organizations. I am interning with the Africa Institute in AJC’s New York City office. With AJC’s focus on advancing human rights and advocating for the state of Israel, the Institute is necessary and relevant in today’s political climate. Main goals of the Africa Institute include creating a partnership with the African diaspora, advocating for human rights in African countries and encouraging an alliance and strong diplomatic relationship between African countries and Israel.

My internship began at AJC’s Global Forum. Global Forum was held in Washington DC where I heard from renowned diplomats, met 300 other campus leaders and lobbied at Capitol Hill. At Global Forum Lee Zeldin (R-NY) Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) launched the Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus. The goals of the caucus is to bring attention to the needs of the two communities and encourage other members of Congress to join and act as allies.

This relates well to my projects and responsibilities during my internship at AJC. I am currently researching members of Congress who have large Jewish constituencies and are active on Africa issues and vice versa. I am investigating different caucuses that deal with both communities as we decide who can help in future legislation and lobbying. Africa and Israel have a long and complicated history, which makes AJC’s work all the more important.  The United Nations is a prime example of the importance of AJC and building a relationship between African nations and Israel. Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has noted on several occasions that Israel is disproportionately demonized in the United Nations. Between 2012 and 2015, 86% of the resolutions criticizing countries have been against Israel. Today, the relationship between Israel and African nations would be vital in the United Nations. In 2018, when the UN met to discuss Hamas and the Gaza border, three African countries supported condemning Hamas and twelve African countries abstained. I hope to learn more about the history of this relationship and explore what can be done to improve it.

Given that both Israel and Africa are important components of my position, I am also learning about the origin of the argument that “Israel is an apartheid state.” Many universities have “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses, but few can define apartheid. My goal is to compile read more about apartheid and compile a report on different definitions, what occured during South Africa apartheid and how this compares to the State of Israel.

So far, my internship has been thought provoking, meaningful and busy! I am excited for the next several weeks and sharing the incredible work we are doing.

– Sarah Berkowitz