Final reflections on my summer at the JPLA

This summer internship in Montreal has been meaningful both professionally and personally. I came to the Jewish Public Library Archives hoping to get hands-on archival experience, and I came to the city of Montreal hoping to explore a new city and get acquainted with a new culture. My summer met and completely exceeded my expectations!

I gained a much better understanding of archival operations and of the opportunities available in an archive. I can confidently say that I have experience with archival processing, and with handling a collection from its acquisition to its final stage in the catalog. I am also more familiar with the various positions in an archive and how they can function and interact together. I have also gained more general non-profit experience. I learned how much I value working with like minded individuals and in an environment where I feel I can be my full self at work.

This summer internship has invigorated and propelled my love of delving into a project that contains minutiae and details—I realized my attention to detail is an asset. I learned just how important metadata is to libraries and archives, and how much I really do love learning and sharing my learning. I can see myself continuing to work in a university library or other type of archive or educational center

I am not only proud of my professional accomplishments, I am also very proud of myself for navigating life in a completely new city! I pushed myself to go to events by myself and to try to meet people, and I did! Montreal is a city of festivals in the summer, and I was able to manage balancing my work with my social life.

My final work for the summer can be seen here: Moshe Shaffir fonds, Shoime Wiseman fonds, and Moishe Dickstein fonds.

Jewish Public Library Archives Blog Post #2

I’ve been having a wonderful time interning at the Jewish Public Library Archives! The time has been flying by, and it’s hard to believe that I only have two weeks left. I’ve continued to work on processing Yiddish fonds and translating Yiddish file labels. I’ve finished processing Moshe Shaffir’s fonds and moved onto Shliome Wiseman’s fonds. He was the principal of Jewish People’s Schools in Montreal for 40 years and was influential in the Jewish day school movement in Montreal and beyond. For each fonds that I process, the last step is to write up and input all the information onto their new online catalog, and the page for Moshe Shaffir fonds is up!

I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know my coworkers in the archives and the library. I’ve had such a positive and warm welcome from my supervisor and colleagues. I have lunch with several of my coworkers every day, and I have really appreciated our conversations about careers in archives/libraries, Montreal, and just general life advice. On campus at Brandeis, it can be really easy to only interact with people your age; our student body is not that generationally diverse. Even in interactions and relationships with faculty or staff on campus, there can be more of a separation between the student and the faculty/staff member as they are our professors, supervisors, or mentors. This summer I’ve had the chance to interact with a lot more people of various ages, at work and socially, and it has been meaningful to get another perspective on life. It also gives me more of a context for the work I’m doing in the archives to hear from people who have lived in Montreal for a while and seen the changes in the city and the Jewish community.


Anyway, back to thoughts on the archive workplace. As I said, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my coworkers and the culture that they have created. The office environment is very collaborative and welcoming—I feel very comfortable asking for help, and also talking about non-work related things with my coworkers. All this has made my summer internship experience all the better. I have realized how important it is for me to work with like-minded individuals and those whose company I enjoy. It has made me all the more excited to work in libraries/archives. I’ve reflected more on what it is exactly that appeals to me in this type of work. I enjoy research and intellectual pursuit, but I can’t imagine working on a PhD dissertation in one field for at least five years. I like the idea of being close to intellectual pursuits and supporting them, and being able to physically interact with the primary sources and the material, as well as helping others access the information.

I’m looking forward to my last several weeks in the archives and in Montreal, and bringing everything that I’ve learned this summer back to Brandeis.

Post 2: Contributing to Shalom (Task Force)

This is an image of a word web that was created during a volunteer training.

I am going into my seventh week interning with Shalom Task Force and have been enjoying making progress with curriculum and marketing projects! The group of interns and I have completed the boundaries and digital safety workshop and have been working on the conflict resolution workshop. We have also been spending time brainstorming and planning a campaign for domestic violence awareness month in October.

Before starting my internship I expected to participate in brainstorming sessions with employees and fellow interns on how to further the outreach of Shalom Task Force. I initially thought our projects would be related to developing social media marketing campaigns, and learning more about domestic violence which has been true. However, I have discovered that the Shalom Task Force education department dedicates much of its resources to creating and presenting educational materials in schools and secondarily through online platforms. In the process we have spent a considerable amount of time on learning about healthy and unhealthy relationships, domestic abuse, and how to be a supportive community member which has aided us in developing two workshops. STF staff believe in preventative education and actively reaching people through in person programming. In the 2021-22 year Shalom Task Force reached 14,200 people through its educational department, an impressive metric.

The impact of Shalom Task Force is widespread!

Aside from learning about the operations of Shalom Task Force and nonprofit spaces, I am learning about myself. It has been exciting to learn more about my interests, personality, and strengths. I have discovered that I enjoy working in person and collaborating on projects with other people. However, I also need time to recharge and appreciate some independent tasks as well. Moreover, I like that in a nonprofit setting you can work on several projects and there are opportunities to fill a variety of needs. Since Shalom Task Force started with a confidential hotline in 1993, it has expanded to provide legal services to victims of domestic abuse and educational and community programming.

I have been able to experience managing multiple projects at once and find that the variety of tasks during the day is exciting for me. I initially thought that I was unable to work on multiple assignments and instead preferred finishing a task in full before starting a new one, but have surprised myself. I appreciate having the ability to pause working on something like the conflict resolution workshop to work on planning the domestic violence awareness month campaign or to listen in on volunteer training zoom meetings. At the beginning of the internship I recall feeling that the conventional 9-to-5 work day felt unnatural to me and has been something to get used to. It is quite different from college where I am used to a variety in classes and activities and have breaks in my schedule.

I have found the “World of Work” to be very gratifying and I enjoy the structure that comes with having a set work schedule. I value the ability to close my laptop at the end of the day and go back to work the next day feeling refreshed and ready to contribute to projects. This is quite different from my academic life where I have less separation between schoolwork and free time. I hope to adjust my lifestyle in the academic school year so I can have a set time where I close my devices and stop working on schoolwork. I have also learned the importance of creativity. From my work experience I will take with me the importance of finding specific things that I enjoy doing.

I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to learn about the important issue of domestic abuse; and while I am still unsure of what I want to do in the future, I definitely know that I want to directly help people.


Post 1: Starting my Internship at Shalom Task Force

My name is Esther Bistricer and this summer I am interning at Shalom Task Force, a nonprofit organization that supports survivors of domestic abuse and aims to build safe families and communities. Their work primarily focuses on providing culturally sensitive programming and services to the Jewish community through a confidential hotline and chatline, free legal services, and preventative education workshops.

My work day starts at around 9:15 when I check in to the WeWork office building in midtown Manhattan. On the 8th floor, there is a nice shared space to sit on one of several couches, at a long table or booth, and take advantage of the free coffee offered to employees made by a barista. This is the point of my day when I ask myself why I don’t drink coffee and make my way up to the 14th floor where I meet with the other four college interns in a glass-enclosed office space and wait for our internship coordinator and Shalom Task Force Director of Communications and Program Operations, Jeffrey Younger, to welcome us and go over the agenda for the day.

Ready for the first day of my internship!
Experiencing the morning rush on the New York City subway on the way to the office

Every day looks slightly different but generally consists of meeting with a member of the staff to discuss ideas and ways to develop education workshops in schools and summer camps, how to properly conduct outreach in communities so more people are aware of the services the organization provides, or marketing for the upcoming ping pong fundraiser. Another interesting meeting we participated in recently was hosted by the United Jewish Appeal, a philanthropic organization that funds hundreds of nonprofit organizations such as Shalom Task Force. The UJA gathered a group of social services agencies to connect and engage in a presentation led by a psychologist about family functioning in the Orthodox Jewish community. I found this particularly interesting because, before this meeting, I hadn’t had any exposure to empirical research on this topic. In the research conducted by Dr. Steven Pirutinsky, it was found that Orthodox families display high degrees of enmeshment or emotional closeness and rigidity in lifestyle and relationship dynamics. While this may not be “average” as compared to results in other studies, I took away from this presentation the importance of understanding cultural differences and the idea of cultural competency. This can apply to learning about and understanding different cultures and using that to assess what is accepted behavior and what can be considered unhealthy based on cultural context.

Along with meetings that I have the opportunity to sit in on and participate in, I am working with the other college interns to develop educational materials. Currently, Shalom Task Force gives presentations to 12th grade Jewish day school students on the “fundamentals” of domestic abuse which includes information about what a healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationship can look like, types of abuse, and “red flags”, or unhealthy behaviors in others or yourself. Moreover, Shalom Task Force speaks to 9th grade students about boundaries and digital safety in their “Virtual Reality” workshop. One of the projects the group of college interns and I have been working on is creating a workshop to add to the curriculum about communication and conflict resolution with interactive activities, relatable clips from the media, and actionable steps we can take to be a supportive friend and community member. We are also thinking about marketing for their upcoming fundraiser, doing independent work where we research media about domestic abuse, healthy and unhealthy relationships, or conflict resolution, as well as compiling a list of synagogues and other community spaces into a directory.

Slide from the “Fundamentals” workshop listing forms of abuse
Working on the directory of synagogues

So far in my experience I’m learning a lot and enjoying getting exposure to what work in a nonprofit organization looks like, where there are a variety of tasks and meetings to participate in and everyone’s contributions make an impact and move the programming in a slightly different direction. I am looking forward to seeing the progress I will continue to make alongside the other interns with the workshops, the directory of synagogues and communal spaces, as well as the projects that will come up along the way, and learning and personal growth that will occur over the next few weeks.

First Days at the JPLA

When I was imagining what I wanted to do this summer over the past semester, I knew two things: I wanted to explore a new city and do something related to Yiddish. Having spent the past two summers in a Yiddish intensive program, I wanted to see what I could do with my new language skills outside of the classroom. Thanks to the WOW Fellowship, I have found myself at the Archives of the Jewish Public Library (JPL) in Montreal.

The JPL is a unique institution, as it serves both a local community, but also a global community. Founded by Eastern European Jewish immigrants in 1914 to serve the growing community, the JPL now has the largest publicly circulating collection of Judaica in North America. Their circulating collection is quinti-lingual, with books in French, Hebrew, English, Yiddish, and Russian, and has long been a celebrated site of Yiddish culture. As Eastern European Jews arrived to Montreal at the turn of the century, they found themselves in the middle of “The Two Solitudes” of the Catholic Francophone population and Protestant Anglophone population, so they developed their own services and institutions in Yiddish (Yiddish Book Center Lecture, April 20, 2023). Now, the library provides services to their diverse community members, and the archives of the library serve to retain Montreal’s Jewish history and heritage and to support researchers. It is located in a building that houses many other Jewish organizations in Montreal, such as the Holocaust Museum, Agence Ometz, and Federation CJA.

The JPL Archives, as most archives, are organized with respect to provenance that is, from where the documents came. In Canada, these groupings are referred to as a fonds, and the documents are labeled and processed in this respect. For example, if Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz happened to donate his documents to the JPL Archives, it would be named the Ron Liebowitz Fonds. I am working with the processing archivist to process several small Yiddish fonds, as well as translate Yiddish labels to English and otherwise assist with Yiddish. In terms of processing the fonds, I look at what the contents of the files are and make note of it to later input into the new online catalogue. I am also doing some light preservation work, and I am hoping to learn how to digitize materials. I am excited to see if I enjoy this type of work and working in an archive.

So far, I am enjoying it! I have started working on the fond of Yiddish writer Moshe Shaffir. Originally from Bukovina, a region in the Carpathian Mountains today divided by Romania and Ukraine, Shaffir came to Montreal in the 1930’s. He was a prolific writer as well as a teacher, and from what I’ve seen so far, he wrote a lot remembering his childhood home and region, and reflections on the Holocaust as well. He maintained correspondence with individuals around the world, and it has been so interesting to read the letters he received (once I am able to decipher the Yiddish handwriting). Going through his files has been fun, but also has some challenges. My first main challenge was the file entitled farsheydenes, miscellaneous. I ended up sorting the file into several categories to make it easier to access.


I’m excited to see this work progress throughout the summer, what my other challenges will be, and what I think at the end of it all! I am also settling into life in Montreal and exploring the present Jewish community here (and particularly enjoying the oysergeveyntlekhe babke {amazing babka} at Cheskie’s Bakery!).

Post 3 — End of Summer Internship at the Legal Aid Society

I think I have learned a lot during this internship. I was able to talk with other attorneys and law students about their experiences which provided me a better understanding of what I want to do in the future. The attorney I am primarily working with provided me with a lot of mentorship and advice about law school; I have decided that I want to take a year off between undergrad and law school. 

My experience this summer also helped solidify my desire to work in public interest law which I was debating prior to this internship. It was really inspiring to hear and just be around the passion within the law firm in trying to create a more equitable world. I never felt as though the work I was doing did not matter and I was able to see direct results from what I was working on. It was reassuring to see that my mentor was able explore other interests while practicing such as going to pastry school and was open to taking breaks from practicing law to contribute more time to other interests. I found that really inspiring because going to law school and practicing law felt like such a looming decision but hearing his story made me realize that I have more flexibility than I initially thought. 

I am so thankful for how much work I was able to do with client interaction by myself. I completed approximately three DACA renewal applications every week and worked on side projects along the way, meeting different clients throughout. I felt more eager to work at the Legal Aid Society because I knew the impact we were making on people’s lives – it kept me motivated and focused to try and get the best possible outcome.  I think I have a much better grasp of what it means to be an immigration attorney working in a non-profit law firm, and it is definitely something I see myself doing in the future. I would love to be able to work at the Legal Aid Society in the future and I have decided to continue my internship into the fall semester.  

The advice I would give to students who are interested in an internship at the Legal Aid Society or another non-profit law firm is to take advantage of being in that space.  Ask the attorneys about their journey to the Legal Aid Society. You can learn so much from hearing other people’s stories and make new discoveries about what you want to do based on that. More likely than not people at the organization would be happy to give advice. It is also important to show initiative and interest in the work you are doing. For example, if you are really interested in working on a certain type of case, let your supervisor know. If your internship allows you to, I would also encourage you to have more meetings with clients. Meetings with different clients is such an invaluable experience. Your interpersonal skills grow and it teaches you how to be more empathetic and how to create a safe environment that allows others to speak freely.

I strongly encourage anyone interested in the Legal Aid Society or working in public interest law to seek an internship. The network and experience you build from internships can bring so much more clarity.  

Blog Post 1 : “Empowering Seniors To Live Their Best Lives”

Hi everyone! I am so fortunate to have the incredible opportunity to intern with the Academic Programs Department of Hebrew Senior Life .

My internship is quite unique as I get to experience various sectors that Hebrew SeniorLife has to offer and I have met many amazing individuals so far . This week marks my fourth week with my internship and I have learned a lot already!

To start off, Hebrew SeniorLife is a senior care organization that is rooted in Jewish heritage. HSL promotes the independence of all seniors and strives to transform every aspect of the aging experience for the better. Hebrew SeniorLife is redefining the aging experience through curiosity, creativity, and belief in a better way through their innovative programs and initiatives. Hebrew SeniorLife is an integrated, eight-site system of health care, housing, research and teaching that serves thousands of seniors in the Greater Boston area and beyond. This unique and comprehensive system is aimed at expanding choices for adults as they age and improving their quality of life. From the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research to innovative housing options, each component of this system is designed to help keep seniors independent in the community for as long as possible and, when necessary, to provide the best quality long-term care. I currently work on a hybrid basis, sometimes going to the Roslindale campus and other times going to the Brookline location.

In my internship, I have assisted in preparing training and marketing materials for the CNA program, ensuring that the program is running smoothly from an administrative academic lens. In addition, I am in the process of creating participation surveys for the participants to fill before and after their training to provide positives and constructive recommendations on what to improve to the CNA administrative group which will further aid in allowing for better and equitable practices as an organization. I have also been helping out with their  digital literacy and assessment program where we teach HSL staff basic digital literacy skills so they can use these skills at their job and life overall. This is such a meaningful and important part of my internship so far because it really is the gift that keeps giving; these staff members will now be able to teach others the skills that they have acquire through this program  and I have learned how to be an effective teacher and really help problem solve in a variety of situations. My specific tasks for my internship vary each week but what I have listed above are some of the things I have and currently am working on.

One of my favorite parts of my work so far is spending time with seniors in Brookline. I help plan and assist with activities for senior to enjoy from helping them bead jewelry to painting our feelings on canvas. I enjoy talking to them and getting to know more about their lives.  We all enjoy each other’s company so much and it makes me feel really great everytime I come in to see them. It has also taught me a lot about setting boundaries and learning how to be patient with others and myself, skills that I can always keep working on. Starting next week, I will also be helping with art therapy projects with patients at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, working on reducing feelings of isolation and building communication and concentration skills.


By the end of my internship, I want to be able to learn more about grant processes and grant coordination. Through creating marketing and promotional material for the CNA grant-based training program to coordinating interviews and meetings with potential participants, I will gain a deeper understanding of the administrative work that goes into a training program like this. In addition to that, I will participate in grant prep meetings that will give me the insider perspective on the grant process and how the coordination happens behind the scenes. I want to be able to have strong understanding of the moving parts in a healthcare setting, so working in a hands on environment will provide me the knowledge of how different administrators and healthcare professionals interact and how administrative tasks are handled holistically. As someone who will be applying to medical school soon, I know that administrative skills are important to keep operations running smoothly and a successful doctor should have that as well as a patient centered care approach so being able to balance both in this internship will allow me to better prep me for my future career. Through interacting with different administrators and professionals, I want to not only be able to practice my interpersonal skills but to also learn improve on cultural awareness. Interacting with a variety of individuals of all ages and backgrounds has allowed me to gain a better appreciation for others but also learn a lot as a person. More specifically, I hope to continue to learn valuable life lessons and skills from the seniors I work with in addition to teaching them some of my favorite hobbies and skills. The exchange of information and experiences has been really rewarding so far so I hope to continue this valuable experience.

It has only been four weeks and I already feel that I have learned a lot of transferrable skills and life tools that I will use in the future and I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks.

Blog Post 2- Learning Empathy for our Senior Community

After working at Hebrew Senior Life for almost two months, I can definitely say that I have learned a variety of skills and have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. I really enjoy working with my supervisor and meeting patients and residents and having the chance to not only have time to interact and learn from them, but to also be able to work on projects behind the scenes and have cool opportunities to participate in important work.

This past week, I was able to try on a suit that once worn, would make you feel similar to an older adult. There were ankle and wrist weights that would weigh me down in addition to various glasses that would simulate different  diseases such as glaucoma. I was walked through a variety of tasks like picking up a walker to allow me to see the challenges they endure. This suit allows healthcare professionals to build empathy for those they care for and this helps mimic certain characteristics as closely as possible.  I felt like I had an extra 200 lbs on me, and had a new appreciation for the challenges that many older adults experienced.


One of my favorite and meaningful opportunities thus far is being able to form connections with the older adults at CCB. Every Friday, I help coordinate and plan programs for the independent living facility in Brookline and I get the lovely opportunity to meet a variety of residents. Last week, I planned a frame decorating event after I realized how many residents had photos in their rooms but no frames. Everyone came down to the event and made a frame. For residents who were unable to make one themselves or come to the event, I decided to make them some. Pictured below are a few examples.

The World of Work has differed from university/academic life in many ways. I think one of the biggest differences is the unfamiliarity of the environment and people that definitely takes getting used to. As a rising senior at Brandeis, I am pretty familiar with campus and that familiarity eases certain stresses.  In a new environment, it takes time to learn about the company’s values and get to know co workers, which can be difficult if you do not put yourself out there. I really enjoy getting to learn more and meet new people so although it was a little difficult to get adjusted in a new work environment in the beginning,  I feel super comfortable now!

As a result of this internship, I am building a variety of transferrable skills such as the following: collaborating with others, building strong personal relationships, data entry, time management, creative thinking, etc. As someone who is very involved on campus, I will be able to bring these skills while working with others and on personal projects. In the future, I hope to be a physician and be able to use my resourcefulness and creativity to my role and help others through skills that I have been able to hone through my time at Hebrew Senior Life.

WOW Post 2

I have been enjoying my internship so far, my involvement and the tasks I am given were beyond what I expected. I thought I would be doing more administrative tasks during the internship, which I have but I have been given a lot of opportunities to work with clients one on one, which I have been enjoying. I remember one day I helped a couple prepare for their marriage green card interview. The whole process took around five hours; I interviewed each person individually and then went over any inconsistencies afterward, which meant I spent most of my work day talking with the clients.  

The environment at the Legal Aid Society is a bit more relaxed too which I enjoy. Initially, I was very nervous that the work environment would feel pretty stiff especially since we are located in this big building right in the financial district of NYC but all the attorneys and staff have been so nice and welcoming. We had an Immigration Unit summer outing recently at Clinton

Clinton Hall

Hall which was a lot of fun! I was able to meet a lot of new people including some of the other interns who I have not met in person before. A lot of the other interns are in law school and so I was able to hear a lot of stories about the professors they’ve had and their experiences. 

Work feels a lot more different from university life; because of the work I am doing now I can see how it makes a direct impact on our clients. In university the work I do solely impacts myself but at work, my work can impact a lot of other people which can be both exciting and terrifying. I think this excitement and fear keep me motivated and enure that I pay

The Legal Aid Society - 199 Water St, New York, New York, US - Zaubee
The Building the Legal Aid Society is in

extra attention to avoid making as many mistakes as possible. At university, I work to receive good grades and at the Legal Aid Society, I work to get people’s legal status so it feels very different. Immigration law also changes pretty quickly so there is a lot of collaboration and emails sent in the Immigration Unit about new court decisions that can potentially impact cases. Now DACA is being heard again soon in court so there is more urgency to renew our clients’ DACA applications as soon as possible. I have also been reaching out to clients to see if they are open to sharing their stories to help the Legal Aid Society add more pressure and advocate for DACA.  


Over the course of this internship, I have been building my interpersonal skills lot. I work with a lot of different clients every week, just this week I have had meetings with five different clients where I try to create a comfortable environment as I went over and finalized their DACA renewal applications and answered any questions they had. This internship has also made me more comfortable with having language barriers where I try to form a comfortable relationship with clients and communicate as effectively as possible. The skills I foster here will definitely help me in my future pursuits in becoming an immigration attorney. 

So Long and Thanks for All the Fun

I was in Israel for so long that in a way it still feels weird to not be there and working to fulfill my goals at the RRG Beit Midrash. I spent a lot of time this summer working on myself and my professional skills and I think that I have come away with a much better understanding of who I am and what a Jewish nonprofit is like that should give me a leg up in the future when I need to put those skills to the test!

In a way, I intended this internship to be a proving ground for me to test myself, to see if working as the rabbinic head of a Jewish nonprofit was something that I was capable of, let alone liked doing. I can’t say that after this summer that I now feel like a position of that kind is my calling, but I haven’t ruled it out as a potential job that I could work in the future and now that I have some experience I would feel much more comfortable in such a role.

I would recommend someone to take an internship position at the RRG Beit Midrash in a heartbeat because of how much of a positive work environment it is and the best advice I could give for someone with my internship would be not to underestimate themselves. The people I worked with were incredibly supportive and kind and helped me through whatever I needed assistance with and were too considerate of my limits to the point where I needed to tell my boss that I could handle more than he was giving me. But to get to the point where I felt comfortable with telling him that I needed to believe in my own ability to rise to the whatever task I was given, with or without help. There is nothing that you will encounter in this or any internship that is too difficult to do with some help, so there is no need to hold yourself back out of fear or lack of confidence. And in the world of Jewish nonprofits the best thing for an intern to have is confidence, even if it’s only false confidence at the start. Internships like mine are all about how well you can interact with people and we are all human, a smile, some friendliness, and the impression that you know what you are doing are all you need to succeed and make an impact. It seems scary at first but isn’t once you get used to it.

My goal for the summer was to get experience working at a nonprofit and to make an impact where I worked and my most proud accomplishment is what I helped the organization to accomplish and how doing so helped me to achieve my goals. All nonprofits live and die on how much money they can raise and the RRGBM is no exception. When I arrived back in June my boss told me the program had an ambitious goal for the summer, to raise $60,000, more than twice as much as they had ever raised in a year. I am happy to say that in part thanks to my efforts we raised slightly over our $60,000 goal and managed to secure full funding not only for the program’s usual operations but also enough money to expand our outreach to two new locations in Givat Ram and the IDC in Hertzelia! So I leave my internship with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that my efforts will make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of young Jewish college students.

So long, Jerusalem and see you soon!

Virtually Perfect

It has now been four weeks since I was given the illustrious title of Social Media Director for the Hebrew University Beit Midrash and I am starting to feel a sense of normalcy or routine in my time here in Israel. My job is very different from any other position I have held so far. The greatest contributor to that difference is my boss himself, Rabbi Yonatan Udren. Rabbi Udren is the best and most supportive boss I could have hoped for and is the driving force in everything I am getting out of this internship on a professional level. I am not exaggerating when I say that in one hour of working with Rabbi Udren on the program’s summer fundraiser I received more compliments and affirmation from a supervisor than I had received in the rest of my seven years of working  combined. All of the feedback, praise, and guidance I have gotten from Rabbi Udren has made this the most enjoyable work I have ever done, and I truly feel like I am an important and valued member of the office.

The work I am doing for the Beit Midrash is the most interpersonal and interdependent experience I have ever had. I came in with a limited skill set and was trained to adapt that skill set to the various websites and organizations tools that nonprofits use, like Donorperfect, in order to help support what everyone else in the office is doing. At the same time I am reaching out to and talking with people who know the program I am working for but not me. It has really helped me to break out of what was left of my metaphorical “shell”. Everything done in the office is backed up by at least two other people so I am learning to work on a professional team and complete projects in a way that schooling has never been dynamic enough to teach me.

I am learning how to be part of a professional team project which is always applicable to the workforce but more specifically and importantly to me, I am leaning to use all of the tools, both virtual and behavioral, that are necessary to keep a Jewish nonprofit running. As someone who wants to work as a rabbi and will almost certainly spend time in the world of Jewish nonprofits, this work experience is directly applicable and is teaching me how to succeed in that future job before I even know what that position is because all of the skills that I am learning are universal and transferable to any situation. And on a more personal level, Rabbi Udren and I have been using weekly meetings and over-text check-ins to help me work through the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Franklin Covey. Rabbi Udren recommended the book to me when I first told him about myself two months ago and the lessons in personal growth, management, and interpersonal connections that I can learn from the book have already started to help me develop myself professionally.

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


Midpoint WOW Post

At this point, I have spent a month and a half interning at Westchester Day School. The most eye-opening part of the summer so far has been the week after the students left. While the students were in school, it was loud and busy, and I had many tasks involving being a substitute for classes, helping out teachers, and observing classes. However, now that the students are gone for the summer, it is quiet, I spend more time in the office at a desk, and have more time to work on my summer projects on organizing the curriculum and unit plans of each grade and subject.

There is something that I have noticed at many different moments throughout the past month and a half about the environment and the workplace. Through sitting in on teacher meetings, administrative meetings, and professional development sessions, I have noticed that the staff, teachers and administrators, are very unified. They have a great relationship both working together as colleagues, and even more so, as people inside and outside of the school environment. This was something that made a big impact on my thoughts and emotions about being a teacher and being in an education environment. This is something very special that this teaching staff has.

This world of work being in the education environment and observing teachers and classes is very different than my academic life sitting in on classes about learning how to teach. I am having the opportunity in this internship to put what I have learned in my classes about how to teach students into the real world and real life experiences. Speaking to the teachers about their classes, students, and methods used has given me a different lens on the information I have learned in my classes. While I can learn in my classes and from textbooks “how to teach”, talking to different teachers about their experiences, their growth as teachers, and being able to differentiate their teaching for all of their students is what gave me the most valuable information.

I am working on a project where I look through binders upon binders of curriculum from different grades and different subjects and examining and analyzing the information and the way it is being taught. One specific thing I am learning through this project is finding the important parts and separating that from the other parts which are less relevant. The curriculum project I am working on requires me to look through unit and lesson plans and analyze them to see the overarching themes among the middle school grades, if the information flows from year to year, if the different subjects flow as well, and if there is anything repeated in the different curricula. By looking through dozens of binders and curricula, and writing up my findings, I have learned that there are some aspects that are important, but not necessarily important for this specific project.

Additionally, one other skill I am learning is how to talk and act professionally. This is my first job outside of being a camp counselor, so I am learning how to act professionally. Although every job and work environment is different, these work ethics, attire choices, and conversational skills will help me at any future job that I will have.

These are some of the binders which I looked through, examined, and analyzed for my project.

WOW Post #1

My name is Devorah Meyers and I am a rising junior at Brandeis University majoring in education. This summer I wanted to find an opportunity to be in a school environment which led me to become an intern at Westchester Day School, a Jewish preschool through 8th grade day school in Westchester, New York. I will be specifically interning and shadowing the principal of the middle school. Westchester Day School is a  modern-orthodox, co-educational school which values both the values of Jewish culture as well as the American culture and be able to infuse them.

This first week, I experienced and saw many aspects of a school which I was never exposed to as a student. I was able to sit in on meetings with individual teachers and the principal as well as grade meetings with teachers and administrators where they talk about what is going on in that grade, ways to help certain students, and challenging things that happened recently. Because of confidentiality of the administration, teachers, and students, there are many things which I cannot share about these meetings. These meetings gave me a new view of being a teacher or administrator. The middle school staff was so united and all brainstormed ways to help out each other. Additionally, I was able to sit in on some of the meetings which the principal had with some students to discuss aspects that they want to change in the school, as well as social and academic issues. These meetings were very surprising to me, as when I was a middle school student I was terrified of my principal and would only go to the office if I was in trouble. Sitting in on these meetings showed me a different way to be a principal in a school. The principal that I am shadowing wants to have a positive relationship with the students and the students as well want to have a positive relationship with her.

Additionally, I have covered many classes in the past week. I did not feel comfortable enough teaching a lesson to the students, so instead, with the permission of the teachers, I gave them work which the teachers gave me ahead of the class period. Although I was not teaching the students directly, I had the opportunity to be in the classroom with the students. This gave me the opportunity to see what a middle school classroom is like, how it functions, the challenge of controlling the behavior of the  students, and seeing the different personalities of students both socially and academically. This is extremely valuable for me as an aspiring teacher to be in the classroom with the students and begin to develop a relationship with a handful of them. I am very thankful for this opportunity and believe that it was very valuable for me to be in the classroom with students.

This is Westchester Day School

In addition to covering classes, I have also had the opportunity to observe classes and teachers. I have seen different ways and methods used by the teachers to teach different subjects and specific students. I have also had the opportunity to talk to the teachers after observing their classes to hear the reasons behind the strategies they use, the students who need more help and attention, and how to give them what they need. This was also very valuable for me to see and do because I was able to see the students and teachers in their environment and observe how a classroom functions. It was also very helpful to debrief with the teachers after the classes so I was able to understand why they repeated certain things, the abilities of the students, and the methods which work best for the class.

I hope through this summer and my projects I will be able to reach my goals of learning about the “behind the scenes of education,” including curriculum development and planning, scheduling, administrative work, hearing teacher’s feedback on their classes, and professional development.

Reflecting on my JVS Summer

At the beginning of the summer I did not imagine that I would feel extremely sad to leave JVS on the last day of my internship, however, during the past week as my summer internship came to a close, I realized how attached I had become, how much I had learned, and how much I will miss working at my little office in East Boston.  I feel so grateful to have had the summer that I did.  When reflecting on my learning goals, I feel confident in saying that I not only met my goals but also learned and grew more than I could have imagined possible over the course of the ten weeks.  My internship at JVS pushed me in many ways over the course of the summer and enabled me to be a more confident, caring, and adept person.  (Below: My coworker and me during our last week.) 

My feeling towards conducting new-client-assessments is a clear example that comes to mind when thinking about how I have grown over the summer.  During my first week, I observed one of my coworkers while she conducted an initial assessment of a new client to see if the person was a good fit for our program.  When observing this interaction, I felt uncomfortable.  It seemed awkward to me to have to ask someone personal questions without knowing them.  Because there were language barriers, more typical courtesies and ways of creating comfortable distance were unable to take place.  The interaction was a much more blunt and boiled down version of what it could have been had both people been fluent in the same language.  There were some of the question like “What are your job goals?” or “Did you attend college?” that were comfortable.  As the interview went on however, the questions that needed to be asked about a person’s citizenship and work authorization status felt harsh, and asking them to choose one of the boxes in the ill-equipped lineup of “racial categories” made me cringe, but there was no way around doing this.

I did not imagine that I would ever be comfortable conducting these sorts of meetings.  A few weeks later, I began to be in charge of assessing new clients and had to handle these meetings on my own.  At first, it often felt strange, but as time went on I found my own rhythm, and soon it became one of my favorite tasks at work, because it enabled me to be the first person that the new clients got to know at JVS.  I loved hearing their stories for the first time, understanding what motivated them to come to JVS, and having them know that I was a person they could trust.  During my last day of my JVS summer, I did four new-client-assessments.  It felt amazing to end my summer bringing four new candidates to the program through the task that I had once been so nervous to take on.  

Working at JVS has enabled me to envision many different paths that would excite me in terms of my work and life post-graduation.  JVS’s East Boston location’s partnership with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center has been an important part of my learning and exploring this summer.  While I can happily envision working for a nonprofit like JVS doing career counseling or teaching, being around medical professionals at EBNHC has given me a window into what a career in public health could look like as well.  Through my internship, I got the exciting opportunity to attend a small event where Elizabeth Warren spoke to professionals at the EBNHC clinic about the work that they do and this was very inspiring to me. 

Elizabeth Warren accepting a gift from EBNHC

My work over the summer solidified the knowledge that I want to always be working in a place that enables me to be making some sort of positive difference within my community.  It has been so valuable and heartening to watch some of my clients go through dramatic life changes over the summer in part because of the support that they got from JVS and from me.  It is crazy to think that clients I met at the beginning of the summer were able to get jobs during the past ten weeks because of work that I got to help with.  I would highly recommend interning with JVS.  Unlike many internship opportunities that students sometimes have, JVS cares about your learning and your experience working with them.  If you want to work with JVS I would recommend reaching out to their HR manager, or simply going to their downtown headquarters and asking for information in person.  

I am so thankful that WOW helped me have the summer that I did!

Signing off, EC

Exploring my own City

As my internship with JVS has continued, I have enjoyed my time there more and more.  As the weeks have gone on, I have begun to build stronger relationships with my clients and coworkers and becoming more familiar with my workplace has enabled me to take on new and exciting challenges and responsibilities.  During the first two weeks of July, the clients had a break from their morning English/Skills classes, which gave me time to work on different projects and tasks than I usually do.  I also got to work at JVS’s downtown headquarters for a few days during this time instead of staying in the East Boston location; this proved a very valuable experience as it enabled me to better understand how JVS operates as a whole and allowed me to become familiar with some of the other programs JVS runs in addition to the specific program that I work with.  

An interesting mural Ben and I passed during outreach in Roxbury.

One of the main projects that I worked on during the weeks off from class was an outreach initiative in East Boston, Roxbury, and Quincy.  My co-intern Ben and I were sent into different neighborhoods to talk to people in small businesses, community centers, parks, and other places frequented by locals to attract new clients to JVS’s English for Advancement program.  I had never been to any of the neighborhoods that we visited before working with JVS.  This was such a learning experience for me because they are mostly areas I would not have thought to visit before, however, they were filled with so many interesting places and such friendly fellow Bostonians. I think often many neighborhoods located around the outskirts of Boston- like in many cities- are thought of as less safe or desirable than the neighborhoods I am used to visiting.  It was eye-opening to find that none of what I saw matched any sort of negative reputation that may have preceded the places we went.  It was disappointing to realize that Boston has not escaped the racialized notions that sort suburbs into relatively baseless positive and negative categories.  

In addition to the outreach efforts, over the past few weeks much of my work has been focused on doing intake interviews for the English for Advancement Program.  In order to be a part of the program, clients must first attend an initial information session, and then come to a follow up interview where we do a more in depth assessment in order to decide whether or not the person is a good fit for EfA.  Through handling many aspects of the interview process I have learned a lot about different immigration and work statuses.  There are so many nuances to the different titles, laws, and processes and my supervisors have been helpful in teaching me about these differences.  Unfortunately, EfA can only accept applicants who already have unrestricted Social Security numbers, so I have learned a lot about how the process of acquiring a social security number happens. I have greatly enjoyed interviewing new potential clients because it enables me to hear so many interesting stories of fellow members of my Boston community.  While some clients have lived in the United States for a few years or longer, many have arrived within the past six months and listening to their goals and ideas about their future lives in America is so intriguing and inspiring. 

Signage notifying applicants where our information session is located.

In general I feel like working at JVS is enabling me to feel so much more comfortable in so many different ways.  I am infinitely more confident at work whether it’s doing little things like making phone calls, copies, or commuting around Boston, or doing bigger things like running an information session by myself, translating between the four languages I speak, or contributing during a large meeting.  I feel much more independent and able than I ever have before.  WOW has enabled me to see what my life will be like post graduation.  Living in Somerville in an apartment, commuting to work each morning, and engaging in real work every day feels so adult, and this is something I have never experienced until now.  I am excited to finish the summer strong, EC 

First Days

My internship with the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) started last week. While the headquarters of JVS is located in downtown Boston, JVS has many smaller offsite locations.  One of these locations is located in East Boston close to the Maverick T-Station; this is where my internship for the summer is located.  JVS’ many locations is demonstrative of an integral part of their core principles: being easily accessible to the entire Boston community. The program I am working with this summer is called English for Advancement, one of their many departments and programs.  The English for Advancement program pairs English classes and career counseling services to help immigrants and refugees in the greater Boston area find and secure stable jobs.  

The East Boston location of the English for Advancement (EfA) program where I am working meets in an office space that is shared with the East  Boston Neighborhood Health Center.  Though the two organizations are separate entities, they work together in many ways to serve the East Boston community.  The Health Center informs many people in the area about EfA and many of our clients use services provided by both organizations.  It is a successful partnership and I am excited to learn more about both of these organizations as the summer continues.  Beyond the East Boston site, EfA serves the Boston community from six different locations: Lynn, Lawrence, Roxbury, East Boston, Dorchester, and Downtown Boston.  From these six sites, EfA has found jobs for over 2,000 clients in the past year alone.  JVS’ mission plans for JVS to be, “Empowering individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces.”  Their EfA program embodies this mission in all sense and even in my first few days with them I have seen how they put this into action.    


During my first day at JVS, I was taught about the different policies, processes, and systems in place at JVS- it was a classic intern introduction- being taught how to use the different databases, understand the codes and filing systems, and find every place in the building that I needed to know about.  By the second day however, things were in full swing.  In the morning (as I will each morning), I worked as a teacher’s assistant in the EfA English class.  The English classes are challenging for one teacher to handle because each student/client (used interchangeably) comes in with a very different level of English ability.  There are some clients who arrive to the EfA program knowing nearly zero English, while other students are much more comfortable speaking.  While JVS attempts to level the classes, JVS’ priority is to bring in as many students as possible, and this means adapting to the schedule of everyone who is a part of the EfA program.  This results in having classes with very mixed levels of English.  

Thus far, I have spent the majority of the time during the morning assisting the students with lower levels of English to ensure that they are understanding what is being taught.  Because around half to three quarters of the students that the East Boston location serves are native Spanish speakers, my Spanish fluency has been an extremely useful.  My personal learning goal for the summer was to improve my Spanish speaking skills and this has already begun to occur.  In the afternoons I work independently focusing on projects and tasks delegated to me by supervisors Maria (the head of career coaching) and Laura (the head of the English classes).  This has enabled me to work on one of my other learning goals: learning how non-profit organizations successfully operate.  My work includes meeting with clients to work on their resumes, apply for jobs, or practice for interviews; calling new clients and providing them with information about our program; interviewing potential clients to see if they are a good fit for our program; searching for jobs for our clients, and translating material from English into Spanish or French.  

Working at JVS thus far has been a pleasure.  I already feel as though I have developed strong relationships with many of the clients.  They are helping me learn so much and are already enabling me to accomplish my third learning goal- improving my navigation of multicultural learning environments.  Getting to meet with the clients and watching them achieve all of their goals, find good jobs, and become more confident in their English feels so special.  I have left work each day feeling so joyful after interacting with everyone who is part of the JVS community.  Almost every client I have worked with thus far has been so motivated and optimistic.  I feel so grateful that this is where I will be spending my summer.  More to come soon, EC