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