Final Words with ABC

This summer has certainly been an experimental test of my strength in the humanitarian aid world of work. Thanks to the WOW I have successfully been able to have an internship opportunity that expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the bureaucracy and intensity of social work and humanitarian aid in NYC. My goals were thoroughly accomplished through the wide range of tasks I was set to do at ABC. 


Everything from my tasks of referring children for early intervention education programs to doing child therapy with the kids helped me reach my learning goals for this internship. I would say that every task I had, even if it sounded as simple as getting a medical record for a child, taught me the hardships of working in and with public assistance groups. I learned what those dependent on public assistant programs have to go through in order to receive the services “our government provides to those in need.” It is no simple task to get a child in school, receive services for children with learning disorders, or get one’s monthly food stamp to buy food for their family. Learning how policies created on a city wide level effect those they are supposed to be helping was the most interesting aspect of my internship for me. I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by taking classes that teach me more about policy creation, implementing policies on a ground level, and discussing with professors the corruption that exists in US government. Beyond Brandeis I will hopefully continue to have my eyes opened to the world of policy making and humanitarian aid projects that help people in my community. It is amazing how much attention is often focused on international humanitarian aid efforts when there are thousands of people within 5 miles of my home in New York who need just as much aid and care, who are suffering from starvation and whose children have witnessed trauma and violence before the age of five and need counseling. 

For anyone interested in social work I would say ABC is the best place to intern. Social work is a balance, you must maintain self care and be effective in the office. As one of my co-workers said: if you don’t feel well yourself, you can’t help anyone else. 

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My ideas around social justice have most definitely been challenged. I have seen how difficult social justice is to accomplish in a world where organizations are run by money and public assistant groups make it difficult for anyone to accomplish anything quickly with the piles of paperwork required for even the most simplest of requests. I have learned that having connections in the world of social justice workers is vital because it helps get paperwork through the system faster and speed along the process of helping those receive aid who need it. I have also learned that although there are many people out there working for social justice, it is an exhaustive and draining task to bring about justice in today’s world. Although I already knew this, seeing how it effects people is quite depressing. Accomplishing social justice is still what I am going to work for in my future and this internship definitely helped brace me for the reality of working towards this goal. Dedication and passion are the two most vital attributes needed to accomplish social work. 

– Alex Hall ’15

My first week at AVODAH


This summer I am interning in AVODAH’s New York City office.  As explained on their website, AVODAH is a Hebrew word which encompasses spiritual, communal and work related “service”.  Upon it’s foundation in 1998, AVODAH became the first Jewish service corps. AVODAH corps members spend a year working at a placement site, building community, and learning about Judaism and social justice. AVODAH’s mission, reflected in corps members’ placement sites, is to strengthen the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty. AVODAH’s initial program took place in New York, and programs have now been launched in D.C., Chicago and New Orleans.

I am working with Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, Director for Alumni and Community Engagement. After a meaningful year in service, corps members are part of a life-long alumni network. Rabbi Ruskay facilitates this network and continues to provide alumni with opportunities to engage in the social justice community.  One of my favorite parts about my internship thus far is that I have a wide variety of jobs and responsibilities. I develop lesson plans for events and projects that provide alumni with the opportunity to network with each other and continue to address current issues regarding social injustices. I am also working with Rabbi Ruskay to improve the current resources available to alumni.

My first week at AVODAH was a great learning experience. The day I started working was a huge day for the New York office. It was the day of our annual Partners in Justice event, an evening where corps members, alumni, friends and supporters come together to celebrate successes and honor some of AVODAH’s extraordinary leaders and alumni.  I was very impressed—my first time meeting everyone at the organization was on one of their busiest days of the year, yet everyone went above and beyond their specific roles and the event came together beautifully.  They were especially welcoming to a new and nervous intern.

Gorgeous event set-up at the Prince George!
Gorgeous event set-up at the Prince George!
Goodies with a message.
Goodies with a message.

On my second day, I met with Rabbi Ruskay and we had a great discussion about the current state of the alumni program and the future program goals.  I was immediately excited about learning from someone who had so much experience and expertise. Throughout my first week, I especially appreciated the networking opportunities I had. On Tuesday, Rabbi Ruskay and I met with two staff members from the American Jewish World Service: a Senior Organizer and the Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement to discuss program successes and lessons learned with PresenTense, an organization that inspires young social entrepreneurs to invest in ideas that lead to a better future while strengthening their Jewish community.  We also met with the coordinator for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, to plan the next steps for engaging AVODAH alumni in the campaign for Immigration legislation reform (a very current issue), which I have now taken on as a project with Rabbi Ruskay.

Heading into our eighth floor office!
Heading into our eighth floor office!

As I continue my work at AVODAH, I know I will continue learning exponentially about non-profit organizations and how to best engage social justice leaders with the larger community. When corps members finish their year in service, many of them want to stay involved in the world of social justice. Through working with Rabbi Ruskay on the alumni program, I hope to continue learning about many ways we can be a force for change and prevent social injustice. Regardless of where we are at in life, whether it is grad school, the work force, or already engaged in community service, each one of us can help fight poverty. I am so excited to continue learning at AVODAH.

How does AVODAH help build community? Inspiration from our Partners in Justice event.
How does AVODAH help build community? Inspiration from our Partners in Justice event.

– Sophie Brickman ’16

Finishing up the Summer at UFE

It’s hard to believe that the summer is already over! The last half of my summer in Boston was smooth sailing as I got more accustomed to the rhythm of life at UFE. By the end, I felt that I had achieved a healthy balance of challenge and basic understanding of how to get things done. In terms of accomplishing my goals set at the beginning of the summer, I am happy with the results. I set some broad goals, but also quite a few very specific goals having to do with gaining confidence in fundraising and donor relations. The more I observed and worked with members of the Development team, the more I grew to see “practice making perfect”. UFE’s current development team is full of wisdom and years of experience and I was really appreciative of their willingness to share their knowledge, and even take a couple steps back to explain basic procedures that were unfamiliar to me. As the summer progressed, I definitely saw a huge improvement in myself- it became much easier to jump on an assigned task because I spent less time clarifying questions and had the confidence to make decisions that I deemed appropriate.

Another goal of mine was to improve research skills, and I had many opportunities to look into ways that UFE could save on administrative costs- because a goal of any non-profit is to have administrative costs that are as low as possible to keep the majority of money headed towards the mission of the organization. The first research project I did was in my very first month and involved a cost-benefit analysis of what each individual state charges to become a charitable solicitor in that respective state. Some of the costs were extremely high, whereas others charged nothing at all. Having this list enables UFE to take advantage of all of the states that are free, and then look into which states are worth paying the “charitable solicitor fee”. This project required extensive research because there was no one easy place to get all of the information. It was certainly a good place to start though because it introduced me to a lot of issues that I would come to run into later on in the summer. As I did other projects throughout the summer, I had an easier time troubleshooting, making my skills much more efficient by the end of my time at UFE. There are even little tips that I came across which should be of use during the school year- especially within Microsoft Excel. Even though I have used Excel many times in the past, I learned many tricks this summer which will greatly increase speed and efficiency with any sort of data that I am trying to keep track of.

I am also quite happy with the strong connections that I made at UFE. Everyone was so approachable and eager to be of help not just throughout the summer, but even in offering to connect with Brandeis again in the future. Outside of the development office are many programs including popular education- and if I ever find myself in a class related to issues that UFE addresses (which I am sure I will here!) they have offered to come and speak to classes/groups here on campus. They have been a wonderful resource and I wouldn’t hesitate to call them in order to connect again in the future.

Having now completed the internship, I would like to check out other development offices- including Brandeis. With the experience at UFE, I think it would be interesting to compare and see the differences between how a college runs its fundraising mission with how a small non-profit sustains itself. To any student interested in an internship with this organization, I would suggest keeping a positive attitude and showing interest by asking questions. Everyone is more than happy to help, and as long as they can see you’re dedication and care for the organization, they will be glad to help you improve your own skills.

Overall, I have really seen how it is all about the passion. When people can tell that you care about what you are trying to raise money for, it makes others care as well. It puts meaning and emotion behind the difficult task of asking for money, because especially at UFE (though I am sure most other places as well), you can see that fundraisers are in the field because they truly care about the mission and want to see positive social change. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such a close-knit staff because it was helpful in getting a full grasp on the underlying issues of economic inequalities with plague our current system. I am happy to say that I share their vision of, “shaping society into one where prosperity is better shared, where there is genuine equality of opportunity, where the power of concentrated money and corporations neither dominates the economy nor dictates the content of mass culture”. It is an issue that has potential to be fixed once their is a greater overall understanding of the basic roots of the problem. This comes from education and discussions among family and friends because with greater understanding, comes more persistence and desire and to remedy the situation. I have included a couple info graphics that I think do a nice job of summing of the uneven distribution of wealth in picture format- I way that I personally find very helpful in understanding some of these more confusing topics:






















So, while I have walked away from this summer internship with a wealth of knowledge related to fundraising and development, I have also broadened my own personal knowledge from progressive taxes, to facts regarding the 99% vs 1%. It was a pleasure working with such a dedicated staff and I will walk away with so many life lessons beyond anything that can be taught in a classroom. Here’s to a great summer of 2012!

– Gwen Teutsch ’13

Tweeting for Social Change: My First Weeks at American Jewish World Service

I remember first hearing about American Jewish World Service (AJWS) when I was fourteen years old and participating in a philanthropy project at my local Jewish Community Center. The organization’s mission and the way it uses Jewish values to inspire Jewish communities to help marginalized people across the globe deeply resonated with me. As I aged and discovered my passion for human rights work and international development, I never forgot about one of the first organizations to inspire me. Therefore, I truly see it as a privilege to be an intern in American Jewish World Service’s communications department this summer.

AJWS’s mission is: “Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.”  Through service projects, educational programs, advocacy, and grants to grassroots partners in the developing world, AJWS works to empower marginalized peoples across the globe and pursue justice.

On the opening day of the Rio +20 conference, 300 indigenous people occupied the dam to spell “Pare Belo Monte,” meaning “Stop Belo Monte”. The Belo Monte Dam, which will be the third biggest in the world, will flood their homelands and destroy wildlife. By posting this on Facebook, I help share their work.

I am fortunate to not only be a WOW intern but to have gotten my internship directly through Hiatt. AJWS partners with Brandeis every year to offer placement for one WOW intern. This year, it was me! I wanted to apply for an internship with AJWS for a while and was thrilled to learn that there was an expedited process for Brandeis students. It’s an amazing opportunity!

AJWS has fourteen total interns this summer. I am the lone intern in the communications department. My responsibilities include content development for the blog, social media work, media monitoring, and video making. Although I am not directly furthering AJWS’ mission, I hope that through the writing and social media work I do this summer I can leave even a small contribution to an incredible cause.

These sunflower seeds were delivered to Capitol Hill and the White House to represent the 18,000 people who signed the Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill. During the delivery, I shared our success through social media.

I see this internship as a unique opportunity to combine my academic passions – global human rights and peace-building – with the writing and social media skills I gained through my extracurricular work. I hope to improve my writing skills, and particularly want to learn how to craft my tone for different audiences. In addition, I am eager to learn about effective outreach and audience retention. I also hope to see how the different components of nonprofit work interact in order to help a larger cause. I am most nervous about working from nine to five and sitting behind a desk all day.  I am excited to experience working in a nonprofit, particularly since it will allow me to discover if this is a good route for me when I graduate Brandeis next spring.

After my first two weeks, I still am growing into my role in the communications department and establishing a routine. I spend the bulk of my day managing the Facebook page, generating content, and researching articles on current events related to AJWS’ work. Unlike other college students, when on Facebook or Twitter, I am not procrastinating, but doing my job! The most meaningful project I have worked on so far was interviewing and recording an event with a leader of one of AJWS’ partners in India. His stories were incredibly moving and displayed the profound struggles, beauty, and potential in India.

Often times, when I am compiling spreadsheets and writing Facebook statues or tweets, it is hard to remember the “why” behind my daily tasks and feel motivated by my work. However, after hearing from about our partner in India’s work firsthand and realizing that I can use my voice to share his stories, I remembered why what I do is of value and how it contributes to the bigger picture. As my internship continues, I aspire to remember to always work with intention and complete awareness of my global partners in the universal struggle for justice.

– Erica Shaps ’13

United for a Fair Economy: Week One

I arrived at United for a Fair Economy (UFE) safely, but in the midst of pure chaos — I walked into a scene of power tools disassembling furniture, boxes piled high, and various items with bright signs saying, “KEEP!” or “TOSS!” As some of us with housing leases know, June 1st is the big moving day, and this also held true for UFE as they upgraded to a bigger space, a few blocks over on Milk Street in Boston. However chaotic it may have been, there was still this wonderful energy amongst my new co-workers. Everyone was enjoying themselves as they labored through all the burdens associated with moving. Already reflecting on that first day, I can tell that UFE will be a positive environment in which to be working this summer. 
UFE is a national organization whose mission is to “raise awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.” There are five core programs under the umbrella of UFE: Popular Education for Action, Estate & Federal Taxes, Responsible Wealth, Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and the Racial Wealth Divide. Each branch has a goal to make connections with outside resources, then ultimately collaborate with them in order to strengthen the broader movement. Their 2011 annual report nicely summarizes the successes of the past year and goals for the future.

I have been hired as an intern of the Development Team which is heavily focused on organizing fundraising projects and donor communications. As a non-profit organization, UFE relies on grants and donations in order to sustain itself, so much of my work will be focused in researching new, potential funding sources, working on grant writing, communicating with long term donors, and helping to organize fundraisers such as Call-A-Thons and House Parties.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the UFE Board of Directors. Each year there are four meetings between the staff and Board. It was a really interactive meeting that involved many activities such as, getting into groups and writing our own “elevator speeches,” so that if we find ourselves stuck in an elevator, we can successfully encourage someone to make a donation or even join the UFE movement. What I enjoyed most about the day was listening to the directors talk about their experiences with UFE and how they became involved. Membership to the board is unpaid and volunteer-based, which proved just how much these directors care about the cause. I came out of that meeting feeling so empowered really only because they were so excited about their work.

Recently, the director of Development lent me a fantastic book called, The Self Made Myth. It is written by Brian Miller, the executive director of UFE, and Mike Lapham, a project director and cofounder of UFE. So far I am just about halfway through it, but from the dialogue on the very first page, I became hooked. In overview thus far, it is about debunking the “self made myth” that progressive taxes are a form of “punishing success.” Many of the wealthy in the U.S. like to believe that success was earned solely on an individual level — without the help of anyone along the way. However in Chuck Collins’ foreword, he says, “No individual is and island. No one starts a business or creates wealth in a social vacuum. There are things we do together — through our tax dollars and public expenditures — that create fertile ground for wealth creation” (xii). Miller and Lapham’s book is centered upon this myth and presents stories of prosperous business leaders like Warren Buffet and Ben & Jerry’s who recognize that without various public investments and support, they never would have made it to where they are today; for this reason, they support higher taxes for themselves (the wealthy) because it is a way of giving back after all the help they received along the way.

On the UFE webpage, there is an interesting article titled “Eight Reasons You Should Agree with Will Smith on Taxes”. I highly recommend checking it out!

It was really by luck that I came across this internship opportunity. I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do this summer, but back in February I happened to read through the weekly community service e-mail and saw the blurb about UFE looking for a summer intern. It is very unlike anything I have ever done in the past, but that is why I was so drawn in. For years since hearing about the economic crisis in the U.S., I have not once tried to understand the root of the problem. Already working with this staff, their enthusiasm and passion has been contagious. I look forward to learning more and gaining the tools needed so that I can continue the chain of educating others the same way the the staff at UFE has begun educating me.

– Gwen Teutsch ’14