On the last day of my internship at the Anti-Defamation League, I decided to read through my application for the WOW fellowship. Although nostalgia was hitting hard, I had a big smile on my face as I recalled the anticipation I had for this internship, and the reality that all of my goals were not only reached but surpassed.
Before I began my internship, I had a clear vision of what I hoped to gain, contribute, and learn from this experience. On an academic and career front, I hoped to further develop my writing abilities and become very comfortable in an office setting. Looking back on these past few months, it’s clear that I’ve done just that. I wrote a lot this summer and feel far more comfortable drafting professional letters, op-eds, and press releases. It was an honor and a blessing to further develop this critical skill while contributing in a meaningful way. Feeling comfortable in a boardroom setting is definitely not an issue after spending 200 hours in a non-profit work environment. Interning at the Anti-Defamation League gave me a clearer sense of what I want in my career and reaffirmed that I thrive on contribution and connection.
My personal goal was, by far, the most important one: to challenge myself and stretch far beyond my comfort zone. Before I began my internship, I thought I had a pretty good sense of what working in the field of social justice would be like. After all, I had taken several related classes, completed ADL’s A World of Difference Peer Training, and volunteered in their office throughout high school. From day one of my internship, it was clear that I’d only gotten a glimpse of the type of work I’d be doing. Being immersed in combatting the anti-Semitism, bigotry, and discrimination that still plagues our world is anything but comfortable, especially for a girl who doesn’t even like to watch the news! Each day, I conducted media searches for terms like bullying, anti-Semitism, and racism. Being on the lookout for acts of discrimination and prejudice was often uncomfortable and difficult for me. But as I moved further into my internship, I began to see tragic news stories as opportunities for organizations like the ADL to make the world a better place.
This summer has been a summer of growth. I walked in excited, anticipating the incredible lessons to be gained from this experience. I’m leaving truly inspired, and ready to take these lessons back to Brandeis. Reflecting on this summer, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and grateful that I was able to contribute so much. I think my greatest impact was in kickstarting various projects that had been pushed back. Toward the end, a significant part of my internship involved locating the contact information for each principal in the state of Florida. Standardized testing had been scheduled during a window of time that included the Jewish High Holidays. Several schools had scheduled testing during these holidays, which presented an issue for many families. Because we reached out to each district, schools are now better informed and fewer students will face this dilemma.
The advice I have for future ADL interns or social justice WOW fellows is simple: keep a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Social justice work is critically important, but it’s also very difficult and emotionally trying. As Olympic athlete Mallory Weggemann says, “You see bad things happen, unfortunately, it is inevitable, but they don’t have to take our ability to believe in the beauty of tomorrow.” Reminding yourself each day of the purpose of your work — the people, the goal, the future — will be your fuel. This will give you the ammunition to continue on, in high spirits. I’ve learned from the best: The ADL staff always seems to remain optimistic by creating a positive and hopeful work environment.
I will truly miss the incredible and inspiring staff at the Florida regional ADL office. I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such a life-changing experience with such wonderful people!