Post 3: Reflections on my Internship at Shalom Task Force

My internship experience with Shalom Task Force concluded on August 2nd and I am very proud of everything I learned and the projects that I contributed to. At the beginning of June, I had very limited knowledge about domestic violence, how best to support victim-survivors, and what the different forms of abuse looked like. I now understand that domestic violence can present as religious or cultural abuse, as well as physical, verbal, sexual, financial, emotional, and psychological abuse. I have also gotten insight into this issue through observing a virtual court appearance and reading write-ups from the hotline department.

Before my internship started, I wrote down career, academic, and personal goals. I aimed to identify and narrow my career interests, successfully manage multiple responsibilities and projects at the same time, and expand my oral and written communication skills. While I did manage multiple projects and improve my communication skills, I think I was a little bit too ambitious in believing that over the summer, I  could clarify and decide on what I would want to do following college. However, after speaking with staff members at Shalom Task Force, who shared stories about their career paths, I feel more secure in accepting that I need more time to determine my career path. As a rising sophomore it is still early on, and for me, I feel that there is no need to rush in making life decisions on what I want to do after college. I am eager to redirect this confusion and indecision into being mindful in my classes and extracurricular interests this upcoming year. This mindfulness will help me in learning about my academic interests, personality, and strengths. One thing I did learn this summer is that I appreciate variety in what I do and that it is important for me to work in a field that positively impacts other people’s lives.

Photo from the annual Shalom Task Force Ping Pong fundraiser in July. It was great to see people coming together to support an important cause and enjoy an evening with good fun and fun!

Moreover, within the first week the group of interns and I learned the curriculum that Shalom Task Force teaches in schools. This curriculum educates young people about the fundamentals of domestic abuse, highlights red flags in relationships, shows what healthy relationships can look like, stresses the importance of adhering to respectful boundaries while interacting with people, and speaks about digital safety. As we were determining what we wanted to add to the current curriculum, we thought another aspect of relationships that wasn’t discussed in their workshops yet was conflict. In this aspect of interpersonal relationships we focused on causes of conflict, how to cope with immediate reactions such as anger and how to resolve conflict through listening and better communicating as well thinking about desired outcomes in resolving conflict.

Developing this workshop was a great way to work on my oral and written communication skills. We started thinking about the audience and who would most benefit from this workshop, and decided to gear the workshop to 9th and 10th grade students. By determining our audience, we were able to set the tone for the entire presentation and include information and examples that could be relatable to young high school students. On a personal note, another part of communication that I was able to work on this summer was converting internet research into digestible information on a slide. 

Slide from our conflict resolution workshop.

I would encourage those interested in interning with Shalom Task Force, or in other nonprofits that fit under the category of Jewish communal service, to be open to learning new things and ask questions. This is because every Jewish community can look and operate differently than other communities. Therefore, in order to be more effective, openness to learning new ways of doing things is vital. Interning with Shalom Task Force has made me realize the importance of culturally sensitive programming and being proactive in filling needs that we see in our communities. 

Canva design that I worked on for future domestic violence awareness month post

Because this was also my first experience in which I was exposed to how nonprofits are funded, I discovered that the Shalom Task Force relies heavily on grants from federal and state governments. For anyone interested in interning in the nonprofit sector, I found it helpful to learn about all aspects of how nonprofits operate. This can be done by asking questions and learning about advocacy, both self advocacy and for the agency. Although Shalom Task Force is a very small agency with only 19 paid staff members, it provides important services in the realm of domestic violence. I am grateful for the learning opportunities, skills I have developed, and the connections and warmth the Shalom Task Force staff have shown me this summer.

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.

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!).

(3) Plans for the Future

The summer has gone by faster than I could have imagined back in May when I began working at the Capital Jewish Museum. And the internship itself has evolved over time from the plans at my first meeting with my supervisor, to the description I wrote when I applied for the WOW fellowship, to what I actually ended up working on over the summer. 

When my supervisor and I first spoke, we found that we shared an interest in cemeteries – he regularly walks through D.C. cemeteries, searching for familiar names. As we discussed potential projects for the summer, two cemetery-related projects came up: photographing and creating complete indexes of graves in D.C.’s historic Jewish cemeteries and creating online walking tours of these cemeteries similar to the tours available at the Congressional Cemetery in D.C. As of now, I have fully photographed two of the four historic cemeteries located in southeast D.C. and am working on completing the indexes. Once those indexes are complete, my supervisor, whose knowledge of D.C. Jewish history is much more advanced, will go through and flag individuals or families to be included in the walking tours. The plan is to create multiple tours – for example, the Congressional Cemetery’s various tours include “Brewers,” “Cenotaphs,” “Civil Rights Heroes,” and “Men of Adventure.” Some possible examples for the Jewish cemeteries might be “Clergy,” or “Business Owners.” This project is more long-term than we may have expected, which means my internship will be extended through the fall semester. 

It can sometimes feel like the work I am doing is insufficient – a minuscule change that does little in the larger scheme of things. I have often been asked, regarding my cemetery project, how long would it take to do this sort of project in every Jewish cemetery in the United States? More time than I have. But the work I am doing still makes a difference. It will help the synagogues when people reach out asking for photos or information; it will help the museum with future cemetery-related projects; and it will help many unknown researchers searching for information online about their families whose roots can be found in a plot in southeast D.C. 

When I applied to the WOW fellowship, I mentioned that I hoped to use this incredible opportunity to explore my grandfather’s D.C. family history. As part of the cemetery project, I was able to index the entire cemetery where my great-great grandparents and three of their children are buried. Doing so was a way for me to honor them and their community, making sure their memories are preserved. It similarly helps me serve as a resource to others hoping to honor their families’ histories. 

In this way, my work this summer has helped me become more certain about what I would like to do in the future. No matter what field I end up with, whether I am working in genealogy, a museum, or something else altogether, I hope my work will be of help to others – I enjoy the feeling of being of service, knowing that what I do is affecting others’ lives in a positive way. It has been inspiring to meet so many people this summer who are similarly inspired and who devote their time to historical preservation. 

(2) Working in Cemeteries in D.C. and Poland

The recently partially-restored Jewish cemetery in Tarnow, Poland

Cemeteries can be very introspective places. They are often very quiet; separated from the outside world, with birds chirping and only the occasional sound of cars driving by or muted conversations. Cemeteries are also full of symbolism and emotion; family histories that cover decades and multiple generations. With every grave photographed and documented, I, along with others doing similar work, am able to preserve a bit of that history. 

The eight fellows along with our group leaders from JewishGen, Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, and The Matzevah Foundation, standing inside the cleared section of the Przysucha Jewish Cemetery beside the oldest standing matzevah in the cemetery, which is from 1771.

In a brief pause from my internship, two weeks ago I flew to Warsaw, Poland, as part of a fellowship of 8 participants at various points in our academic and professional careers. The fellowship, a collaboration between JewishGen, Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, and The Matzevah Foundation, was an opportunity to learn about the long history of Jewish communities in Poland and to explore current efforts to preserve said communities’ stories. A central focus of the fellowship was the role of Jewish cemeteries in Poland as essential proof of the existence of Jewish life in areas now lacking any Jewish presence. As a climax of the trip, our group was joined by additional volunteers from The Matzevah Foundation to clean up a 250-year-old cemetery in Przysucha, Poland.

The gate to the Jewish cemetery in Przysucha, Poland. Most of the fence was not visible from a distance, with a similar level of plant life having grown on the outside perimeter as within the gate.

When we first arrived at the cemetery, it seemed like an impossible job. The area was so overgrown that it looked like a fenced-in forest, and we had little-to-no expectations of finding any matzevot (gravestones). Yet, the more we chopped and dragged, the more we uncovered. Inside the entrance to the cemetery was the first surprise, a pile of matzevah fragments; broken pieces of gravestones. Some had writing on them or showed imagery such as candlesticks or lions (often used on the graves of people whose names translate to “lion” in English, including Arye or Leyb).  As we continued into the cemetery, we found several fully-preserved stones, a small insight into what the cemetery may have looked like in its prime before the war. 

Before this trip, I had an idea in my head of what a cemetery was. Even cemeteries in the US that are less cared-for have a certain look to them: rows and rows of stones, sometimes shoved together with little space in between; sometimes so worn by weather for so many years that they are unreadable, but still there as proof of what has been. The Przysucha cemetery once looked like that, but now there is little left, and what remains is a selection of puzzles with the pieces missing, most likely never to be recovered. Having experienced what can become of such a cemetery, once full of beautifully carved matzevot, the work I am doing to document graves in historic cemeteries in Washington D.C. feels all the more inspiring. As I return to my internship at the Capital Jewish Museum, I am renewed in my enthusiasm to preserve not only Jewish history abroad but also here at home. 

The fact that I was able to attend this fellowship says everything to me about the work environment at my internship this summer. During my very first interview for the position, I mentioned to my now-supervisor that I had applied for this fellowship (at the time I had not yet been accepted). His response: That sounds like a wonderful opportunity! He explained to me that not only did he think it was an excellent program, but that the museum values additional learning opportunities, and he encouraged me to take time away not only for the fellowship, but also for speakers, walking tours, or anything else that came up. This intention for learning, which I value greatly, makes a lot of sense in a museum workspace, where so much of the work is around creating a learning environment for others. In many ways, this internship is helping me figure out what kind of work environment I am looking for and what kind of work I would like to be doing. 

(1) Interning at the Capital Jewish Museum

This summer I am interning at the under-construction Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum grew out of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, which has been operating out of a historic synagogue building since 1975. The museum is set to open next year and will physically incorporate the old synagogue building into its design. The photo on the left below shows the synagogue perched on the corner of 3rd and F Streets in northwest D.C. and the photo on the right is a digital representation of the future museum building. The brick building to the left in the second image is the relocated old synagogue, connected by a walkway to the newly constructed museum. 

My work for the museum this past month has primarily been a combination of genealogical research and cemetery record documentation. The genealogical aspect involves researching and creating family trees of multi-generational families in the D.C. Jewish community. I have also been spending a great deal of time at historic cemeteries in D.C., photographing and creating comprehensive indexes of graves. This is a personal passion of mine, as grave photos can be incredibly valuable for genealogical research, and online grave photos are a resource for people all over the world who are unable to personally visit cemeteries.

The particular cemeteries I have been working with thus far are home to members of some prominent families in D.C. history. One of the goals of my internship is to create a self-guided tour so that visitors can walk through the cemetery, visit particular graves, and access information about deceased individuals and their contributions to the D.C. Jewish community. This project would combine the genealogical research and cemetery photography aspects of my work, offering a resource to those in the area interested in D.C.’s Jewish history.

I entered this internship with the hope to learn more about the D.C. Jewish community, its diversity, and the ways in which the Capital Jewish Museum is positioned to explore and preserve the community’s history and support its future. As a side benefit, the internship offers me the opportunity to delve deeper into my own history, as my grandfather’s family settled in D.C. in the early 20th century. During my first visit to Ohev Sholom Cemetery, a historic cemetery in southeast D.C., I was able to visit my great-great-grandparents’ graves, along with the graves of several of their children, and the grave of the founder of the synagogue, all together in a cemetery whose history covers multiple centuries.

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!

So Far, So Good and SO MUCH Fun!

Greetings from Jerusalem! I am interning for the Hillel at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for their English language Beit Midrash (Jewish text study house), working under and with the head rabbi of the program, Rabbi Udren. So far in June my job has been mostly to work with the rest of the Hillel team to promote fundraising (shameless plug) for next year to get money for programs to rebuild the community after the worst of the pandemic left campus empty. We have done most of this fundraising by calling potential donors and sending messages on WhatsApp. We meet in the office twice a week and make phone calls and documenting the response we get from the people we talk to. So far our efforts have raised $35,000 of our $60,000 goal which is the most successful phone drive the program has had to date!

In July my job will switch to focusing on the social media presence of the University Hillel; I will be in charge of posting to their Facebook and Instagram as well as finding ways to further promote those two platforms to increase their presence and popularity both for the community and as a way to promote Rabbi Udren’s weekly Torah learning podcast, Sparks From the Fire (yes, another shameless plug!). I have already put some effort into this task while I was in quarantine, which has given me a head start and an insight to the problems that the accounts have. The objective is to, by the end of my time there, recreate the schedule and guidelines for posting on those two platforms in a way that can be continued by the rabbi when I leave and to increase the reach of the podcast to people all over the world. I have even been given the illustrious title of Social Media Director for the program! The title only came with pride and a sense of appreciation, not a raise.

From the internship I hope to gain experience and insight into working for a Jewish nonprofit and to make connections that can aid me in my professional life. Furthermore, I have been given the opportunity to learn Jewish texts at a Yeshiva (house of study) two mornings a week, which has served to deepen my spiritual connection to Judaism as well as given me more experience studying Jewish texts, which has been imperative for my professional development.

While I do go into the office several times a week, most of my work as the Social Media Director can and is done remotely, from the comfort of whatever park I am exploring on a given day. I have been able to interact with many Israelis which has taught me one thing: I need to learn more Hebrew. I am hoping that with enough time and practice here that I will finally realize all of the lessons that my Hebrew professors have been trying to instill in me for three years now. I’m sorry, Sara and Guy.

(My view from the office)

Harrison Carter