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Jewish Teens Learn Real-World Skills Through Our Community Internship Program

This summer, 40 rising high school juniors and seniors have been taking over the Jewish nonprofit world as part of The Jewish Federation’s Community Internship Program. Working for impactful organizations such as Bet Tzedek, Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles and Jewish World Watch, these teens are gaining real-world experience, earning a paycheck, and getting a glimpse of how they can touch lives as part of our Los Angeles Jewish community.

For four days a week, the interns have worked, interacted with adult colleagues and navigated the ins and outs of a nonprofit office. On Fridays, the interns meet for professional skill-building and mentorship, participating in team-building activities, Jewish learning and self-reflection. Through this summer experience, the teens have learned critical skills for their futures such as best practices when applying for jobs, public speaking, communication and interview skills and more.

Last Friday, we met with a few of the teens — Eden Barrett, intern at USC Hillel; Danielle Kaye, intern at American Jewish University (AJU) School of Nonprofit Management; and Noah Martin, intern at Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) – March of the Living — to see how the internship program has touched their lives.

What does your internship entail?

Eden: Two projects: FreshFest, a retreat for Jewish freshmen where they go to get to know each other, as well as recruitment for FreshFest. The second project is HEAL — Health, Energy, Advocacy and Love. It is a program to support the mental health of students. We are helping create ads for a 24-hour suicide hotline, as well as helping recruit people to answer calls on the hotline. We are also helping the Birthright Israel coordinator and executive director with Alternative Spring Break, where students volunteer and do something productive with their time.

[HEAL is a new program at USC Hillel and is in partnership with Jewish Federation Los Angeles.]

Danielle: My main job is to interview and write student bios for incoming and returning students.

Noah: March of the Living is a trip to Poland and Israel that focuses on Holocaust Remembrance and the history of the Jewish people in Poland and the future of the Jewish people in Israel. I’ve been prepping materials for it.

Why did you decide to participate in the Community Internship Program?

Eden: I thought it would be a good opportunity to network and meet people. I wanted to be productive this summer as a whole.

Danielle: I decided it would be a great opportunity to get real-life work experience before college. It’s something most students don’t get to do. I also thought it would be good to work in an office environment with other professionals.

Noah: It’s a good compromise between work exposure and doing something meaningful in the Jewish community.

What has been the most meaningful part of this experience?

Eden: The relationships you build. I have been offered to have lunch with admissions, sit in on meetings…it has been an eye-opening experience and a good way to get connected and build relationships

Danielle: Working with my supervisor, Rhoda Weisman. She treats me like an adult. I have actual responsibilities and I feel like I’m making an impact on the school. I’ve watched people work really hard for an amazing school and have also learned that hard work is how change is made.

Noah: Knowing that what I do can have a big impact on how someone experiences March of the Living or that my work could change whether someone has a good time on the trip keeps me trying my best.

What new skills have you learned?

Eden: Time management — to get things done on time within the day. Also I have learned how to connect with people — what to say, what not to say — it’s important to know this skill in a workplace. I learned how to have more confidence in myself.

Danielle: Communication is a big part of my job. My supervisor lets me sit in a lot of her meetings. She has to communicate well with her coworkers. I used to struggle a lot more with communication, but this internship has really helped me with that.

How do you plan to stay involved with the Jewish community?

Eden:  Working at USC Hillel has inspired me to be part of Hillel when I am in college. As of now, I am thinking about also trying to get more summer internships that have to do with Bet Tzedek or amazing experiences like that, or being a part of other organizations that are related to Judaism.

Noah: Now that I’ve seen firsthand what March of the Living is and how it affects people, I’m personally planning on participating during my senior year. I have also met a lot more Jewish people through this program, so I’m sure I’ll be more involved in the Jewish community.

The four-week internship program culminates with a commencement celebration this Friday, July 15th. We look forward to sharing more about it with you next week!

For more information about the Community Internship Program, please e-mail Jessica Green or call (323) 761-8343.

A program of the L.A. Jewish Teen Initiative, co-funded by Jewish Federation Los Angeles and the Jim Joseph Foundation with seed funding provided by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Special thanks to Dahlia and Art Bilger, initiators and funders of our Community Internship Program. Program partners include Upstart, Etzah, an Initiative of the AJU Graduate Center for Education, and BJE Impact.


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