A Leap across the Jewish World - Lisa Friedman's JFNA Internship
I had been working for Hillel for 4 years, when various elements of fate provided me the opportunity to spend 5 months in Israel on a MASA program. I chose WUJS Israel Hadassah, a pluralistic program in Jerusalem, based on their history of unique and relevant internship placements with previous participants. When I spoke with the internship coordinator, I knew that I wanted to stay in the Jewish communal service field, but in a way which would give me a new perspective on programming and a behind-the-scenes view of the work being done in the field. I wanted to explore a different side of programming on a broader scale, to see the larger impact of the work being done.
For four months, I was an intern with the Programming & Allocations department at the Israel office of the Jewish Federations of North America. Although I’ve always been involved Jewishly, from NFTY, to Jewish camp, to being a participant on and staffing Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, to working for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life… I wasn’t familiar with the Federation system at all. My home Federation was very small, and truthfully, I wasn’t really quite sure what the Federations did, other than raising money and giving it to local Jewish organizations like synagogues and day schools. What I realized, very quickly, was that JFNA is SO much more than that!
The WUJS internship coordinator put me in touch with the Programming & Allocations office of JFNA Israel & Overseas, and once I spoke with Lee Perlman, my supervisor-to-be, that was the first and only internship I considered. I remember being particularly clear that I was looking for a fast-paced work environment which would build upon the skills I already had, while giving me a fresh, first-hand look at how Federations work. I wanted to be challenged so that my experience in Israel would encourage me to understand the way this enormous Jewish organization runs, in a way that would open new doors for my future in the Jewish world – and that’s just what I got.
One of the great things about interning at JFNA was that I had the privilege of working with a dynamic group of people. The staff really value input from each other, they appreciate the hard work they know their colleagues put into this organization, and they make sure to show each other how much they appreciate one another. There is an incredible sense that the work we do here is meaningful and makes a measurable difference in the lives of Israelis, using philanthropic support from North American Jewry. It really crosses boundaries!
I spent much of my time working on the Negev Funding Coalition, a partnership of nine Federations who have agreed to collaborate philanthropically through funding strategic, high impact projects which address the Negev’s significant challenges. One of the programs, an initiative called ‘Young Communities, Sustainable Future,’ is aimed at providing high quality social services while creating sustainable communities in the Negev. I was given the opportunity to learn, firsthand, how the philanthropic reach of the Federations, through the Israel & Overseas office, is used to create enormous, measurable impact on Israel – and that, contrary to my previous notion that Federations were only really interested in my parents’ generation, there are major efforts to create new young, vibrant generations of leaders. I went with my supervisor to visit start-up communities, meet with young activists, and really understand the vision of what these young communities are trying to – and will – accomplish. My work provided guidelines for the grant recipients’ program plan, evaluation strategies, marketing, and other support.
I know how lucky I am to have been placed in a place like JFNA. The skills I learned here are highly marketable, I had so much fun in the office, and I made great friends and professional connections. Now, as I return to the US to continue my career in the field of Jewish communal service, I know that there was no better place for me to have done my internship placement. JFNA works with so many different organizations, all of whom are deeply invested in making life better for Israelis, but in such DIFFERENT ways, and I helped make it happen!
|Lisa Friedman, during her JFNA Israel Office Internship|
Click here to read Mariel Honigman's internship experience
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Click here to read Aaron Herman's intership experience