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Jessica Ariff

JFNA Internship Feb-June 2012

After making Aliyah in December 2010, I quickly came to the realization that my new life in Israel included, amongst many things, an opportunity to take my career goals in a different direction.  In the USA I was a social worker at urban high school, with a Masters Degree in Education. 

When I reflect on my work in the US, the most important aspect was that it was a very rewarding career.  I knew that if I found a fulfilling experience in Israel, I would feel more connected to the country and people therefore my transition would be smoother.  Fast forward past a year of intensive ulpan, many interviews and hours searching the web for jobs, I realized I needed to change my game plan. If I was going to re-market myself in the Israeli job world and make connections, I needed to get off the couch and away from the computer!

I was familiar with JFNA and my local Philadelphia Federation, the work they did in both Philadelphia and Israel, and I knew that this would be an excellent fit or both my interests and desire to learn more about North American philanthropy from an Israeli perspective.  I contacted Lee Perlman who told me that there was an opportunity to intern at JFNA.  I would be working in the Israel & Overseas Programming Dept. and Lee would be my supervisor. 

My first major project was working with Maya Krouitou, Asst. Director of Israel & Overseas, on a Civil Society mapping project.  This was a wonderful learning experience, both working alongside Maya, and learning about the numerous non-profit programs the Federations are currently supporting.  I started to get a much clearer picture of Federation impact, Israeli needs and services available.  Another aspect of this project was keeping a close watch on current news trends regarding civil society topics in Israel.  I felt like the more I learned from Maya and the project, the more involved and in-tune with Israeli current events I was becoming.   The more I sat with Maya, and did research on my own, the more I became familiar with the delicate balance of NA Jewish Philanthropy, i.e. addressing both Israeli needs and NA concerns and areas of interest. 

The second major project I was involved in was with the New York Federation (UJA-NY).  This was a chance for me to see firsthand how an individual Federation operates.  I worked with Elisheva Flamm-Oren, Planning Director of the Caring Commission.  This project was a different kind of behind-the-scenes experience, as the goal was to map out specific populations’ needs, programs available, and gaps in services.  We used proven research to show how these populations are in need of assistance, what types of assistance is proven to be most effective, and how this assistance can dramatically impact their future.  With Elisheva’s guidance and assistance, I learned about the Caring Commission, and the wonderful and meaningful work they do.  The project focused on at-risk young adults from various backgrounds, a population I feel very close with given my experience as social worker.

I had the unique opportunity to be a part of both a large scale project for the Programming Dept. and a smaller, more targeted project with an individual Federation.   The working environment at JFNA was fast-paced, friendly, and one which was filled with passionate, and committed people.  My experience was extremely diverse, from researching young adult milestones, to writing articles for the JFNA website, to visiting a mission from America, to helping plan large scale Board meetings, to learning new computer programs.  I was working on interesting and meaningful projects, while honing my computer, writing, and research skills.   

I have developed many professional and personal relationships which I hope to maintain.   It was abundantly clear from day 1 what the expectations were and that I was treated like an employee.    While moving across the globe can be very daunting and come with many unexpected challenges, my time at JFNA gave me a boost of confidence and experience, and motivation I needed!