"Make it happen," a
recent oleh told me, when I asked her what advice she would give to a
person about to make aliyah. An oleh is one who moves to
Israel through a process called aliyah, Hebrew for those who "go up" or
"ascend" to the holy land.
Making it happen has been a common theme
throughout my internship in JUF's Harriet & Maurice Lewis Summer Intern
Program (LSIP). LSIP offers a unique, eight-week experience for college students
to intern at different departments and affiliate agencies of the Jewish United
Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Four days a week interns worked
at their placement and once a week they gathered at JUF headquarters to
participate in seminars with prominent Jewish leaders, lay and professional, on
topics ranging from professional development to Jewish community-building.
These leaders emphasized the importance of taking initiative in our careers
and following our passions. We learned about networking in today's world through
a LinkedIn seminar and interview workshop from the Director of Career Counseling
at JVS. The importance of ingenuity and resourcefulness was also stressed by the
Midwest Regional Director of NEXT, when he explained the vital responsibility of
our millennial generation to be leaders in the organized Jewish community. The
value of LSIP is most evident in the discussions I engaged in with my fellow
interns. Everyone shared his/her own Jewish journey at our wonderful Shabbat
retreat at the Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University. We celebrated Shabbat
with a meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat service, discussions on God, and time spent
together by the lake and on the basketball court all while enjoying the tasty food provided by Chicago Tailgators.
The Lewis Summer Interns
honed their skills in a diverse set of agencies: communal work at CJE, Keshet
and the Ark; resource development for our Hillels and the JUF; and services for
clients at JVS/Duman Entrepreneurship Center, just to name a few. I worked at
the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), funded by the Jewish Federations of North
America and others. Established in 1929 as the temporary government of the Jews
in Palestine, JAFI has since facilitated immigration for millions of Jews making
aliyah to Israel.
My main project was interviewing recent
olim originally from Chicago to use their aliyah experience to
help better prepare future olim. I talked to so many remarkable
individuals ranging from young adults entering the army, to families with kids
in school, and to couples that chose to spend their retirement years in Israel.
I have been continually amazed by their determination to make their dream of
living in Israel come true. It is no easy task, as the olim face the
challenges of moving to a foreign land, with a different culture and language.
Patience is crucial, olim said, as the bureaucracy is just one of many
differences of living in Israel. However, the people, feeling of home, and "just
living as a Jew in the Jewish state" is what they love most about living in
Israel. Respondents have been overwhelmingly happy with their decision to make
As I prepare to study abroad in Jerusalem in the fall, I
feel well-equipped to succeed in Israel, and back at Northwestern University,
with the tools I have gained through my LSIP experience. I have come to a
greater understanding of what it takes to pursue a career while leading a
meaningful Jewish life. I am very thankful to have been able to participate in
this great program, work with and learn from so many outstanding professionals
and peers. I'm ready to "make it happen."
Jonathan Gordon is a
college junior and serves as special projects co-chair for the Louis &
Saerree Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University.
The Hillels of
Illinois' Harriet & Maurice Lewis Summer Intern Program is part of Campus
Affairs & Student Engagement, a department of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. To learn about the 2014 application
process, visit www.juf.org/lsip or contact Lisette Zaid at LisetteZaid@juf.org
or (312) 673-2353.