As the 36 interns wrapped up their work at various JUF agencies and departments this August, The Harriet & Maurice Lewis Summer Intern Program (LSIP)-an eight-week work/study internship program created by The Hillels of Illinois and funded by the Harriet and Maurice Lewis Family-proved once again how it is unlike any other summer internship program.
"This summer was such a unique experience. Interning can be tough, but with the LSIP program it's amazing that you can develop and grow with young professionals such as yourself," said intern Mia Kavinsky.
This cohort of interns had a particularly unique experience given the escalation of the conflict in Israel. Not only were the interns able to see how the organization functioned to unite the Chicago—area community in support of Israel-through rallies, the JUF Israel Emergency campaign, and so forth—but they also were able to contribute directly in some cases, helping organize the vigil for the three kidnapped teens earlier in the summer.
"Instead of just learning how the community operates, all the interns got to experience it," said John Lowenstein, JUF Vice President of Campus Affairs and Executive Director of the Hillels of Illinois. "They were involved from the very beginning in planning the "Bring Back Our Boys" rally, and they got to see the progression of how the Federation has responded to the whole series of events relating to the conflict in Gaza."
Discussions surrounding Operation Protective Edge and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict frequented Wednesday seminars. The seminars also covered a range of topics from networking to resume writing, as well as Jewish community-building, each week. Through the program's weekly seminars, interns gained an understanding of professional skills from a plethora of speakers, including JVS staff, lay leaders, and JUF department execs. The interns also presented to one another in groups on topics they chose to explore in the context of their "Jewish generation." The topics presented varied from anti-Semitism on college campuses to Jewish stereotypes in television and film.
The interns dug deeper into the topic of their 'Jewish generation' and into their Jewish identities on the Shabbat retreat at Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University. After Shabbat services and dinner, they divided up into groups and shared their 'Jewish journeys' with one another. As the interns got to know more about one another and their Jewish backgrounds, the sense of community grew and they dove into more complex subjects, such as their relationships with God. After havdallah, the interns went their separate ways, more than just colleagues-a united Jewish network, one that they can all count on as they continue to move forward in their professional lives.
Many of the interns also developed strong ties to their agencies and departments. "Through my internship at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, I gained invaluable professional experience and feel prepared to make a difference when I graduate in two years," said LSIP intern Mitchell Caminer.
Mara Flack, the Young Adult Engagement intern, also spoke enthusiastically about her experience: "My internship was dynamic and engaging," she said. "From the beginning of my internship, I was included in department meetings and was encouraged by my supervisor to contribute."
This sentiment was shared by the rest of the cohort, now equipped to take on the professional world and make names for themselves in the Jewish community thanks to their experience this summer.