2020 has been an unforgettable year to say the least. When the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, no one expected this year to take quite the turn it did. Despite all the challenges that we all have faced due to the coronavirus, JUF has continued to uphold its promise to make the world a better place.
Thanks to an incredible group of supervisors, even the coronavirus couldn't stop the Lewis Summer Internship Program, an eight-week work/study professional development program aimed at furthering professional and leadership skills through fieldwork and weekly seminars. Through these seminars, interns had the opportunity to grow as professionals, learn about the Chicago Jewish community, and understand how their Jewish identity fits into their professional work.
The program obviously looked drastically different than in past years. Interns worked mostly virtually, utilizing tools like Zoom to connect with their coworkers. Although it wasn't the in-person experience that we were expecting, the leaders of this program worked tirelessly to ensure that we still had a productive and educational summer filled with experiences to help us grow.
This summer, there were a total of 68 interns - 37 in the placement program and 31 in the certificate program. Placement interns worked for a JUF department or partner organization four days a week and attended a weekly seminar every Friday.
The certificate internship program was a new addition this year, due to extraordinary circumstances pertaining to the pandemic. Due to cancellations of summer opportunities, interns were given the opportunity to participate in the certificate program, which consisted of attending weekly seminars to further their professional development while working with their Jewish peers.
I got to see firsthand and play a small part in furthering the impact that JUF makes. I was placed in the JUF Communications department, where I gained valuable experiences, met new people, and furthered my professional development as a journalism major. One of the primary projects I enjoyed working on was the annual 36 Under 36 list, which showcases young Jewish Chicagoans changing the community for good. I got to see firsthand- and play a small part in- furthering the impact that JUF makes.
At the close of the program, I asked my fellow interns the best advice they received on the job this summer. Here's what a few of them said:
Gail Schneiderman, JUF Communications: "Don't settle-you should always push yourself beyond what is familiar to you. Take risks and try new things because that is how you will grow as a designer (in my case) and a person."
Elana Charlson, Northwestern Hillel: "Be confident in your work and trust that your contributions are valuable, no matter what position you serve, even if you're an intern or have an entry-level job."
Brooke Slavik, Jewish Professionals Network: "Be open minded to every opportunity because you never know what it could turn into. As a communications major who is unsure of what career I want to hold in the future, it was great to hear advice from others who have been in the same position as me. They have all said that to find what you really want to do and what you are truly passionate about, you have to be open to trying everything. This was definitely something I will carry with me."
Madison Hayes is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.