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Non-Profit Narishkeit: The Life and Times of an Intern in the Non-Profit Jewish World

By Jonny Gottlieb

Hello to my future dedicated and loyal readers. I was asked to start a blog detailing my experiences as an intern at The Jewish Education Project, the organization I’m working for this summer. The Jewish Education Project (don’t even think about calling it JEP) is a non-profit dedicated to innovation and reform of Jewish education for all ages. After learning of my placement in the Congregational Learning Department, I worried that the fact I hadn’t been to shul since last Yom Kippur would finally come back to haunt me. I was quickly relived to learn that the organization was staffed by all types of Jews, and I would be accepted with open arms, no siddur aptitude test necessary.

Before getting into the details of my riveting work as an intern, I’ll introduce myself a little bit. I just finished my junior year at Vassar College and moved all the way from Westchester to the East Village for the summer. To answer your question if I know what I want to do post-grad or if I have a good chance of finding a job, I will simply share with you the fact that I’m an American Studies major focusing in Sociology and Women’s Studies. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. After spending every summer since 3rd grade at Camp Ramah, I was shocked to find out that “winning Yom Sport” was not resume appropriate and realized I eventually had to bite the bullet and enter the “real world”.

Participating in the classic Jewish tradition of faux-sumo wrestling as the general of my team.

Participating in the classic Jewish tradition of faux-sumo wrestling as the general of my team.

My first foray into this alleged real world turned out to be working for a literary PR firm booking radio interviews. While pitching to hosts named Tootie in Kansas on behalf of self-published “inspirational” authors was great, I found myself longing for something more. I realized that if I wanted to even somewhat enjoy a 9-5 desk job I had to work for an organization that I believed in. That way my contribution, no matter how small or tedious, would at least mean something. If not for anyone else, at least it would mean something for me.

Fast forward to my first week at The Jewish Education Project. I went into the job knowing that I would be mostly doing intern-y things so I prepared myself for just that. Clerical work, filing, getting coffee. No task would be too mundane.

To my surprise, on only the second day I was informed that I was to be assigned a project. To me the word project meant something big, something real, and oh boy was I ready. I couldn’t believe that I was being trusted with a task so hypothetically important this early on. I must have given a better first impression than I thought.

Me, doing something important.

Me, doing something important.

Sitting at my desk I began day dreaming what this mystery project would entail. Would I be promoted to “Project Manager”? Would I get a clipboard? After lunch my supervisor came over and revealed that my career-making project was, in fact, to order mugs. And just like that, my fantasy of personalized office supplies went up in flames.

I only let myself be disappointed for a moment before I decided that these would be the best mugs anyone has ever ordered. The colors would pop. The ceramic would glisten. Who was I to decide what role I was going to play in the future of Jewish education? At this moment my role was mug-orderer and I would fulfill my task to the best of my ability.

As the week went on I did get more responsibilities and more projecty projects. Aside from legitimately helping out around the office, I’m now in charge of researching fifty new congregations for The Jewish Education Project to reach out to and start working with. Not to mention this blog. But that’s the beauty of a job you believe in. Even the minutia, the frustration, the disappointment, is all but a small sacrifice for a cause bigger than any of us. Thanks for reading and don’t worry, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the status mugs.

Jonny  is a member of  the CLIP internship program through the Brofman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU.

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