Kohn internship gives emigre an opportunity to give back

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After a 10-year struggle to obtain exit papers, Dimitry Karshtedt's family immigrated to San Francisco from the former Soviet Union with only $500 in their pockets. But with the local Jewish community's support they obtained job training and language skills, and quickly adjusted to life in the Bay Area.

Now, six years later, the 19-year-old Harvard sophomore is spending the summer aiding families like his at the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal.

"I feel I am able to give back to the community that once helped me and my family," said Karshtedt, who spends his day assisting the BACJRR on behalf of refuseniks and Jewish prisoners.

Karshtedt is one of 32 Bay Area college students participating in the Kohn Summer Internship Program, sponsored by Jewish Vocational Services and made possible by a $51,000 grant from the Jewish Community Endowment Kohn Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

Kohn interns are placed in local Jewish agencies for an eight-week paid work-experience session. On Fridays, they gather for seminars on issues facing the Jewish community.

"The Kohn Fund has a particular interest in leadership development of Jewish youth and an 11-year commitment to investing in college students around the Bay Area," said Michael Jacobs, the Kohn Fund's advisory committee chair.

According to coordinator Deborah Louria, the program has two goals: to provide valuable work experience and to lay the groundwork for a lifelong commitment to the Jewish community.

The program is one of a handful in this country that places college students in a professional environment designed to foster Jewish involvement. In 1986, it received the Special Program of the Year Award from the National Association of Jewish Vocational Services and currently serves as a model for other JVS agencies. Ongoing tracking of the 200-plus former Kohn interns shows that almost 50 percent remain active in the Jewish community.

This year's 32 interns were chosen from over 100 applicants. While academic achievement and recommendations are critical, Louria also looks for candidates with an interest in Jewish communal service. Interns are then matched up with agencies.

Intern Brent Blaustein has always been interested in politics and Israel. The U.C. Santa Cruz senior is now serving the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

"I wanted to see the inside process of the pro-Israel lobby and to work for an agency that I really cared about and that struck me in the heart," he said.

Besides planning a local Back to Campus Night, Blaustein traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Political Leadership Training Seminar.

UCLA senior Jennifer Carmel said her internship at Jewish Family and Children's Services has helped confirm her interest in a social work career, and "has taught me the importance of being involved in the Jewish community."

Along with Karshtedt, Carmel and Blaustein, this year's interns are Dani Kopstein, American Jewish Congress; Dana Goldberg, Anti-Defamation League; Jed Herman, Bureau of Jewish Education; Yael Liebedinsky, Bureau of Jewish Education-Jewish Community Library; Rob Sandler, Congregation Emanu-El; Renee Bauer, Congregation Sherith Israel; Eva Nueberg, Holocaust Center of Northern California; Ilana Gauss and Britton Schneider, Holocaust Oral History Project; Stacey Sultan and Julie Sager, Jewish Bulletin of Northern California; Seelig Sinton, Jewish Community Online; and Janet Shwartz, S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation Endowment Fund.

Others include Rose Eljas and Lauren Kurland, Jewish Community Information and Referral Service-Resource Guide; Lisa Kaye, Jewish Community Federation, South Peninsula; Nato Green, Jewish Community Relations Council; Nina Kujawski and Josh Cole, Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; Victoria Feferman, Jewish Home for the Aged; Dorothy Epstein, Jewish Vocational Service; Rebecca Lehner, Lehrhaus Judaica; Jason Gerbsman and Nicole Miller, Marin Jewish Community Center; Aviva Cushner, Mount Zion Health Systems; Margot Spatz, Northern California Hillel Council; Shawn Seliber, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco; Hannah Blitzer, Stanford Hillel; and Kenneth Zwerin, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The grant to the JVS was one of eight awards allocated by the Kohn Fund in the areas of education and youth. Other grants include:

*$19,000 to the Bureau of Jewish Education to provide educational opportunities for children with disabilities in day schools and synagogue school settings.

*$20,000 to the Bureau of Jewish Education for an early childhood Jewish education program that provides training for synagogue and JCC preschool teachers.

*$14,000 to the National Council of Jewish Women to support two programs: scholarships for disadvantaged Bay Area university students; and the Home Activities for Toddlers and their Families Program, which assists disadvantaged families in Kiryat Shmona, Israel.

*$7,500 to the San Francisco Jewish Community Center to support the Open Hearts-Open Doors Program, which enables children with disabilities to participate in Center activities.

*$5,000 to Brandeis Hillel Day School for an English-as-a-second-language program.

*$5,000 to the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center in second-year seed funding for the Teen Leadership Connection, a year-round program for eighth- to 10th-graders.

*$8,500 to Hadassah's San Francisco chapter to fund one-on-one tutoring for blind students at Hadassah College of Technology in Israel.

*$15,000 to the Northern California Hillel Council for outreach services to undergraduate, graduate and professional students on all San Francisco campuses.