Kohn interns bridge connections to Jews worldwide

"I feel that we cannot proceed with the future until we can understand the value of our experiences in the past," he said.

Levin is one of 30 college students from the Bay Area involved in the Kohn internship program, an eight-week paid professional work experience administered by Jewish Vocational Services.

A $51,000 grant from the Jewish Community Endowment Kohn Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation funds the program, which is designed to strengthen young leadership by involving interns in the local Jewish community.

"To many Jews, the community is an alphabet soup of many organizations," said Michael Jacobs, the Kohn Fund's advisory committee chair. "But by spending a summer working in Jewish organizations, interns gain a perspective of the community as a whole."

The interns, chosen from nearly 60 applicants, were matched with 25 participating agencies. On Fridays, they meet at the JCF building to discuss experiences and participate in seminars on current issues facing the Jewish community, such as Israel-American relations, AIDS, affirmative action and anti-Semitism on campus.

"In addition to noshing and shmoozing, the Friday sessions give us a chance to explore what is out there in the Jewish community," said Stacy Schafer. A junior majoring in communications at Bradley University in Illinois, she is spending her summer working in marketing at the Jewish Bulletin.

Many interns plan to carry what they learn this summer back to their schools.

Mariana Roytman, a UCLA sophomore with a likely communications major, is at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where she is organizing a Back to Campus event set for August. The event will bring together Bay Area Jewish college students to promote the U.S.-Israel relations and discuss effective ways of fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Roytman plans to bring her summer knowledge back to UCLA, where she is active in Hillel, the Jewish Student Union, Holocaust Remembrance Week and Israel Independence Day.

Anna Flider, a 21-year-old finance and marketing major at San Francisco's Golden Gate University, is busy at the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal organizing a project that delivers food to the needy in the former Soviet Union. Her goal is to expand the program so that it continues after her internship. Flider immigrated from Moscow to San Francisco in 1993.

In addition to improving the living conditions for Jews in the former Soviet Union, she intends to apply her skills towards strengthening the new S.F.-based Citywide Hillel and a campus Russian club that she helped found.

While Flider is reaching out to Jews from the former Soviet Union, Dan Schiffner is connecting to Jews worldwide with the click of a mouse.

The sophomore pre-med student at Duke University in North Carolina is working on the Jewish Community Online, a subsidiary of the Jewish Bulletin. Among services offered at this link are news, an online matchmaker, "Ask the Rabbi" and a Jewish food page.

In the 13 years since the JCF Kohn Endowment fund initiated the internship program, it has inspired and trained more than 230 future Jewish leaders, said program coordinator Deborah Louria. JVS reports that more than 50 percent remain active in the Jewish community.

"I view this as an extraordinary track record," said Louria. "The program builds each year on the strength of the previous years…and offers an unparalleled opportunity for locally based Jewish college undergraduates to gain mentoring and first-hand exposure to the inner workings of the Jewish community."

In 1986 the Kohn internship was awarded the Special Program of the Year by the National Association of Jewish Vocational Services. It has served as a model program for other Vocational Services across the country.

"I hope to make an impact and take part in the future of the Jewish community," Roytman said. "But whether I am a Jewish communal professional or not, I intend to stay a part of the Jewish community."

Other interns include: Naomi Calder, Marin Jewish Community Center; Mendel Chernack, East Bay Midrasha; Sergey Dubenko, Jewish Community Library; Lori Fagerholm, Lehrhaus Judaica; Shira Franco, Jewish Vocational Services; Naomi Frank, Jewish Community Endowment Fund; Aaron Glantz, Congregation Sherith Israel-religious school; Gabe Gopen, Anti-Defamation League; Amanda Greenberg, Ruach Ami-Jewish Healing Center; Amelia Greenberg, Palo Alto Jewish Community Federation; Lisa Kitchen and Lauren Krasny, Marin Jewish Community Center.

Also, Sara Macktinger, Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center; Molly Mundell, Jewish Family and Children's Services; Rachel Oppenheim, Bureau of Jewish Education; Elana Piller, Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; Seth Rosenblatt, Jewish Bulletin of Northern California-editorial department; Dana Ross, Jewish Community Information and Referral-Resource Guide; Meg Rothman, Congregation Emanu-El; Lauryn Siegel, San Francisco Jewish Community Center; Katrina Smolen, Congregation Sherith Israel; Karen Sobel, Stanford Hillel; Marina Temkin, Northern California Hillel Council; Brad Wollack, American Jewish Congress; Jessica Zimmer, Jewish Community Information and Referral- Resource Guide.