Kohn interns get taste of Jewish communal work

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Martin White began work at the Anti-Defamation League on June 15, three days before the Sacramento-area synagogue burnings. The following Monday evening, after a full-day's work in the San Francisco office, the ADL sent the Kohn intern to Sacramento for a community rally supporting the three attacked synagogues.

"The rally was a great event to get indoctrinated into the life of a nonprofit agency," said White, a sophomore at U.C. Berkeley and a San Francisco resident. "After that, I was completely sold on the ADL's mission statement to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism."

White was back in Sacramento the following week, helping out as his supervisor spoke at a press conference about hate groups on the Internet.

In addition to helping out with the flood of phone calls and press releases in the wake of the Sacramento fires, White planned a conference to inform law enforcement officers about the danger of hate groups as the millennium approaches.

White was one of 28 college students who spent the last eight weeks participating in the Kohn Summer Intern Program. The Jewish Vocational Service runs the program, with financial support from the Jewish Community Endowment Kohn Fund. Interns receive a $1,500 stipend.

During the program, which ended today, the students worked four days a week at Jewish agencies throughout the Bay Area. Each Friday, they met as a group for programs and discussions on Jewish topics.

One of the interns, Gavri Rosen of Berkeley, returned to the Bay Area from Jerusalem to work in the San Francisco office of the American Jewish Congress. She spent the past year studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women's yeshiva formerly known as Brovander's, and will begin her first year at Harvard in the fall.

Rosen's internship included writing a pamphlet for AJCongress' Poverty Action Alliance. In the course of writing the pamphlet, which will be sent to congregational rabbis, she cited traditional texts to underscore the Jewish obligation to assist the poor. She also worked on gun-control issues with the AJCongress' Jack Berman Advocacy Center.

After a year spent studying talmudic texts, Rosen said the work provided another window on Judaism.

"I felt like I was building a dichotomy between the social and religious aspects of Judaism, and this summer I've been grappling with how those two interact," Rosen said. "The pamphlet on poverty really brought the religious into the social aspects of Jewish work for me."

Other interns also got involved in writing projects. Beth Landes, a sophomore at Brandeis University, spent her summer compiling a 40-page packet for Jewish lay leaders planning a mission to Cuba next month. The Sunnyvale resident worked in the South Peninsula branch of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

"I had no idea anything like that existed before this summer," said Landes, discussing the JCF mission trip.

Apart from meetings and rallies, interns got other opportunities to leave the office. While working for Seniors at Home, a division of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services, Liora Brosbe of Santa Rosa made weekly visits to clients throughout San Francisco as well as Daly City.

A junior at Goucher College in Baltimore, Brosbe is majoring in psychology and considering a career in social work. She turned her visits into social occasions and helped her clients with small tasks. When she was in the office, she updated the Seniors at Home resource guide.

"I had thought about working in the Jewish community before this summer, but it was not my primary interest," Brosbe said. After working at JFCS, she added, "I can't think of a better way to combine my interests in social work and Judaism."

Deborah Louria, director of Jewish programs at JVS, has overseen the intern program for six summers. This year she is introducing the Kohn Alumni Program, offering services to the 250 Kohn graduates. The program will provide opportunities for mentoring as well as an online mailing list to notify alumni about job opportunities in the Jewish community.

"The supervisors work hard to provide interns with a great work setting and I'm pleased when the interns rise to the occasion and accomplish meaningful work for the Jewish community," Louria said. "The alumni program is designed to keep the interns connected to the Bay Area's Jewish community once they graduate from college and enter the workplace."

Other interns included Jori Bogetz, Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center; Rebecca Brown, JVS; Molly Cutler, Congregation Emanu-El; Iris Dror, JCF; Gabriel Edwards, JVS; Adam Fleisher, Jewish Bulletin of Northern California; Robert Friedman, Bureau of Jewish Education; Yeshayah Goldfarb, Jewish Community Relations Council; Zevi Gutfreund, Jewish Bulletin; Jason Harris, American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Sasha Kapralov, Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center; Asya Karchemskaya, Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal.

Also: Talya Kemper, Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; Avi Nagel, Peninsula Temple Sholom; Caitlin Nye, Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay; Eileen Prywes, Hebrew Free Loan Association; Mark Rosenberg, JCF Israel Center; Aaron Rosenblatt, Bureau of Jewish Education; Jocelyn Shaw, Marin Jewish Community Center; Tali Sherman, Lehrhaus Judaica; Stacy Shwartz, Jewish Community Endowment Fund; Jamie Tabb, JCF; Abby Teisch, Holocaust Center of Northern California; Sarah Wilson, Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay.