At the University of Iowa I am focusing on the study of Journalism and Mass Communications, and over the past 2 years my specific interest toward the field of public relations and marketing has been clarified. Thus last semester, my journey began of looking for internships that fulfilled those goals for the summer of 2018.
It was during my search on LinkedIn when the position of Marketing & Communications Intern at JCC Chicago appeared on my feed. It was described that the intern will work closely with the M&C department to support a variety of marketing and public relations initiatives across the agency. They advertised key areas of responsibility as managing overall content curation and copy editing toward the blog, calendar and website, increasing social media presence across Facebook and Instagram while monitoring engagement and to help with overall event execution of major JCC Chicago events.
These tasks immediately caught my attention as being able to further my professional and career goals, so I submitted an application and resume.
JCC Chicago – also known as the Jewish Community Center – brands itself as “a non-profit organization inspired by Jewish values, bridging traditions and generations to create a more vibrant, connected community.”
I have been familiar with the organization for some time actually as I grew up in Deerfield, Illinois – people of my community attended Apachi Day Camps and Camp Chi overnight camp for years only to become counselors as well, the young boys I babysat participated in J Hawks basketball club each winter session and community events were offered year round for holidays and special occasions.
With the office in close proximity to my home and a basic understanding of the programming that I would be marketing about – I gladly accepted an offer from the organization in March. And while it was the professional tasks of the internship that initially caught my eye, little did I know how my experience on Birthright in May would then influence my understanding and respect in an office of majority Jewish-adults and how perfect it was that I had to incorporate the ideals of Judaism into my work and organization.
Thus when I started at JCC Chicago in June, I honestly realized pretty quickly that there were some norm habits and events that I would not have understood as much culturally if I hadn’t just been on Birthright.
Some of these examples are small – one of my male coworkers grew his sideburns long in traditional Orthodox fashion. One of my female coworkers young son often came in before camp and wore a traditional kippah each day. I also noticed that the Lustbader Fitness Center altered its hours alongside the Jewish holiday schedule, such as for Tisha B’Av in July which is a day of fasting and reflection of destruction.
As I dove into scheduling company events on the calendar I learned of even more programs as well.
Hebrew Immersion is designed for 3-4 year olds attending preschool where every part of the curriculum is taught in Hebrew by a native-speaking master teacher who is experienced in teaching language to young children, and still exploring the basic educational track of art, music, nature and community.
Apachi Ivrit is a specialty camp offered at multiple Apachi camp locations, where daily activities that could be led in English, are led in Hebrew instead to help teach the language to the campers.
JCC also runs a camp called, #BIGIDEA, which is the leading technology organizer in Israel and has created a program for tweens and teens to participate in workshops relating to coding, graphic design, game development, robotics and more! #BIGIDEA operates by sending Israeli volunteers to the United States, and upon my arrival to JCC and the camp’s location in our building, I quickly met the staff of the camp. The schlihim – “diplomatic representatives of Israel” – were 6 Israeli young adults who chose to spend their summer in America to enhance cultural knowledge and the overall ‘Spirit of Israel’ toward Jewish youth. Families in the area volunteered to house the Israelis during their 3 months abroad, and I frequently interacted with counselors like Liya and Ofir who were staying with my bosses in the M&C department.
While in Israel on Birthright, I was there over 3 Friday dates, and the period of sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday is known as Shabbat – our day of rest. Prior to Birthright I was aware of the observance but never did much at home to respect it, but once I was working in a professional setting that revolved around Jewish values – myself and my coworkers usually left around 1pm on Friday’s so that we could be home to celebrate the evening and rest with our families.
One of the biggest projects and successes of my internship at JCC Chicago was to plan the annual summer event for our 20-30s audience, Shabbat on the Lake. SOTL is an evening of services, food, music, celebration and community. Not only did I provide help to my coworkers in overall event planning – deciding what poster stands to buy, which food vendor to cater from and thinking of extra entertainment activities – but I also had to shift my thinking in marketing strategies toward certain types of people and audiences; specifically looking at nearby Jewish organizations and temples to promote this event of interest.
Right away my co-interns and I thought back to our personal connections and involvements – asking Jewish overnight camp organizations, such as Ramah and OSRUI, to post in their Facebook group. Hillels and Chabad’s of Chicago-land universities, such as Northwestern, Depaul and U of Illinois, to post our graphic on their Instagram accounts. And local synagogues to make an announcement at weekly services.
The event was held at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which is in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Prior to the event Sari, another intern, and I made a trip to the city to leave fliers on local coffee shop and restaurant community boards to help promote our upcoming event.
In the end, Shabbat on the Lake completely exceeded our expectations for the evening. We had over 700 attendees – comprised of Jewish young adults aged 20-30, the Apachi schlihim staff, people who traveled from neighboring suburbs just to spend an evening with like-minded people of their religion and celebrate Shabbat together.
Overall I am still thankful for the perfect and random opportunity that came upon me, when the job and organization that I had already committed to ended up having such a special internal meaning and goals connected to my previous religious immersion.
My time working at JCC Chicago will always hold a special memory in my mind. From the people to the programming, I am also thankful for the non-profit organization to be in such close proximity to my hometown where I will definitely be returning to the Northbrook JCC location and the next annual Shabbat on the Lake event.