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A taste of Jewish agency life

‘SeniorITIS’ offers new high school graduates workplace experience

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Isaac Dietz-Green of Montclair is heading off for his freshman year at Oberlin College in the fall. Before he gets there, however, he will spend the month of July learning what it takes to plan and execute a long-term project in the workplace. As an intern at the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life in Whippany, he’ll help organize a community service program for teens that will take place in the fall.

Dietz-Green is among eight recent high school graduates participating in Senior Institute for Teens in Service, or SeniorITIS, a new project of the Partnership.

Designed to give young adults like Isaac a taste of professional life and some guidance on how to get there, it includes 15 hours a week at a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. In addition to their internship, participants will blog about their experiences, and attend six seminars on topics ranging from workplace ethics, to career counseling, to being Jewish on campus.

“The goal is to give these students a taste of Jewish communal work and some hands-on experience, and the feeling of completing a project — things they can talk about in interviews down the road,” said Dara Tsuprun, assistant coordinator of Jewish service learning at the Partnership, who is running the initiative.

Students have been placed locally at the federation’s Legow Family Israel Program Center and Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest and at the Partnership and other federation agencies, including Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest and Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.

One student, Rachel Briant of Maplewood, who will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall, is working with the Jewish Agency for Israel in New York City.

Participant Carmelle Bargad of West Orange, who is planning to spend next year in the Israel Defense Forces, is working this summer with the federation’s IPC. She was impressed with the amount of support the teens are receiving from project coordinator Dara Tsuprun and from each other.

In a conversation with NJJN, Bargad said, “We talk about our experiences throughout the week and about situations that occurred that we didn’t know quite how to handle. For example, how long is a typical lunch break? What is appropriate dress attire for interns? How do I correctly structure an e-mail or leave a phone message? Together, we work through the answers to these questions and become more secure with ourselves in the workplace.”

For Dietz-Green, the seminars have been a highlight, especially the one by Dr. Meryl Kanner, supervisor of career counseling at JVS.

“The biggest lesson that I took away from Dr. Kanner’s lecture was that I don’t have to pick a career and stick with it for the rest of my life,” Dietz-Green wrote in an e-mail to NJJN. “At different points in my life I will want different things out of my job, and I should try to find the job that most suits my needs at the time. This changed the way that I look at my future professional life and will certainly have an impact on the academic path that I’ll choose to pursue in college.”

SeniorITIS began with an orientation on June 27 and will end with a closing ceremony on July 30.

In addition to Dietz-Green, Bargad, and Briant, participants include Jennifer Berger of Livingston, who is working with JVS and plans to attend McGill University; Scott Levinson of Randolph, Holocaust Council, Colgate University; Sara Rosen of Boonton Township, the Partnership, Drexel University; Daniela Rosen of Boonton Township, JFS, Philadelphia University; and Elizabeth Kessel of West Orange, the Partnership, Rutgers University.

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