Abby Calef } jewish@edu writer
When I’m asked what I study, I’m met with blank stares or worse, the dreaded question: “What are you going to do with that?”
While it seems almost impossible to incorporate English, Jewish studies and psychology into one summer internship, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County was the perfect fit.
However, it didn’t start quite like that. Initially, I was a community services intern. I spent most of my time in the food pantry. As someone who primarily has had teaching jobs, I’m accustomed to being on my feet. However, this is the first internship I’ve had where I became accustomed to being on the floor as well.
Although crawling on the ground and reorganizing produce in a fashion similar to a game of Tetris were not expected, I loved that I was making an impact without being restricted to a desk.
Although I made the conscious decision to slightly exaggerate how strong I was on the application, the job was a bit more strenuous than I had previously imagined. Nevertheless, toward the end of my internship, I was able to lift more than I could in my first week.
However, my favorite part about JFS was spending time with clients in the food pantry. I felt very honored to be working for a nonprofit that supplies food for people with certain dietary restrictions, whether they be for health or religious reasons. There aren’t words to express the sweet memories I have with the people I met. From carrying a client’s groceries to introducing someone to their first bite of an apple, each moment was heartening.
Because of JFS’ refugee resettlement program, it was anticipated that communication could sometimes be difficult. We played many games of charades in the food pantry. While I may have looked silly, it was important to me that everyone left the pantry with exactly what they were looking for. It’s the simple things like being sure of which can of beans you are grabbing and whether the soap is meant for your hair or skin that we seem to take for granted. This was eye-opening.
During this internship, I found myself using more than just my psychology knowledge. I got my English major fix while I was researching grant opportunities, editing the final submissions and technical writing for software.
Additionally, though I wasn’t learning Jewish ritual or speaking Hebrew, I was still surrounded by people who were familiar with and accustomed to Jewish values. As someone who has lived in communities with many Jews and also with just a handful, this is one attribute toward which I gravitate.
Overall, JFS provided a new experience every day. I found myself using skills in all areas of the mind and even gained a new go-with-the-flow mantra. It also gave me the opportunity to engage all my interests, in addition to establishing new ones.
On a larger scope, it also gave me a great jump-start into the world of nonprofits, about which I have become more and more excited every day. @
Abby Calef of Ann Arbor is a senior at Kalamazoo College.