Hi guys! My name is Matt Gillam and I am a rising third year from Long Island, NY studying Leadership & Public Policy in the Batten school. This summer, I am interning at the International Chamber of Commerce’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations as a Public Affairs & Policy Intern. A super long-winded title, I know. Basically, I work to engage private sector partners with the UN to leverage business as a positive force for sustainable development.
Throughout my internship, I have gotten to work in a small office of experts on global development policy, international diplomacy and finance. Our team has wide ranging experience and expertise that is crucial to furthering the United Nations’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or as we call them, SDGs. I have learned so much about the inner workings of the UN, writing policy briefs and talking points, and planning small sessions for C-suite level executives to have productive dialogues about business-led sustainable development. I have also gotten to explore Manhattan – a city I could be looking for a job in just two years from now. Getting to experience professional life here has been important for me as I look down potential career paths.
Hillel has taught me to embrace the wide range of perspectives that people can have, even within the same age and faith. This mindset has served me well at the United Nations, as I have worked with people from across the world- France, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, and Brazil are just some of the more recent ones. As I begin to wrap up my internship, I am constantly seeking to be exposed to as many cool things as possible and am absorbing as much advice as possible.
Exploring Manhattan one oat milk latte (see photos) at a time has been an incredible experience, but I cannot wait to get back to Charlottesville in just 12 short days!
Sophie Ritt- Onward Jerusalem
Hi! My name is Sophie Ritt and I am a rising Fourth Year at the University of Virginia. At UVA I am studying Psychology and Elementary Education.
While in Israel I am interning with the women’s empowerment organization, El Halev. El Halev strives to reduce gender-based violence through martial arts and self-defense. Although their hub is in Jerusalem, El Halev holds self-defense classes throughout Israel and around the world.
This summer I have been working as a Madricha for El Halev’s summer camp, as well as helping with administrative work. At the camp, Israeli and Arab girls from Jerusalem learn martial arts and self-defense in a safe and positive environment. I have been given the opportunity to teach a jazz dance class for the campers as well. This is very significant to me as I have always loved dance and it has been so amazing sharing this passion with my campers. One of my favorite moments at the camp so far was catching a few of the campers practicing the dance I taught them during their free time!
I am so grateful to Onward for giving me the opportunity to work with such a special organization. El Halev welcomed me with open arms and I truly believe that the work they are doing is incredibly important and impactful. Although I feel like the end of the summer is rapidly approaching, I know that I will always have a home at El Halev.
Grant Campion-Onward Tel Aviv
My name is Grant Campion and I am a rising third year from Norfolk, VA studying Public Policy and Environmental Science! This summer, I'm participating in the Onward Hillel Tel Aviv program and am lucky enough to be living and interning in the city. My internship is with Goodvision, the Corporate Social Responsibility branch of Grant Thornton Group. Through my work, I have gained incredible insight into international consulting and corporate sustainability. I am fortunate enough to go to multiple meetings, conferences, and luncheons with clients around Tel Aviv and truly experience the "global market".
I live with three other UVA students (Jackson Moser, Nir Diskin, and Matt Mandel) and our typical days include going to the beach, discovering new restaurants and coffee shops, exploring the Shuks (markets) and, traveling around Tel Aviv and Israel!
My favorite day in Tel Aviv so far was two Fridays ago, when I woke up early to go to the Old North Farmer's Market, met some people at the beach, then headed to a rooftop sunset event with new friends from our program. We ended the party with a nice dinner on the famous Rothschild Avenue!
My favorite Onward programming experience thus far was definitely traveling to Gush Etzion where we discussed the ongoing conflict with both Israelis and Palestinians.Hearing from both sides is an invaluable experience and gives a much clearer perspective as to how the conflict actually impacts citizens on a day-to-day basis. The rest of our day in the West Bank was spent hiking and visiting a famous bakery that employs both Israelis and Palestinians.
If anyone has any more questions about daily life, the onward application process, or needs recommendations for Tel Aviv, please don't hesitate to reach out!
Gabby Posner- Research in Senegal
Asalaamalekum! That’s how we say “hello” here in Senegal where I have had the privilege of spending my summer. My name is Gabby Posner, and I am a rising third year in the Batten school, studying Public Policy and Economics. I ventured to Senegal this summer to co-lead a research project with my friend and research partner, Grace Wood. Together, we are qualitatively researching poverty as it affects female-headed households in Senegal. Our research aims to discover if, as claimed, female-headed households are less poor, and, if so, what economic, social, and political factors could account for this. Our daily routine involves taxiing to an interview spot for the day where we then conduct individual interviews and focus groups. At the start of next semester, Grace and I will analyze our data under the advice of our faculty advisor, Professor Jeanine Braithwaite, to prepare to present our findings at the Southern Economic Association conference in November!
Aside from the academic side of my experience in Senegal, I have found a deep appreciation for the Senegalese people and culture. In preparation for my trip, I went through countless measures to find a Jewish community in Senegal. As nerdy as it is, I always remembered the song from Hebrew school that says, “wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish!” Well, I can assure you that the song is unfortunately mistaken. I have been unsuccessful in my search, which included contacting the rabbi of the Chabad of Central Africa, meeting with past Jewish Fulbright scholars, and asking around in the local population. For the first time in my life, I am the only Jew in my neighborhood — maybe even in the country — as Senegal is about 95% Muslim.
I can genuinely say that this experience has only further benefited my ability to immerse myself in the culture, while also reflecting on my Jewish identity internally. I live with a Muslim host family, with whom I often discuss (to the best of my French-speaking ability) the close similarities between Judaism and Islam. As the first Jew they have ever met, I have the great responsibility of accurately portraying my own community of Jews back at home, in the rest of the diaspora, and in Israel. For example, when I first told my family that I am Jewish, they did not understand how I could be Jewish and American (as in not Israeli). Even as a Jew, I find immense value in participating in the Islamic traditions practiced by my host family. During Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan, I spent the entire day celebrating with my host family while wearing the traditional Senegalese dress that I had purchased with my host aunt the day prior. No matter where I go in this world, my Jewish identity will always come along with me. This unique quality is a true gift and a source of pride for me. It has allowed me to build a relationship with Senegal, not only as a researcher, an American, and a UVA student but as a Jew and most importantly a WaJew!
Sophie Dornfeld- Hadassah Hospital
Hello, my name is Sophie Dornfeld and I am doing an internship at Hadassah Hospital in Mt. Scopus. At home, I am half way through my four-year Nursing program, so it made sense to volunteer on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the Maternity Ward here in Jerusalem. For almost 100 years, Hadassah Hospital has been a leader in the Israeli medical scene and has paved the way for new medical inventions and quality healthcare.
This week, I have spent the majority of my time in the NICU assisting wherever I can, whether that be feeding the babies, giving baths, cleaning up, filling syringes with sucrose, or folding laundry. My favorite task is to be an “on-call cuddler,” where I basically walk around and soothe crying babies.
I also love interacting with the babies who are just a few hours old and witnessing happy parents embrace their new children. Every day at Hadassah is filled with new adventures and things to do/see. Today, I got to feed a baby who weighted 2.3 kg, which is just over 5 pounds. Holding a baby that tiny in my arms really made me think about how precious life is and how incredible it is to have the opportunity to welcome newborns into this world and care for them.
Working on this unit has also allowed me to improve my Hebrew, as the nurses encourage me to only use Hebrew in order to better communicate with families and coworkers. It is such a fun and happy place to work and I always leave with a huge smile on my face!
Adam Cooper- Internship Experience
This summer I’m interning in New Delhi, India with The Mrida Group, a social enterprise dedicated to development work throughout rural India. I am working with their Earthspired brand, which seeks to develop market linkages for rural farmers in order to create and sustain livelihood practices. This experience has been incredible, challenging me in many ways. From learning to navigate a new workplace culture to understanding how to travel throughout India, each experience has truly taught me new knowledge about this country and about myself.
Many times throughout the summer, I have been placed in what would typically be considered “uncomfortable" situations.” 118 degrees Fahrenheit weather, absolutely hectic traveling situations, and many different social norms have often created times where I was, let’s just say, less than thrilled. Yet, I have really tried to take each of these experiences in stride, not because I want connect more deeply to my own thoughts and feelings, but because I have an opportunity to connect with those of others. Indeed, being in this new environment has given me a unique opportunity to grapple with the all-important word— perspective.
And oddly enough, I think the place that has taught me the most about this word at UVA is Hillel. It would seem that Hillel might not be the place most conducive to showing me different perspectives on a variety of topics…everyone does happen to be Jewish! Yet, I often feel, with the grounding of our Judaism allowing us to connect, the people I’ve met at Hillel have showed me diverse perspectives far beyond what I expected. From different conceptions about Israel, religiosity, and traditions to broader thoughts on UVA and general life advice, the friends I have made through Hillel have truly exposed me to new ideas much different than my own. Having a basis that we can connect with on a deep level allows us to delve into intense conversations that I have found to be incredibly impactful. This exposure has helped me navigate the tough situations I have faced here, and is something that I will forever be grateful for.
Thinking ahead to this school year, I am so excited to come back to Hillel. I plan to continue my involvement in many different aspects of Hillel, and hope to try something new as well. As always, it will be exciting to meet the new Jewish students, and hopefully I can help them navigate their first year experience, both with Hillel and with UVA at large. It’s incredibly comforting to know that I have Hillel to come back to when I return to Charlottesville, and I’m looking forward to another fantastic year.
The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia, is the focal point in a renaissance of Jewish life for the 1,000 Jewish students on Grounds.