by Carly Klinenberg
I learned I would be spending my summer interning at JWI after trying to get rid of the red email notification bubble on my phone while I was on a St. Louis city bus. It was Spring Break, and I was leading an alternative spring break trip focused on education systems in the city of St. Louis. I had recently accepted a spot in the Machon Kaplan internship program run by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the email with my internship placement had finally come! As I anxiously skimmed the email in my already frazzled state, I saw an unfamiliar name. Jewish Women International? Seeing as I was also attempting to navigate a group of people off of a bus and to our destination, I texted my parents and asked them if they had heard of JWI and could tell me anything about it. My dad immediately responded with quotes and screenshots from JWI’s website—phrases like “empowering women,” “economic security,” and “sexual violence prevention programs” jumped out at me as topics that I am passionate about and interested in working. I stepped off the bus on a snowy March day excited for the summer to come.
As a program intern, I became well acquainted with the initiatives JWI brings to college campuses, specifically the ones focused on sexual assault awareness and prevention. While my big project was compiling information on sexual assault policies and cultures on specific college campuses, I had incredible opportunities to work with the other interns and staff on their projects, attend hearings on the Hill, and rally for causes like protecting healthcare and Title IX. Along with the other JWI interns, I was part of a team tasked with conceptualizing, planning, marketing, and hosting JWI’s Summer Series, a series of breakfast briefings for college women interning in D.C. That experience taught me so much about putting on events—from brainstorming topics to researching potential speakers to marketing the event to hashing out logistics. We did it all (including picking up the bagels)!
In addition to everything I had the chance to do with JWI, I had opportunities through Machon Kaplan to lobby my representatives, meet with a White House staffer, and camp out overnight at the Supreme Court to hear the justices read their decisions in the morning. My supervisor, my fellow interns, and the entire JWI staff were incredibly supportive of every endeavor. I loved coming to work after one of my adventures and being bombarded with questions from my coworkers. Their genuine interest in my experiences and stories made me feel so at home at JWI and their enthusiasm and individual stories and passions made me excited to come to work each day.
The JWI staff are some of the most passionate, committed, intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. After we interns came back from a rally, hearing, or meeting, we would be immediately caught up in conversation with anyone who was around, sharing the details of the event, what we thought was interesting, and what we learned. The times I spent initially just checking in with someone but then talking about what we were working on or what was happening in the news or an article we’d just read were countless and incredibly valuable. The atmosphere at JWI is so warm, supportive, and welcoming, but I also constantly felt challenged to do more and to improve the quality of my work. From working with the other interns, I learned to visualize a common goal. I learned to give and receive constructive feedback and that I am capable of rising to challenges from my supervisor, who always expected the best from me and trusted me to provide it.
I will forever cherish the memories of talking about the Bachelor in Paradise sexual assault allegations during a staff meeting, mid-day excursions to the Hill, and lunches on the roof with the lovely women I had the greatest pleasure of working with at JWI, and I know that the relationships I created will last long beyond the summer.