Jewish agencies team up to offer internships
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Jewish agencies team up to offer internships

Even as the economy slowly recovers, many recent college grads are finding themselves unable to land jobs and are increasingly returning to the area to live at home.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Jewish Family Service of Bergen County, and Jewish Family Service of North Jersey are teaming up to create an internship program to help these young adults through this transition from college to the working world.

The idea, said Rabbi Ely Allen, director of Hillel of North Jersey, part of UJA-NNJ, is to place these recent grads in programs in or related to their fields that could lead to permanent jobs.

“We’re going to be finding young people who have just graduated who could use something to do,” he said.

“Several months ago the JCC recognized that there was a whole group of people in our community that we never catered to – the post-college age group,” said Judi Nahary, director of Children & Teen Services at the JCC. “We’ve never provided programming for that age group because they never lived locally.”

Recent college graduates tend to move to New York City or other hubs but typically do not return to their hometowns – until a bad economy began limiting job opportunities for recent grads, Nahary explained.

“They’ve never been part of our community, and this was an opportunity for us to cater to them,” she said.

The internship network doesn’t have a name yet, but that is expected soon, along with a Website, according to Nahary. She said she hopes the database would be up and running within the next few weeks and people could then sign up for internships.

To date, internships have been arranged with the JCC, UJA-NNJ, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in Englewood Cliffs, and Rampage/ECI in New York. Other programs are in the works as well, said Esther Mazor, director of Adult Services at the JCC.

Allen would like to see the internship network be the first step in reaching out to recent college grads. The Jewish communal world outside of major urban areas has done little for this age group, according to the rabbi. The federation’s Young Leadership Division, which shut down two years ago, was mainly a fund-raising tool rather than a social group, and nothing has taken its place, he added.

“Ultimately, there’s not too much for people in their 20s and early 30s to be doing around here,” he said. “We hope we can create a network for young Jewish people that can be a network not only for people to find employment, but … feel part of the Jewish community.”

Allen has looked to such programs as Moishe House – a national program that provides subsidized housing for Jews who run programs for other Jewish young adults – as an example of what’s missing in the area. The federation’s new youth emissary, Niva Kerzner, is looking to such organizations as Birthright Next, a follow-up to the popular Birthright Israel free trips, as a draw for college students and recent grads.

“We’re really missing this entire age group and we really need to do something to keep them in the Jewish community,” Allen said. “If we can identify people and have them socialize together and take it to the next level that would be amazing.”

For more information on the internship program, call Allen at (201) 820-3905.

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