My Summer at FJC
By Joe Saperstein
Junior year is notorious for being the worst year of high school. Everyone is stressed all the time, worrying about grades, SATs, extracurricular, and the dreaded word, college. Now that my junior year is over, I can confidently say that the rumors are true: junior year sucks. When I had to decide what I wanted to do for the summer, I was conflicted at first. I had gone to camp for six summers, and then on a teen tour to Israel, so I decided that this summer I wanted to stay in the city.
I applied to a program called Summer Excelerator at the NYU Bronfman Center, which pairs Jewish teenagers in the New York area with internships at various organizations. When I was accepted to the program, I was both excited and relieved, but I was also worried. What if I got paired at an organization that I didn’t like? When I got the email with assignments, I saw that I was paired at Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), and having gone to a Jewish summer camp, I was eager to start working.
Honestly, as a high school intern, I thought that I would not have much work to do. Internships in general often seem to be more of a resume builder than an actual meaningful experience. My time at FJC, however, has been just the opposite. I was assigned to intern in development, the department that deals with donors and raises money for the foundation. I worked on many development projects during my time here. I helped to send out a survey to donors in order to collect information about the donor base and determine how we can better serve them; I learned how to navigate Salesforce, a relationship management software that keeps track of all interactions with donors and organizations; I called donors to update contacts; I started the process of creating a welcome campaign for third party donors, completing research and drafting emails to try to build relationships with people less familiar with FJC’s work and more. Even though I was one of the only high schoolers in the office, I felt valued for who I was and trusted to do more than just menial tasks. Since FJC is a nonprofit, development work is especially important because the organization can only function and thrive if there are donations. Also, knowing how important FJC’s mission is and seeing everyone around me work so hard with this shared mission in mind motivated and inspired me to work hard as well. Everyone here cares deeply about their work, and it really shows.
Aside from the work I do here, what really makes me enjoy working at FJC so much is the time I spend in the office. From the very first day that I got here, everyone in the office was so friendly and immediately made me feel at home. I became friends with the people sitting around me, talking to them throughout the day; lunches are always enjoyable, as everyone comes together to eat in the communal lunch room and has interesting discussions on a wide variety of topics, from TV shows to issues facing the Jewish community. Everyone at FJC is happy to work here, and I felt enveloped in that collective feeling.
Working at FJC has taught me so much about what it’s like working in the Jewish nonprofit world and generally what it is like to work, because this is the first time I have ever worked in an office setting. I was also pleasantly surprised that many of the skills I learned at camp were helpful and applicable to my work in the office, such as communicating and working effectively on a team. As it turns out, living in a bunk with 12 people and learning to coexist is actually pretty similar to sharing an office with 25 people! My experiences at camp helped me tremendously, so it’s very fitting that my first work experience was with FJC, whose purpose is to support camps. I am glad that FJC is the first place I worked at, because of the warm community and passionate people who work here. Although I don’t have too much work experience, I have a feeling that there are not many places like FJC.
As I am nearing the end of my internship and entering my senior year of high school, I feel so lucky that I got to intern at Foundation for Jewish Camp. I now have a new set of skills and experiences that I can take into my senior year, college, and beyond.
Joe Saperstein just finished his internship with the development department at FJC. He is entering his senior year at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College.