As college life returned to normal last year, nine undergraduate students worked in Buffalo over the summer as part of the Hilllel Summer Internship. The program is for students at the University at Buffalo as well as local students who attend school out-of-town. It connected students with unique local internship opportunities, while developing their professional skills. It also introduced them to the rich cultural life of Buffalo while also helping them explore their Jewish identity.
It was a pleasure to work this summer with Rabbi Sara Rich, executive director of Hillel of Buffalo, and Logan Woodard, director of engagement at Hillel of Buffalo, to design and run the Hillel Summer Internship Program for its second year. The program ran for eight weeks, in which students worked with local employers from Monday through Thursday and then spent their Fridays with Hillel staff and their cohort for experiential learning, workshops and discussions on Jewish values as they related to the professional work environment. We are thankful to our new partner in the College of Arts and Sciences at UB, who joined the program as a sponsor through the Experiential Learning Network, to help underwrite the costs of the program.
Our nine students came from a wide range of areas of study, including Business Administration, Communication, Dance, Graphic Design, Health and Human Services, Jewish Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Political Science, Psychology, Public Health, and Sociology. We strove to offer students the opportunity to interview for internships that match their areas of study and are thankful to have had our students interning this summer at a diverse variety of venues: the Calspan-University of Buffalo Research Center (CUBRC) Inc., Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, JCC of Greater Buffalo, Just for Kids, the Office of Senator Tim Kennedy, People Inc., UB Neurosurgery, and Venture Steel. One undergraduate student, Hannah Danziger, who grew up in Buffalo and is currently studying at Skidmore College said that “having an internship at UB Neurosurgery under Dr. Levy has been one of the most rewarding and fascinating experiences. I learned so much and am so grateful to have this opportunity. I will cherish this experience for years to come.”
Before the students began their internships, we organized a virtual orientation for employers to help them understand the goals of the program and provide useful tips for working with Generation-Z students. This was followed by an orientation with the students at Camp Centerland with introductions, team building exercises and Jewish teachings to help them get to know one another, the Hillel staff, and the goals of the program.
The cohort days on Friday were a highlight of the summer for students and staff. Each Friday began with an assigned student sharing a challenge they were facing at work and a facilitator would help the student and the group assess the issue and the best way to address it. Some of the topics included having the courage to ask questions, facing challenging assignments from supervisors, dealing with shifting workloads, and deciding how to represent oneself Jewishly in the workplace.
The group would then visit a notable place, have lunch and discuss a topic from a Jewish lens, such as business and philanthropy, inclusion and belonging, civic engagement, and east side development. Some of the notable activities included Niagara Falls and the Underground Railroad Heritage Center, walking the Artpark Sonic Trails, volunteering with Jewish Family Service of WNY to create welcome packages for new immigrants, visiting the memorial site at the Tops on Jefferson, touring North Buffalo’s Jewish heritage with Explore Buffalo, cooking at The Bloom & Rose, learning about Universal Design through a tour of Temple Beth Tzedek, watching the judicial system in action at Buffalo City Court, visiting the Office of Senator Timothy Kennedy, and learning about the philanthropic work of M&T Bank.
The students also benefited from a distinguished lineup of guest speakers. These included: Eric Feldstein, Regional President of WNY for M&T Bank; Adam Fogel, Chief of Staff for Senator Timothy Kennedy; Janet Gunner, Esq. and Kesher Inclusion Committee Chair of Temple Beth Tzedek; Andrew Isenberg, District Executive of the Eighth Judicial District; Sierra Johnston, Manager, Volunteer Services of Jewish Family Services of WNY; Kara Kane, Executive Assistant, Jewish Family Services of WNY; Rabbi Adam J. Rosenbaum, Rabbi of Temple Beth Tzedek; Harvey Sanders, Managing Partner at Sanders & Sanders, Western New York Employment Law Firm; Mike Steklof, EdD, Director of Jewish Experience, LiNK Jewish Buffalo; Ellen Weiss, founder of WORKplace WELLbeing Success; Steven Weiss, Co-Founding Partner, Cannon Heyman & Weiss, LLP.; and Samantha White, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Inc.
Evan Klein, a UB undergraduate student majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Jewish Studies highlighted that “to have these amazing resources and opportunities as a Jewish student thanks to the amazing Jewish community is so special to me and it is amazing to know that the community and these organizations that work with Hillel believe in us students. I met so many amazing people this summer and I hope many Jewish students will continue to take advantage of this amazing opportunity in future summers.”
We would love to partner with more employers in the future to offer more internship opportunities for students. Please reach out to one of us if you are interested in joining the program as an employer next year.