(July 14, 2019 / JNS) Internship programs need to change. Interns are too often treated as second class citizens in the workplace, spending the majority of their time performing menial tasks and running errands, not learning industry skills to prepare them for a career in their chosen field, which is the purpose of an internship.
In Israel, this change is happening. Spearheading the shift is The Israel Innovation Fund (TIIF), a new kind of non-profit that is creating cultural programs to export Israeli culture around the world. TIIF’s internship program is designed to fully immerse its interns into the daily workings of its team. Each intern is treated as a core part of the team and as such, is exposed to how business in the real world works.
The interns help with all aspects of TIIF’s business including marketing, social media, event planning, fundraising, etc., and are given a lot of control over their projects, allowing creativity to flourish.
TIIF interns are exposed to a host of cultural experiences outside of their daily internship tasks. The interns visit wineries and meet with the winemakers, partake in question and answer sessions with prominent figures such as Carol Ann Schwartz, national vice president of Hadassah and a TIIF board member, and Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, among others.
They collaborate and create art with popular artists like Ame72, celebrate Israeli holidays like a citizen, and star in their own intern film.
“Aside from giving our interns the tools they need to succeed in the real world, we also strive to provide an environment that makes them feel immersed in Israeli culture and view themselves as part of the workforce, instead of just a tourist,” said Tatiana Hasson, director of Wine on the Vine.
“I believe this specific Israel experience was the most influential trip I’ve been on. I learned so much about myself and the kind of person I want to be,” said Lena Stein, a student at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“First of all,” she continued, “I got to live in Israel for an entire month as a working member of the community, not just a tourist. I’ve always loved spending time in Israel but being blended into the society by working and celebrating holidays like Yom Hazikaron [Remembrance Day] and Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day] really helped me feel the connection to Israel I was looking to foster during this internship.”
TIIF was created by Adam Scott Bellos in 2017 as a way to reboot Zionism for the 21st century and revolutionize the way his generation connects to Israel. He felt that his generation needed something completely different and that other organizations aren’t meeting that need. That there were too many fancy gala dinners and not enough accessible events and opportunities to connect with Israel on a personal level.
So TIIF was born to bridge this gap and give young people easy and meaningful ways to bring Israel into their lives.
Currently under the TIIF umbrella is Wine on the Vine, which allows for the virtual planting of grapevines in top Israeli wineries, with the majority of the money from the grapevine purchase being donated to a select Israeli charity; The Hebrew Wallpaper Project, which works to beautify Israel’s cities by collaborating with street artists and painting murals in underserved communities to bring art to everyone; Jaffa Nights, an event planning venture which brings the magic of a night of Tel Aviv fun to your hometown; and What If? Studios, a full service production company producing a variety of videos to help spread Israeli culture around the world.
The TIIF interns contribute to all of these initiatives.
“My favorite moment while interning at TIIF was when we took a trip to the Gush Etzion Winery and the Gush Etzion museum,” said Chloe Sahn. “We began at the winery to learn about the history of the winery and also tasted four unique wines during a delicious lunch. At the museum, we learned about the history of the region through an interactive production.
“To learn that the land we were currently standing on was defended by our ancestors who had a dream for this land to be part of the new Jewish state was extremely humbling and gratifying. They sacrificed their lives overcoming hardships to protect this land for future generations to come. It made standing on that very land all the more meaningful and put into perspective the work I had done while interning and the work the entire team does on a daily basis.”
Bellos emphasizes, however, that “the lessons learned from Gush Etzion were not political, rather that were on the identity side of things, which is what our organization is all about.”
Bellos makes sure his interns accompany him on at least one important meeting so they can observe business interactions and communication when negotiating deals, discussing collaborations and partnerships, and brainstorming sessions.
“While interning here at the Israel Innovation Fund, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with some of Israel’s finest organizations. Nefesh B’Nefesh, Israid, and Yatir Winery just to name a few,” said Chase Kassan of California. “Being a part of these meetings have been extremely beneficial and insightful for me especially as a young college student a year away from graduating. TIIF has given me an experience like no other and I can’t wait to use the skills I have learned this summer in my professional career.”
“The interns we had this year were extremely special,” said Bellos. “Seeing the impact the internship has on them and how it shapes what they feel is the most rewarding thing for me. When they talk about the experiences we are providing as what they need to grow and become the best versions of themselves, nothing makes me happier. This is the best part of the job, having these two months with these kids. My life’s work has become so much bigger than me and I could not be prouder of what we are accomplishing.”