By Allison Scola
“Participating in the Fellowship in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship has been a defining experience during my time at Columbia and JTS,” said 2014 Joint Program graduate Marisa Rader. “Combining social justice entrepreneurship and Judaism in this way has helped me solidify what I want to be doing [after graduation] and where I want to be doing it.”
Rader, who majored in American studies and modern Jewish studies, is one of 10 student-fellows who spent their senior year participating in professional development internships as part of the Fellowship in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship (FJSE), a unique program started in 2009 that is designed to give List College seniors a capstone experience, one where they develop an understanding of how the Jewish values they have learned during their time at JTS could be directly applied to the working world—non-profit or otherwise—in order to elicit positive social change. Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Dean of List College, explained that through intensive orientation and training sessions, weekly seminar meetings that include reflective discussions and presentations by leading professionals, and internships with organizations and businesses that demonstrate effective modes of social change, FJSE “prepares fellows to be visionaries and realists.”
This past academic year, Rader served as a Development Intern at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, an antipoverty and community building organization that operates a one-year program that places young adults in service positions in the inner cities of New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. “I wanted to do the Fellowship because I wanted to get a better understanding of how social justice organizations operate,” said Rader, who worked on fundraising campaigns and donor relations. “I learned that social justice work is a partnership among many different players—that it’s a collaborative process. It was great to see a non-profit organization in action, learning what can be accomplished when donors are engaged to give.”
Rader found her experience to be highly rewarding and eye-opening, and as a result, she plans to work for a nonprofit organization after graduation.
In addition to internships that require 10-12 hours of onsite work, students in the program participate in a weekly seminar designed to deepen their understanding of Jewish engagement in social action, develop and strengthen leadership skills, and dialogue with change-makers working in a variety of contexts. Led by Associate Dean Aliyah Vinikoor, the weekly seminary involves reading related texts, engaging in interactive discussions, visiting organizations such as Greyston Bakery in Yonkers and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and/or connecting with guest speakers from Jewish and secular social change organizations including Alcoa Foundation, The Advocacy Lab, Ma’yan, and many others.
“It was a very meaningful hour and a half,” said Rader about the weekly seminar. “We really bonded over the course of the year. We had in-depth conversations, and we learned from each other and helped each other when we were struggling.
“The Fellowship really embodied the best of both my amazing Columbia education and phenomenal JTS education.”