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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Looking back on my summer as an intern

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Michelle Bitran [Josh Hochman photo]

Once a week, since I was a tiny toddler, I’ve walked, or wobbled in the really early years, into my kitchen and found The CJN lying open on the table. 

As time passed, the table changed – from beige laminate to sleek glass – the appliances surrounding the table have been also been updated, but the paper has remained a fixture. So much so, that when my first CJN article as a freelancer was published almost three years ago, it felt like a huge milestone to my parents and to me, both as a journalist and as a member of Toronto’s Jewish community. Here was my article in this stronghold of Canadian Jewish life, not to mention this staple in my kitchen.

From that day, I never looked back. I continued to write pieces frequently as a freelancer, interned at the paper for six weeks as part of my final year of study at Ryerson University’s journalism program, and this summer, I was lucky enough to come back as an intern for almost four months.

Now that the summer is ending (I know, I too am trying to pretend it’s not), and I’m preparing to move to Israel for a graduate program at Tel Aviv University (in fact, I’ll probably be on the Tel Aviv beach by the time you read this), I’m taking a moment to reflect on what The CJN internship experience has meant to me.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing interesting, inspiring and exciting people from indie filmmakers and professional musicians to first- and second-grade students eager to make a difference in their communities.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with artists and fashion designers, and even to report on a fancy kosher wine festival. Journalism can be a great way to meet new people and to go to events that you might not have otherwise made time for or even known about.

Writing for The CJN opened my eyes to the depth and the breadth of Jewish community life in Canada. Covering events at the celebration of Moroccan culture made me swell with pride at the diversity of our community. Although I am not Moroccan, I am Sephardi, and a part of me was humbled at how much interest the greater, mostly Ashkenazi Jewish, community took in Sephardi culture.

I was awed by the support I saw for the Jewish homeland at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Walk With Israel, and again with the love for Israel’s injured war veterans that I witnessed at Beit Halochem’s annual concert.

Even more than giving me the wonderful opportunities to explore and learn about Toronto’s Jewish community, The CJN team has also supported me through my learning experience. I have never had a question go unanswered, and I’ve always been greeted with patience and understanding even when I’ve forgotten how to find something on my computer for the fifth or sixth time (OK, OK, maybe the seventh or eighth time).

The CJN helped me expand my skill set from reporting to include copy editing, proofreading, co-ordinating photos for articles and even helping to put together supplements.

But more importantly, what I’ve learned is that The CJN team is really a community, a family, in itself. Not a day has passed that I haven’t felt appreciated and cared for, and I go forward knowing that even in Israel, I will stay connected to the great people I’ve met at the paper.

While I’m sad to be leaving, I can’t wait for what’s to come in Tel Aviv.  Thank you to the readers, the interviewees and, of course, to everyone at The CJN for making the last four months so memorable!

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