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Friday, July 11, 2014

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Student intern program seeks ongoing funding

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The 2011 Kohn interns, with Hillel of Greater Toronto’s Rabbi Aaron Greenberg, bottom left, JVS’ Lisa Rae, top left, JVS president Frank Markel, second from right, and Hillel director Zac Kaye, far right.

TORONTO — A successful bid to secure funding for JVS’ Kohn Summer Intern Program after the expiration of a three-year UJA Federation of Greater Toronto grant has ensured the initiative will continue into 2012.

The four-year-old Kohn Summer Intern Program places about 15 post-secondary students in professional positions in leading Jewish agencies in the Toronto area for 10 weeks every year. 

It was initially funded largely by a three-year grant from UJA Federation’s community fund. When the grant expired in 2010, federation found an anonymous donor to fund the program’s fourth year in 2011. But Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Toronto had yet to find money to cover the stipends of participating interns for 2012.

JVS then established a fundraising committee to attract donors, and so far, the committee and staff from Hillel of Greater Toronto have managed to raise the $85,000 required to run the initiative in 2012.

JVS Toronto president and CEO Frank Markel said the committee and Hillel appealed to families of past Kohn interns, as well as to potential donors and those who have donated in the past, and called on participating agencies to increase their own per-student contributions from $1,250 to $2,000.

Markel said that when he assumed his role with JVS in July, he was struck by the board of directors’ determination to keep the program alive.

“The board of JVS was very strong in wanting to find a way to continue the program. Even before I had started, I went to the June meeting and I heard about what a tragedy it would be if the program were lost,” Markel said.

He said that the initiative is named after the late Annie Kohn, who, along with her husband Thomas, was an active member of Clanton Park Synagogue. It aims “to create the seeds of the generation that will carry on the very noble Jewish tradition of helping others. Ideally, 20 years from now, the person who may be sitting in my seat will be a Kohn graduate. That’s the dream – to inculcate future leaders.”

There are about 15 Jewish agencies in Toronto – including Ve’ahavta: The Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee, Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto, and Jewish Family and Child – that take on an intern for the summer.

“The interns work four days a week for the agency, and on the Friday, they gather as a group under the auspices of Hillel and Rabbi Aaron Greenberg… where they learn about Jewish traditions and values, they have speakers, and a chance to discuss amongst themselves their experience,” Markel said.

“The Friday program gives them a chance to put the work they’re doing into context. It’s a very nice combination of hands-on practical work and a chance to think and learn about the meaning of the work they do.”

Jessica Pollock, a 2011 Kohn intern and a CJN columnist, wrote a piece about her experiences working with the Kehilla Residential Programme, federation’s affordable housing agency, in which she explained why it’s so important to the future of the Jewish community.

“I came into this internship wanting to acquire beneficial experience in the Jewish non-profit world. I wanted an insider’s look into how a small-scale non-profit agency such as Kehilla operates and a better conception of its need in our community,” Pollock wrote in a column last fall.

“The professionals at Kehilla, the individuals I have come in contact with on Fridays, and of course the other interns themselves, have all motivated me to continue giving back to the community that has already given so much to me.”

Although Markel didn’t want to speculate about whether JVS will be able to find funding for the program beyond 2012, he said the agency will continue exploring other sources of money.

“Hopefully, the economy will start to rebound and some of the funding sources will be in a position where they can be more generous.”

For more information about the Kohn program, contact services@jvstoronto.org or info@hilleltoronto.org.

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