JFCS YouthFirst Internship Program at JFCS, San Francisco, CA – July 10, 2017

by George J Elbaum

Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) is a San Francisco Bay Area social services organization whose mission statement is “Serving individuals and families of all faiths and backgrounds, guided by the Jewish value of caring for those in our community most in need.”  As such, JFCS carries a special responsibility within the Jewish community for reaching out to children, the aged, those with special needs, the alienated and the dependent, and for the resettlement and acculturation of refugees and immigrants.  Through its YouthFirst Internship Program, JFCS offers internships for high school and college students by placing them in Bay Area firms and allowing them to learn important on-the-job skills.  Supporting these internships are YouthFirst workshops focusing on topics such as office etiquette, responsible work behavior, researching job opportunities, résumé writing, and interviewing skills.

My talk was attended by three dozen students in JFCS YouthFirst Summer Internship Program.  This year the students came from 16 schools in 10 Bay Area cities, and the internship placements included law offices, real estate firms, restaurants, a bakery, an engineering firm, Exploratorium, office of an Assembly Member, the Bar Association, a summer camp, and JFCS itself – obviously a wide range of employments and diverse learning experiences.  The event was arranged by Nikki Bambauer, Program Coordinator of the JFCS Holocaust Center, and was attended by Morgan Blum Schneider, Director of Education, JFCS Holocaust Center, Linda Karlin, Director JFCS YouthFirst Program and Leah Shapiro, Program Coordinator JFCS YouthFirst Program.

Notes from YouthFirst Interns

Two weeks after my talk at JFCS with YouthFirst interns I received a large home-made Thank You card with words of appreciation and their signatures, plus individual Thank You notes from the interns.  After reading these notes I excerpted the statements and phrases that particularly resonated with me and these are listed below.

  • Your story was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing this difficult part of your life.  While many topics you explored are unfathomable to outsiders, the theme of Luck seems universal to me.  Luck is something I grapple with in my own life and it was very interesting to see the way it has affected others.  Again, thank you so much.
  • I know that it must have been difficult for you to open up to complete strangers about the things you endured at such a young age.
  • A lot of us take our lives for granted, which is so wrong because we are so lucky to be where we are. I hope you continue sharing your experiences with people for many, many years to come.
  • Your speech was so inspirational. I almost started to tear up from your story when you started to talk about your luck.
  • I will forever take the memory of your words and pass them on to my children for them to remember.
  • Thank you for sharing your incredible story with us. I am so thankful that I am from a generation that still has an opportunity to hear stories first-hand from survivors like you, and I truly feel that I learned a lot.  Thank you for being so open with us.
  • Thank you for sharing your fascinating and diverse story of your survival, because it is crucial that people hear a more personalized part of the Shoah and can grasp it.
  • You really taught me to believe in luck and that things will work out for the better.
  • By sharing your story, you are not only doing a great mitzvah for the Jewish people, but you also possess the ability to teach and inspire others to promote tolerance and peace, something that no classroom textbook can teach us. I will treasure the moments of meeting people like you forever.

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