How a Jewish Summer Internship Changed My Life

Living in Jackson, Mississippi, but devoid of a Southern accent, I am often asked where I’m from. When I confess that I’m from Connecticut, the next question is usually to ask how I got here. The surprising answer: a summer internship, almost a decade ago.

In 2007, I was a junior at Brandeis University, looking for something unique to do with my summer. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to spend those months before starting my senior year. But I was interested in museums, so when I came upon the listing for an internship at a Jewish museum in Mississippi, I was intrigued.

Summer interns visiting Delta synagogues.
Summer interns visiting Delta synagogues

The only things I had ever learned about Mississippi (or the South in general, really) were that events from the Civil War and civil rights movement took place there, and that it was hot. But Jews in the South? That was a story I knew nothing about, so I applied – and, long story short, had one of the most transformative summers of my life.

READ: Jews in the Civil Rights Movement

How transformative? Well, after sharing the stories of the Southern Jewish experience over and over throughout the summer, I decided I wanted to become part of that experience. So upon graduation, much to my mother’s chagrin, I made the permanent move to Mississippi to work full time for the umbrella organization of that Jewish museum: The ISJL. Now Jackson has truly become my home; I met my husband here, we bought our house here, and this year we welcomed our son here — my child really is a native Mississippian!

Summer interns visiting historic Dockery Farms
Summer interns visiting historic Dockery Farms

I now have the pleasure of welcoming new interns and Education Fellows to Jackson each summer. The mission of the ISJL is so compelling that we recruit students and recent graduates from all over the country. Over the summer, adventurous folks – most of whom are “not from around here” – travel all over the region, learning about cultural traditions, working with community partners, and often breaking down stereotypes they may have had about the South. There’s also usually occasions for ice cream, county fairs, and blues festivals. You can read some of their experiences here and here.

This week, the ISJL’s Museum and Community Engagement Departments are posting our new summer intern listings for 2016. If you or someone you know has an adventurous spirit and is interested in getting hands-on experience on a wide range of projects in an alternative part of the country, I highly encourage you to check out our site with more information about the internships.

Who knows – it just might change your life.

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