Spreading the Light

When COVID-19 first hit, like many other local direct service organizations, Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) was unsure of the tremendous impact it would have. Since the Great Recession and for the past 47 years, JVS has been enacting its mission, transforming lives by building in-demand skills and helping people find work to achieve self-sufficiency. Fast forward to today with thousands of Bay Area community members experiencing extreme financial hardship having lost their jobs—and that’s where JVS’s long history and wealth of knowledge in assisting people during adverse times—has been invaluable. And it made it possible for JVS to quickly pivot and adapt to the new challenges the pandemic presented.

Rapid Response Efforts

Last spring, JVS launched more than 20 new virtual job search workshops and distributed over $250,000 in emergency resources to help people remain financially stable and get back to work. From groceries to internet bills, folks were able to maintain life’s necessities.

One example of how JVS clients and community partners benefitted from free support services is told first-hand by Luh, an immigrant who struggled to break into tech. Through JVS programs, she learned about networking, using keywords, polishing her LinkedIn profile, and practicing interviews, which eventually landed her a position with Congregation Emanu-El, changing her life for the better.

Kohn Internship

Another example of their efforts buoying the community during challenging times is the Kohn Internship, JVS’s longest-running program.

Last summer, 24 Jewish Bay Area college students participated in this invaluable, remotely led, paid work internship at a time when other organizations were forced to cancel theirs. While students were isolated from one another, the Kohn Internship program provided a meaningful opportunity to not only engage with one another socially but simultaneously build valuable professional skills and support local Jewish nonprofits.

By adapting the internship and its Friday seminars to a completely remote model, interns were better prepared for a new workforce normal. Students navigated various digital communication channels, including Zoom, Slack, Outlook, SharePoint, and Google Workspace, collaborating with their host organizations and internally with their cohort. Organizations that needed specific projects completed were able to utilize JVS interns who had the required skills to complete them. Conversely, interns received specific offerings that organizations were able to provide. And with the Federation’s grant, was able to support Jewish organizations that otherwise would not be in a position to host interns.

With Summer 2021 just around the corner, JVS is eager and excited to continue this vital program that serves many Bay Area Jewish community organizations. We are very grateful for the generous support of the Federation and will continue to work together towards fulfilling the Federation's larger goal of increasing engagement in Jewish life.

The Federation is a core funder of the Kohn Intern Program and additionally provided supported JVS’s COVID response efforts with a $115,000 emergency grant.

If you work for an organization interested in hosting a Kohn intern this summer or know a college student who is looking for a stimulating and engaging internship, find out more by visiting their website or contacting Aryeh Fein.

For a comprehensive look at JVS’s accomplishments, refer to their 2020 Impact Report.

Categories: Community, Grantees


February 23, 2021


Aryeh Fein