During Thanksgiving break my senior year of college, my parents and I were brainstorming directions I could take between college and law school. I had few, but narrow criteria – I wanted to do something I was passionate about, to have an experience that would enrich my life in the coming years, and to work in a capacity where I felt like I was truly needed. I felt lost in the sea of job postings, but after some hopeful Googling I stumbled across the Jewish Service Corps. Live abroad and help strengthen Jewish communities using my past experience as a guide? I remember thinking that this was absolutely too good to be true, and that there had to be some catch. Yet seven months later, I’m preparing for my journey to Helsinki, Finland, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I didn’t choose Finland–Finland chose me. After a Skype interview with the JDC staff in February and a group interview in New York with other candidates in March, I spoke with representatives from placements with JDC Regions in Bulgaria and with BBYO in Helsinki.

I had noted on my application that my preference was to work in Europe. Over the years, I had heard stories from my grandparents about places in Europe where my family lived before emigrating to America, creating a deep connection to the region. A high school trip to Poland with USY furthered my interest in finding out what remains of these communities today.

Skyping with Deborah Oppenheimer, producer of Into the Arms of Strangers — and her Oscar

Towards the end of high school, I developed a fascination with English literature. The courses I took in college for the English major ranged from Shakespeare to Victorian Literature to European Political Theater, and I never stopped reading. I began to gain a sense of European history broader and more vibrant than the names and dates I had studied in AP Euro. The last course I took in college was a seminar on the Holocaust, taught by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust historian. She captivated the class with her provoking perspectives

on moral and ethical issues and the history of European Jewry, and I left college with a desire to learn more and to experience modern currents of European Jewry for myself.

Of all the placements JDC offered, the idea of living in the Nordics was especially appealing to me. Upon learning my placement in early June, my first thought was I can’t wait for winter! Since then, I’ve poured all my energy into researching the country, the language and travel destinations, and accumulating more winter gear. It’s been hard to plan for my work, because I have no idea what I’ll encounter. What I do know is, no matter what, this year promises to challenge my perceptions in a completely new way.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.  

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