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Programs Offer a Glimpse of How to Maneuver After College
The impending transition forces students to consider the central question of their young lives at this point: How can I land a job?
In order to facilitate their search, local Jewish mentoring projects -- like those run by Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Heritage Program -- have sprung up in recent years.
By matching students with mentors in their area of interest, these programs aim to provide Philadelphia's next generation of leaders with powerful role models.
A recent retreat, for example, allowed students to mingle with a cardiologist, a published author, a theater producer and a slew of lawyers, financiers and philanthropists, among others.
Over the course of the event, which was held at a swanky Center City penthouse, tennis pro Julian Krinsky talked about pursuing his passion for youth education and sports, and real estate mogul David Adelman traced his path from an undergraduate at Ohio State University to president of Campus Apartments, a realty company based in West Philadelphia.
Temple University junior Bryanna Cohen, one of roughly 200 students who attended, said she was impressed by such speakers.
"This is an incredible opportunity to build networks," said the double major in public relations and Jewish studies. "It definitely is who you know, as opposed to what you know."
But the event proved to be more than pure schmoozing; it also offered participants a chance to hear how Jewish values figured into individual success stories.
Lawyer Susanna Lachs, for example, told students that her "engagement in Judaism was not by accident."
Instead, Lachs, the daughter of a Conservative rabbi, said that she made a conscious decision to join the board of directors at Temple Adath Israel in Merion Station, and to get involved with the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education, as "leadership is responsibility."
Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Program, underscored the importance teaching this balancing act: By introducing students to mentors who represent both positive business models and Jewish values, the group can impart "the value added in being part of the Jewish community."
Hillel's mentoring program, which just started this month, has a similar goal.
According to Candy Emerson, the organization's assistant director for institutional advancement, enhancing student leadership -- cultivating competent, connected mentees -- fits in nicely with Hillel's dual mission of building Jewish identity and supporting the community.
What's more, said Emerson, the program aims to give mentors a stronger sense of Jewish connectedness.
For the program's kick-off event, held at the Union League, two professionals -- life coach Lorraine Cohen and educator John Crosby -- instructed a dozen or so young people on ways to initiate and maintain fruitful relationships.
Among other things, Cohen advised job-seekers to articulate what they can do to help others -- "You need to tell people benefits; what your value is to other people" -- and to network with all types.
"Don't brush aside people off the bat," said Cohen. "Each person knows at least 250 people, and you don't know where that person might come back into your life a year, two years, from now."
Crosby, who directs a mentoring nonprofit called the Uncommon Individual, added that participants should take advantage of the fact that both sides of the equation have something in common: their religion.
"If you mentor a Jew with another Jew, that's important," said Crosby, a former superintendent of schools in Radnor. "Those samenesses help you develop a relationship faster."
For Julian Krinsky, that was the point exactly. "Jews trust Jews," he told a gathering of students. "We're all in this together."