While her friends back in America are pounding the pavement looking for work or taking refuge in graduate school, 23-year-old Caroline Reder has spent the past 10-months working for the Debt Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Finance where, among other things she was instrumental in the behind-the-scenes work for a EUR141.0 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the State of Israel.
Reder is one of a select group of highly talented young people from around the world participating in Masa’s Israel Government Fellows
program of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which offers them an unprecedented entrée into the Israeli Government.
“Nowhere else can you intern or work in government unless you are a national,” said Reder, a Boston native and 2009 graduate of the University of Maryland College Park. “Nowhere else can you be a part of such an amazing group of people from all over the world. This has really been a unique and fulfilling experience.”
The Israel Government Fellows program is a Menachem Begin Heritage Center program operated under the umbrella of Masa Israel, established in 2007. The program works in cooperation with the Israeli Government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Civic Service Administration to offer young people (ages 22 to 30) internship and work experience in departments that run the gamut from finance to international and foreign affairs, with positions available in such places as the Department for Combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust Remembrance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It’s not just the Fellows who gain from this partnership.
“This is the second time we’re taking part in this program and we’ve been very happy,” said Gil Cohen Director for the Foreign Dept Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Finance.
Cohen said they look for Fellows who are fluent in English, since this is the international language used in the financial arena, as well as experience in finance or economics. Fortunately, Reder had made all the requirements and more.
“We interviewed six or seven candidates and Caroline was our first choice. She is very smart and nice and willing to work hard.”
Not surprisingly, the Fellows who are accepted are all highly talented and accomplished.
“It’s really a very selective program. We choose the best candidates to really serve and work on the inside of the Government of Israel,” said Israel Government Fellows Director, Tamar Darmon.
In addition to the work itself, participants study Hebrew in an ulpan, learn about Israeli history, society and politics, and participate in regular seminars and day-trips, where they meet with some of Israel’s most influential thinkers and policy makers. Even the hikes and day-trips that are built into the program are more than just a fun way to tour the country. So it is that a visit to the Golan Heights also involves meeting with former minister and General Effie Eitam to discuss the strategic of the area.
“These participants are really exposed to the professional side of working in government and the decision-making process. Through the seminars and trips we organize, Fellows meet and are exposed to prominent figures from the academic arena and the public sector, to discuss the serious questions and issues facing Israelis today,” said Darmon.
For her part, Reder feels the program has opened her up to a whole new world of ideas and experiences.
“The Israel Government Fellows program has given me a wonderful perspective on Israel and on the greater Middle East, provided us with the opportunity to remold or reinforce our previous opinions about Israel and has given us enough information and resources through speakers and seminars to better represent Israel when we return to our home communities,” she said.
In the meantime, she is enjoying living in Israel.
“Living here has opened my eyes to day-to-day life in Israel,” said Reder. “This kind of true perspective is only possible by actually living here and seeing daily interactions. It’s arresting to see how normal it is for Jews and Arabs to live together and how on the fringe the news stories we read about really are.”
After her stint at the Ministry of Finance ends, Reder intends to stay in Israel for a while and then go on to graduate school in international relations.
Darmon is proud of the fact that many Fellows go on to prestigious graduate schools and jobs in Jewish and Israeli organizations.
“We are delighted that the experience that the program gives the Fellows helps them to start successful professional careers, whether they choose to return home or to stay in Israel,” she said.