I started university like most typical students – with some social trepidation and lack of true academic/vocational direction. Being that it was my first time living on my own, in a small town and outside of Toronto’s large Jewish community ‘bubble’ – university was definitely an adjustment. As far as classes were concerned, science and math were out of the question, and the only subject I was remotely interested in discussing was politics. This eliminated all-but-one academic option; pursuing a liberal arts degree. While liberal arts certainly has many pluses, tangible (paid) employment opportunities are definitely not among them. It was, therefore, no surprise that I was left scratching my head when it came time to find a summer job after my first year of school. Luckily for me, my grandfather, Lionel Schipper, steered me in the direction of CJPAC, which, at the time, was an up-and-coming organization looking to attract young, politically-minded individuals to do anything and everything around their offices in Toronto. After spending an amazing summer working with the CJPAC team, what little doubts I had about my passion for politics quickly dissipated. And, as if the amazing summer internship experience wasn’t enough, I was lucky enough to be included in CJPAC’s first-ever, year-long fellowship program. Over the course of the year, I, along with approximately 20 other politically-minded, university students, was exposed to interactive and intense political discussions with various political strategists and Canadian politicians.
Throughout the fellowship, I was constantly in awe of the caliber of the lectures and fellow students that I was surrounded by. Being exposed to such a tremendous opportunity at such a young age has had a profound impact on my personal and professional life. Be it my pragmatic approach to Canadian politics, my subsequent professional experience working on election campaigns at municipal and provincial levels, or my most recent decision to return to graduate school and specialize in issues related to Canadian national security policy; the CJPAC fellowship helped play an important role in the personal, professional and academic choices I have made.
The fellowship taught me everything — from how to properly shake a person’s hand or how to behave in a professional setting, to the less tangible (but equally important) lessons about Canadian politics and the importance of hearing all sides of a political debate. The fellowship exposed me to so many wonderful people, networking opportunities, and, perhaps most importantly, to a pluralistic and interdisciplinary approach to politics that has helped shape my personal political beliefs and professional choices. Last, but not least, participating in the CJPAC fellowship allowed me to stay connected to the Jewish community in a way that was both meaningful and important to me.
I walked into university with a vague passion and no direction. Because of CJPAC’s fellowship program, I walked out of university feeling confident and employable — with many new skills and friends to boot. For that, I am eternally grateful.