Abigail Kolker

Career Israel
Program: 
 
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in Urban Studies and Hispanic Studies, I knew I wanted to live abroad and do social justice work. During college I volunteered with Mexican migrant workers in the United States and I hoped to explore this phenomenon in a different country. I had family members that spent time in Israel and encouraged me to go there. I enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel Program where I lived in Tel Aviv, alongside other Jewish recent college graduates from all over the world, I interned with two non-profit organizations that provide aid to non-citizens in Israel.
 
At Mesila Aid & Information Center, which offers migrant workers in Tel Aviv social and legal services, I took on various roles. In addition to working on a committee to prevent the deportation of the children of migrant workers, I was responsible for amassing information about newer populations in Israel by interviewing individuals from Sri Lanka and India. At the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), I worked at the pregnant women’s shelter and organized a fundraising party to raise seed money for a microfinance project for the women. 
 
My work took me throughout Tel Aviv and showed me a side of the city that few tourists see. In my work at Mesila, I conducted interviews to see the effect of an educational empowerment course for Filipino women. In the course, they had received guidance in demanding their legal rights in Israel. They were very emotional in their feedback and it was astounding to see how much the course had helped them achieve a sense of dignity.
 
At the pregnant women’s shelter, I learned about the difficult journey many of the women had taken to reach Israel. A young mother shared stories of her treks, while 8-months pregnant, through the hot desert during the day and her nights spent sleeping behind rocks. Thinking of the land of milk and honey which lay ahead, the woman and her group often kept going with only one liter of water to split among them. She wondered why she had even endured those hardships when the reality of Israel was not as she had dreamt. 
 
In addition to giving me hands-on experience in a field that I am passionate about, my Career Israel internships allowed me to simultaneously gain focus and realize the many avenues where I can take my interest. Instead of giving me answers, my internships raised new questions that I hope to tackle in my future research. It also made Israel a core part of my life and a place that I will visit often, whether for my research or just to see old friends. 
 
Today, I work at the Grupo de Mujeres de la Argentina, a think tank for marginalized people in Argentina, where I do similar work while gaining a new perspective. Though I have taken my work elsewhere, Israel is still very much in my thoughts. Having met many Argentinean people while living in Israel, I am looking forward to meeting their friends and exploring the Buenos Aires Jewish community. 
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