Sophie Felder, 23, was a promising young Stern College graduate with an interest in politics; Devorah Goldman, 26, was a trained social worker who, after an internship in a drug rehabilitation center, realized that she wanted to effect change on the macro level.
The factor linking them? Both spent this year as the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s Legislative Fellows.
“The idea behind the fellowship is to give post-grads and recent college graduates some hands-on experience in policy work on a state and national level,” explained Jesse Hervitz, OU Advocacy’s assistant director of congressional affairs and the supervisor of the Legislative Fellows. “We see the fellowship as a stepping stone to policy and politics. It isn’t easy to break into politics. The goal is that after this year, Fellows have the hands-on experience to help them get that next job.”
As part of the fellowship, Fellows receive an entry-level salary that covers all their living expenses in the nation’s capital. In their first year, Fellows are expected to hit-the-ground running, learning how to research policy, organize lobbying missions, write legal briefs and communicate with policy-makers on state and national levels. The program functions as an all-inclusive guide to a day job on Capitol Hill.
Both Ms. Goldman and Ms. Felder were part of OU Advocacy’s successful effort in New York’s legislature which netted the private school community close to half a billion dollars in funding across a range of programs including universal Pre-K. Fellows also travel throughout the states where OU Advocacy mobilizes constituents to advocate for their needs on state levels. Travels included missions to Albany, NY; Tallahassee, FL; Trenton, NJ; and for Felder, a visit to Omaha, NE.
Both Ms. Felder and Ms. Goldman explained that helping the private school system was one of the reasons they applied to the fellowship.
“Jewish schools played a large role in my development and I wanted to give back,” explained Ms. Felder, who is from Providence, RI. “I want to be the person who helps provide that for other students.”
Ms. Goldman, who is from Lawrence, one of Long Island, NY’s Five Towns, received her Bachelor’s degree from Queens College and a Master’s degree in social work from Hunter College. During her internship at the drug rehabilitation center, she came to a conclusion about her patients.
“They were products of a failed educational system and a political system that had not served them well,” she said.
Among all their activities, Fellows are also expected to learn one of the core rules of DC etiquette: Knowing the right people.
“I’ve learned how important connections are,” explained Ms. Goldman. “It’s not just brainstorming, it’s learning how to work with people.”
The fellowship is not an easy one though.
“People really rely on you,” said Ms. Felder. “It’s not an internship where you can get away with mediocre work. You’re held to a high standard and your work matters for the organization.”
Since the highly competitive fellowship is only one year, OU Advocacy staff works with the Fellows to find placements for the following year.
“The greatest selling point of OU Legislative Fellows is that all of our previous Fellows have landed great jobs in policy either on Capitol Hill or in the Israeli Embassy,” explained Mr. Hervitz, who recently asked both Fellows for a list of organizations they were interested in working for.
Five years ago, he began his own legislative career as an OU Advocacy Fellow.
Fellowship applications are available on OU Advocacy’s web site, at http://advocacy.ou.org/about/legislative-fellowship. The deadline to apply is May 16th. Only applicants with a college degree will be considered.