UB's Jewish Student Union president spends summer with the Jewish Education Project in New York City
Jessica Lemons participated in the Collegiate Leadership Internship Program (CLIP) and plans to bring her experiences to the Jewish community at UB
Without conversation, life becomes an echo chamber. And there’s no growth in an echo chamber, according to Jessica Lemons.
The senior communication major is determined to bring Judaism to public conversation.
This summer, Lemons participated in the Collegiate Leadership Internship Program (CLIP) through New York University (NYU) and was placed in the Jewish Education Project’s (JEP) teen department. The experience has made her enthusiasm for discussion – and for Judaism – blossom. This year, she plans to make her voice heard and known on campus.
Now that school’s started, she’s dedicating her time to acting as president of the Jewish Student Union and being an active member of “UB for Israel,” a group focused on promoting the fundamental right of Israel to exist as a Jewish nation, according to the UB for Israel Facebook page.
Although she was never too involved with the Jewish community growing up, her Birthright trip sparked a love for the culture and faith and the conversation that comes with both.
“Building such a strong connection to my peers in the land of Israel made it easier to get involved in the Jewish community,” Lemons said. “I’m also from an interfaith home so I love interfaith collaborations and organizing and participating in cross-cultural and cross-faith conversations and activities.”
Representing the Jewish perspective on campus is “incredibly rewarding” for Lemons, but she admits that religious conversations can sometimes become controversial and uncomfortable.
“I love being able to represent a perspective on campus, but it’s definitely not easy,” Lemons said. “With opinions and beliefs come people who disagree with you. The most important thing to keep in mind is the power of conversation.”
Lemons’ summer internship helped foster her passion for dialogue. Besides curating topics, content and authors for the JEP’s blog, Lemons also assisted in the creation of the Jewish Futures website.
The internship gave her an opportunity to explore New York City. Between attending seminars on topics like diversity, identity development, networking and leadership skills, she was exposed to new sides of the Big Apple.
“I’m getting a little taste of everything from restaurants to parks to plays,” Lemons said. “I’ve hit almost everything on my summer to-do list including The High Line and three Broadways musicals and walking the Chelsea Pier.”
Besides recreational activities, she was grateful to have welcoming supervisors who assigned her meaningful work.
“I knew that if I did CLIP, I wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle or be stuck fetching coffee all summer,” she said.
Jay Herman, CLIP’s program manager, originally interviewed her and brought her on the project. He was not disappointed to have her on the team – and he certainly wanted her to be more than a coffee runner.
“[Lemons] in particular is personal, approachable, and a great convener of Jewish leaders,” Herman said in an email. “Any time there is a conversation about engaging students Jewishly or on the topic of Israel, [Lemons] shows up ready to share and ready to listen.”
Justin Rosen Smolen, former CLIP coordinator and current supervisor at the Jewish Education Project, also noticed Lemons’ communicative flair and enthusiasm. He said her best quality was making “clear and sensitive requests while remaining flexible and adaptive to the changing nature of a new project” – important skills for work on cross-cultural and cross-religious projects.
“I really do love the people I worked with,” Lemons said. “I know this sounds cheesy, but the only negative thing about my internship was that it wasn’t long enough.”
But now that it’s ended, she’s determined to keep the conversation alive and moving on campus.
“It would be such a shame if we didn’t engage regularly in conversations with a variety of different people – life would become an echo chamber.”