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An Intern With A Mission

Diana Lutfullina is the only Russian-speaker at Naomi Cherpak PR in Tel Aviv. She is currently interning with the company as part of the five-month Hadassah-WUJS Internship program and has already become a valuable member of the public relations team. Her role is to translate and sometimes write press releases and liaise with the Russian media in Israel.

Diana Lutfullina (25), who hails from Kazakhstan, hit the ground running within two weeks of landing in Israel in mid-September 2010. Although participants in the Hadassah-WUJS Internship program usually start their internships four or five weeks into their stay, Diana asked to start hers earlier. She began to work at Naomi Cherpak PR on a part-time basis after the Jewish holidays in September last year and once the intensive part of the Hebrew ulpan (language course) was complete, her position became full-time.

The company's clients include fashion and cosmetic houses and various upmarket restaurants in Tel Aviv. Prior to Diana's arrival, all dealings with the Russian media happened in Hebrew and they would have to translate the press releases themselves. Now Diana makes their lives easier as she can provide the service for them. In the short time since she has interned with Naomi Cherpak PR, she has developed good relationships with the media and they now know to call her direct.

Diana has not only made an impact on the media. She has shown her colleagues at the company that she is a hard worker who is willing to do what it takes.

According to Inbar Ronen, one of the PR consultants with whom Diana works, she is definitely part of the team. "Diana doesn't just help us out around the office like most interns," says Ronen. "She does almost the same job as I do, translating press releases, sometimes writing them, working with the media, and more. She is our first full-time intern and she takes her work seriously. Diana is always punctual and does the work required of her. She feels the obligation to work even though she's not being paid, and doesn't take advantage by taking long lunches or leaving early."

Diana's goal is to be hired by Naomi Cherpak PR or, if not, to at least get a great reference. But she realizes that working hard and smart can only benefit her. "The more hours I work here, the more I get out of it," she says. "I am learning so much here and I find it very interesting work. Attending press conferences, writing press releases, translating articles and dealing with the media is great fun and I'm really enjoying all of it."

Seeing her work in print and online has been one of her greatest achievements since starting her internship, but the respect she gets from the journalists, clients and her colleagues has been the most rewarding. "The Russian media recognize me at events that are unrelated to my work. I went to a party for Kazakstan Independence Day and they all came to say hello and talk to me. It felt great.

"Everyone here treats me like I'm part of the office, as if I'm an employee. I don't feel I'm interning here, like I'm just shifting papers around. I'm really a part of something."

And she has proven that she has what it takes on numerous occasions, but one experience stands out for her. She managed to get one of her food clients onto Russian Channel 9 without having to pay advertising costs or sponsorship fees. "My client was very happy and it felt amazing to be able to do this."

Diana was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan in the Former Soviet Union. Her grandparents, who had been evacuated from the Ukraine during the Second World War, moved to Kazakhstan and her mother was born during a time when all religious practice and customs were restricted.

She grew up without any knowledge of Judaism. She knew she was Jewish, but she also knew her mother wasn't able to be a part of a Jewish life due to the circumstances at the time. Things had changed dramatically in the FSU by the time Diana reached her 20s, and practicing religion was no longer forbidden. She recalls a funny story of how they "returned" to Judaism.

"My mother always wears a Star of David around her neck and one day, a woman came to her and asked if she was Jewish," says Diana. "She was quite surprised, but she said yes and the woman, who turned out to be from the Jewish Agency, invited her to come to the offices and meet other Jews, attend lectures and celebrate holidays with them."

She went with her mother a few times, but it was Diana who became more involved, more interested in the events, lectures, meetings and celebrations. An only child, she really enjoyed getting to know her roots and becoming more aware of her Judaism. "We even started celebrating the holidays at home, which was great."

In 2008 Hesed, an organization in Kazakhstan that helps Jews to live as Jews, together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) arranged an exchange program bringing American Jewish students to Kazakhstan for 10 days.

"They came on a volunteer program to help look after the elderly," says Diana, "but it was also an opportunity for Jewish students from both countries to get to know each other. We socialized together, celebrated the Jewish holidays and made good friends."

This experience got her thinking about doing something similar and she spoke to the coordinator at the Jewish Agency about the various options in Israel. She had visited the country briefly in October 2009 with her mother and wanted to return.

She was shown the Masa Israel catalogue, which has a variety of long-term academic, volunteer and internship programs in Israel. Hadassah-WUJS provides young Jewish adults from around the world with an unforgettable Israel experience. Based in the simultaneously ancient, historic and modern cities of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Hadassah-WUJS provides participants with the opportunity to combine study, volunteering and professional internships all within a dynamic, safe environment. Diana chose the internship.

"It was very important for me to choose an internship program," she says. "I wanted to be able to work in Israel and gain experience here for various reasons. But most importantly, I hope to make Aliyah sometime soon and I don't want to come here without having a job or some work experience in this country. My mother's friends all had a tough time when they first arrived – without work, without being able to speak the language – and I don't want to have the same happen to me."

Although Diana's education had a business focus – she has a BA in Economics and Management from the International Academy of Business – she worked for a sanitary-ware company in the PR and marketing division for three years.

"I really enjoyed it and decided I'd like to focus on this field for my future career," says Diana. "The company is keeping my job for me for the five months I'm here, but I've told them I'm not sure yet if I will go back to it. I would love it if this company decided to hire me full-time after my internship. I have a life in Kazakhstan, but I want to live here, to work here, and to develop my knowledge and skills here.

"Israel is a developed and developing country," she says. "I don't think I would be able to gain as much in the PR and marketing field in Kazakhstan. It's not as developed as it is in Israel and I think I would get more experience here."

This is not the first time Diana will be spending such a long time away from home. In 2006, soon after graduating, she spent six months in San Diego, California, doing a pre-MBA course at Woodbury University – and improving her English.

When choosing where to be placed in Israel, she decided that Tel Aviv was where she wanted to be. "Tel Aviv is 'my city'," she says. "I fell in love with it when we visited my Mom's friends who all live here. Jerusalem is not modern enough for me. Life here goes so fast and it has more opportunities.

"I feel I'm starting life over again. I'm enjoying the program so much and I love the girls who are living with me. I don't ever feel alone. We have a very busy schedule and there is plenty to do on the program. And my English is improving every day."

But what about Hebrew, you might ask? "I'm enjoying learning Hebrew," says Diana. "Most of my Mom's friends and their children speak Hebrew, so I get a lot of help from them, and I hear Hebrew at work all the time. The Hebrew language is my heritage, my roots, so I really want to learn…"

Diana speaks a little of the differences between Kazakhstan and Israel. "I like the country and how people behave here. They're softer than back home and they are more polite and more open people. It feels good here. The work mentality is different and I don't feel as much pressure as in Kazakhstan," she concludes.

Ends

For further information, please contact:
Darryl Egnal at Koteret PR Mobile: +972 54 884 5237 Email: darryl_e@koteret.com
Diana Lutfullina Mobile: +972 52 579 05 84 Email: diana.lutfullina@gmail.com or
lovedi@inbox.ru

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