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Two summers ago, Lisa Damast, 23, from New Rochelle attended Senate committee hearings related to health issues on behalf of New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Starting in January, she will be attending the Jewish Agency`s Ulpan Etzion as a new olah.
Damast interned for Clinton for nine weeks, thanks to an Orthodox Union summer program. Besides attending Senate hearings, her main responsibility was maintaining correspondence with Clinton's constituents in New York.
Upon arriving in Israel on Tuesday's Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of New York immigrants, Damast was given a Hebrew newspaper with the headline, "Hillary's personal assistant is making aliya." Damast said the exaggerated headline had surprised her because of the many classes she had taken on journalistic ethics, as she earned her Bachelor's degree in communications at Boston University.
"Seeing the newspaper was surreal," Damast said. "Hillary has several assistants. In America, [a journalist] would be called out for that."
After the 2005 internship on Capitol Hill, Damast had an internship last summer in Jerusalem, working for the successful Jerusalem hi-tech firm Answers.com. She currently works in marketing for ebizq.net, an on-line publishing company.
As soon as her Hebrew is ready, Damast wants to be a spokeswoman for a member of Knesset and eventually, perhaps, a diplomat for the Foreign Ministry. She said she came from a Zionist home and that her parents, who met at a UJA event in New York, were brought together by Israel.
"Since I was little, I always felt a strong connection to the land," Damast said. "I came annually, I worked here last summer, I saw what it's like to live here. My parents have been supportive of my aliya - but like any parents, they would like me closer to home."
Asked about Clinton's approach to Israel, she said Israelis should have nothing to worry about if she gets elected president.
"From my experience interning in her office, there were different Jewish groups who met with her on a daily basis," Damast said. "I saw firsthand what she did for upstate New York. I have no doubt that she would continue to support Israel strongly as president."