Intern of the week: Up-close glimpse into the Middle East

At the age of 22, Rachel Streitfeld speaks with the assurance of someone who knows where she’s headed in life. Her confidence has already gained her the respect of colleagues in the office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), where she has been an intern since March 2005.

 “I went into [her] office knowing that she’d be a role model for me,” Streitfeld said. “She showed me that a person who’s young can still be elected to an important political position.”

A senior at George Washington University, Streitfeld is majoring in Middle Eastern studies and minoring in political science. In addition to her studies, she spent the spring of 2006 in Egypt, studying at the American University in Cairo.
This was a brave decision in the eyes of some, because Streitfeld is Jewish. “Not only are you Jewish, but you’re American, and you decide to go to Cairo? There’s a lot of easier places for you to go and learn Arabic,” said Jonathan Beeton, Wasserman Schultz’s communications director.

Streitfeld said her decision to study abroad was fueled by her desire to “know, really know, what the deal is with Arab public opinion” about the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories. “I know the Israeli perspective like the back of my hand,” she said, adding that “if you’re a rational person, you want to hear the other argument.”
Since her return from Cairo, Streitfeld has continued to volunteer on a weekly basis at Wasserman Schultz’s office, where she usually handles constituent mailings.

As for post-graduation plans, Streitfeld said she wants to be involved in shaping public policy. And though she knows her interest in the Middle East will be lasting, she also wants to be involved in domestic concerns. In the future, she would like to run for public office in her native Florida, something she said “working for [Wasserman Schultz’s] office made me more confident to do.”