By Dara Bramson, Auschwitz Jewish Center (AJC) Manager of Programs Abroad
It was early 2010 when I visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage for the first time. The sweeping views and beautiful building amazed me, but I was focused on my purpose there: an interview for the AJC Fellows Program. I had just begun studying sociocultural anthropology—that semester I was taking a museum anthropology course—so I was beginning to ask questions about memory and space in new ways. What is the role of museums in the formation of collective memory? How are exhibitions reflections of institutional missions and national narratives? Walking through the core exhibition, I recall my overwhelming eagerness to have the opportunity to be a Fellow; I knew it would offer me the engagement, knowledge, and experience I was seeking.
Becoming a Fellow offered me so much more. In the short-term, it guided my academic path; in the long-term, it changed my life. I had the opportunity to learn from the MJH staff in New York and AJC staff in New York and Poland, who later became my colleagues when I was hired full-time in 2011. Each one of them—particularly Shiri Sandler, Tomek Kuncewicz, and Maciek Zabierowski as well as a number of brilliant mentors—shed light on novel perspectives that contrasted with my previous experiences in Poland and served as invaluable resources professionally and academically.
The past seven years working for the AJC in Poland as Manager of Programs Abroad has been a formative time in my personal and professional life. Facilitating academic experiences for hundreds of students, particularly the Program for Students Abroad, Customized Programs, and the first Human Rights Summer Program, which I was fortunate to co-lead with Yael Friedman, enabled me to learn and grow exponentially as an educator and researcher. Editing the newsletter and academic journal shed light on the gravity of the AJC’s impact through reading hundreds of in-depth reflections. What I have gained through this experience is immeasurable. I am grateful to have been engaged in this meaningful work that allowed me to honor the memory of victims and foster dialogue to learn from the past. I look forward to remaining involved with the important mission of the institutions and keeping in touch with you all.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. For additional blog entries by and about the Auschwitz Jewish Center, please visit: https://mjhnyc.org/tag/ajc. All Winter 2017 newsletter articles are found here.