I am entering my fourth year at McGill, majoring in Political Science and Jewish Studies. I am interested in politics in general though I am especially interested in international relations. Since I was very young I have been fascinated by geography and the makeup of the world so I think that this is where the interest stems from.
Professionally, international relations and diplomacy is an area that I would love to work in. Another area of interest is Jewish communal advocacy and I would consider a career that combines politics and the Jewish community. I would also like to move to the United States when I graduate and work there. I am a dual American-Canadian citizen but I have spent most of my life in Canada so that is where most of what I have done in my life has been. Considering that I am nearing graduation, I knew that I needed to begin forming connections and gaining experience in the United States. That is how I ended up in the Wiesenthal International Advocacy Internship Program.
The program is run by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York office. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) is an organization based in Los Angeles which promotes human rights and combats anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of hatred. It accredited as an NGO at numerous international organizations including the UN and maintains offices around the world.
The international advocacy program is designed to introduce participants to the world of international advocacy and diplomacy, and this was the inaugural year. There are three primary components. They are a work placement, weekly seminars with experts in international advocacy, and a mentorship. There is also longstanding counterpart program focused on local politics in the New York area.
My placement was the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. Most of the center’s work is in Poland where they operate numerous Jewish sites in Oświeçim, adjacent to Auschwitz, such as the town’s last remaining synagogue and the Jewish cemetery. They also run numerous educational programs for American university students and military cadets. I worked in the American office and I had numerous different responsibilities. Throughout most of the summer, I spent a significant amount of time working to identify and contact potential new donors, particularly foundations. The organization also needed to set up various things like a new website, premium Zoom account, and online payment system for which detailed comparisons of different options were needed. I also took care of organizational aspects such as answering emails on two email accounts. Finally, as one of only two employees in New York, I attended meetings and events on behalf of the organization.
While the work aspect of the internship program was very important, the highlights were the seminars and the mentorship. The seminars included people involved in international advocacy at the highest levels who graciously took time out of their busy schedules to meet with our small group. My mentor was also an incredibly interesting person who serves as the executive director of the New Jersey-Israel Commission. We met regularly and he always had great insights.
Being in New York also afforded me the opportunity take part in some other great networking opportunities that will help me in the future. Right before I began the internship, I attended the American Jewish Committee Global Forum where I was able to meet many people from around the world. Additionally, I volunteered on democratic primary campaigns in the Bronx.
The greatest challenge that I faced was actually starting. Due to the fact that there were three different parties involved, there were some communication issues and my start date kept getting put off. Thankfully, that was resolved about a week and a half after my intended start date. Following that, the only challenge I faced sometimes was feeling unprepared for what I was doing. Much of what I was doing was connected to fundraising, something I have no prior experience in.
The funds that I received from the Arts Internship Office made an enormous impact on my summer. Fortunately, most of my housing costs were covered as I stayed with a friend for the majority of my time in New York. I did have other significant costs to cover though such as food, local transportation, and flights.