CCPA Summer Series 2019: National Museum of American Jewish History

CCPA Summer Series 2019: National Museum of American Jewish History

By David Ly

As a potential Classics major, I wanted to explore the different career possibilities that were available to me but unfortunately, there weren’t many. Most of the careers available to Classics majors were somewhere in museums and libraries. Thus when I was searching for an internship, I was looking for something that would give me some experience in those two fields. Luckily, I was able to discover a summer internship at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) on Handshake. I applied right away and after a long-staking interview process, I secured an internship in the Development Department of the museum. It was a very exciting opportunity and I was looking forward to learning a lot about careers in museums.

The staff and interns at NMAJH were wonderful people. Everyone was so welcoming to each other. I really appreciated how everyone was willing to make some time in their busy day to sit and talk to me about their career. My job as a Development Intern at NMAJH was a very peaceful job. Many of my tasks involved researching potential donors to the museum and building a profile around them to submit to my boss. I was also assigned to write out letters to prominent people in Philadelphia. For example, during my internship, NMAJH was preparing an exhibition for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). Often known as the “Notorious RBG”, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is best known as a renowned activist who helped launch the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in addition to being one of the first women to be appointed Supreme Court Justice in America. It is known that those who had clerked for her as a law clerk have later came to have very successful careers in the law field. Thus my assignment for the exhibition was to research all of her law clerks and build a profile around them so that NMAJH can reach out to them for their support for the RBG exhibition. This profile has span to about 60 notable lawyers in the United States. I even had to draft a letter to send out to those lawyers to convince them to support the museum. It was through assignments like these that I was able to strongly improve my research skills and my marketing writing skills for future careers.

Another thing that the internship offered were seminars. Every week NMAJH would host a seminar talking about the operations of a museum and the different factors that were involved in keeping the museum alive. Those seminars honestly opened my eyes. I never thought that museums operated the way the seminars taught me. Every seminar had a member from each department of the museum come to talk about their role. The most interesting seminar I found was from Cobi Weissbach, the Director of Development, at NMAJH. What Cobi did was that he disclosed the budget of the museum to the interns and walked through every line with us to make sure we understand where the money comes and goes. Seeing that budget sheet was the coolest thing I have seen during my time there. It was super interesting to learn about all the different sources of income that museums had and the different things they have to invest in to keep the museum afloat.

Overall, my experience as an intern at NMAJH in their development department was a great one. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me to see what it would be like to work in a museum, see how they function, and listen to everyone’s life story of how they ended up working at NMAJH. But if I was asked to reflect back on my experience and say what I remember most, it would be speed-dating day in the office. This was basically a networking day with the staff at NMAJH. I remember speaking with my boss, Caroline Siebal, that day and listening to her experience and how she ended up NMAJH. It was truly interesting to see how she ended down that path as a history major. Even listening to Cobi’s story taught me a lot. Cobi had majored in History and Religious Studies and he loved serving his Jewish community. And then through life’s road, his career led him towards becoming the Director of Development at NMAJH. It was very interesting to me to see how someone who majored in something so different landed in a career that I didn’t think the major applied to. That made me aware of the fact that I shouldn’t focus too much on worrying about finding a job but doing what I love most. Hopefully by doing so, life will lead me down a path that would bring me joy like the staff here. Thus I am truly grateful for this experience at NMAJH and the lessons the staff has taught me.