What does it mean for an undergraduate to work at The Magnes?
By David Puyandayev, Kohn Intern
Sophomore, Middlebury College
After I was accepted to the 2011 Kohn summer internship program, Jewish Vocational Services matched me up with The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life – not an agency I requested or ever heard about. I quickly learned that The Magnes is a Jewish museum dedicated to preserve the culture and history of the Jewish people in the Global Diaspora. But, what did I learn when I started my internship about The Magnes other than the reason the institution exists? In writing this blog, I will discuss how my work at the Magnes is unlike previous work I have done for other Jewish communal agencies. As rising sophomore in college, I must admit this is my first real internship experience.
On the first day of my internship, I had an informative orientation and an exciting tour of the Magnes inaugural exhibition at the Bancroft Library Gallery. The next day, after I settled in, my supervisor Alla Efimova, assigned me to draft an article for the Magnes newsletter about the grand opening of the new Magnes building on January 22, 2012. In past internships, I learned the mission of an agency and immediately forgot it with my first and most recurring assignment: folding letters and stuffing envelopes. In my internship with the Magnes, however, this isn’t the case. My first assignment entailed reading a folder bulging with grant proposals and articles about the new and extraordinary Magnes home at 2121 Allston Way, in Downtown Berkeley. Thus, the second day at the Magnes informed me that my internship experience will consist of both work and learning. It was truly a joy to know that I will learn about my agency as I work there. This opportunity to understand a workplace through an assignment has strengthened my connection to the Magnes.
There is no doubt that work at the Magnes is no longer mere work. It has become memorable work. I will not forget the agency I interned in during my college years; in fact, I will know how to promote it. After drafting an article for the Magnes newsletter, I was given a marketing research project. What is so remarkable about this project is that before I started it I sat in at a meeting led by Lauren Schiller, the Magnes marketing consultant. At that meeting, which was intended to determine the market positioning of the Magnes, I listened to the insightful feedback of a few important Magnes friends. Having understood, with great clarity and in great depth, the new mission of the Magnes, I dived into my second assignment. Simultaneously, during a Kohn weekly seminar meeting, Rebecca Goodman, the Kohn intern program coordinator, assigned the Kohn interns to prepare and present a pitch for our agencies. As I helped the Magnes with research for its marketing campaign, I put into words my knowledge by creating and continuously refining a pitch promoting the Magnes. What this Magnes marketing project and JVS pitch assignment mean is that I am now more than capable to promote my workplace, but what this really means is that there is a feeling of belonging to the workplace. When you know where you work and when you learn how to confidently explain where you work, you become comfortable with your workplace. An attitude of indifference toward your work is forever absent. The Magnes begins to function as work-home – a place where work is not only memorable, but also comforting.
Project three and last words:
After my two initial projects introduced me to the agency, I began to learn a great deal more about it in my third project. After learning the Magnes past and finding out where the institution stands today, my third assignment allowed me to discover what it is that the agency offers to the world. I began working on making the Magnes collection accessible online through the digital cataloging of some of the 10,000 precious artifacts. In addition to learning how to use Flickr and how to navigate the online collection on the Magnes website, I was for the first time learning about what the Magnes collects. I can tell you that the Magnes collects paintings and historical documents. Or, after having worked on this project, I can name and describe many of them and do so, in great detail.
This familiarity with the collection itself transcends a simple acquaintance with things and art Jewish. When you catalogue images of Ethiopian clay figurines depicting rabbis, your understanding of what it means to be Jewish significantly changes, and in turn, deepens. I hope you will experience much of what I did when you visit the opening exhibition, so make to save the date for the grand opening of the Magnes – the largest Jewish collection in the American West – in January 22, 2012! I hear the place is the world’s best-kept secret.