Alyssa Bogdanow

On the impact of travel and relationship building on her Jewish identity

Alyssa BogdanowAt the age of four, Alyssa's parents took her and her two brothers to Israel. “I think it was very important to my parents that we all experienced Israel for ourselves from an early age,” says Alyssa. “They didn’t want Israel to be an abstraction that we talked about at home or at synagogue or in Hebrew school, but a real place that we could visualize. So for example, when we learned about Masada in religious school, we better understood its significance because we’d been there.”

That was the first of many trips Alyssa made, some with her parents, others with her grandparents. Wherever she traveled, she sought to understand and experience the local Jewish life.

Her first experience working in the Jewish community was in Warsaw one summer while she was in college.

""I have a very vivid memory of taking a train from Warsaw to Gdansk, which is a city bordering the Baltic Sea in Poland, and reading my great-grandmother’s memoirs while overlooking essentially the same landscape that was her home before she had emigrated,” remembers Alyssa. “That was a very powerful experience, bringing together family, Judaism, and travel in a single moment. It connected me to my family's history and to the history of the Jewish people.”

“I was in Warsaw to gain professional experience in preparation for my future work in the Jewish world,” she says. Alyssa’s internship was with Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a “non-profit Polish organization whose mission is to foster Polish-Jewish dialogue, eradicate anti-Semitism and teach tolerance through education,” where Alyssa learned the importance of relationship-building as a strategic tool.

“The revelation that relationship building can be an important and impactful tool within the Jewish community made me want to do this professionally,” says Alyssa. At the American Jewish Committee’s D.C. office, where she worked as a Goldman Bridge Fellow prior to attending the Hornstein Program, Alyssa was involved, among other things, in building relationships with young members of the diplomat and interfaith communities.

“These are not just relationships for relationships' sake,” she says. “We are always thinking about our common ground and how we can work together on issues of mutual concern. How can we focus on our similarities? How can we work together to improve the world?”

Alyssa is eager to be entering the Jewish professional community at this time in history, which she views with optimism and hope. In July, she joins the Jacobson Family Foundation as a portfolio associate.

In Her Own Words: An Interview with Alyssa Bogdanow

This interview with Alyssa was published in the Hornstein Program's Impact Newsletter, March 2016. If you would like to quote any part of this conversation, please attribute content to the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and link to this page. All rights reserved.

“I think it's our responsibility as Jewish leaders to seek out opportunities to visit these communities, to ask questions, and to understand the perspectives of people on the ground. Only then can we start to understand what really concerns World Jewry.”

Alyssa Bogdanow, MA/MPP’16