Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Volunteer Profile: Paul Martin Sautner, 2015

Hometown: Vienna, Austria

What attracted you to the AJC? A few years ago, I developed an interest in Middle Eastern cultures and languages. I became fascinated by the thousands of years of traditions, rituals, and the rich cultural history. When I learned about the AJC, I was drawn to the opportunity to teach and learn about Judaism and Jewish culture, not only the Shoah. The AJC offered me the opportunity I was looking for.

What are you enjoying most about your volunteer experience? I learn the most interesting things from questions from groups I guide that I don’t know the answer to. I also really enjoy visits from Israeli groups: last week, for example, we had a group of young Israelis. One of them told us that one of his ancestors lived in Oświęcim and showed us his great-grandfather in one of the pictures at the AJC.

How has volunteering affected you? 
I certainly have become more reliable and responsible here. Also, I feel more confident and comfortable speaking in front of groups. I have learned to express my thoughts more clearly and efficiently. Working here, I am learning about Judaism and Polish culture in an engaging, less abstract manner.

What is one thing you'd like others to know about the AJC or think people don't know? When I was still in Austria, preparing to come to Poland, I told people that I was going to Oświęcim to work there for a year. I did not meet a single person who knew what Oświęcim was, and when I clarified, people assumed it would be a depressing experience. Life in Oświęcim, however, is not depressing at all. It is a beautiful, dynamic town. People must know that the focus of the AJC is not on death and destruction, but rather on life.