Tony Rodriguez

Tony Rodriguez

The interdisciplinary approach that prevails in Jewish Studies courses sparked and sustained my interest in the program. With a passion for understanding the sensitive issues of antisemitism and genocide, I availed myself of the opportunities provided by the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies, UWM, and Milwaukee's Jewish community.

Dr. Rachel Baum's “Jewish and Christian Responses to the Holocaust” and “Jewish American Literature from the Holocaust to the 21st Century” introduced me to authors and texts that challenged conventional wisdom and encouraged me to think analytically about the Holocaust, Jewish identity, and Jewish popular culture. Dr. Baum's use of technology in the classroom and her innovative approach to teaching provided a forum for Jewish narratives as they relate to current social contexts.

One summer during college, I enrolled in an intensive program at the Catholic University of Lublin. While in Poland, I had conversations about the representation of Poles in Holocaust-related American cinema, and about responses to Jan Gross' 2001 highly controversial book Neighbors, an exposé on the destruction of the Jewish community of the Polish village of Jedwabne. I left Poland rejuvenated and wanting to know more. Dr. Lisa Silverman's “Introduction to Jewish History” and “The Jews of Modern Europe: History and Culture” helped me better understand the issues of contemporary genocides from a historical perspective. Her cutting-edge research inspired me to delve deeper, ask provocative questions, and seek not one, but several answers.

The guidance provided by Dr. Baum and Dr. Silverman has been instrumental in helping me reach my academic and career goals. If it had not been for their support, I would not have had the opportunities I have been given, including my current profession. I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Studies and History. In 2009, I received the Chava Frankfort-Nachmias Award for Excellence in Scholarship in Jewish Studies. I now work for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. (Claims Conference), an international organization that provides assistance to Nazi victims and funding for research and educational initiatives, and seeks the return of property lost during the Holocaust. As a Program Officer, I administer education and research grants in 14 U.S. states and 16 countries, allowing me to play a role in Holocaust education as well as in the rescue of several hundred archives in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and South America. In June 2010, I was sent as a representative of the Claims Conference to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research in Jerusalem. Over the past two years, I have traveled on behalf of the Claims Conference throughout the United States and Europe.