First Person

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DR. ALAN MALTER, MJLS
Cold Spring, N.Y.
Retired psychiatrist and psychiatric administrator

What was your motivation for pursuing a degree in Jewish studies?

I am the product of an Orthodox yeshivah education through high school (YUHS/Manhattan), and though my life and career took a different direction, I retained a serious interest in Jewish studies, particularly Jewish history. Upon retirement, I found myself with the time and resources to pursue a long-held dream: systematic study.

dr. alan malterHow have your studies at Hebrew College helped you in your professional life?

I am probably a bit atypical in that I have pursued this degree independent of any particular career aspiration, but have certainly considered teaching at the adult level should the opportunity arise. I would never have entertained such a possibility prior to studying at Hebrew College.

In your personal life?

I believe that many of the insights I have gained, intellectual connections I have made and information I have had access to have enriched my knowledge and given me a deeper, more nuanced understanding of Judaism that is reflected in my interactions with others, not least of all with my young grandson. And I have been pleasantly surprised by the stimulation of some courses that I considered of marginal interest before taking them.

Whom or what do you draw inspiration from?

I have been inspired by many of my teachers, by historical and literary figures, but, perhaps most profoundly, by many of my patients who persevered and achieved success in the face of great adversity.

Describe the Jewish studies program in three words.

Informative, effective, fun.

Did you have a favorite class or professor?

It would be very difficult to identify a single class or professor as my favorite. However, because of my own interests, I have found a sequence of four courses on Jewish history, from the inception of the Israelite people through the modern period, taught by three different professors, to be the most gratifying.

What was it like to take an online degree program, and how may that have differed from your expectations?

I confess that I approached online learning with some trepidation, as I consider myself less than technologically adept. I was pleasantly surprised by the limited demands on my marginal computing skills. I was also surprised by the fact that, although some of the spontaneity of face-to-face classroom interaction is sacrificed, this is compensated for by the thoughtfulness of considered online discourse.

To whom would you recommend this program?

Those with career aspirations that require graduate-level study would, of course, be well-advised to consider this program. However, I think anyone with a serious and abiding interest in Jewish studies would be hard-pressed to find a better outlet for their interest.

What advice would you offer students just starting out in the Jewish studies program?

My only advice to any student entering the program is to immerse yourself in it. It offers a unique opportunity that should be taken maximal advantage of.