First Person

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Brooklyn, N.Y.
Marketing Director, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

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

As someone making a career in Jewish communal service, I wanted to have deep content knowledge to support the work I do.

david levyHow has your Jewish studies degree helped you in your professional life?

No matter my role, I can always participate in the Jewish conversation. Meetings never need to stop to fill me in on the background, lingo or context. The Jewish Studies degree enables me to contribute to the conversation beyond the particular sphere of my role.

In your personal life?

I certainly am better equipped to participate in Torah discussions at shul, and I lead significantly better seders.

Whom or what do you draw inspiration from?

I couldn't help but be inspired by my professors who have spent entire careers devoted to Jewish text, while living very Jewishly engaged lives, whose eyes still lit up at favorite passages or the introduction of a new idea by a student or colleague.

Describe the Jewish studies program in three words.

Deep, rich content.

Did you have a favorite class or professor?

I had a few favorite classes, but the common thread was studying classic text (Tanach with Marc Brettler, Talmud with Benji Samuels, and Reuven Cohn's superlative Haggadah class) in the original languages. Whether we were examining texts or traditions that were intimately familiar or "new" ancient ideas I was encountering for the first time, I always came away with a deeper appreciation of how these texts were understood in their original contexts and how I and my peers continue to interpret and implement them today.

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

Each online class was a new experience, and each professor used the online environment differently. In the best of those classes, I really felt like I got to know my classmates, sometimes even better than in those classes I attended in person. Because discussions from previous weeks continued to be accessible online, it also made it easier to build on (and refer back to) learning from earlier in the semester, which helped create a thicker, more connected sense of learning.

To whom would you recommend this program?

Intellectually curious, independently motivated and Jewishly connected individuals.

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

Take as much Hebrew as you can as early on in the process as possible. Facility with the language opens up texts, and therefore your learning, to such an incredible degree.