First Person

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Seattle, Wash.

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

As a Christian with a deep curiosity about Judaism, I was looking for a program that opened my eyes to aspects of my own faith community as well as to the Jewish world I had never dreamed of. I also wanted to learn Hebrew well, in both biblical and modern Israeli forms.

julie gilmourHow has the Jewish studies program impacted your life?

I cannot say enough about the impact the program has had on my life. It connected me to unknown worlds, gave me lifelong friendships and ultimately precipitated a re-imagining of my Christian faith. The program also helped me to develop nuance and complexity at many levels: politics, faith, history, literature. And it fostered the growth of my love for Israel at a time when I was increasingly interested in spending time there.

Whom or what do you draw inspiration from?

I take inspiration from many poets, writers and teachers, especially those who apply themselves through Judaism (or Christianity) to the task of "tikkun olam" (repairing the world). I draw from Levinas, Yehuda Amichai, the Baal Shem Tov, Yossi Klein Halevi, Shlomo Riskin, Hillel, Martin Buber, Shlomo Carlbach and Ilya Kamisnky, to name a few. If all our spiritual streams are rushing toward the great ocean of our humanity, each has so much to offer.

Describe the Jewish studies program in three words.

Provacative, fascinating, demanding.

Did you have a favorite class or professor?

My Talmud class with Sol Schimmel, in which we covered a range of selected "sugyot" (topics), opened up a whole world of rabbinic discourse to me. I also loved courses taught by Barry Mesch, Gila Ramras-Rauch and Steve Copeland.

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

Pursuing my master's online was as demanding and involving as a campus-based program would have been. There were lively exchanges between students on the class discussion boards, and the professors were always available and keenly aware of their students. And because the program included summer seminars at Hebrew College, I never felt anonymous. I'm surprised by the loyalty to Hebrew College that “mere” online courses fostered in me!

To whom would you recommend this program?

I would recommend the program to anyone who is deeply curious about the subject matter and committed to exploring it. Jewish studies are properly engaged in communally, and Hebrew College is such a community

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

To maximize your experience, study Hebrew outside class. Know in advance that you will need reading skills and that part of your ultimate accomplishment will involve tackling texts in the original.