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The Words of Jewish Studies Undergraduate and Graduate Students and Alumni

The Words of Jewish Studies Undergraduate Students and Alumni

“The Borns Jewish Studies Program at IU offers the best of both worlds. I am able to have the perks of a large university while also being able to create strong, close relationships with my professors and advisor.” — Frankie Salzman (2016) JS major; rabbinical student at HUC

“The Jewish Sacred Music program is the ideal route for prospective cantorial students. Getting to experience courses in both music and Jewish studies is a unique opportunity that can only be found at IU. With helpful advisors, tons of interesting classes, and an environment full of opportunities, IU is the only place to go for Jewish Sacred Music.”— Rebecca Mann (2017 ) cantorial student at The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC.

“As a senior in high school, while all my peers were crossing their fingers to be accepted into institutions such as Princeton, Swarthmore, and Cornell, I would proudly tell all my friends that I was going to IU. I bragged that it had outstanding academic programs. I was determined to find the same Ivy League-quality education they were receiving, but with the benefits of a large public institution. After four years of being a Hoosier, I can unequivocally state that I found this academic environment. The Borns Jewish Studies Program is the single most significant reason I can so confidently make this claim about Indiana University.” — Marie Harf, Jewish Studies certificate, 2003 ; Former Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

“High school students coming into their freshmen year should choose at least one Jewish Studies class because you never know how the class will interest you and how it will give you a whole new meaning and purpose to your life.” — Simone Shrell, JS certificate (2015)

“I chose to attend Indiana University, in large part, because of the Jewish Studies program. It was a decision based on concrete factors--the large number of majors, the breadth and prestige of the Jewish Studies faculty, and the unparalleled funding available to attract top students to the program. However, after visiting campus and meeting with Carolyn Lipson-Walker, it was also a decision based on intangible factors - the warmth and familiarity I saw between faculty and staff, and the seemingly endless opportunities that I would have. All of those factors came to fruition, as I had the opportunity to study the an incredibly wide range of academic topics within Jewish studies, to attend extra-curricular JS lectures, discussions, films, plays, and musical performances, and to build meaningful relationships with staff, faculty, and fellow undergraduate and graduate students.” — Sarah Wilensky Shukovsky, Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, Political Science/Economics B.A., 2011; Columbia University law school graduate; New York City Mission Society; Advocate Counselor, Emma Lazarus School

“When you think of a Big 10 school, you imagine lecture halls with hundreds of students where the professor may never know your name. But as a student in the IU Jewish Studies Program, your Big 10 world becomes much smaller. You aren’t simply taking classes and turning in assignments; you’re building a community within academia. The personal attention received by the IU Jewish Studies Program professors is astounding and motivated me throughout my college career.” —Bari Finkel, Jewish Studies B.A., May 2014; a radio producer, she produced the English content for the podcast “Israel Story” in Israel.

“I came to IU specifically for the renowned Borns Jewish Studies Program and I have not regretted my decision for a single moment. It is well known in the Jewish professional world as a top program. It is one of the most supportive campuses for Jewish students who love Israel. The advisors, faculty, and staff of the Borns JSP have been nothing but helpful and supportive my entire college career. The class options are tremendous and interesting. My best friends from IU were Jewish Studies majors and I have formed great relationships with Jewish Studies alumni. I even got my first job from connecting with IU Jewish Studies alumni! My professors have taken the time to get to know students. I have been to many professors’ houses for dinner. The Borns JSP is really a family and they have fostered a supporting community in the heart of Indiana unlike anything I have ever seen on another campus.” — Emily Berman Pevnick, B.A., 2010; Senior Account Executive, Resolute Consulting, LLL; formerly Deputy Director for Strategic Partnerships and Global Affairs for the City of Chicago; formerly State Director of Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota for AIPAC

"Becoming a JS major was the best decision I ever made during my college career. It gave me the opportunity to form a connection with professors, advisors, and students in a much more personal atmosphere than any other major I could have chosen. It also helped me to realize that I enjoy learning about Judaism and that keeping Judaism a constant part of my life is a meaningful and necessary experience for me now and in the future. The experiences I’ve had, the friendships I’ve made, and the meaning of Judaism in my life have all been a direct result of the Borns JSP."— Rabbi Elizabeth Wood Zeller, B.A., May 2004; Senior Rabbi, Temple Chaverim, Plainview, NY

"I had three requirements for the perfect university: a top-notch music school, a topnotch JSP, and a vibrant Jewish community. Coming to IU is probably the best decision I ever made and my JS classes were the highlight of my day throughout my four years at IU." — Rabbi Philip Ohriner, School of Music B.S. and Outside Field in Jewish Studies, May 2002; Senior Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth David, Saratoga, California; founder of Ma’alot Farms

“The Borns Jewish Studies Program is rightly known as the best program of its kind.  Its faculty are all leaders in their field, the advisor is incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, and the program itself is flexible enough to sustain a variety of student interests. I am honored to have been a student in the program and feel confident that a degree in Jewish Studies will serve me well in the future.” Aren Wilson-Wright, B.A., 2010; Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from University of Texas; post-doctoral scholar at the University of Radbound in the Netherlands

“I definitely credit my time at IU, and particularly my time in the Jewish Studies Program, as playing a huge role in my choosing to become a rabbi! I am proud to be from a long line of IU alums who are Reform rabbis.” — Rabbi Jessica Wainer, 2010, Assistant Rabbi, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, Reston, Virginia.

“When I was in school, people asked me, “What can you do with a Jewish Studies degree?” Well, I didn’t know it at the time but my degree prepared me for a career in Jewish media. And as the Jewish World and Archaeology Editor for The Times of Israel, I’m drawing on what I learned almost every day.”— Amanda Borschel-Dan, B.A., 1999, Times of Israel

“I’ve been involved with several departments at IU and I’ve never felt more comfortable, welcome, and consistently engaged that I do in the Jewish Studies Program. The faculty is deeply involved with students and the program hosts events that foster a genuine sense of community, in addition, to promoting an environment of academic excellence.” — Samuel Ujdak, Jewish Studies major; Director of Development, Middleway House

“Jewish Studies is a great addition to other studies at IU and it can add a nice liberal arts focus for Business students. The religious studies and history components have important ethical and international business elements.” — David Fliesher, Jewish Studies certificate; Kelley School of Business B.S., 2007

My Hebrew has improved immensely over the years and it is largely due to the IU Jewish Studies Modern Hebrew Language Program. The faculty is wonderful!”— Leah Boresow, Hebrew minor, August 2012

“The JSP offers incredible opportunities for students who are a part of the program—from scholarships to jobs, fellowships, or graduate school information. The JSP works hard to make sure students are prepared for life after IU.” — Marisa Briefman, certificate, 2013; Assistant Director of Development, ADL, Washington, DC.

“While I had experience with the JS faculty because of my pursuit of a degree in Religious Studies, I joined the JSP community late in my college experience and I wish I would've joined sooner! The community is so supportive and so close. I recommend the JSP to anyone who wants to improve their critical thinking and who wants to investigate the complicated idea of identity, using Jews as a case study - I am being purposely broad because I think everyone could benefit from a JS class. While this pursuit of study seems specific, it's so far-reaching and all-encompassing.”— Hannah Cohen, August, 2011 JS certificate

“The JSP here at IU has been a great way for me to break from my science course load and pursue something completely different that was of interest to me. The courses were all very stimulating and every JS course I have taken was well taught. Jewish Studies has really helped me learn about my heritage and has made me a more well-rounded student.” — Dr. Leslie Abrams Tobe, certificate in Jewish Studies; Biology B.S., 2007

“JS played a major role in my experience at IU. In addition to the wonderful faculty and engaging classes, I was able to spend a semester at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.— Jill Cogan, B.A., 2011, Director of Education and Youth Programming, Congregation M'kor, Philadelphia

“I signed up for a Jewish Studies class to meet Jewish students and to continue my Hebrew from my gap year in Israel. But now looking back, pursuing a certificate in Jewish Studies helped pave a path for me in Jewish communal work and currently in Jewish education. The lessons I learned from the outstanding team of JSP professors instilled in me the inspiration and drive to give back to the Jewish community and make a difference.” — Greta Rothschild, (1984), Education Director Emerita at Aitz Haim Center for Jewish Living, Chicago

I really loved the flexibility of the program. I know many people who earned the Jewish Studies major or certificate and each of us focused on something different. The funds available for scholarships in Jewish Studies are unmatched in any other department or program." — Jorie Slodki, certificate in Jewish Studies and minor in Yiddish Studies, 2007

The Words of Current Graduate Students and Alumni

“The faculty has designed a well-supported M.A. degree that shows in personal investment and prodigious funding opportunities. As a small graduate program, the Borns JSP fosters an uncommon culture of partnership among M.A. students and Ph.D. minors while offering the interdisciplinary courses and sponsored events of a large university. One example of this mutual support is the thriving JS Graduate Student Association which provides monthly paper readings, a regular graduate student conference, and faculty-graduate workshops/lunches at least once a month. I have received access to some of the top professors in Jewish studies while gaining rare professional experiences for an M.A. student, including teaching responsibilities and guest lectureships in my first year. The strength of this M.A. program lies in the tight-knit, supportive and focused academic community nurtured by accessible professors and dedicated staff.”
--Matthew Brittingham, Jewish Studies M.A. 2014; doctoral student studying Jewish Religious Cultures at Emory University

"My work at IU focuses on both Christianity and Judaism in the first several centuries of this era, a time when both traditions were growing and changing. In particular, I am working on a project that explores how Jews and Christians thought about and represented angels, in both texts and art. Even though I study Judaism in antiquity, some of the most provocative and productive conversations I’ve had during my time here at IU have been with scholars of Judaism in the modern period, conversations that happen because of the multi-department, multidiscipline character of the Borns JSP. I’ve had a chance to practice my teaching skills because of the JSP: when there was a need for a beginning biblical Hebrew teacher, the program took a chance and hired me. The students who have gone through my classes have been bright and impressive in the range of subjects and projects they are pursuing"
--Ellen Muehlberger, Ph.D. 2008 in Religious Studies completing a doctoral minor in Jewish Studies; Associate Professor, University of Michigan

"My interest in graduate study began during my undergraduate years at the University of Michigan. I took a class in Yiddish literature taught by a visiting professor. But I began to wonder why there was no course in Jewish American literature. And so for the past eight years I have been reading and writing about Jewish American literature, specifically the history of its invention. Graduate school at IU has for me been a laboratory where I have experimented with new modes of thought and critical expression."
--Jeremy Shere, Ph.D. in English with doctoral minor in Jewish Studies; writer and producer

“I don’t know if there is a program or department anywhere that takes such good care of its students and that supports them at every step of their academic career as the Borns Jewish Studies Program.”
--Barbara Krawcowicz, Ph.D. 2013, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

"Thanks to my doctoral studies in the Department of History and the Borns JSP, I have had a rare opportunity to take outstanding Jewish history, literature, and philosophy courses which I thoroughly enjoy. I am very happy that, as an IU graduate with a doctoral minor in JS, I can expand and deepen my knowledge in Jewish subjects well beyond the bounds of history."
--Jolanta Mickute, Ph.D. 2011; The Lost Shtetl Museum, Lithuania

“Before coming to Indiana, I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Chicago. The Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University has been ideal for my own scholarly development and has provided me with countless opportunities to thrive intellectually and personally.”
--Brian Hillman, current Jewish Studies doctoral minor and Religious Studies student studying modern Jewish thought and mysticism

“Pursuing a master’s degree in the Borns Jewish Studies Program allowed me to study with exceptional Jewish Studies scholars, knowledgeable in a wide range of methodologies, fields, and periods. Working with these accessible professors helped me to identify and refine my academic focus, and prepared me for related Ph.D. programs.”
--David Axelrod, M.A., 2018