Molly Paul, ‘14, a Sociology major and Jewish Studies minor from Sayreville, NJ, recently received a Brudnick Scholarship in Jewish Studies for 2014. In this interview, she reflects on her decision to minor in Jewish Studies, her experiences studying abroad in Israel, and her post-graduation aspirations for rabbinical school.
Why did you decide to minor in Jewish Studies?
I decided to minor in Jewish studies because I was looking for a way to weave Judaism into my academic pursuits at Northeastern. When I came to Northeastern, I became very involved in playing Club rugby and therefore was not left a lot of time to participate in extra curriculars that engaged my Jewish identity. I wanted to find a way to continue discovering my Jewish identity and thought that investing in a more academic journey as opposed to the more religiously and culturally oriented nature of my upbringing would be helpful in cultivating the more mature identity I was seeking.
Several of your Jewish Studies classes were taken while you were studying abroad in Israel. Where did you study? What was the experience like? Was it different doing Jewish Studies in Israel than in the United States?
I was lucky enough to spend a semester living and studying in Haifa, Israel, at the University of Haifa. For the first month that I was there I took an intensive Hebrew Ulpan and then during the semester I took four classes: Hebrew, Biblical Theology, Art of the Jewish People, and a Creative Writing course designed to help us reflect on our experience living in Israel. The University of Haifa has an incredible International student program, so not only were all my classes taught in English (except for Hebrew, of course) but we were also set up with four program directors whose main job was to design out-of-classroom engagement and programs for us. The main difference between the classes and experiential learning programs from the ones at Northeastern was the religious affiliation. All the classes I have taken in Jewish Studies at Northeastern were secular classes about a religious civilization. However, in Israel I was able to take Hebrew with an Orthodox female professor who pointed out the biblical roots of the words we were learning. I was able to take a Theology course taught by a Rabbi who clearly taught from a religious perspective instead of an academic perspective. It helped me gain a more personal connection with the role of a belief in God in Judaism and the creation of the State of Israel.
What was your favorite part of studying in Israel? What didn’t you like?
My favorite part about studying in Israel was the freedom I had to explore the entire country. Our classes met once a week for three hours so I was able to schedule them all on two weekdays. This left a lot of time to invest in out-of-classroom programs and also to do some of my own traveling. The country is so small that I could very easily go on a weekend trip anywhere and make it back in time for class the following week.
What was your favorite Jewish Studies class in college and why?
My favorite Jewish Studies class in college was a religion course with Susan Setta, Understanding the Bible. While the class wasn’t specifically a Jewish course, I LOVE the Bible. I enjoy learning about the Bible from many different perspectives and this class was taught from a perspective that was very in line with my Sociology background. We learned about the various sources included in the Bible and discussed how the social and cultural perspectives of these authors have informed what we understand the Bible to be. It was so interesting to learn about such an influential historical document as a collection of stories or an anthology and helped me gain a lot more perspective on its influence on religion today.
How does Jewish Studies fit into your long-term plans, for either career or personal life?
After I have spent some time post-graduation cultivating my Jewish life and determining how I want to lead a more intentionally Jewish life, I hope to attend rabbinical school. Judaism and a belief in something greater than myself has shaped the woman I have become and has largely shaped how I view the world. I hope to continue to find ways to integrate Jewish values into the work that I do in the future and hope that by becoming a rabbi, I can instill a similar guiding faith in others as well.
Read the rest of the Haverim Spring 2014 Newsletter here.