Specifically Jewish and Not

JPS Tanakh - Post by Jessica

I just finished my second week of class, and am entirely caught up in the whirlwind that is graduate school. Classes, readings and assignments are enough for a fulltime job, never mind meeting classmates, doing my internship or any kind of recreation activities. Still, it’s been a very good kind of busy, in that I love my classes, my classmates are extraordinary, and I feel confident that I made the right decision, if only I can keep up my momentum and keep going.

Because I’m doing the dual degree (an MPA in Public and Non-Profit Management and an MA in Jewish Studies), my course load this semester is three of the five Core Courses and one Jewish studies class. I spend more than three times as much time right now on the MPA courses than the MA courses, so the difference when I walk into the MA class is pretty stark. Not that it’s better or worse, just different. Part of the difference is that is it my smallest class this semester, but another is something that has been floating around my head for the last ten days or so.

It’s the difference between doing the MPA by itself and what it means to be doing the dual degree. It’s hard to say, since I’m only at the beginning, but each week, I step away from the hustle and bustle of microeconomics, statistics and introduction to management to consider the community organizational structures of the Jewish community. We’ll be going through history at a blistering pace, but it’s still something to spend a class talking about the rise and fall of Saul, David and Solomon. Granted, we’re more interested in the idea that this is what Jews say about their history than that these texts represent exactly what happened, but I’m not complaining. Twenty or so Jews discussing Jewish things for two hours a week, I’ll take any time. Especially when 8 of us go out to Israeli food after class and I get to know more of my amazing cohort.

Outside of that class though, I’m figuring out how steeped in the Jewish thing I want to be. For instance, in a class where we were given a choice of organization to discuss with a partner, I chose the government task force, versus the 92nd Street Y. I don’t know if people understand why I cover my hair (which is fine) but I know why and I think it makes me more conscious of my behavior in class and at school in general, which is definitely a good thing.

There will be inevitable conflation, as well. The times when I’m going to be more stressed out than many of my classmates because I’m travelling home for the holidays randomly or unable to do a lot of the homework on days when it seems like I should be able to, just because it happens to be Sukkot. I’ll face these head on – it’s a fact of life in any academic pursuit outside specifically Jewish institutions. Still, I am intensely grateful for this experience, everything that led me to this place, and excited for what the future will bring!

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