Name: Natalie Stein
Year: Class of 2013
Hometown: New York, NY
Major: Public Health Studies
Minor: Jewish Studies
Coming from a small Jewish Day School in New York City—bound to a specific dual curriculum schedule—I was thrilled by the prospect of a true liberal arts education at Johns Hopkins, free to study whatever I so chose. What courses would I select from the wide variety offered? History? Political Science? Film and Media Studies? While all seemed new and exciting, to my surprise I was led back to the very subject matter I thought I needed a break from—many of the classes I was considering were cross-listed with Jewish Studies!
What I thought I had had my fill of in high school was brought into a new light at Hopkins. While one could study the biblical texts I had grown accustomed to, “The Archeology of Ancient Israel,” “Jewish American Fiction,” and “The Politics of Sexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East” were topics I had never fully considered. Not only did I find the classes offered interesting, but only six (at least 18 credits) that have been approved by the Advisory Committee of the Jewish Studies Program, were required to complete the minor! The classes must be in at least two different departments and there must be at least three 300 (upper level) classes included. Up to two Hebrew classes at the intermediate level or higher can also be counted towards the minor and if Hebrew isn’t your language of choice, Yiddish and Arabic can also help fulfill your requirements!
I have personally enjoyed classes cross-listed with Near Eastern Studies, History, and Film and Media Studies. One of my favorite classes was “Holocaust and Film.” While the subject matter was a familiar one, in addition to an historical perspective, I learned about film production, trends in documentary film making, and thematic tools in cinema, all from Professor Wegenstein, a brilliant documentary filmmaker in her own right.
To extend one’s Jewish Studies experience outside of the classroom, Hopkins boasts a Hillel, which offers cultural and religious Jewish programming, multiple Israel Advocacy clubs—including Coalition of Hopkins Activists for Israel, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and JStreet U—and Birthright trips to Israel throughout the year. Taglit-Birthright is an incredible program that offers students ages 18-26 that have never before been to Israel on an organized program, the opportunity to experience an educational trip, free of charge. Through programs offered at Hillel such as “Lunch and Learn,” students can also hear speakers ranging from Israeli poet Admiel Kosman to esteemed Hopkins professors. Recently some of the most popular talks by professors have been Dr. Steven David’s discussion of the Iranian nuclear threat and Dr. Donniell Fishkind’s talk on statistics and the Torah.
The Jewish Studies program also allows for students to engage in the greater Baltimore community, with opportunities such as working with the Jewish Museum of Maryland in a course entitled “Staging Suburbia with the Jewish Museum of Maryland.” Students are offered the opportunity to help develop an exhibition about Baltimore’s Jewish suburbs!
While this minor may not relate to my career aspirations for after college specifically, it consistently challenges me to think critically, as Judaism encompasses cultural, religious, and political significance. Whether you are Jewish or not, the minor offers the rare opportunity to explore a rich culture in small classes taught by some of the foremost professors at Johns Hopkins.
Click here to access more information about the Jewish Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Jewish Studies question thread.