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My journey into Jewish Studies began before I even knew I would spend more than a couple semesters at City College. I had planned to attend Pratt Institute and double major in Art History and Fine Arts. However, when I received my tuition bill, which was at an Ivy League price, I decided that I would take a year off. I wanted Pratt more than anything, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be limited to studying the Arts— especially for that price. A friend suggested that I use my year off to take classes at City College while I thought Pratt over.
Then I met a Jewish Studies professor on registration day. He suggested that I take his “Jewish Law and Ethics” class to fill a space in my program. I had always been interested in theology, and thought it would be fun to take a class in that field. The abridged version of where things went from there is that I loved the class, and the next semester I took three more Jewish Studies classes. Since I had already finished the requirements for the minor, I declared myself a major. There are several reasons I decided to continue: the faculty is brilliant; the program is a community of people who are smart, warm, and a pleasure to work with; and its courses are stimulating and fascinating.
I’m not sure that what I’ve learned can be applied to a career, but it can be applied to how I live. One of the best aspects of Jewish studies courses is that they challenge you to see things with an open mind and unearth the essence of your beliefs. Being a Jewish Studies major is something I do for myself. The initial reaction I get when I tell people that I’m a Jewish Studies major is usually bewilderment. And then they ask “Are you Jewish?” or “Are you going to convert?” I was born in Trinidad, of Indian descent, but have
lived in New York all my life. I am not Jewish. I’m Muslim and have no intention of converting to Judaism. A bonus of being a Muslim Jewish Studies major is that after the moment passes when someone thinks of it as an oxymoron, I’ve just broken a stereotype. Then they start asking questions and I try to emphasize embracing the similarities between cultures—such as those between my Jewish cousins and myself—and accepting the differences.
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