***Please fill out this form to help create an up to date database of all former Specializers and Minors of the Jewish Studies Program at MSU from 1992 to today. 

  • Student Highlights
  • Alumni Highlights

 

 

Bailey Butash '21 (Social Relations & Policy) 

"Having a minor in Jewish Studies has been an unexpected gift in my college experience. My favorite part of the program so far has been my participation in the study abroad to Israel. I loved exploring the old city of Jerusalem (pictured here) and visiting various exciting and historic cities such as Nazareth and Tel Aviv. I also loved being immersed in the culture and Hebrew language. The professors who taught our classes were both wonderful teachers and helped me learn an incredible amount about Israel’s history and culture in such a short amount of time.”

 

 

 Troy Distelrath '21 (Social Relations and Policy)

"Taking MC 387: Jews and Antisemitism with Dr. Amy Simon has certainly been a highlight of my Jewish Studies experience. It provided me with the tools necessary to both understand and combat antisemitism from across the political spectrum. Bigotry comes from a place of ignorance (willful or otherwise), and seeing the deep history of antisemitic tropes and stereotypes going back to Biblical times was incredibly compelling and informative for someone like myself who is not a practitioner of the faith.
I currently plan on pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy before entering the think tank space to help write, research, and otherwise shape climate justice policies at the federal level."

 

 

Yael Eichhorn '21 (Religious Studies)

"I am really enjoying minoring in Jewish Studies. At MSU there are Jewish Studies classes available on a wide variety of topics so I have been able to learn about so many different aspects of Jewish life, culture and history. It has worked really well with my major and creates a space for me to focus on the areas of religion that interest me. I have been given the opportunity to work at the Institute and it has been a great experience, and has taught me a lot about Jewish academia. This past summer I had an internship with the Detroit Jewish News and was able to write an article entitled: “Reflection: Finding My Jewish Identity at MSU” about the program and my experiences. Jewish Studies also puts an emphasis on involving students, and I have appreciated getting to know the professors and faculty. I am confident that the knowledge I have gained in my Jewish Studies minor will be helpful to me in my future career."

 

 

Grace Hunt '22 (Social Work)

"Having a minor in Jewish Studies has been an unexpected gift in my college experience. My favorite part of the program so far has been my participation in the study abroad to Israel. I loved exploring the old city of Jerusalem (pictured here) and visiting various exciting and historic cities such as Nazareth and Tel Aviv. I also loved being immersed in the culture and Hebrew language. The professors who taught our classes were both wonderful teachers and helped me learn an incredible amount about Israel’s history and culture in such a short amount of time.”

 

Benjamin Francis '21 (Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy , Religious Studies)

"I will be graduating from MSU with a major in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from James Madison College and a major in Religious Studies, and with a minor in Jewish Studies. I took two years of Hebrew, two faculty- led study abroad programs in Israel, an additional Hebrew
ulpan in Israel, and courses by
Serling Visiting Israeli Scholar Harry Yuklea on Israel as a startup nation. Another highlight of my minor was when I did an internship in Israel with Bar Ilan University’s Faculty of Law Clinic and conducted comparative legal research on the rights of parents with disabilities through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Serling Institute Hersh, Levy, and Slade scholarships supported these study abroad and internship opportunities. I also presented my field research conducted in Israel at the Serling Undergraduate Research Conference and was awarded the Serling Institute Student Achievement Award. My future plans are to make aliya to Israel and I’m interested in Jewish non-profit work or finance before pursuing graduate school."

Jared Kaczor '21 ( Linguistics)

"Highlights from my minor would be studying abroad with Yore Kedem. I found being in Israel to be transformative and would not trade the experiences and education I received there for anything. In particular, I have quite fond memories of my friends and I going through Machane Yehuda market on our way to the old city, drinking iced coffee, and enjoying the sun.
I plan on continuing my education here at MSU, and in a year I will have my MA in Linguistics."

 

Sidrah Kovan ’21 (Arts & Humanities)

"The highlight of being a Jewish Studies minor for me has been being able to connect with students from an array of backgrounds. Initially going into Jewish studies, I expected to just meet more Jewish students like myself but have been pleasantly surprised in meeting people that come from many different places and have fresh views they bring to the table. Additionally, each Jewish Studies class that I have taken has taught me not only more about Judaism, but more about myself. The ability to learn about Jewish topics at Michigan State has given me a basis for my beliefs and understanding of Judaism that I would not have had without this program. It has helped me grow as a student and person."

Jules Levy '21 (Sustainable Parks, Recreation and Tourism)

"My name is Jules Levy and I am a junior here at MSU. My major is Sustainable Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and I am minoring in Jewish Studies. I have taken Hebrew since I started at MSU and recently went on a Birthright  trip to Israel as well as Onward, an Israel summer program where each student receives an internship as well as housing and day trips in a city of their choosing. I am also currently the V.P. of Community Programming for the Jewish Student Union of MSU. All these experiences and opportunities have led me to pursue a Jewish Studies minor. I hope to take this degree with me in my future career and overall knowledge of Judaism as well as other cultures/religions. I hope to intern for a Jewish organization this summer and use my knowledge/experiences through this minor to help me get to where I wish to be."

Maverick Levy '21 (Social Relations & Policy

"I love being involved in the Jewish Studies program at MSU because of the relationships that have flourished. I now have professors on campus that I can go to if I need to talk, need an opinion, or want to share a concern. In such a big university environment, it is comforting to know they are there for me. That is just one of the many reasons that the Jewish Studies program is so amazing!
I plan to attend law school. Also, I have a podcast that has been gaining tons of attention. It is called “The Best of The Best: Maverick’s Guide to Success” where the topics are a range of things covering life essential skills that are not taught within school."

Jake Austin Nessel '21 (Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy)

"There were a lot of highlights in my minor. I really enjoyed Dr. Simon’s class (I ended up having Dr. Simon again for my field experience) because we learned about different historical perspectives in Jewish studies. I also enjoyed Dr. Kedem’s Hebrew classes. We learned to speak the language in a way that was very engaging, which helped me apply the language to my daily activities.
After MSU, I am planning on going to law school to work in either music law or civil rights law."

 

 

 

Jake Rubin '21 (Arts & Humanities)

"The summer of 2019, I had many unique experiences while studying abroad in Israel with Professor Yore Kedem. The trips we went on every week, the food we ate, and the adventures the group shared together proved to be a trip I will remember for a lifetime. Without the Levy scholarship offered through the minor, the trip would not have been possible, and I’m still extremely grateful for the opportunity.
My future plan is to go to grad school to earn my masters in social work."

 

 

 

Jordyn Weinberg '21 (Humanities - Pre-Law)

"Professor Kedem was an absolute joy to learn Hebrew from, and still to this day is one of my favorite teachers from MSU. Highlights of the minor are that I was able to take such a multitude of classes, as well as attend Jewish Studies events for extra credit. In addition, I learned a foreign language very near and dear to me as I am Jewish. In HEB290 I was able to then use that previously learned information and language, and work on a research paper, written fully in Hebrew (something I am quite proud of). Studying abroad was perhaps the most amazing experience of my college career. Being immersed in the culture, truly living and learning in Israel for a full month was an absolute dream. Interacting with the people, meeting fellow students and living in a country I have learned about my whole life was a once in a lifetime experience. On top of that, I was able to use the credits from the classes I took to count for my minor, which was the icing on the cake! The Jewish Studies program facilitated a large number of events for students to attend, from having speakers to (my personal favorite) the film festival. I think the classes I took for my Jewish Studies minor made me a more well-rounded student and person as a whole.
In the far future I plan on attending law school, and would like to become a prosecutor. In the near future, I have considered working for a Jewish non-profit before I go to law school. I did not originally plan on pursuing a Jewish Studies minor, but as I took more and more classes, I realized it would be a wonderful and quite special minor to add to my college accomplishments."

 

 

Lexie Kay '20 (Psychology)

"My name is Lexie Kay and I am a graduating senior this Fall. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Leadership of Organizations and Jewish Studies. I studied abroad in Tel Aviv last semester at Tel Aviv University. I absolutely loved living in the heart of Tel Aviv while I was there. Tel Aviv is such a fun and unique city to Israel, so I quickly become comfortable once I got the hang of things! Some of my favorite things that I did while I was there were connecting further to my Jewish roots while studying along side some of the greatest professors and students I have ever met! I also enjoyed hanging out at the beach and meeting other students who shared similar interests with me from around the world, including New York, Nebraska, California, Germany, and Israel. After graduation, I am looking forward to returning back to Israel for a month stay to spend time with family and friends. Afterward I will be applying to University of Michigan’s Social Work program, with the track in Jewish Communal Leadership. I am so excited to see where my next steps take me!"

Alan Shulman '20 (JMC, International Relations)

"My name is Alan Shulman, and I am a junior majoring in International Relations with minors in Russian and Jewish Studies. I have taken several classes for my Jewish Studies minor, including MC 112 with Professor Amy Simon on Holocaust literature. It is critical to not forget what happened during World War II and how horrific tragedies can happen again if there is not a group of people willing to fight back. After I graduate in December 2020, I am planning on moving to Washington D.C. I wish to work on Capitol Hill or the White House on national security issues with a focus on either the Middle East, or Eastern Europe/Russia!"

Mateusz Leszczynski '19

"My focus going into the Political Science PhD Program at University Colorado Boulder is to study Comparative Politics with a focus on political extremism in Europe. The Jewish Studies minor played a quintessential role in both my decision to apply for this graduate program and the specific field I am going into. The support and guidance of the fantastic professors within the Jewish Studies minor made the graduate search and application process much calmer and more efficient. My concentration within the Jewish Studies minor was antisemitism and its history in Europe. The minor courses that I took were essential in the creation of my graduate focus as now I hope to expand upon them and learn more in depth why some European communities on a local level have either combatted xenophobia or have succumbed to it. I also want to research exactly how, in terms of tactics, have local communities resisted political extremism. Regarding my future, after receiving a PhD in Political Science I hope to continue my academic career by applying for professor positions in US Universities. I am, however, also open to research think tank positions within the private sector."

Pejiman Masrouri ‘19

Peji is an International Relations Major with Minors in Jewish Studies, Muslim Studies and Russian and Eurasian Studies. He says, “I have no Jewish heritage in the slightest but have found the Jewish Studies program at MSU to be an absolute pleasure. The faculty were most helpful and I was highly impressed by the organization of the program. I have learned and experienced some amazing things in Jewish Studies, including getting the lifetime opportunity to travel to Israel thanks in no small part to the generous scholarships offered by the Jewish Studies program. Visiting Israel and learning about the security situation there gave me a deeper understanding of concepts of national security and foreign policy, in which I am actively searching for a career. After the Israel trip, I became wholeheartedly convinced of pursuing the Jewish Studies Minor and have studied fascinating subjects including the Politics, Culture, and Society of Israel, Holocaust History, and the Dilemmas of Asymmetric Conflicts. These courses have easily been my favorite as an undergrad and have lined up perfectly with my interests.”

Daniel Baum ’19

To complete the Jewish Studies minor, Daniel has taken History of the Holocaust, American Jewish History, and Jewish Mysticism at Michigan State University so far. This past summer he participated in the Jewish Studies Summer Program at Hebrew University. Finally, during his last semester at MSU this fall, Daniel will be doing an independent study under the supervision of Dr. Amy Simon investigating American Holocaust education. Part of what helped propel Daniel toward Jewish Studies has been his involvement with the Official State of Michigan Holocaust Commemoration (and this past year helping to plan it with MSU Hillel). Daniel is considering attending law school after graduation.

Ariella Sternfeld ’19

Ariella is a senior majoring in Political Science with a double Minor in Religious Studies and Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. She is also a member of the Honors College. In her four years at Michigan State, Ariella has taken many courses offered by the Serling Institute such as “Elementary Hebrew,” “History of the Holocaust” and “American Jewish History." Over the past summer, she had the opportunity to travel to Israel twice—once through MSU Hillel Birthright and a second time as a participant of the Serling Institute Summer Program at Hebrew University. 
She is also a recipient of the Julie and Ed Levy Jr. Scholarship for her studies in Jerusalem.
 Ariella plans to graduate in May 2019 and hopes to find a job in the metro Detroit area.

Kaila Waineo ’19

Kaila is a fourth-year International Relations student in James Madison College. She is a recipient of the 2018 Jewish Studies Student Achievement Award.
The primary interest of her coursework is the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Upon graduation, her goal is to pursue graduate degrees in Law and Public Policy
and then use her research, legal and intercultural skills to resolve disagreements, preferably by helping the United States advance peace in Israel and Palestine. By the time of graduation, Kaila will have four years of Hebrew, Minors in Jewish Studies and
Muslim Studies, and completed five academic study abroad programs in West and South Asia. Kaila completed both the Jewish Studies Summer Program at Hebrew University and the Green Israel Program, as well as interned in Israel at the Knesset. She is currently writing a senior honor’s thesis on Israeli anti-trafficking policies with Professor Yael Aronoff. Kaila was selected this year to receive a Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship, an award given by the Asian Studies Center and the U.S. Department of Education for students excelling in foreign languages and area studies.

David Warshay ’19

"My Jewish studies minor through the Serling Institute has prepared me for graduate study in political science in many ways. The Institute has provided me with many scholarship opportunities, academic experiences, and research conferences from which I was able to identify my desired career path and work toward achieving it. Through the Israel study abroad program, I was able to conduct field research and get a real feel for what type of work that involves. Through the various academic conferences presented by the program, I was able to listen to experts and professors speak about various topics of interest, I was also able to present my own research and get valuable presentation experience. Additionally, I participated in two research projects. The first one focused on the displacement of Jews from Middle Eastern countries. The second research project took the form of a senior honors thesis and was a comparative genocide study where I looked at the three major genocides of the 20th century. In my senior seminar class I was able to research Operation Protective Edge and create a body of work that I was eventually able to use as a writing sample for graduate school applications. I was also able to present this work at the Jewish Studies Research Showcase. I was also fortunate enough to be awarded the Jewish Studies Student Achievement award during my final year at MSU. All of these experiences contributed to my desire to enter academia and, starting in fall 2020, start a PhD graduate program in political science at the University of Colorado Boulder. My career goals are to becoming a professor and scholar and influencing the next generation of students."

Graham Wise ’19

Graham is a senior double majoring in Economics and Political Science with a Minor in Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. He went on the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel study abroad to Israel in the summer of 2017. He says his study abroad, was an “incredible experience. It was amazing being able to live in Jerusalem, while having the opportunity to learn from two incredible professors, Professor Aronoff and Professor Mendelsson.” Graham currently serves as the President of Spartans for Israel, a bipartisan pro-Israel organization, and works as an assistant for the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel. He is also currently in the midst of writing a research paper examining United States policy towards Israel. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career working on Capitol Hill as a foreign policy aide.

Mackenzie Cater ‘18

Mackenzie was awarded the 2018 Jewish Studies Student Achievement Award. She says that during her time at MSU, the Jewish Studies minor allowed her to explore many aspects of Jewish life and the State of Israel. She spent a semester learning about the roots of antisemitism as well as contemporary versions of antisemitism on both the right and left. After this experience, Mackenzie researched the major facets of US foreign policy towards Israel in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Her minor also allowed her the opportunity to study abroad in Israel and investigate her interests in Bedouin women’s struggle towards higher education. In her senior seminar with Professor Aronoff, Mackenzie devoted her research to exploring the role of Twitter in asymmetric warfare in relation to Operation Protective Edge. Today, she currently lives in DC and works for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. As an International Legislative Coordinator, Mackenzie focuses her research on legal reform that is important to EU Member States, Canada, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico—to name a few. Mackenzie says, “I continue to follow and engage in US/Israeli relations and hope to pursue further education in the study of conflict resolution.” 

Anna Cumming ‘18

Anna was awarded the 2018 Jewish Studies Student Achievement Award and earned a double bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science Pre-law with minors in Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and Jewish Studies. She took several Jewish Studies courses, including a graduate course with Dr. Kirsten Fermaglich in addition to a Senior Honor’s thesis in Jewish Studies. In her graduate-level course, she completed a research project on antisemitism in the United States military. Her senior honors thesis examined the role of Jewish liberators of Nazi concentration camps, with a specific focus on Jewish masculinity. She looked at instances of antisemitism in their youth, then focused on the actual experience of walking into the camps upon liberation. Anna also looked at the role of female liberators in comparison to the formation of Jewish masculinity and examined the postwar experiences of Jewish liberators, including an examination of post-war faith. Next month, Anna will be moving to England to attend the University of Cambridge, where she will pursue a Masters of Philosophy in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. She plans to study sexual violence in conflict zones. Following this, Anna is attending Georgetown Law where she will study human rights law and continue to advocate for sexual assault 
survivors. Anna was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, Mitchell Scholarship, and Gates-Cambridge Scholarship, and was a university nominee for the Truman Scholarship.  

Abby Laporte ’17

Abby graduated from James Madison College in the fall of 2017 with a major in Comparative Cultures and Politics and a minor in Jewish Studies. As part of her minor, she was fortunate enough to study abroad in Israel with Professors Yael and Eric Aronoff for two months in the summer of 2017.  “There, we spent our time further delving into the Israel-Palestinian conflict and ways that it might be resolved by studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, learning about community by spending time at kibbutzim, traveling to surrounding borders to learn about security challenges, and ultimately, we were exposed to firsthand knowledge and experiences that I could have never gotten from the inside of a classroom.  I felt so inspired when I returned back to the U.S. that I decided I wanted to pursue graduate school in Israel, and this fall, I will be returning to Hebrew University to do my Masters in Human Rights and Transitional Justice.” Abby hopes to forge a career with an NGO after graduation that focuses on conflict resolution and the promotion of equality. She says, “I am incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to study in Israel last summer because I would have never found my post-graduate path without the firsthand, invaluable experiences I had as an undergraduate.” 

Micaela Procopio  '17 (History)

"I was interested in studying the Holocaust and encouraged that the Jewish Studies minor would help me in future career choices. At that time I had no idea how much the Jewish Studies minor was going to play a role in my life. Following my graduation from Michigan State I earned a Master's in Public History in Washington DC and wrote my thesis on the Holocaust in Italy. 
My Jewish Studies minor has significantly helped me understand my area of focus and my career path because as a core of my teaching is to make the beauty and history of Jewish culture and heritage the forefront. I believe that teaching and educating about the Holocaust is crucial, not as part of Jewish history but as a part of human history and the concept of democracy. I equally believe that you cannot teach the Holocaust and not also teach the life and richness of Jewish history before the 20th century. My background and advocacy in Jewish life has helped me to become one of the leaders and facilitators at my full time job-The Lab School of Washington-where I am spearheading the charge for a Jewish Affinity Group, as part of our school’s mission for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. I recently have begun a part-time job, in addition to my full-time teaching, as a teacher at Washington DC’s Machar for Humanistic Judaism as one of the Jewish Cultural School teachers. Every other Sunday I spend a couple of hours with a small group of fourth graders and we study Jewish beliefs, core values and the beginning of Jewish history. I learn something new every day with these kids and I feel the richness and beauty of Judaism every time I’m with Machar. The Jewish Studies minor truly helped me gain a wide understanding of Judaism and its importance in our everyday society and I’m really excited to see where it takes me next."

Sarah Strasberger '15

Since graduating from James Madison College with a specialization in Jewish Studies, Sarah has been working as a Jewish communal professional in metro Detroit. She worked as a special events coordinator for the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, planning and implementing community events, fundraisers, and speaking engagements for visiting dignitaries. Last spring, Sarah began working for Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit as the Program Manager for the Cancer Thrivers Network for Jewish Women.  Sarah credits her Jewish Studies education for her success as a Jewish professional.  “The critical thinking and problem solving skills I learned in my Jewish Studies courses has helped me approach my work in an extremely thoughtful and perceptive way, which is a special skill for a young professional looking to make a big impact.”

Samuel “Sam” Appel ’14

After completing his Jewish Studies Minor, Sam worked with the Michigan State University Hillel House, as well as several other university Hillels around the state of Michigan. Hillel is the center of Jewish student life on campuses and provides religious, cultural and Israel-related activities. Sam says, “My professional goal was always focused on supporting an open dialogue about religion and Israel on campus. This was a skill significantly supported by my experience with Jewish Studies.” Sam is currently completing his MBA from Wayne State University with a focus on Marketing.

 

Ben Lemanski '14 (JMC, International Relations / Comparative Cultures and Politics)

"The highlights of my minor in Jewish Studies were plenty, but I would have to say that a significant highlight was taking Professor Ken Waltzer's class on the Holocaust. In the class I was able to explore more of the experience that other targeted minorities had, including LGBTQ+ individuals, that really resonated with me due to my own identity. 
A lot of the classes I took for my Jewish Studies minor dealt with Peace and Justice - so I really believe that my minor helped develop my ability to empathize with others and their stories. 
I've been in DC for the past few years working in the private sector for a consulting firm where I've been on teams that work with others from all over the world (another way that my minor has helped me - cultural intelligence!). In the future, I'm hoping to make the transition to something in the non-profit sector whether that has to do with Jewish studies, LGBTQ issues, or something else we will see!"

Raffi Appel ’12

been living in DC and working in the progressive digital marketing space. He interned on Obama's digital team in Chicago in the final months of the 2012 campaign, and that is where he got his start. Raffi is currently Director of Strategic Services at Trilogy Interactive, a full-service, left-leaning digital agency. They often have to break new ground when building campaigns for clients. Raffi says that Eric Aronoff's summer study abroad in Israel was an eye-
opening experience and allowed him to see how Israelis broke new ground and innovated in agriculture, water preservation, and alternative energy to make the desert bloom. He says that his experiences in Israel inspire him to look back at Israel’s experience when faced with a challenge, and wonder: is there a better, simpler way to do this?

Becca Farnum ’12

In Summer 2010, Becca Farnum travelled to Israel with MSU's Jewish Studies, participating in "Nature, Culture and Environmental Issues in a Green Israel" and "Summer Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem". Her experiences that summer, and subsequent coursework on environmental politics in the Middle East, led her to apply for a Marshall Scholarship for study in the UK. An MSc, law degree, and PhD honed her scholarly examination of environmental peacebuilding with case studies in Israel-Palestine, Morocco, Lebanon, and Kuwait. Now, she teaches sustainability and global justice at Syracuse University's London Center. Her flagship course is a ten-day field studies class taking students to Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle to examine environmental justice - a seminar whose setup is inspired by the "Green Israel" program she herself did a decade ago.

Marissa Perry '12 (JMC, International Relations)

"The highlight of my minor in Jewish Studies was working with Professor Waltzer to conduct an independent research study of a women’s concentration camp, Leipzig-Hasag.  The project involved attending a seminar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to learn how to use concentration camp records for research, travelling to Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and spending a week in Bad Arolsen, Germany to study the original camp records at the International Tracing Service Archives.  After graduating from Michigan State, I continued researching the Holocaust in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship—this time focused on post-World War II trials.  After returning from Germany, I began law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2017.  I clerked for the Honorable Diana E. Murphy on the Eighth Circuit before joining Davis Polk & Wardwell, a corporate law firm in New York, in the fall of 2018.  Although my work no longer involves studying the Holocaust, I continue to use the research and writing skills I gained through my independent research project every day."  

Megan Holland ’11

Megan graduated from James Madison College with an International Relations major and a Jewish Studies specialization. She studied abroad in Israel during the summer of 2010, and subsequently completed her senior seminar with Dr. Aronoff. She also took “Jews and Antisemitism” with Dr. Waltzer. After graduating Megan moved to Washington, DC to work for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. She spent her time there focusing on federal animal welfare policy and lobbying efforts. She recently moved back to the Lansing area, and plans to complete a second degree in the veterinary field through Michigan State University.

Geoffrey Levin '11

Eleven years after taking Professor Yael Aronoff’s “Israeli Politics and Society” course as a student at MSU’s James Madison College, Geoffrey Levin is heading back to the “Israeli Politics” classroom – but this time as an Assistant Professor of Israel Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. At Emory, Professor Levin will be a tenure-track faculty member based both in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies (MESAS) and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies. He earned his PhD in History and Jewish studies from New York Universities in 2019 and then spent a year at Harvard University a postdoctoral fellow. Though Levin’s doctorate was in history, as a professor he will be returning to the interdisciplinary path he began at MSU, teaching a wide array of courses in Israel Studies, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies at Emory. Mentorship from Professor Aronoff and Professor Ken Waltzer was crucial to Levin’s decision to become a Jewish Studies minor at MSU, and to study abroad at the University of Haifa with the aid of Jewish Studies Program scholarship during his senior year. That decision led him to pursue a master’s degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University before turning toward academic, culminating with his appointment at Emory starting in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Sara Kirsch ’11

Sara graduated from James Madison College with a major in International Relations and a Minor in Jewish Studies. She is currently working as a Digital Copywriter at Quality Score, one of the leading digital marketing agencies in the Middle East. She is also the blogger for ‘Olim In Tech,’ a volunteer-led community geared towards empowering and connecting newcomers to Israel who work or want to be working in hi-tech. At MSU, her most memorable and significant courses were under Professor Kenneth Waltzer and Professor Yael Aronoff. Professor Waltzer’s course was on “Jews and Antisemitism,” and Professor Aronoff’s class focused on regional politics in the Middle East. “I became highly engaged and intrigued in Middle East peace and conflict resolution as well as in Israeli Foreign policy.”

Marissa Cloutier '10

Since graduating from MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business and James Madison College with a specialization in Jewish Studies, Marissa has pursued a career in international trade by working at the U.S. State Department, NASA, and a small defense company.  Currently, Marissa works at the U.S. State Department in an office responsible for ensuring exports of defense articles (e.g., military aircraft, ordnance, weapon systems) to foreign governments and companies to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.  She works with U.S. defense manufacturers, foreign militaries, and embassies on a daily basis and travels to support her mission.  While at MSU, Marissa strove to blend her interest in international relations and business. The Jewish Studies specialization provided curriculum and mentors to guide her passion.  Marissa studied the Hebrew language and participated in the MSU Jewish Studies Summer Program at Hebrew University.  With the Slade and Ed Levy scholarships from the Jewish Studies Program, Marissa also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Israel with the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service, which promoted U.S. exports by linking U.S. companies with Israeli companies for business partnerships.  Marissa had the opportunity to apply her classroom studies by using her Hebrew language skills and business knowledge during her internship.

Zack Colman '10

"Not many people choose a study abroad based on the courses being offered, but that's exactly what I did in the summer of 2008. My five weeks at Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus gave a tremendous introduction to a land I'd only read and heard about through synagogue and the news. I'd always felt a connection to the land; growing up in a secular Jewish household -- emphasis on secular -- it was the way I identified with my heritage. But witnessing its complicated past and present up close demonstrated things are not as black and white as presented in U.S. media. I really valued Marc Bernstein's curriculum that summer, as he tried to stretch our imaginations of what Israel is and could be by taking us to Silwan, a majority Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, and bringing cross-cultural speakers to our classrooms. It was truly an enriching experience and helped to guide my future studies and the journalism I practice today by ensuring I enter a situation with no bias and truly seek to understand the motivating factors and historical grounding that animate actions today. That epistemic charity has been crucial as I navigate difficult, interconnected issues regarding climate change, economic justice and the fear of change and transition when covering energy and environment policy for POLITICO."

Josh Kanter '09

Josh Kanter graduated in 2009 with a JS Minor in addition to his BA in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from James Madison College and a specialization in Peace and Justice Studies. Josh spent a summer at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University with a group from Michigan State led by Yael Aronoff, which inspired a year-long internship at the Israel Democracy Institute with Career Israel (through MASA) after he graduated. His coursework in the Jewish Studies Program at MSU served as the cornerstone of his professional path in the Jewish non-profit world. He went on to earn an MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work Jewish Communal Leadership Program and has worked for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, American Jewish World Service, and UJA-Federation of New York. Josh currently works for Reboot, an arts and culture non-profit that reimagines and reinforces Jewish thought and traditions for the 21st century. He lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan with his wife, Allie, and their adorable daughter, Zoe. 

Daniel Kuhn ’09

Since graduating from James Madison College with specializations in Jewish Studies and Muslim Studies, Daniel has lived in Washington D.C. He currently works at the Government Accountability Office 
(GAO), a legislative branch federal agency that works for Congress to audit the executive branch and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used effectively, efficiently, and as intended. Daniel focuses on homeland security and justice issues, including a wide range of areas including: drug enforcement, border security, immigration, firearm enforcement, the Coast Guard, and recovery from natural disasters, among others. Daniel has published reports in areas as diverse as the James Webb Space Telescope and other NASA projects, drinking water quality near military bases, innovative international aid models, and most recently, prosecution of people denied firearms purchases. Prior to joining GAO, Daniel completed a masters in public administration from American University. “My Jewish studies courses helped me develop as a learner: how to read analytically, how to conduct quality research, and continue to develop as a writer in topics that allowed me to develop the skills I need, and use in my career, and as a leader in my community. Without a doubt, my studies at James Madison College and my Jewish Studies minor put me on that path that led me to where I am today.”