Students and Alums
Meet Judaic Studies students and alums making a positive impact in their communities
With a bachelor’s degree in Judaic Studies, graduates go on to fulfilling careers in education, community and social services, the rabbinate and ministry, research, arts, and law.
We are proud of our alums and encourage them to update us on their accomplishments after they graduate. Learn and share in their stories of transformation.
"As an undergraduate student, I fell in love with the way words work. As a teacher, I aim to kindle that love in my own students."
Ivar Anderson ('12)
Ivar graduated from PSU in 2012 with a minor in Judaic Studies. During his college career he received the Cogan Memorial Scholarship, which funded an internship at Congregation Beth Israel. His internship involved “braving the dank recesses of the basement” of the synagogue, reviewing the archival materials there, some of them dating to the early twentieth century, and preparing them to be relocated to the Oregon Jewish Museum.
After graduation, he taught high school-level English courses in Turkey and in Somaliland. After three years in Turkey he began a teaching position with the Abaarso School of Science and Technology in Somaliland, an innovative English-language boarding school. At Abaarso, Ivar taught English literature and composition, as well as history and math. In his second year at the school, perceiving a need for skills-based evaluation, Ivar “led a movement for curriculum reform” (in his words). He was subsequently promoted to Head of Humanities.
Ivar returned to the U.S. in 2020. In the near term he hopes to do an M.A. in Rhetoric at Oregon State, but in the long term he plans to return to Turkey.
“I maintain close friendships there, and... I'll be visiting again, just as soon as international travel makes sense. I really appreciate how tight-knit the communities there are, especially in Bursa; in my neighborhood in the old town, everyone looks out for each other.”
"Judaic Studies has been the most influential part of my education, as it has allowed me to become aware of the Jewish past and how it connects with my Jewish present."
Max Blust ('20)
Max graduated from PSU's Honors College in June 2020 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Judaic Studies. During his college career he received the Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial scholarship, which funded an internship with the Oregon Jewish Museum. In addition, he undertook a summer course at the Honors Institute on Holocaust Remembrance Study in Groningen, The Netherlands. Blust wrote a senior thesis about the history and meaning of Portland's Holocaust Memorial entitled "Oregonian Holocaust Memory: Creating a Portal to the Past for Oregonians." In January 2021 he published Heart and Soul, a memoir about his struggle with a serious chronic disease. Blust makes his home in Sebastopol, California.
Adam (Tsvi) Josephs
"At PSU, I was fortunate to connect with the academic study of Judaism at the right time and the right place. The close relationships I was able to build with the dedicated faculty and the unique course offerings of the department prepared me to begin a rewarding career as a Jewish educator."
Adam (Tsvi) Josephs ('15)
During his time at PSU Adam Henry (Tsvi) Josephs received the Abigail Jacobs-Kaufman Scholarship. After graduating with a degree in Judaic Studies in 2015, Adam completed his masters in Jewish education through Hebrew College and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He went on to a teaching position at the Northwest Yeshiva High School in Seattle, WA. He currently teaches fourth grade and middle school students at Oakland Hebrew Day School in Oakland California. Adam says:
“I love teaching the ancient texts of the Jewish tradition and bringing them to life for my students by creating a collaborative learning environment that inculcates curiosity, relevancy, and dialogue."
“I had no idea what subject I wanted to major in. I just looked through the bulletin at all the departments and courses. When I got to Judaic Studies, I read through the course descriptions and decided that that was it!"
Logan Lawrence ('20)
Hailing from a small town in Idaho, Logan Lawrence is the first in his family to go to college. He started out studying computer science at Eastern Oregon University, but he soon became bored with his major. When all his hometown friends moved to Portland for college, he decided to follow them and spend some time reflecting on what he really wanted to do.
Portland did not offer any clear answers, so after a difficult period, he set a new goal for himself -- through-hiking the challenging Pacific Crest Trail, a 2700-mile trek through the mountains and backwoods of California, Oregon and Washington. Hiking roughly 20 miles a day, it took him five months to complete the odyssey. After returning to Portland, Logan worked to save money and then traveled to Nepal for a one-month trip to experience and study the burgeoning Christian community there.
“I think that was a turning point, coming back from Nepal….I had the goal of doing some sort of pastoring, like in a church sense.“
Upon his return, Logan decided that he wanted to go to Western Seminary to study for the ministry. However, that career path required a B.A., so he made the decision to enroll at PSU as a transfer student.
“I had no idea what subject I wanted to major in. I just looked through the bulletin at all the departments and courses. I started at A and went through alphabetically. When I got to Judaic Studies, I read through the course descriptions and decided that that was it! I always liked history and I was excited to learn Hebrew.”
Of course, there was a lot more than just random good luck in Logan’s choice of Judaic Studies as a major. At first glance, an intensive grounding in Judaism, ancient Jewish history, Jewish culture, and Hebrew language might seem like a strange choice for a future pastor, but in fact, his Judaic Studies education is equipping Logan with some fundamental tools for studying Christianity and the Bible.
Logan, who currently volunteers with a local church, aspires to become the kind of pastor who cares not only for his congregants’ individual spiritual lives but also focuses on building a healthy community from the perspective of group dynamics. He would also like to write books in which he passes on what he’s learned in his Judaic Studies courses to a general Christian audience.
Receiving the Harold Schnitzer Family Scholarship had a big impact on Logan’s college career. When he started at PSU he had a Pell grant, but in his final year that funding decreased significantly. Without a scholarship from Judaic Studies, he would have had to get a job and become a part-time student, which would have cut his focus and slowed down his progress significantly.
“I believe that Judaic Studies is the perfect discipline for learning to think critically about complex issues and to see the world from different perspectives, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to study, thanks to scholarships like this one.”
"I've come to serve."
Sarah Rohr ('20)
Born in Chicago and raised in Austin, Texas, Sarah Rohr’s life journey has taken her through a number of fascinating careers, disparate in some ways but united in their emphasis on physicality and the body. She has worked as a farmer in Hawaii, a stone sculptor, a yoga teacher, and she started her own business in breath work practice. She has a passion for working with children and for the past five years she has taught Hebrew at multiple synagogue religious schools around Portland.
She had been aware of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies but it had never occurred to her that it might be right for her until interacting with one of the JST faculty members in an informal setting. She was inspired to look at the program website and discovered classes that spoke to her: Hebrew language, Jewish history, literature, and poetry. A major in Judaic Studies, it seemed to her, would deepen her knowledge as a Jewish educator. Deciding to take the plunge, Sarah enrolled at PSU in 2018, aiming to finish a B.A. in Judaic Studies by summer 2020. (With her credits from previous college courses, she was able to focus solely on Judaic Studies courses and thus “fast-track” her degree.)
Sarah finds that the professors in the Judaic Studies Program make the subject matter come alive, and they also make themselves available to deepen the learning. Says Rohr, “It’s not ‘top down’ - the professors are dynamic and get the students talking with each other.“
Rohr describes as “brilliant” the intergenerational component to classes provided by the presence of senior auditors who take courses through PSU’s Senior Auditors Learning Center (SALC). For example, one of her classmates had 40 years’ experience working as a diplomat abroad. Having this level of life experience present in the classroom really enriches the learning.
Receiving the Harold Schnitzer Family Scholarship feels like an affirmation and an honor. Sarah is grateful to the Schnitzer Family for creating the opportunity for students like her to cherish learning, explore, and give back. In the past year Sarah has penned over 40 poems. Looking to the future, Sarah hopes to craft a career that will incorporate all of her strengths as an artist, an educator, and a leader. She concludes, “I’ve come to serve.”
“I’m interested in opening up new pathways within the field of adult education.”
Ezra believes in accessible education
Born in Alabama, Ezra grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and went to high school in a small town in Idaho. Although neither of his parents attended college, his mother always told him from a young age that he was college bound.
When Ezra began college at the University of Idaho in 2018, he was already interested in becoming a rabbi, but the university did not have a Judaic Studies program. Instead, Ezra enrolled as a sociology major. After he and his parents moved to Portland, he learned about PSU’s Judaic Studies program and the Harold Schnitzer Family Scholarship. His mother encouraged him to apply and he was awarded the scholarship. Ezra started at PSU in fall 2019 as a transfer student, a Judaic Studies major, and a proud scholarship recipient. He went on to apply for and receive The Lois Berlin, John May, Ida & Sam Shleifer Endowed Scholarship in 2020.
Ezra is passionate about making education accessible. He works as a para-educator at Congregation Neveh Shalom supporting people who struggle with learning obstacles. As moderator of an online community of LGBT Jews and students interested in converting to Judaism, Ezra hears stories of how people encounter obstacles to learning. These obstacles may be architectural -- as in, for example, a missing wheelchair ramp at a building entrance -- or financial, such as course fees that a student cannot afford to pay. Other, more nuanced obstacles involve traditional gender roles and assumptions about who will perform which actions in observing Jewish holiday rituals. He says, “I don’t like to be fit in boxes when it comes to Jewish observance or Jewish lifestyle. I think there’s a lot of beauty in all the different ways people practice Judaism.”
After earning his BA at PSU he aspires to go to the nondenominational rabbinical school at Hebrew College in Boston. Ezra states: “I’m interested in opening up new pathways within the field of adult education.” Ezra wants to couple the traditional with the innovative and make Jewish learning accessible to all.
“I felt something click—I finally felt like this was my path, not someone else’s.”
Rachael Walkinshaw ('20)
Rachael Walkinshaw, a Liberal Arts major with a strong interest in art history, minored in Judaic Studies and graduated in June 2020. When Rachael started taking Judaic Studies courses, in her words, “I felt something click—I finally felt like this was my path, not someone else’s.”
In 2018, Rachael was awarded the Sara Glasgow Cogan Memorial Scholarship/Internship at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE). Among Rachael’s responsibilities at the museum, where she interned during the 2018-19 academic year, was primary curatorial responsibility -- including research and writing -- for the museum’s exhibit on the history of Congregation Neveh Shalom on the occasion of that synagogue’s sesquicentennial. Rachael also authored a digital version of the exhibit, published on the Neveh Shalom website.
Rachael expressed her deep intellectual and personal connections to her work at OJMCHE in an essay that she wrote at the close of her internship:
“As I reflect on the past 7 months and what the Sara Glasgow Cogan internship has meant for me, I can’t help but feel that it has been one of the most impactful experiences in my life. What the work has taught me, the connections I have made, and perhaps most significantly, what I have learned about myself, I will carry with me far into my future.
My supervisors and mentors at the museum have lifted me up, encouraging me to do more and push farther, to mine my own potential. When I began the internship, the only expectations I had were related to the stereotype of an intern who is incapable of taking on any real responsibility; what I experienced has been vastly different and far exceeded any hopes I had. I started out by doing simple research for an exhibit and before I knew it, I had become guest curator of the exhibit. Through this experience I discovered both the depth of my roots in the Jewish community in Portland and a depth to my own capabilities which I have never explored before.”
In her last year at PSU, Rachael took part in a capstone project that involved teaching immigrant and refugee youth in after-school settings in Portland schools. She currently serves as coordinator of Congregation Shir Tikvah’s Nashira religious school. Rachael intends to pursue a career connected to Jewish education, museum work, or educational administration. She is also considering graduate work in Jewish studies or museum studies.
Rachael graduated in June 2020 and now serves as the Education Director at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Portland Oregon.