Nadav David, ’17, a Finance major minoring in both Jewish Studies and Social Entrepreneurship, received the Ruderman Scholarship in Jewish Studies for 2015. In this interview, he reflects on his academic experiences with Northeastern’s Jewish Studies program as well as his future plans.
Why did you decide to attend Northeastern?
I chose to attend Northeastern to challenge myself in a completely new environment. After attending small Jewish day schools growing up in Northern California, I felt that attending a large university in an urban environment would be an extremely valuable experience. Ultimately, the opportunity to gain real experience in the business world through the co-op program would become the driving factor of my decision.
You had an extensive Jewish education growing up, attending Jewish day school all the way through high school. When you started college, did you think you would continue to pursue that education here? If not, what drew you into the Jewish Studies program?
In my first semester at Northeastern, I quickly engaged with the Jewish community on campus. I became involved with the student board at Hillel and joined the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, but did not expect to explore my Judaism in an academic context. My desire to pursue liberal arts studies alongside my career-focused business studies convinced me to take my first Jewish studies course, European Jewish History. I soon realized the unique opportunity to delve deeper into Jewish history and my own identity from a stimulating and challenging academic perspective.
How do your Jewish Studies courses here differ from your earlier Jewish education?
My Jewish Studies courses at Northeastern have provided me with a much more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of Jewish history, identity and culture. Throughout my courses, there has been a great focus on critically analyzing and challenging assumptions or issues that might have been taken for granted in earlier Jewish education. Also, the opportunity to explore topics I’m extremely interested in through in-depth research projects has been an extremely valuable and meaningful experience that was not always an option in prior Jewish education.
What is the most interesting thing you have learned so far in a Jewish Studies course?
It’s been fascinating to learn about the progression of the understanding of Jewish identity in the context of historical racial issues in the course “Race, Religion, Ethnicity: The Jewish Example.” In many ways, the consequences of the Holocaust have prevented mainstream Jewish education from exploring these questions and issues so it’s been an extremely unique learning experience.
Are there areas of Jewish Studies you feel you would still like to explore?
I’m interested in further exploring a number of Jewish Studies topics. First off, I hope to delve deeper into the experience of Mizrachi and Sephardic Jews prior to the establishment of Israel and how the creation of the state affected their identities. Additionally, I hope to further research the role of Jewish communities in social justice movements throughout European and American Jewish history.
What, if any connections, do you see between Jewish Studies and your major field of study? Do you feel your work in Jewish Studies informs your approach to other subjects?
As a finance major in the D’Amore McKim School of Business with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship, I see connections in the Jewish community’s historic commitment to social justice issues. In many ways, the identity and values I have developed throughout my earlier Jewish education into my Jewish Studies minor informs my interest in using finance and business skills as a tool for positive influence on social issues. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to participate in a four-week Northeastern program in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Our work with the microfinance bank, Esperanza International, allowed us to interact with and learn from women in severely impoverished communities. It was an eye-opening experience to witness the power of positive financial opportunities. During this trip, I was able to put into practice many of the Jewish values I acquired throughout my early education as well as continue to gain in my academic pursuit of Jewish Studies.
How does Jewish Studies fit into your long-term plans, for either career or personal life?
My academic pursuit of Jewish Studies continues to deepen my knowledge of Jewish history and inform my own identity. I look forward to continuing my academic Jewish learning beyond my time at Northeastern. As an active member of the organized Jewish community, I am inspired to capitalize on opportunities into the future to perform deeper research into Jewish topics in which I’m most interested and connect directly with my personal Jewish character.