Editor in Chief, Maggid Books (Koren publishers Jerusalem); Lecturer, rabbinic literature, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
I decided to join the English department one idle Wednesday, when, wandering into a friend’s dorm room, I found myself face to face with her bookshelf. Shakespeares and Wordsworths and Austens and Twains. “This is your homework?” I asked, amazed (I was a communications major and had spent the year slogging through Karl Marx and Marshall Mcluhan). When she said yes I knew I had to be wherever she was. It was the most spontaneous – and best – decision I ever made.
I spent years in the department, immersing myself in the treasures of English literature, and the Western canon besides. I learned to read, I learned to think, I learned to write. I discovered literature was the great love of my life, and that working with text was the only thing I ever wanted to do.
Today, I spend my life surrounded with books. As an editor in chief, I have published over a hundred titles to date, including ten National Jewish Book Award winners and finalists. As a lecturer, I’ve taught rabbinic texts in several institutions and across five continents. I was never trained in publishing, and have no formal degree in rabbinics. The English department taught me all I needed to know.
Published writer & Theatre Program Manager, Montreal, Canada
One of the features I appreciate about the English department is that it draws students from a variety of backgrounds, who bring diverse views and motivations to the conversation. In my case, I had postponed my academic studies for years, and when I finally entered the university in my thirties, it was with immense gratitude. I felt (and feel) it was a privilege to have the opportunity to sit and study literature.
It was a pleasure to sink into my love of books more deliberately. To be directed through and beyond the canon by knowledgeable teachers, to read closely, to learn how to apply--and write within--an academic frame, to be continuously stimulated and challenged. With this, I also found my professors open to the (sometimes eclectic) themes that drove me, encouraging research and writing that was both creative and accountable.
After completing my MA, I re-relocated to my hometown, Montreal, Canada, where I quickly got involved in the bilingual city’s active Anglo literary scene and continued developing my own creative writing. Several stories and essays, set in Jerusalem and Montreal, have been published in Canadian literary journals, and other pieces I hope will eventually find their way into a manuscript. My professional work is in the city’s arts and culture scene as a programs manager in an English theatre, where the skills sharpened through studying literature go to constant valuable use.
I consider my time in the English department as no less than transformative, and the decision to go back to school as one of the best I’ve made in my life.
Academic. Lecturer, University of Haifa
Reader beware: an English degree changes you. What started with poetry, a weakness for the Oxford English Dictionary, and a fascination with Victorian novels, developed with two degrees and one postdoctoral fellowship – a PhD at McGill University and another postdoctoral fellowship at Ben-Gurion University in the balance – into a career as a British Romanticist at the University of Haifa.
At the Hebrew University English Department I first encountered critical questions that I am still working on decades later, and methods for close-reading complex literary texts.
Throughout this journey, the department has supported my development with generous fellowships and with mentoring opportunities, such as the Dickens Project and editorial work on Partial Answers.
These have provided the basis for my research in literary studies and in related areas of philosophy and political theory – a daily presence in my writing and teaching.
Academic. Senior Lecturer, Tel Aviv University
The many years I spent at the English Department both expanded my intellectual horizons in directions I had not even imagined prior to joining it and made a decisive contribution to my professional development first as an editor and translator and now as a university lecturer. I owe the way I read, write, and teach to the dedicated professors who inspired me to follow this path, trained, and supported me. Who could have foreseen that a survey of medieval and Renaissance literature I had signed up for on the spur of the moment while a student in another department would have led me to devote my life to this field?
As an MA and PhD student of English and later a postdoctoral fellow, I especially appreciated the extracurricular activities in which I was involved: from presenting at the Graduate Symposium and eventually taking part in organizing it to serving on the editorial board of Partial Answers, from attending the Dickens Universe to working as an instructor, and so much else besides. These pursuits helped distinguish the Department from a regular degree program.
Director, Hebrew University Language Center
I confess that I first arrived in the English Department by accident; that is to say, I was drawn to the Hebrew University by the Cognitive Science program and sought a second major that would complement interdisciplinary studies about the mind. Linguistics, which at the time was offered within the English Department, seemed appropriate. As an undergrad in English, I naturally participated in literature courses, taught by extremely inspiring teachers; before I knew it, I was pursuing a research track Master's degree in English literature.
What I found striking was how interdisciplinary the study of literature is; it is key to studying the human mind, which continued to be my primary focus; it has also provided the liberal arts education I was seeking – exposure to art, history, philosophy, religion, psychology and linguistics.
Despite having grown up in an English-speaking environment, I was lacking formal training in writing, and even in reading. The guidance offered by my teachers inspired me and eventually led me to become a teacher of academic skills.
As an instructor in the English Department, and in other frameworks, I was given academic freedom and ongoing support, which encouraged me to specialize in curriculum innovation in language teaching. The next step was to be entrusted with establishing and managing the Hebrew University Language Center. Creating a new standard of language teaching at the university that "raised" me is truly an honor and extremely rewarding. I am surrounded by students learning how to read, write and converse in various languages, including Chinese, Italian and Arabic. Some of them wonder about potential career paths, but my experience has been that it's ok not to have a plan; often our greatest passions eventfully find us.
Like most literature majors, I've always loved reading. I've also always loved carrying on intellectual conversations involving complex subjects and big words. One of the most delightful things about the Hebrew University English Department was that it enabled me to combine those two loves into a course of study. But it wasn't just that my class reading lists consisted mainly of contemporary and classic literature (including some excellent books I would never have thought to read on my own), or that I got to spend hours engaged in stimulating discussions with lovely and intelligent people who shared my interests. My time in the department also exposed me to a wide range of thinkers, many in fields that weren't necessarily literary. And most importantly, I found myself in an environment that rigorously encouraged critical thinking, where my professors could actually parse my sesquipedalian ramblings and call me on inconsistencies or lack of substance. It was an environment that challenged me to work hard, to put careful thought into my words--and to learn. I've emerged from it edified--and with some published poems under my belt to boot.
Academic. Lecturer, Tel Aviv University
I was always a reader growing up, but I had never thought of literary studies as a career option. It somehow did not occur to me that I could work at what I love. Therefore, when I enrolled in the English Department at the Hebrew University in the early 2000s, it was so as to have some form of spiritual sustenance while I pursued my more "serious" course of study in another of the university's faculties. It did not take long, however, before English became my overriding intellectual preoccupation and the center of my academic career. And so, a contingent decision, made almost desultorily, changed the course of my life.
I owe much of the last decade - from the acceptance to the graduate program at Stanford University to the subsequent hire by the Department of English and American Studies at Tel Aviv University - to my professors at Hebrew U. The English Department offers its undergraduates what I now know to be a world-class education, all while providing a genuine home to the literary-minded student. It provided me with a model of academic and intellectual excellence that I continually try to live up to in my own teaching, research and writing.