Why did you go into Jewish Studies?

Deborah Green

University of Oregon

In 1995, I was working for a human resources consulting firm as a marketer. I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, and flying out to the Los Angeles office for two weeks each month. I spent a lot of time in airports and on the phone. I did my job quite well and could probably do it in my sleep. The pay was very good, and my staff was really terrific, but I felt unfulfilled. I wanted to work at something in which I would need to learn constantly and where I could interact with bright, highly curious people every day. One day the rabbi of my synagogue in Madison asked me to speak to some church groups on the weekends because he had more invitations than he could handle. I agreed and spent the next year or so researching and speaking on topics such as, "The Jewish View of Jesus," "Jews at the Time of Jesus," and "What Kind of Jew was Jesus?" Needless to say, I became very interested in Bible and Hellenistic and early rabbinic Judaism. When my now ex-husband landed a job that moved us to Chicago, I thought, "Here's my chance. I'll take off for a year or two and see what grad school feels like." I enrolled in a terminal MA program at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. The dean of students kept asking me, "Don't you want to enroll in the regular MA program? What if you decide to go on for a PhD?" I didn't consider his questions seriously. But on the first day of orientation, I sat in this magnificent room on campus, listened to presentations about the upcoming intellectual rigors, and gazed up at the wood-carved angels on the beam ceiling who were singing hymns. At the break, I went downstairs and changed my track from "terminal MA" to "MA toward PhD." I was home; I've never looked back.