Phillip Fisherman

Year-In-Israel Student

Phillip Fisherman headshot

Why did you choose HUC-JIR?
I chose to study at HUC-JIR because I thought it was the best program to facilitate my growth as a leader in the Jewish community. It was this desire to work in community that led to my pursuit of Cantorial studies.

What have you enjoyed about being in Israel so far? How will your Year-In-Israel shape your personal and/or career path?
I have greatly enjoyed my time in Jerusalem so far. I love the stone architecture and enjoy walking around the city daily. The Jerusalem campus is the most beautiful academic building where I’ve studied, especially with the number of trees and gardens that make up the inside of the campus. Being in Israel for this first year has challenged me to adapt to a new environment and evaluate how I see myself as a Jew. My current academic studies and class trips around the country have helped me better understand my Jewish values. It’s using these values that I think will help me for the future. Along with ideology, I think Judaism is a religion of action. It’s not enough to acknowledge injustice in the world. How do I implement these values into action?

What has amazed me about my time in Israel is how much it’s come to feel like a second home. You don’t have to look hard to connect more strongly to Judaism. The entire country is designed to operate on Jewish time, which makes it easier to develop a spiritual practice. I grew up with a very specific type of prayer practice in the Reform Movement. Being in the Holy City allows me to enter different prayer spaces and learn how different groups of Jews pray. It has influenced the way that I approach prayer, and I am more open to diverse religious experiences when I return to the states.

I’ve really enjoyed being here, walking up and down the streets of Jerusalem, knowing that this is where a lot of the history is. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know people in my class.

Please tell us about your Jewish journey and your journey to HUC-JIR.
I grew up attending religious school at my shul in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and I was very involved, especially in their music programming. In high school I was also part of HaZamir, an international Jewish teen choir, so my Jewish music background was definitely being built and I felt very comfortable in this community. In college I did not find my footing within Jewish life on campus, which disconnected me, but after graduating I realized that I had that need for being in Jewish community.

I initially wanted to be a music teacher, but eventually realized that wasn’t my path. To combine my desire for community and my work in music, I considered cantorial school. I went back home, did b’nai mitzvah tutoring, worked as a substitute cantor at home, and I realized that it was the right decision to pursue cantorial school.

Please describe HUC-JIR in one word.

What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to visiting Lithuania with HUC-JIR during spring break, and doing some exploring on my own. I am also looking forward to learning more about Israel because there’s a lot to discover here.