A New Year with New Opportunities by Evan Vossman, President, Graduate Student Association

Friday, November 4, 2022

Headshot of Evan VossmanThe High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar – and the academic break which facilitates it – have recently come to a close. As usual, this season yielded benefits for all types of learners at HUC-JIR. For many students, it created opportunities to meaningfully connect with family, build a sense of community amongst congregations, and hone various pastoral and homiletical skills. And for others, it primarily allowed time to catch up on schoolwork and prepare for what the remainder of the semester will bring.

The academic year kicked off with student orientation. The lingering Covid-19 virus unfortunately continues to ebb and flow, and a surge of cases arose in Hamilton County at the time. Despite this, masks and moderate distancing allowed the event to continue as planned. This gave graduate students the chance to enjoy a meal and get to know one another while becoming familiarized with campus life. The Pines School of Graduate Studies admitted two new students into the Ph.D. program: Ryan Cataldo, who has begun the Jewish and Christian Studies in the Greco-Roman Period track, and myself in the History of Biblical Interpretation track. Three new M.A.J.S. students have also enrolled: Thomas Carroll, Darhla Miles, and Jonathan Beck. Everyone is acclimating to the demands of their studies and enjoying the diverse community that HUC-JIR has to offer.

With diversity in mind, the Graduate and Rabbinic Student Associations have already started working together on event planning. For example, representatives from both groups collaborated with the faculty to put on a Shabbaton this past September. Here, members of the HUC-JIR community had the chance to participate in Shabbat services led by rabbinical students, followed by optional social activities and teaching sessions that students co-taught with professors and alumni. The event was successful, bringing everyone together to experience spiritual and intellectual enrichment.

The graduate students have also been involved in exciting work. A group of Ph.D. students recently returned from the Summer in Israel Archaeology program, where they stayed in Jerusalem for two weeks, touring the city and its environs with Dr. Jason Kalman. The final four weeks were spent at an archaeological dig at Tel Dan that was led by Dr. David Ilan and Dr. Yifat Thareani, faculty from HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus. Students like Chris Beecher, Connor Ham, and C.J. Gossage are taking the initiative in their coursework by requesting a Second Temple Exegesis independent study course led by Dr. Jason Kalman. They are examining the diverse exegetical practices found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other Jewish-Hellenistic literature. In addition to his studies, C.J. Gossage has also recently joined the staff of The American Israelite, writing a monthly column titled “Jews by Choice,” where he will explore the diverse experiences of converts among Cincinnati’s Jewish communities. Finally, the GSA officers are currently working on an “HUC merchandise” fundraising project, selling t-shirts and hoodies to students, alumni, faculty, that feature the old HUC logo found on bookplates in the Klau Library. This logo was chosen because of the subtle message it communicates about the endurance and legacy of the beloved Cincinnati campus.

As the semester continues, we look forward to a time of continued growth. The GSA leadership team for this year is well-equipped for the task: Ph.D. students C.J. Gossage as vice president; Thomas Murphy as secretary; Chris Beecher as treasurer; and Chris Slane as GSA/RSA liaison. We are eager to serve our fellow PSGS students and engage with our rabbinic student colleagues and the wider HUC-JIR community.