So it’s been a while since my last post, but that wasn’t because I forgot—classes started this month and I wanted to make sure I knew what my opinion on them was before I solidified them in print!
So, Hebrew is still difficult. The first week, especially, was awful, because they kept changing our room around and we had a different professor each day, until we realized that our class does have two professors. That’s a system I like, though—I like that, if I don’t understand the way one professor teaches an aspect of grammar, I have time to ask the other to explain it further.
HOWEVER! The rest of my classes are pretty all right!
Issues in the Study of the Holocaust was a very interesting experience on that first day: I walked in to find my professor, Dr. Silberklang, sitting casually in front of the class, waiting for us all to walk in. I’m not used to that kind of relaxed behavior, at least not on the first day, from professors. He looked very intense—he has very focused, deep-set eyes and a narrow face with a mouth that doesn’t look like it smiles very often. My very first thought was, “This really looks like a man who studies genocide for a living.” Not to say that Dr. Silberklang is completely without humor, but for the first few classes I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He’s extremely knowledgeable, of course, and I very much enjoy being in his class. Our first lecture raised the question, “Who do we define as victims of the Holocaust?” By the end of the lesson we hadn’t formed our opinion as a class, so at the end of the next class I asked how we define it. He smiled (vaguely terrifying!) and said that I’d have my answer by the end of the semester. Which frustrated me, a little, as a history major: terms should be defined early on so that we understand the context in which we use the terms, and while I completely understand the importance of coming to our own decision on how this mass atrocity can be defined, it also frustrated me that, well, “Holocaust” is in the name of the course, we should have a settled definition.
Issues in Israeli Society and I did not get off on the right foot right away. I go to a small liberal arts college where the class size in gen eds is about 30, 35 people while the more specific classes go down to 15 or so people. Holocaust had about 10, and I was very comfortable walking into that room. However, Israeli Society is taught in a lecture hall to over 50 students—I nearly walked in and walked right back out, I was overwhelmed! The big downside of the class is that some Freshman are required to take it, so the atmosphere is not of people choosing to learn what the class has to offer but instead of people forced into a room for 2 hours in the evening when they’d rather be doing anything else. However, the information taught in the class is great, and I’m enjoying what I’m getting out of it. A bonus, the professor is Canadian and has a sense of humor I’m familiar with and comfortable around.
Now, Continuity and Change in Modern Jewish History is the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Unfortunately, I know a lot about what we’re studying right now—we’ve been covering the history of antisemitism in Europe, and not only did I study that a bit at SU but we also went over it in Holocaust to build up into the Third Reich. And while that’s forgivable—going over information I already know, because we’ll eventually get to a part in time I don’t know about, which is a very exciting prospect and the reason I’m taking the course—I’m just not hitting it off with my professor. She’s almost a mixture of everything I disliked about high school teachers: mainly, it doesn’t feel like there’s any trust between professor and student. Generally, professors understand that you are responsible for yourself, and there’s nothing they can do if you’ve decided to be irresponsible. It’s almost the opposite with my Jewish History professor, and it’s hard to explain. It feels like she treats us as children, is, I suppose, the easiest way to put it. She scolds us if someone hasn’t done the reading, and she’s very quick to call us out if we’ve made a little mistake or have done something slightly disruptive in class—I’m so used to professors generally ignoring the class while lecturing, and leaving us to our own devices. It’s very strange and very uncomfortable to have a professor who watches us like a hawk and if we aren’t doing things to her standards, we’re yelled at for it. It’s difficult to explain because it’s generally an atmospheric thing in that room. It’s not a positive feeling. And while I’m learning and getting a lot out of the material of this class, I absolutely do not enjoy the actual lectures. It doesn’t help that my professor feels like the epitome of a person without a sense of humor—I’d never understood that description until coming here, unfortunately.
But overall, things are fine, generally! I’m applying for an internship with the Institute for Contemporary Jewry and will hopefully be interviewed for it tomorrow or the day after—that’s incredibly exciting for me! Will write again next week to make up for the weeks I’ve made up!