The Jewish Theological Seminary: Why did you choose The Davidson School?
Dana Levinson: The Experiential Education track sounded so unique and innovative. I really wanted to be part of it.
JTS: Tell us about your favorite class.
DL: As someone who came into JTS with very little text experience, I really enjoyed how Dr. Stephen Garfinkel taught text criticism in Introduction to Hebrew Bible. It was a nice balance of modern-day viewpoints and timelessness.
My favorite class involved a debate around the exact dates of the Exodus. We were asked to use the knowledge we had gained throughout the course to ascertain the dates of the Exodus and other watershed moments in Jewish history. It ended up turning into somewhat of a heated discussion, and it was incredible to see our course come to life.
JTS: What do you enjoy most about being part of our community?
DL: I came to JTS with a sense of hesitancy regarding my ability to read text and feel comfortable engaging with it. After my first Parshanut class, I was incredibly nervous and concerned that lacking a background with classical Jewish texts would be my Achilles' heel. I couldn't have been more wrong about that. All of my instructors and classmates were supportive and encouraging, helping me after class and answering dozens of emails to ensure my comfort with the material. It was really meaningful to me that the JTS community wanted to ensure my success, and I have felt their encouragement ever since.
JTS: Which person at JTS has had the greatest impact on you so far?
DL: I recently returned from the five-month pilot program of Kesher Hadash in Israel, which was led by Dr. Alex Sinclair. The experience was profoundly life changing for me, both as a student and as a Jewish educator. Dr. Sinclair pushed the boundaries of what I thought was possible in Israel education, and created meaningful opportunities. I was constantly in awe and impressed by the topics he presented. We were asked to engage with tough issues that can often challenge and intimidate Jewish educators. With Dr. Sinclair's guidance, I now have the wherewithal to engage complex and sophisticated material, and the confidence to educate others about Israel.
JTS: What are your professional goals?
DL: I hope to combine my interests in Jewish summer camps and Israel education. During my eight years working at Camp Ramah in Nyack, I have witnessed the incredible possibilities and life-changing experiences that Jewish summer camp provides for both campers and staff. Many of my experiences with Zionist identity building have come from my time at camp, and my closest Israeli friendships started and developed during these wonderful summers.
If I had the ability to work within the camping world, I would love to focus on Israel education in order to continuously innovate and solidify programming in that area. The relationship between Israelis and Americans at summer camp is unique. It's an opportunity to create meaningful connections to both Israel and Judaism. My ultimate goal is to create cross-cultural competence between the Israeli and American communities so that we can unite and better understand each other.
JTS: Name your favorite place on campus?
DL: I love food, so it's no surprise that my favorite place on campus is the cafeteria. On "Meat Wednesdays," I'm the one with an enormous sloppy Joe and a smile.