“I’ve always loved art, and I love finding things in the world that connect to my own Jewish identity. I realized I could actually find a profession that combines my two passions,” says Brett Drucker, who’s working toward a master’s degree in Jewish Art and Visual Culture from The Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary. “This is the only master’s program in the country that focuses on Jewish art,” Brett notes, but he also points out that his program leads to a variety of employment possibilities.
“I would like to be a curator, eventually, and perhaps work at one of the many Jewish museums that exist around the country. There are other jobs too—the major auction house Sotheby’s, for example, has an entire Judaica department. Like other professions, the more you get into the field, the more you find out about opportunities that you didn’t know existed.”
While The Graduate School uniquely enables him to focus on the artistic field and objects that most deeply engage him, Brett also loves the vibrant Jewish environment at JTS. He and his wife, Aderet, a student in The Rabbinical School, are the incoming Jewish Life directors at Mathilde Schechter Residence Hall, which provides housing for the undergraduate students of Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies. And taking classes with students from JTS’s three other graduate-level schools immerses him in the largest community of graduate students in Jewish fields outside Israel—all studying, working, eating, and socializing beside one another.
Brett is fascinated by the intersection between Jewish ceremonial life and the world of visual art and culture. “I had an experience while interning at The Jewish Museum that was a crystallization of all these things I enjoy,” he says. “Many ceremonial spice boxes in their collection started out as objects with purely secular functions and were then later transformed into besamim (spice) boxes. Some looked like they originally held matches or everyday spices for cooking. Then, some time after they were made, a different artisan inscribed Hebrew or Yiddish onto them, and this transformed the objects into something ceremonial. As I focused on objects as pieces of craftsmanship, I was also thinking about how these objects were being used, hundreds of years ago, by a Jewish family in their religious observance. It’s another window into someone’s life, an experience you can’t get from a history book.”