A third-generation student at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ilana Foss was already familiar with the institution from childhood, but it took her many thousands of miles to finally arrive at The Rabbinical School of JTS.
After completing an undergraduate degree in Black Studies at Amherst College, Ilana went to work in Africa at Kenya's Baraka School where at-risk boys from Baltimore, also Ilana's hometown, go to work and learn. Returning to the United States after two years, Ilana worked with juvenile offenders in Washington DC.
Later, after working with the Nesiya Summer Institute in Israel "to build Jewish communities through art and other creative media for American and Israeli high school students of all backgrounds," as she puts it, Ilana became interested in developing models for involving other people in expanding cultural and religious communities. That's when she decided that JTS was the choice to further her education because the quality and diversity of its programs and the careers she could choose from after ordination are exemplary. "The Jewish Theological Seminary provides the best opportunities in terms of professional development, internships options, and being able to take advantage of the larger Jewish community in New York," Ilana says.
Now a fourth-year student concentrating in pastoral care and counseling, Ilana has successfully transitioned from the working world back to an academic environment. One class in particular, Dr. David Kraemer's The History of Religious Ideas, has been especially important to Ilana because it helps her trace the development of certain concepts and rituals within Judaism.
Ilana also serves as an educator, teaching a thirty-week basic Judaism course for interfaith couples through the 92nd St. Y's Derekh Torah program. Calling it "one of the most exciting things I have done during rabbinical school," Ilana facilitates conversations about conversion, building a Jewish home, and other topics.
Says Ilana, "It is fascinating to talk with people who have come to Judaism on their own and it is a great opportunity to introduce and re-introduce Judaism to them and to help foster positive relationships with the religion."
In the future, Ilana is looking beyond the pulpit to civic work in social justice or chaplaincy. With a variety of avenues available to her, Ilana is confident that she has the necessary tools for success in whichever field she chooses. Says Ilana, "I feel like there are a lot of options for me and that is a direct result of the education and training I have received from JTS."