Most Jewish girls have bat mitzvahs when they turn twelve. For List College student Jackie Beckwith, born Roman Catholic, that age turned out to be the right time to adopt Judaism as her spiritual ideal and art as her professional and personal focus.
Growing up in Fresno, California, Jackie and her mother sought religious fulfillment through what Jackie calls “church shopping,” looking into different religious congregations to see which would be the right fit.
Eventually finding a home at Temple Beth Israel, Jackie immersed herself in youth-group events and Hebrew school. “The spirituality and theology of it made sense to me, and it finally felt like this was what I wanted,” she said.
For the next two and a half years, Jackie and her mom prepared for and underwent the conversion to Judaism. During this same time, Jackie also visited Paris and fell in love with art during a visit to the Picasso museum. “I was overwhelmed by the immense work of one man in one lifetime,” Jackie recalled.
In looking for a university to enhance both her new Jewish identity and her love of the art world, Jackie saw List College as the perfect balance. Now in the Joint Program with Columbia University, majoring in Middle Eastern Languages and Culture and in Jewish Art and Visual Culture, Jackie could not be happier. “The Joint Program gives people the tools and access to let people form a Jewish identity in any direction they want to go. You are free to explore, and I really appreciate that,” she said.
At List College, Jackie has assumed a variety of responsibilities and enjoyed the range of cultural activities New York has to offer. She has been a resident adviser in the Mathilde Schechter Residence Hall for two years and enjoys tutoring bar/bat mitzvah students in Hebrew. Outside school, Jackie serves on the executive board of the college group at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she plans fun programs and parties for college students. She has also traded in “church shopping” for finding great deals on fashionable clothing, shoes, and bags.
List College has provided a platform for Jackie to accomplish her dreams, and she hopes to work for an auction house or in art advisory services upon graduation—as well as finally having her own bat mitzvah.