Liati Mayk-Hai knows how to make a lasting impression—with and without a paintbrush. Liati, an accomplished artist and musician, thought law school would be the next step after college, but it was through the website of The Jewish Theological Seminary that another path presented itself.
After completing her undergraduate education at Rutgers University in 2003, Liati set off for Israel to join her sister and friends, play music, and study Hebrew. While in Israel, she put out a CD of folk music under the stage name of Café Liati. When her father suggested she apply to cantorial school, Liati browsed the JTS website for information about the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, but also discovered the master's program in Hebrew Literature offered through The Graduate School. "The ability to study Hebrew and Yiddish literature and to focus on Jewish literature as an individual discipline really attracted me to the program," she says.
Liati came to JTS in 2006, originally intending to stay for two years to complete her MA. As luck would have it, she was awarded a graduate fellowship and so she decided to continue her studies toward a PhD in Modern Jewish Literature. Now in her fourth year, Liati is fully enmeshed in life at JTS: "I really like the intimate classroom experience here, the diverse community, and the fact that my classmates share my passion for Jewish studies."
The ability to take several courses at Columbia University as part of The Graduate School's joint program is an additional benefit. "I took a seminar at Columbia on 'Jews and the City,' and my final project was to create a historical walking tour of Tel Aviv highlighting places of artistic and literary significance—the same places where the artists and writers that I am studying at JTS once lived," Liati says. She also got to put her paper into practice, leading private groups and Birthright Israel participants on her walking tour.
Back in 2003, Liati also used her time in Israel to play softball for the Women's Israeli National Softball Team (WINS), which her sister helped launch, and to participate in three European championships. In a surprise connection to JTS, one of the starting pitchers, Maiya Chard-Yaron, turned out to be an alumna of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education.
At JTS, Liati has been working for the past four years as a coordinator of the Jewish Feminist Research Group (JFRG), directed by Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner. The JFRG provides scholars and graduate students the opportunity to receive feedback on their work from a panel of experts in the field.
Over in JTS's Goldsmith residence hall, Liati has left her mark by way of a large mural that she designed and helped paint. The mural, based on one of Yehuda Halevi's famous poems and hanging in the Moadon, combines a symbolic Jerusalem landscape with the iconic New York City skyline and the words: "My Heart is in the East, but I am on the Upper West Side."
Whether she is painting, studying, or simply making her famous banana smoothies, Liati knows JTS is the place that allows all of her passions to come together in a colorful palette.
Liati Mayk-Hai talks about her work with JFRG: