By Brachy Wittels
I grew up in Lakewood, NJ and spent my elementary and high school years learning in Bais Yaakov schools. As is the nature of Bais Yaakov schools, I spent most of my time learning a wide array of Jewish studies, including Halacha, Chumash, Navi, and more. Although there was no other school that I could have gone to, I appreciated almost everything I learned in school. That being said, when I completed high school, I was excited to be free of the obligation of sitting through classes which teach me about the practicalities of being Jewish. When it really comes down to it, your religious choices are between yourself and God, and nobody can really tell you what to do.
When I decided to enroll in Stern College for Women, I didn’t fully understand the impact that taking three Judaic courses each semester would have on my course load. The Judaic studies CORE requirements for anybody who did not spend a year in Israel require students to take three Judaic courses, or the equivalent of eight or nine credits, for six semesters, plus an additional fourteen Judaic credits. Being a pre-med student, my time is completely consumed by the science classes I am required to take. As you can imagine, I barely have enough time to study for the courses I need to do well in to get into medical school, let alone write long term papers and do research assignments for Judaic courses.
While I really love being in Stern and I feel like I have made a really good group of friends that will last a lifetime, I don’t think it’s fair for me to have to take so many Judaic courses, especially considering that I already took most of them growing up, just to be in a university with a Jewish environment. Personally, I think if there is going to be a Judaic studies requirement, the department should not force us to take more than five Judaic courses while we’re here. Having a five course minimum will allow students to choose how many Judaic courses they feel like they can handle, and the five course minimum does not stop anyone from taking more. If there is a student who wants to take more, she’s more than welcome to. There are many students who want to go into Jewish education, and taking Judaic classes will be beneficial for them. The flexibility to choose how many Judaic courses one can take will be good for us students, because we can decide what we want our schedules to look like. For example, if someone is taking a science class with a lab, they will physically not have enough time to get all the work of intense Judaic and secular courses done, unless they don’t sleep.
Last semester I was only taking one chemistry class and had a much lighter course load. Because of that, I had the privilege to learn from Dr. Michelle Levine, and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of her class. However, the only reason I was able to devote time to write a 15,000 word essay was because my other classes were not very time consuming.
Even though it might look good to have an associate’s degree in Judaic studies upon graduating, I’d much rather be able to put the proper amount of time into my sciences and get amazing grades, instead of receiving an associate’s degree in something that does not help me in the long run.