Double-Major in Jewish Studies and Religion, Minor in History (SAS '21)
Originally from Neshanic Station, New Jersey, Christine Jensen decided to attend Rutgers because she wanted to study close to home, following in her brother’s footsteps. With the goal of becoming a social studies teacher, she also hoped to pursue a Master’s degree at the Rutgers School of Education after completing her undergraduate degree. But everything changed when on a lark she took the course Introduction to Bible.
Then a History major/Spanish minor, Christine fell in love with the Hebrew Bible, in this Religion Department course cross-listed with Jewish Studies. It opened a window onto an entirely different biblical world from the one she had exposure to growing up in a Christian home. She switched her major to Religion and her minor to History, picking up Hebrew to satisfy the Honors Program language requirement.
“My Hebrew classes were among my hardest yet most engaging at Rutgers,” she recalls. She found it “fascinating to see how the original language conveys so many layers of biblical text, as opposed to the one dimension of typical English translations.”
Intrigued, she began enrolling in other Jewish Studies courses. Christine remembers that “it was eye-opening to learn how interdisciplinary the field is, comprising politics and gender studies, for example.”
Of the six classes on her schedule during the first semester of her sophomore year, four were in Jewish Studies. It was, in part, serendipitous. “It just happened that even the History and Religion department courses I was most interested in were cross-listed. It made sense to add the double major at that point, especially when everything in Jewish Studies seemed to fascinate me.” In total, Christine took 15 Jewish Studies courses, exceeding the departmental requirement.
Christine describes her Jewish Studies professors, especially Orna Goldman and Professor Gary Rendsburg, as “an outstanding resources.” Her interests gravitated towards Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism, and she found a mentor in Professor Rendsburg after taking his class, Jewish History I: Ancient & Medieval. She later served as his research assistant, a role she continues in this year.
In his course The Dead Sea Scrolls, she had the chance to conduct advance research on the Qumran Beatitudes, examining how the manuscript relates to the Christian Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew. The experience of reading the scrolls in the original ancient Hebrew opened up possibilities “for a richer, deeper layer of engagement with the material,” one she never imagined. “To think that I came to Rutgers without even knowing the Hebrew alphabet!”
Of Christine, Professor Rendsburg says, “She fully embraced the relationship between her majors in Religion and Jewish Studies, priming her for the more advanced work in the field of Biblical Studies she hopes to pursue. She is a student devoted to her discipline of choice.”
During her senior year, Christine began taking Master’s level courses in Religion, with a focus on the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, as part of the 4+1 M.A. program. The recipient of the Baruch S. and Pearl W. Seidman Award for Excellence in Jewish Studies, she completed her undergraduate degree in May 2021. She is currently working on her Master’s thesis, examining women and sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible.
Christine plans to apply to doctoral programs and to pursue a career in research.
Written by Merri Ukraincik, August 2021
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