Student Experiences

Archaeological Dig

19905005 10212990681992323 8751958437426162442 nJenna Kershenbaum working on the Mount Zion Archaeological Project in Israel (summer 2017)

I've never been one for early mornings, but waking up at 4 o'clock for two weeks to work on an archaeological dig in Jerusalem proved to be quite the experience.  UNC Charlotte runs a summer dig session in June and July, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with men and women of all ages and nationalities to unearth Jerusalem's hidden historic treasures.  

Clad in steel-toed boots and sturdy working gloves, I ventured out of the Zion Gate of the Old City at 4:00 AM to a rare silence.  The Old City, usually buzzing with tourists, shop vendors, and multi-ethnic residents, was still very much asleep when our group arrived at the dig site.  Each morning, we would form a human assembly line to pass supplies from a storage building an up to the site.  Such materials included buckets, pickaxes, brushes, and metal detectors.  Once everything and everyone was present and accounted for, we would be briefed by Dr. Shimon Gibson, professor of archaeology at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. This would usually include some historical context based off of what we would be digging up that week.  After this, we would get straight to work.  I worked on a number of tasks, including clearing large boulders from my assigned area, checking for metal objects (such as coins or nails), and looking for other artifacts, like animal bones or glass shards.  We would work until midday, when we took a break for lunch.  This part of the day was toughest because the sun had already risen and temperatures would reach upwards of 100 degrees (F).  Following lunch, we would resume work until around 3:30, when we would begin to pack up the supplies to put them back into storage until the next day.  

One of my highlights of the dig was finding a piece of glass from the Roman period.  I had spent all day looking for something in the dirt when I saw something glint in the sunlight.  I dug a little deeper and pulled out an opal-like shard of class that stood out so beautifully against the backdrop of dirt and dust.   Holding this tiny piece of glass, I thought about how the mighty Roman Empire exiled my people from the Land of Israel.   Here I was, some centuries later, back in my homeland, holding a tiny fragment of that empire in the palm of my hand.  Who would have thought that a tiny piece of glass could hold so much history? 


Study Abroad in Prague and Krakow

Rachel Wetter's summer study abroad in Prague and Krakow:
(Jewish Studies major, '14, recipient of The Barry and Deborah Venezia Adler International Study Scholarship)

Rachel Wetter study abroadThis summer I was awarded a generous scholarship to attend a two-month summer study abroad in the cities of Prague and Krakow run by Rutgers Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies. This program allowed me to study the complicated questions of heritage preservation in two cities with long and complex histories. As a Jewish Studies major, I was particularly interested in how these cities interact today with the heritage of their formerly large Jewish populations. I got to see first-hand what has been done with the material remains of the old Jewish neighborhoods in Prague and Krakow, as well as to visit the former concentration camps Terezin and Auschwitz and discuss how sites of painful memory fit into a country’s heritage. Interning with the ten-day Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow, I got a fascinating snapshot of the Jewish revival in Krakow. I learned more about how the Jewish community today is seeking to preserve the lost community’s immaterial heritage of traditions and artforms, as well as creating its own new traditions. Throughout the program, I had the opportunity to discuss what I observed with both my fellow classmates and professionals in the field. It was an inspiring and invaluable experience!

Graduate Student’s Israel Experience

Danica says thank you
When I first decided to study abroad in Israel I was not sure what to expect. But, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Being a social work graduate student, I suspected that the trip would revolve around social welfare organizations, which it did. Yet, the trip was so much more. We did not just learn about social welfare organizations in Israel, such as Be'er Sheva's Center for Independent Living (CIL), but also about the numerous religions and cultures, including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Bedouin, and Baha’I, that inhabit the same space. We experienced in-depth, guided tours of all the major religious and tourist sites, which were incredibly stimulating intellectually. We also took a day trip to Petra, Jordan, an ancient archaeological wonder, which was incredibly beautiful. A surprise was the snow in Jerusalem, where it hadn’t fallen in a decade! This trip was intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling. It broadened my global perspective and expanded my capacity for knowledge. Everything about Israel was astounding: the people, the food, the sites, and the landscape. It was an overwhelmingly positive, life-changing experience.

Danica Presepe, Graduate Student, School of Social Work, ’13
Recipient of The Herbert and Jacqueline Klein Award for Study in Israel

Learn about Rutgers Jewish Studies awards.

caesarea outside ecological dom