Rebecca Glanzer, Undergraduate


What brought you to Columbia? I came to Columbia interested in so many different fields, and so I was attracted to Columbia’s philosophy of learning that values exploration of different subjects. After testing out environmental biology, Classics, and a few things in between, I am settled in Middle Eastern Studies with a concentration in Economics.

Can you talk about the role the IIJS has played in your studies? I first heard about the IIJS because of the fellowship they offer to students spending the summer in Israel. The program they have organized is so engaging, and each event is different from the next. Once we met with filmmaker Tomer Heymann and then another event was a graffiti tour in Tel Aviv. The program was a great way to stay connected with Columbia over the summer and meet other Columbia students who are interested in Israel. After spending last summer   learning Hebrew at Ulpan during the mornings and participating in the fellowship events in the afternoons, I have  become even more invested in pursuing courses at Columbia about Israel and the Middle East. Upon my return to campus last fall, I was involved with the IIJS’s Israel Film Series, which brings films from Israel to Columbia. What I have enjoyed so much about the series is that the films emphasize various aspects of Israeli culture that aren’t covered in American news. I have really enjoyed being a part of putting the events together.

Jessica Kirzane, PhD Candidate

What brought you to Columbia? What are you studying? I came to Columbia with the knowledge that it was one of the only places in the world where a  student could earn an advanced degree specifically in  Yiddish Studies. I was excited to dedicate myself to this small but extremely rich field, and to do so in a well established and respected program. I was also attracted to the level of flexibility I would have in choosing coursework and fields of study that suited my interests.

I am a PhD candidate in Yiddish Studies, working on the subject of intermarriage in American Jewish writing, in English and in Yiddish, in the early twentieth century. I am interested in how American Jews imagined their own community and the borders of their community, and how they used intermarriage as a trope through which to consider communal politics.

What’s been the highlight academic experience of your time here so far? Looking back on it I would have to say that studying for and taking comprehensive examinations was a major highlight for me. It was an opportunity to read deeply and widely in topics that were of profound importance to me. It was a time of pure learning, without having to produce anything of my own. For an entire year my whole job was to absorb as much information as I could, to build connections between arguments and ideas, and to prepare myself for the writing and research I would begin once I had completed the exams.  

Talk about the role the IIJS has played in your studies - and vice versa. Throughout my time at Columbia I have attended IIJS’s lectures, seminars, and events and they have helped me to connect my work to the wider world of Jewish studies, to understand the diversity of topics within the field, and to build connections with other Jewish  Studies scholars at Columbia. I have also been deeply involved with the Jewish and Israel Studies Graduate Student Association, attending, and later organizing, their weekly seminars and annual conferences. This has given me an invaluable opportunity to share ideas, ask  questions, argue with, and befriend a remarkable group of students whose insights into the process of pursuing a PhD have aided me along this sometimes arduous path.