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Student & Alumni Spotlight

Student & Alumni Spotlight

Book on Judaism Deemed Worthy of Pope's Attention

Mazel tov to Spertus Institute alumna Deborah Levine, whose book, Teaching Curious Christians About Judaism, has been travelling in rarefied circles. And we're proud to say that this book began as her
Jewish Studies thesis.

Deborah Levine

By Kevin Hardy for Times Free Press

Deborah Levine wrote her book for curious Christians, but it may have ended up in the hands of perhaps the world's best-known Christian.

A local priest delivered her book, Teaching Curious Christians about Judaism, to the Vatican for Pope Francis, who is noted for striking a conciliatory and accepting tone, and has called for more interfaith dialogue.

"I, like many other people, admire what Pope Francis is doing for the Catholic Church, but also for all of us, bringing his humanity and outreach into the world," Levine said. "The idea that he might be sitting in his small apartment reading my book, I hope he's smiling and appreciating my efforts in my own small way to make a difference. It would give me great pleasure if that were true."

Levine's self-published book is a study guide of sorts for Christians wanting to understand the basics of Judaic tradition, holidays and scripture. In it, she makes the argument that Christians should understand Judaism in order to fully understand their own faith: Jesus was a Jew. Jews and Christians share some common scriptures. And she says the words and deeds of Jesus are better understood in their first-century Palestinian Jewish context.

"It is impossible to understand Christianity without reference to Judaism," her introduction reads. "The two are inextricably linked."

Much of Levine's career has centered on educating people on various faiths. She does religious diversity training for companies. She has written half a dozen cultural and religious books. One served as a cultural primer for newcomers to the Southeast. Her next book will examine a collection of letters from her father, who worked in military intelligence and helped liberate European Jews during World War II. And she works part time for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's College of Engineering and Computer Sciences, helping students write, get published and secure grant funding.

"I do a lot of different things," she said.

Levine, who lives in East Ridge, said most people lack a basic understanding of faiths that aren't their own, and it's usually clergy and academics who have the most understanding on religious diversity. She has most often trained people who work in health care and law enforcement, but said all people can benefit from a more well-rounded knowledge of religions.

"I would love to see everyone have some level of understanding," Levine said. "As our world shrinks, everyone who has a better understanding of world geography, language and culture will have a better chance of success." MORE>

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Students & Alumni on the Move

It is our pleasure to recognize
Spertus Institute students and
alumni on their recent promotions,
new positions, and other
achievements of note:

David KatzMAJPS Pittsburgh Class of 2013, to Executive Director of Hillel 818.

Aaron Weil, MAJPS Pittsburgh Class of 2013, to Executive Director of Central Hillel Florida.

Tara Engelberg (Seymour)MAJPS Class of 2015, to Marketing Manager at the Boulder JCC.

Lee Gruen, MAJPS Class of 2018, to Assistant Director of Camp Young Judea Midwest.

Brad Sugar, MAJPS Class of 2010, to Senior Development Executive at American Friends of Hebrew University.

Deb Weiner, Graduate of the Certificate in Jewish Leadership, to Director of Annual Giving at Alpha Epsilon Pi

Lisette Zaid, MAJPS Class of 2011, to Chicago Program Manager, Upstart Chicago.

Karen Martin, MAJPS Chicago Class of 2014, to Director of the Lewis Summer Intern Program, JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Hallie Blazar Raskin, MSNM Chicago Class of 2012, to Executive Director of the Bexley Community Foundation

Zev Jacobs, MAJPS Chicago Class of 2015,to Director of Business Development, Anyone Can Learn To Code (ACLTC). 

Rachel Cort, MAJPS Chicago Class of 2014, to Managing Director, Mishkan Chicago. 

Joshua Donner, MAJPS Chicago Class of 2013, to Executive Director, The David S. and Karen A. Shapira Foundation.

Sid Singer, MAJPS Class of 2010, Certificate in Jewish Leadership 2013, to Chief Operating Officer, Jewish Council for Youth Services.

Julie McKelphin, MSNM Class of 2012to Development Director, Action Now Institute

Student & Alumni Publications

Mazel Tov to Mara Cohen Loannides, DSJS Class of 2013, on the publication of Jews of Springfield in the Ozarks.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Ariel Stone, DJS Class of 2010, on the publication of Because All Is One (based on her doctoral dissertation).