Ilana Cohen

List College 2013

Ilana Cohen, a senior at the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary, reflected on spending this year's High Holidays in Tamil Nadu, India, for The Jew and the Carrot, a blog of The Forward. Ilana wrote, "We searched for a treat made from apples and found an apple pastry at a French bakery in Auroville [a township in the Viluppuram district]; we dipped apples in honey . . . These flavors, smells, and textures, helped me identify the warm, tropical evening in Tamil Nadu, India as erev Rosh Hashanah. But we also dipped our apples in jaggery, a local plant derived sweetener, indulged in an Indian dinner that night, and bought Indian candies to help mark the celebration. We chose a coffee flavored candy to symbolize ‘being wide awake' to all that the New Year has in store. Since we had pomegranates every morning for breakfast, we decided to use dates instead to further mark the evening as a special time."

 

Ilana, who grew up in Bennington, Vermont, as the child of a rabbi who leads Jewish wilderness adventures, has a lot of experience finding the richness of her Judaism in and out of synagogues, whether studying abroad in Israel (during high school) and India, and, of course, in both the formal and informal aspects of the vibrant community she has found studying and living at JTS and Columbia University as a member of List College's Joint Program.

At JTS, Ilana is majoring in Jewish Women's and Gender Studies, and at Columbia her studies are centered on anthropology. "I appreciate being able to devote academic energy and intention to Jewish topics and texts," Ilana says, "and I love the way I have been able to apply my anthropology studies to Judaism."

Although she's been in Jewish schools since childhood, including the renowned American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina, Ilana has continued to find her understanding of Judaism transformed by her studies at JTS: "The first Bible Survey I took completely transformed my approach to the Tanakh, and I think it is really what initiated me into my current Jewish identity. Exploring and understanding the nuances of the documentary hypothesis gave voice to ideas and questions that had been floating around in my head for a long time."

Asked for her favorite moment at JTS thus far, Ilana said, "I suppose realizing that a 16th- century siddur that I was reading about in an article was located in the Rare Book Room of The Library. This was very inspiring and made me appreciate the amazing collection of Judaic and significant texts that are housed at JTS." Whether finding inspiration in the midst of college studies or honoring and reinterpreting Rosh Hashanah in an eco-village in South Asia, Ilana is always attuned to the spiritual joys the world has to offer.

Ilana Cohen

Ilana Cohen