Most people are asleep at 2:00 a.m. Yet, for Josh Altman, a fourth-year Joint Program student at the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies, the middle of the night is frequently when some of his most interesting conversations about Judaism take place.
“Only at The Jewish Theological Seminary can you have a conversation about how Judaism applies to our lives in the wee hours of the morning. There were people that self-identify as Orthodox, Conservative, and secular, all discussing how God is active in modern society. We were up talking until after 4:00 a.m.,” Josh recalls.
Though Josh thinks List College is “the most fantastic place,” his journey to JTS was not the most direct route. The Chicago native toured List College but decided not to apply. He then deferred admission at Tufts University to take a year off before beginning his studies. Josh took this time to participate in Nativ, a USY college leadership program in which he spent a semester in Jerusalem studying at Hebrew University and in Beersheva teaching English to sixth graders.
While Josh grew up in a home that emphasized Judaic traditions—he has an older sister who is an alumna of The Rabbinical School—it was in the land of milk and honey that he realized he wanted the formal Jewish education he’d never had at home. “List College was the only place that offered a secular education alongside a rigorous Jewish education, so I decided to come here instead of Tufts,” Josh says.
Today, majoring in Talmud at JTS and political science at Columbia, Josh is an active part of the List College student body. A member of the Va’ad Gemilut Hasadim: Susan and Jack Rudin Center for Community Outreach leadership council, Josh also gives tours of JTS and Columbia to potential students, “because I want people to see how great JTS is,” he said.
In addition, Josh works four days each week as the youth director at Temple Shalom in Greenwich, Connecticut, teaching middle and high school students. For eighth-to-twelfth graders, he created a hybrid youth group and high school education program that blends social activities with thematically related Jewish education, e.g., studying the laws of kashrut and then participating in a cooking demonstration.
After he graduates, Josh has his sights set on continuing his education at JTS. “In many ways it has exceeded my expectations. JTS is an amazing place to study with the most renowned educators in their fields. It is truly a special place to learn and live.”