Steven Garfinkle’s love of history has its origin in two previous generations: his grandfather is a noted historian and his father recently published a book called the Jewish Community of Washington, D.C. Says Steven, “I’ve always had an affinity for history and a desire to understand how we got to where we are today.”
Yet before Steven got to The Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary, he practiced divorce law and litigation for seven years in New York City and New Jersey. Once he decided to devote himself to the study of Jewish history, Steven says, “A number of people recommended JTS to me, and once I reached out to JTS, it seemed like everything else just fell into place. I got comfortable very quickly. Within the first week, I was sure I was in the right place.”
Now that he is a second-year student concentrating in Ancient Judaism, Steven has found that The Graduate School curriculum more than exceeds his expectations. “The professors are the best. You have people in every field of Jewish studies, and that is unlike anywhere else in the world. Every professor at JTS is giving me a new proficiency. I can handle Bible, Midrash, and many other areas of study; my skills have increased tremendously. The faculty bend over backwards to help students and encourage their growth,” he says.
Steven found one Talmud class, taught by Dr. Richard Kalmin, particularly inspiring: “It completely changed my outlook on everything I thought I knew,” he says. This course, and others, gave Steven “the ability to handle primary texts; they were relatively inaccessible to me previously.”
After graduation, Steven plans to teach college-level Ancient Judaism while working towards a PhD. In the meantime, he is focused on spending as much free time as possible with his wife and eleven-month-old son, James—and expanding his collection of Jewish history books.
Steven’s commitment to understanding Jewish history has led him to JTS, a place best suited to help him connect with Jewish tradition and modern interpretation of ancient texts; says Steven, “There is a lot of history at JTS and I am so happy to be a part of it.”