Eli Bass

William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education

Rochester, New York

JTS Degree Program: Master of Arts, Jewish Education, Experiential Education Concentration, 2013

Current Position: Hillel Program Director at Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Geneseo

What were you doing in the two or three years before you began your studies at JTS? I was a wilderness guide for Eden Village summer camp and a guide for at-risk youth in New Hampshire.

Why did you choose to attend The Davidson School? I didn't have the opportunity for Jewish engagement in my outdoor-education world, and I felt divided between it and my passion for Judaism. At The Davidson School, I knew I would be able to grow my spiritual and cultural Jewish identity. 

Who is the JTS professor or mentor that was formative for you? Please share an anecdote or insight. Dr. Sarah Tauber demonstrated a clear love for Jewish learning and solid pedagogy. Her classes were highly engaging, and she took a strong interest in each of her students. Near the end of the course, I was placed in a group for an eight-minute final lesson plan on the blessing over wine in havdalah. With four creative extroverts, my group struggled to reach consensus. But after several hours of planning, our lesson turned out great. It taught me a lot about compromise, relationship building, and letting go. 

How did your Davidson School education help prepare you for the work you now do? The Davidson School education consistently exposes you to many of the questions and challenges that educators face, which has given me greater confidence as I lead an organization. Working to build a successful work environment and learning environment is difficult. I know The Davidson School provided me with the tools to do this. 

What professional successes have you had? When I interviewed at Geneseo Hillel, I asked the students, "How do you want to grow your Judaism?" My students tried to answer that question over the course of this year, transforming Hillel from a social club of shared heritage to something far greater. Today, I know Geneseo Hillel leadership cares about Jewish growth through social justice learning. I'm proud to have this clarity, which drives our vision for the upcoming year. 

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at JTS? During Kesher Hadash, The Davidson School's Semester-in-Israel Program, Dr. Alex Sinclair shared with us his passion for Israeli rock star Kobi Oz, who soon became a passion of our entire group. His music focuses on his journey to define his Jewish identity. In Tel Aviv, our group was able to sit with Oz as he talked about his journey. It was inspiring.

Why should a prospective student consider The Davidson School and JTS? JTS provides a well-rounded education. The faculty at JTS care deeply about their students' holistic journey. They teach us so much about education, nonprofit management, Israel, and Judaism. As a first-year professional, I have also found both my cohort and faculty accessible for my continued growth.