Mastering My (Online) Jewish Master’s Program

When it comes to technology … I’m not exactly a prodigy. I silently cheer when my computer turns on without any glitches, and I have a mild panic attack when any warning signal flashes across my screen. That is why I am the last person you would ever expect to decide to attempt going to school online.

A little over two years ago, I moved to Jackson, Mississippi to become an Education Fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). At that point, the trajectory of my life was pretty clear: stay in Jackson for the two-year fellowship and then jet off to another location for graduate school. But as usual, life didn’t go exactly the way my 22-year-old self saw it going.

After my fellowship, I didn’t jet off. I stayed in Jackson. I loved working at the ISJL, so when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to continue working there. I loved Jackson, and wanted to stay. I got engaged, adopted a dog, bought a house, and created a life for myself right here in Mississippi. I was not ready to pack up and leave.

So much had changed in my two years in Jackson, but one thing hadn’t: My desire to go to graduate school.

This left me with a decision to make. Should I wait it out and go to graduate school later? Or should I brave the world of online learning? After many conversations with friends and family, I realized that I didn’t want to wait. My time as an Education Fellow had directed me to my calling, a Masters in Jewish Education, and I was ready to hit the ground running (even if that ground was an online platform).

I applied and got accepted to Hebrew College. I decided to acclimate myself by taking one class over the summer to get my feet wet before taking multiple classes in the fall. At the beginning of June, I nervously logged in for the first time — then promptly logged out and cried. I knew I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t capable enough.

But I wanted this; I needed to be able to stay in Mississippi, and pursue my Jewish education. Technology is what would make that possible. So I logged in again. This time, there were no tears.

With each login, I was more successful. It may have taken me longer than some to figure out how to turn my homework in, but I did it, and I made it through the class feeling more and more like a champ. When September rolled around, there were no tears as I logged in to begin my first fall semester as a graduate student. I have now been at it for two months and am loving it. I might not be able to design your website, but I can turn my work in and participate in discussion boards, and for me, that is enough.

In all of this, I learned a valuable lesson: it pays to learn something new. I am on my way to my Masters, even while staying right here down South. Where might a new skill take you?

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