Graduates of The Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University had a special end-of-year celebration on Zoom June 3.
“The ceremony last night was very special,” said Judaic Studies Academic Director Natan M. Meir the next day. “Even though we met on Zoom, the atmosphere was celebratory and exuberant. Many, many family members and friends were present from all over the country, including Alaska and Texas.”
Students graduating with a major in Judaic Studies were Logan Lawrence, Sarah Rohr and Alex Mansfield. Students graduating with a minor in Judaic Studies were Max Blust, Emily Horger, Megan Olsen and Rachael Walkinshaw.
Logan Lawrence received three scholarships this year: the Lois Berlin, John May, Ida and Sam Shleifer Endowed Scholarship; the Lorry I. Lokey Endowed Fund for Israel Scholarship; and the Aspen Mitzvah Scholarship Award through World Languages.
Sarah Rohr has been asked to deliver a commencement address at PSU’s virtual commencement. “Tune in to hear my call to action,” says Sarah. Look for her address at 11 am, June 14 pdx.edu/commencement.
Sarah says the thing she will miss most with a virtual graduation is “the physical feelings of completion that are associated with the act of walking.” Sarah’s uncle recently was released from the ICU after a month of COVID and is now beginning to walk again. She reflected on her son’s countenance as he learned to walk. Not being able to walk across the stage to receive her diploma made her wonder, “Is it still a right of passage?”
Yet she says she feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study at PSU.
“I didn’t go to JTS, Columbia or Yale,” says Sarah. “My professors did and from their insightful bodies of inquiry and research, I have come to Judaism in exponentially new and historically grounded ways. Portlanders are very lucky to have such an asset in our community.”
Another graduate also considers himself lucky to have had this experience.
Speaking during the end-of-year ceremony, Max Blust said, “Judaic Studies has been the most influential part of my education as it has allowed me to become aware of the Jewish past and how it connects with my Jewish present. I’m incredibly grateful to Dr. Natan Meir for working with me as an advisor on my university honors thesis, Oregonian Holocaust Memory. … Finally, I’d like to thank my grandmother, Linda, for attending many Judaic Studies classes with me over the past two years. Being my grandma’s peer has helped us grow our friendship and spend more time together. We didn’t understand how important Jewish history is to our family until we came to the Judaic Studies program.”
Reflecting on the evening, Professor Meir said, “Because our department is small, each faculty member had the time to give a personalized charge to each graduate, and several graduates chose to deliver beautiful words of thanks to all those who supported them during their university career. Despite the difficult news in the headlines, we allowed ourselves a moment of celebration at all that these fabulous individuals have accomplished over the past years. We’re very proud of them.”