April Slabosheski

I moved to Milwaukee to become an artist. I took my first Jewish Studies class because of my curiosity about Jews and Jewish culture, and I soon discovered that the field of Jewish Studies provided the academic rigor and opportunities for creative work that I truly yearned for. The instruction I received from the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies has been the cornerstone of my undergraduate experience and the point around which my current goals revolve.

I graduated in the spring of 2012 with majors in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies and a degree in Community Education and Engagement from UWM. The foundation I gained in Jewish Studies guided me to look critically at social structures and theories of stratification through contemporary and historical lenses, which shaped my experience as an education student.

In particular, the lessons I have learned from Professor Rachel Baum and Professor Lisa Silverman have been pivotal in my development as a student and thinker. Under Professor Baum’s guidance, I learned to search for the voices of people and concepts that face the threat of being silenced. In confronting the complexities of the experiences of women, gays and lesbians, and Holocaust victims and survivors, I have gained a stronger sense of academic and social awareness that continues to guide my actions. One of the greatest things I have learned from Professor Baum’s years of mentorship is the particular kind of love one can develop for a subject matter specifically by challenging it. This wisdom helps me navigate my path not only in Jewish Studies, but in life in general.

Through Professor Silverman, I was introduced to historical Jews and non-Jews, who borrowed concepts from one another in navigating their cultures and self-understandings. Studying these complex relationships forced me to see the extent to which all Jewish identity, including my own, is touched by non-Jewish influences, and vice versa. During the past four years, Professor Silverman has guided me toward engaging and innovative academic work that I contemplate to this day, and her research continues to break new ground, encouraging me to question the role of perceived Jewish identity in social structures I might otherwise take for granted.

I was awarded the Jewish Studies Essay Award in 2011 and the Chava Frankort-Nachmias Award for Excellence in Scholarship in Jewish Studies in 2012. Being recognized by an institution that has given me so much deeply honors me and intensifies my motivation to continue exploring Jewish Studies. In the fall of 2012, I began working on my Master's degree at the University of Michigan’s Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. In this new phase of my academic career, I will use the strong foundation I gained in Jewish Studies from UWM to look at the field through continually varied lenses. I am especially challenged by the particular vulnerability of German Jews in historical analyses, and I hope to focus some of my graduate work on questions of German-Jewish identity during the 19th and 20th centuries.