HOT TOPIC: What role can teaching American history play in establishing a positive Jewish identity?

Etta King

How I Accidentally Became A Jewish Historian: The Imperative for Teaching American Jewish History

Like many recent college grads, I left my undergraduate program head held high, diploma in hand, and ready to go out into the world and make my mark. After a brief stint as an outdoor educator, I made the bold move to leave my job and headed back home for a brief stint of what I like to call “funemployment.” As my hunt for a new job began, I had to confront some complicated questions such as “What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? How can I accomplish my goals?” And, in the not-so-tactful words of a close friend, “What real skills do I actually have?”

After much bubbling and churning, I decided my teaching experience and background in educational policy made me well suited for several different career tracks, but I had one rule for myself: I wasn’t going to work for “The Jews.” After being raised in Habonim Dror, being active in my synagogue, and attending Brandeis University, I felt I could make a bigger impact if I looked beyond the community I had always been a part of. The Jewish context of my work didn’t seem as important to me anymore, and, in fact, I felt it may have been holding me back.

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