Graduate student’s reflections on yearlong experience in Israel broadcast on National Public Radio’s ‘Morning Edition’
Graduate student’s reflections on yearlong experience in Israel broadcast on National Public Radio’s ‘Morning Edition’September 07, 2001Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
Many students take a year off before beginning their doctoral program to pursue goals and dreams that can’t wait until a dissertation is completed.
Rebecca Cory, a doctoral student in the School of Education’s Cultural Foundations of Education department, took the kind of year off that National Public Radio (NPR) takes interest in. Cory deferred her admission to SU in July 2000 to spend a year in Israel. Just after she arrived in Jerusalem, a peace pact ended and terrorism broke out. She recorded a commentary about her experiences that was broadcast on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Aug. 30.
“When I arrived in Israel it was a time of peace,” Cory says. “The violence started in October, and for a while I didn’t want to go anywhere because I wasn’t sure where I was in legitimate danger and where I was safe. I finally hit a point where I realized I had to just live my life and experience the amazing place I was in. Ultimately you either live life in fear or just live.”
Cory, a native of North Carolina, received a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s degree from James Madison University. She worked as a disability services coordinator at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. In each place she has lived, Cory was always one of an extremely small population of Jewish students. The lack of a Jewish community made Cory want to learn more about her religion, and she decided to visit Israel for a few weeks.
“I visited to spend time looking at my own religion and deciding how I felt about it, and I absolutely fell in love with Israel,” she says. “I had a flight booked to come home and couldn’t bring myself to get on it, but eventually I came back to Minnesota. I promised myself after that visit, though, that the next time I had a time in my life that I could come back to Israel I would do it.”
Although her time in Israel was marked by some difficult experiences-such as lying in bed at night listening to gun and cannon fire and her constant concern for her well-being-she remembers much more of the great experiences she had. Cory spent time studying religious texts, getting to know the people in her community and attending one of the many synagogues that dotted almost every corner of Jerusalem.
“It was an amazing religious experience because there was a synagogue on every corner; it was like ‘quickie marts’ in America,” Cory says. “No one worked on Saturday because it was really a time to be with your community and family. It really felt like home to me, and I know I’ll [go] back at some time in my life.”
Cory says her time in Jerusalem made her ask questions that she wouldn’t have asked about herself if she hadn’t spent the time abroad. Although her family asked her repeatedly to come home when the violence broke out, she felt she was taking a stance about her religious and cultural beliefs by staying. She hopes making those tough decisions will help prepare her for a career in disability advocacy.
“The reason I came to SU is to eventually become a professor and advocate for disability awareness,” Cory says. “I see teaching and advocacy as closely aligned, and I think the disability studies faculty at SU sees that as well.”
The decision to experience all of Israel is one that Cory will always be grateful she made.