Upon graduation in 2019, Jewish Studies alumni, Shana Pava received a fellowship from the Center for Jewish Studies to attend a rabbinical seminary program at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. During her time in Israel, she studied topics such as Genesis, “Music of the Mishnah”, and “influential writings of Rav Kook”, with students from all over the world. Such an experience she expressed was ,“the perfect capstone to both my undergraduate research and coursework at UC Santa Cruz”, and presented new opportunities for personal growth.
The introduction to various rabbinical texts and perspectives, “challenged me to reexamine why I felt called to the rabbinate, and it dared me to think in both new and initially uncomfortable ways.” Along with this ideological dilemma, she expressed the difficulty of communicating in Hebrew as well as living in a politically tumultuous region. Shana noted taking every Hebrew course while at UCSC– and even petitioned to expand courses available– but found conversation to be a point of challenge she continues to “grow with” through practice.
Reflecting on her time at UCSC, Shana realized she wanted,“to do something Jewish with my life” and was able to find her path, “with the help of the amazing Jewish studies faculty”. Although she had initially entered university with the intent of pursuing Environmental Studies, she found Jewish Studies to be what she was truly passionate about. Through the major, she was able to gain skills applicable to nearly any career path all while getting the opportunity to work with the Center for Jewish Studies to promote the program she enjoyed. Although she recalled the rigor involved with Jewish Studies, she emphasized the support she received from faculty and advised students to, “not be scared to ask for aid from faculty– they want to support your passions.”
Today, Shana is back home in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she works as a synagogue administrator and plans on relocating to San Francisco. Through her studies at UCSC, Pardes University, and hands-on experience working in a synagogue, she decided, “I didn’t have to be a Rabbi to make a difference in her community”, and in fact, “there were many ways to contribute to the Jewish world” in meaningful, impactful ways.