ari mermelsteinDr. Ari Mermelstein ’99YC is Assistant Professor of Bible at Yeshiva College. He received his BA in Psychology from Yeshiva College and both his J.D. and Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from NYU. He also holds an MA in Bible from Revel. At Yeshiva College, Dr. Mermelstein teaches various biblical books as well as Classical Jewish History. His research focuses on emotion in ancient Judaism, particularly the ways in which Jews expressed their values and beliefs using the language of emotion. He lives in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife and three children.

1. What is your favorite aspect of your job at YU?

Engaging the students in the classroom is the most rewarding part of my job. A teacher’s role, at any level, is to demonstrate to the students why the course material should matter to them—why it is important, how it fits with other sources of knowledge, and how it addresses foundational questions and issues. At YU, I have the good fortune of teaching students who are already invested in the material. I don’t have to convince them that the people, places, and events of Jewish history are of monumental importance. For my students, the study of Jewish history is not a window into the past but a journey toward better understanding who they are and from whence they’ve come. They enter my class assuming that the course material will be important but not always certain how or why. My role is to help them answer those questions.

2. What profession did you think you would one day hold when you were a child?

I have always had a passion for the study of Jewish texts; although I took a somewhat circuitous path to my chosen profession, it was, in retrospect, nearly inevitable that I would ultimately devote my professional life to that passion.

3. What do you find most interesting about your curriculum?

I love watching the discipline of history bring alive familiar texts in new ways or highlight the importance of texts whose importance had never before been fully appreciated. With the aid of historical method, we can better understand what it would have been like to walk the streets of Jerusalem during the times of King Herod, daven in a shul 1,500 years ago, or learn in Rav Ashi’s yeshiva. I aim to challenge my students to ask different sorts of questions about our textual tradition and thereby acquire greater appreciation for what it meant to be a Jew two thousand years ago.

4. How do you maintain a relationship with all of your students once they graduate?

I have always believed that education takes place both in and beyond the classroom, and I am fortunate to remain in contact with numerous former students. I look forward to hearing from past students who check in to request help with a recommendation, ask for a bit of advice, or just to pass along a news piece that pertains to something we studied in class.

5. What would your colleagues and students be surprised to learn about you?

I have a J.D. and worked as a summer associate at a large New York firm before realizing that legal practice was not for me!


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