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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Randi Rashkover

Professor Rashkover joined the religious studies faculty in the fall of 2020. She is the Director of Judaic Studies and the Sophia and Nathan S. Gumenick Associate Professor of Judaic Studies. She specializes in Jewish philosophy, Jewish-Christian comparative theology, and Jewish political thought. 

What led you to become a Judaic studies scholar? 

I didn’t originally plan to become a Judaic studies scholar. I planned to become a philosopher of religion. When I was in high school, I read Emerson and Thoreau, and I looked to find the lineage of their thought. I learned that Emerson’s thought was highly influenced by Kant. When I went into college, I was a religion major but a philosophy minor. I was trying to use philosophy to ask big questions about God, truth, and reason. All the while that I was doing philosophy of religion, I was taking Jewish studies classes. There is a really significant Jewish philosophy tradition, and so there was just a kinship. And philosophy of religion as a field has largely been dominated by Christian thought, so it was important to really wed the two discourses to show the impact of Jewish thinking on philosophy of religion. 

What’s been special to you about working at William & Mary? 

That’s an easy one. There’s no question that the most special thing about working at William & Mary are the students. I’ve not ever taught a student body where the folks are as zealous about intellectual life and open to different intellectual possibilities. Students here are willing to move away from their specialization to take courses in areas that they’re curious about that aren’t necessarily tracked professionally. Students are eager about doing higher level research. In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve established really nice relationships with a whole bunch of students, so that’s really the winning part of it for me. 

What are your plans for the future of Judaic studies at William & Mary? 

We’ve already done a lot in the short time since I’ve been here. We’ve had a number of speakers. We’re also really getting students involved because we’ve developed this undergraduate journal. Throughout the semester, we have students write reviews of different events that are happening, but we also have students submit work that they’ve done for their classes. I even have students submitting summer research. We put out the first issue last semester, but I can see that journal really taking off. It was just a lovely representation of what went on intellectually last semester, and we’ll continue to do that. The other thing that we’re going to do is have visiting postdocs. We want to increase the intellectual energy around Judaic studies here, and that means having colleagues on sight doing research and engaging with our faculty. I want to have freshly minted young PhDs who come in and work with me or work with Professor Daise or Professor Tobolowsky, and really just make William & Mary a hub for Jewish intellectual thought. For that, you need people who are planted here doing research.