Hebrew Student Embarks on International Business Career
Two events in Yelena Aleksandrovich’s life helped her find her true identity. First, she moved from Russia to the United States when she was just seven years old.
“In Russia I never really knew much about being Jewish. But after moving to the United States and enrolling at a Jewish Day School, I started to discover my Jewish background and my true self.”
Then, during a Birthright trip to Israel in 2006, she decided to do more to reconnect with her Jewish heritage. She returned to Chapel Hill and formed the Jewish a cappella group, Sababa, which currently has more than 15 performers. She joined Sigma Rho Lamda, the Jewish sorority, and served as President in 2007. She also decided to learn more Hebrew, ultimately taking the full six-course offering in Modern Hebrew.
“I have a passion for learning languages because it helps you better understand other people and their cultures,” says Aleksandrovich. Her native Russian was soon followed by learning English after moving to the United States and studying Hebrew when in Jewish Day School and again in college. She also speaks some French, which she studied in high school and perfected by listening to French music.
“The Hebrew program here is really great with Professors Friedman and Shemer – they’re a great combination. I also knew that having strong language skills would certainly help me when applying for my first job out of college.”
Last summer, Aleksandrovich interned in Israel at a start-up high-tech firm and her goal is to have a career in International Business that is based in both Israel and the United States. She will graduate this May with a business major and Modern Hebrew language minor. She plans to spend this summer in Israel before moving to Washington, D.C. to join a consulting firm.
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What do dreams of anchoring for ESPN’s SportsCenter and Modern Hebrew have in common? Adam Yosim, class of 2010, is making the connection.
The Broadcast Journalism major has opted for a Modern Hebrew minor, and he plans to use both academic areas in his future endeavors.
Academically, Yosim loves all his Journalism courses. But one of his favorite classes so far was in Jewish Studies: German Culture Jewish Question with Jonathan Hess. “I never knew about the history of anti-Semitism before, I just knew about the Holocaust and everything that followed after that.”
Yosim has completed four of the six required semesters of Modern Hebrew. “I like that it’s a language I can relate to as a person of the Jewish faith. Although I don't have the luxury of practicing it daily in Israel or in another immersion environment, I can still use it to directly translate the prayers I say, the weekly parshah of the Torah and converse with my other friends that are also taking Hebrew.”
Yosim was drawn to Carolina’s prestigious journalism program, but has also found many other opportunities on campus, including his fraternity, AEPi, and singing with Carolina’s only Jewish a-capella group, Sababa. Last summer he held an internship at ABC 11, where he put all his classroom learning to use while gaining hands-on experience in the broadcast field. He previously worked at the UNC Phonathon for two years, calling up alumni, parents, and students for donations. In all, he says he raised more than $200,000 for UNC.
“My pipe dream is to end up at ESPN as an anchor for SportsCenter. If that doesn’t happen, I hope to work my way up to anchor at a news station in a top 15 news market. I’ve always wanted to go to Chicago!”
And how do Modern Hebrew and Jewish Studies fit into his future?
“I see myself using my Hebrew minor for my journalism career by translating interviews and documents whenever there is a story involving Israel and the Middle East. Personally, I’ll use my minor to converse with friends, teach Hebrew at Sunday school and with other activities at my synagogue.”
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Activities outside of classroom round-out this student's Carolina education
Diana Gergel is one of those people who make everyone else look like they’re standing still. Her campus involvement would overwhelm most of us—she co-chairs Student Government’s Academic Affairs Committee, serves as Peer Advising Program Director for the Office of Undergraduate Research, coordinates the Bina Initiative at Hillel and is the student representative on the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies’ Advisory Board.
Her busy schedule does not slow one bit during summer breaks. Last summer, she headed off to Washington, D.C. to work at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. There, she reviewed and chronicled newly-acquired documents. The team’s work will be published next year as primary source content for professors teaching the Holocaust.
“This internship was one of the best experiences of my life—I enjoyed every minute. The ability, as an undergraduate, to work so closely with Holocaust scholars and graduate students was a great learning experience,” said Gergel. “I felt the importance of the work because it is vital to continue to teach the lessons learned from the Holocaust.”
When not working at the museum, she was often found at the Library of Congress working on a research project that was funded by the UNC Office of Undergraduate Research. The focus of her work was the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as related to the Nuremberg Trials’ “Never Again” legacy. This coming summer, Gergel hopes to continue this work in South Africa, interviewing people from the hearings.
“These types of research opportunities, plus knowing that Carolina had a Jewish Studies program and active Hillel, were all important factors in my decision to study here,” added Gergle. A History and Political Sciences major with Modern Hebrew minor, she plans to attend Law School after graduation from Carolina in 2009.
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