My name is Aria Tsoulouhas, and I am a junior studying Jewish Studies and Classics (Greek). I grew up in Cary, North Carolina, but both of my parents went to the U of I for graduate school, so I decided to follow in their footsteps!
I initially began my studies as a Comparative Literature major, but I decided to take A History of Judaism with Dr. Dov Weiss during the first semester of my freshman year, and I quickly fell in love with the study of Jewish thought and theology. Professor Weiss is infectiously enthusiastic about his field and, in many ways, I have him to thank for sparking my interest in Jewish Studies. I have since taken many classes with him, including Introductory Readings of the Talmud, Medieval Jewish Thought, and A History of Early Judaism. Of these classes, I believe Introductory Readings of the Talmud was my favorite. We studied the Tractate Sanhedrin, with our primary area of focus being the stubborn and rebellious son, or the ben sorer umoreh. I won’t spoil the answer to the question of when a stubborn and rebellious son is liable to the punishment of a stubborn of a rebellious son, but I can tell you that it’s quite the curveball. I thoroughly enjoyed piecing together the halakha behind the baraitoth and the arguments of various rabbis, analyzing rabbinic interpretations of biblical passages, and pointing out contradictions and inconsistencies within the text. I would take another Talmud class in a heartbeat.
My time as a Jewish Studies major has also been defined by my study of Hebrew, both Biblical and modern. I took my first semester of Biblical Hebrew with Dr. Bruce Rosenstock, whose penchant for song made the class infinitely more enjoyable (I can still sing the first five verses of Genesis to the tune of the song “Bereshit” by the Moshav Band). Biblical Hebrew is both beautiful and vexing, and my experience as a Jewish Studies major is continually enriched by my ability to read the Tankah in its original form. I have also taken modern Hebrew with Dr. Sara Feldman, and I have loved every minute of it. There really is nothing like the experience of learning a revived language, and it’s always fascinating to see the characteristics modern Hebrew shares with some European languages. For all the aforementioned reasons, I am eager to advance my knowledge of both Biblical and modern Hebrew, as they are both gateways to the world of Jewish Studies.
My primary interests in the field of Jewish Studies are Jewish theology, medieval Jewish thought, Kabbalistic thought (particularly Lurianic), Chasidic thought, and Judaism in the Graeco-Roman period. I feel that, thus far, my time as a Jewish Studies major at the U of I has pushed me towards a comprehensive and well-rounded understanding of Judaism and of the Jewish people. I am forever amazed by the boundless depth of the Jewish tradition, and I could not envision myself studying anything else.