Religion professor Yudit Greenberg will travel to India to spark an interest in liberal arts and Jewish studies.
(Photo by Scott Cook) Yudit Greenberg, the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell professor of religion, will travel to India for extended study and research in what she calls “a lifelong dream,” thanks to a Fulbright Scholar grant awarded earlier this month.
“India holds a special place in my mind and heart,” she says.
Greenberg achieved the rare distinction of garnering a second Fulbright Scholar grant in three years. Greenberg’s first Fulbright award for 2011-12 allowed her to teach Jewish studies, religious studies, and gender studies at the University of Bucharest in Romania. She is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad thanks to this year’s Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.
Greenberg’s latest award will allow her to travel to India during the 2015 spring semester to lecture in comparative religion, study Sanskrit, and further her scholarship on the comparative study of Judaism and Hinduism. She will also have the opportunity to examine her other areas of interest, such as women and religion as well as cross-cultural views of love and the body. While there, she will consult with and lecture at Jindal University, Rollins College’s new academic partner in India.
“The Fulbright offers the opportunity to represent Rollins and the U.S. as an academic who is committed to fostering relationships with scholars around the world,” says Greenberg, who is founder and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Rollins.
She is still waiting to learn which university in India will serve as her host. Nevertheless, Greenberg said that the chance to study and teach in India is the culmination of a long-held interest in the region and its religious traditions.
She was first drawn to the philosophical traditions of India when she began to practice yoga in college and later as a graduate student in philosophy and religion. Her scholarly interest deepened in the early 1990s when she filled in for a colleague and taught a course on Asian religions. That created a burning desire to make it a focus of her academic work.
“Teaching Indian religions kindled in me a passion that was intellectual and spiritual,” Greenberg says. She has since led groups of Rollins students through service-learning opportunities and field studies in the country.
One of her areas of interest includes a newly developing field that looks at similarities between Judaism and Hinduism. As part of her academic research, Greenberg studies the history and current life of the Jewish community in India.
“There is very little history of anti-Semitism in India,” says Greenberg, who was born in Israel. She attributes that partly to the fact that Jews comprise a tiny slice of the Indian population and have lived in the country peacefully for 2,000 years.
Nonetheless, scholars have begun to notice similarities in what might outwardly seem like very different ways of thought. Greenberg notes that both Hinduism and Judaism share common beliefs and practices, including views of sacred texts, a sense of physical purity, a relationship between master and disciple, and a deep connection to their land of origins or what they believe to be their respective holy land, India and Israel.
Greenberg’s first Fulbright award for 2011-12 allowed her to teach Jewish studies, religious studies, and gender studies at the University of Bucharest in Romania. She also is co-director of the Center for India & South Asia at Rollins, which aims to promote research on India and South Asia and enhance Rollins College’s role as a national and international leader in educational exchanges.