Introducing the 2021-2022 Graduate Assistants: Meet Francesca!

Post by Francesca Rubinson

Editor’s Note: Francesca is one of the Graduate Assistants in HDS Admissions. She is a first-year MDiv student at HDS studying Jewish studies and how migration and diaspora affect communities.  

Hi everyone! My name is Francesca Rubinson. I’m a first year MDiv student, and I’m super excited to be working with the HDS Admissions team this year! 

Photo Courtesy of Francesca Rubinson

I was born and raised in Washington Heights, New York City (yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda is my neighbor, no, I’m not brave enough to speak to him in the drug store). I was raised Jewish and have a warm, multifaith extended family. I first came to the Boston area as an undergrad at Tufts University where I studied Political Science and Religion. I wrote a thesis for my religion major about Edith Stein, a German-Jewish philosopher turned Catholic nun. This experience gave me a taste of an academic’s life – I even had the opportunity to travel to Germany to do my research – but I also itched to engage in direct service work or tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world.”  

After graduating from Tufts, I spent a year living in Washington, D.C. as part of the Avodah Jewish Service Corps. I lived in a Jewish co-op and worked at CASA, an immigrant justice-focused nonprofit. My work at CASA was primarily with young undocumented folks and DACA recipients, providing legal services and a space for community organizing. These experiences led me to reflect on the interconnections between my Jewish identity and my work for social change. Working in legal services, I also noticed that there could be a disconnect between meeting the economic and legal needs of clients and providing them with the emotional support they needed as well. I became interested in the role of faith communities and spiritual counselors in filling this gap.  

Thinking about my next steps – and my desires to keep learning about Judaism, immigrant justice, and spiritual care – I considered both rabbinical school and divinity school. When I started to look more closely at divinity school programs, HDS stood out to me because it was a pluralistic, non-denominational place where I could ground myself in Jewish texts and history while studying alongside people from different faith traditions. The MDiv program seemed like the perfect way to combine academic scholarship, work in the community, and an exploration of chaplaincy as a form of spiritual care.  

Now that I’m at HDS, I’m hoping to combine Jewish studies with exploring how migration and diaspora affect communities more broadly. I’m excited about the field education opportunities offered by the MDiv program which will help me discern my next steps even further: university chaplaincy, hospital chaplaincy, or social change work in Jewish spaces? I’ll keep you posted!  

I’m taking some great classes this semester including Jewish Boundaries and Identities with Professor Shaye Cohen and Introduction to the Hebrew Bible with Professor Andrew Teeter. So far at HDS I’ve gotten involved with the Movement and Spirituality club (we have a pick-up basketball game once a week that I love!), Queer Rites (a fun group for LGBTQ+ students), and HDS Kehillah, a Jewish Community. In my free time, I love to read, bike, sing, and enjoy the delicious food and beer that Cambridge and Somerville have to offer. I’m looking forward to making the most of my three years at HDS – hope to see you here, too!  

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