L’Shana Tova 5770

shana-tova This evening marks the beginning of the Jewish observance of  Rosh Hashana, the 5770th year since creation according to a literal reading of the Torah (we don’t actually believe that the universe is less than 6000 years old, but this is another discussion).

This is a time of year when Jews reflect back on their accomplishments and failures of the past year, ask for forgiveness for wrongs they have committed against others, and look forward to a new year with a clean conscience and a determination to make the world a better place. This past year has certainly been a challenging one for me, but I am proud of what I have accomplished. Between renewing my personal life and working hard to move my academic program forward at Northwestern, I can point to many successes.

In October and December, I passed both my comprehensive exams in International Relations and Comparative Politics. In February, I had the opportunity to present a version of my second year paper at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association in New York. With much productive feedback from my discussants, fellow panelists, and others I met, I was able to press forward with my dissertation prospectus which I successfully defended in June.

As my regular readers will know, I also had the amazing experience of conducting six weeks of field work in Serbia from June through July this past summer. There I established close contacts with people across the country and the political spectrum laying the groundwork for what I hope will be an interesting chapter in my dissertation and future travels. I have spent the last several weeks writing, improving, and revising my application for the Fulbright IIE grant for travel and research in Israel in the 2010-2011 academic year. I will be submitting my final draft by next Friday.

Immediately following the weekend coinciding with the two days of Rosh Hashana yontif, I will be starting the fall quarter at Northwestern. In addition to taking Edna Grad’s intermediate Hebrew course, I will also be TAing Jim Mahoney’s course, PS 310: Methods of Political Inference. This should be both a wonderful opportunity to interact with a batch of eager and interested political science undergrads and to improve my own research methodology.

I have also begun work as the Research Assistant for Northwestern’s newly formed Middle East Forum, a group of faculty, staff, and graduate students who have come together to raise the profile of Middle East Studies at our University. The group is co-chaired by Professors Hendrik Spruyt of Political Science and BCICS and Elie Rekhess of History and Judaic Studies. I will be posting more on our activities as things develop.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to an exciting year full of new challenges and opportunities. I am grateful to my friends and family who have consistently been there for me as I navigated the last year and who I know will be there to share my successes and help me shoulder my disappointments in the year to come. Thank you all as always for reading and a sweet and happy new year to you all.

תודה רבה ולשנה טובה ומתוקה! -אריאל זלמן

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