Sarah Zemel, B.A. 1994

Cantor of Temple Shalom – Aberdeen, NJ

1994 Major: Religious Studies; certificate in Jewish Studies

How has being a Religion graduate from Duke helped shape you personally and/or professionally?

"I really enjoyed learning the basis of other religions (Christianity and Islam - I wish I had explored more!). I also appreciated the university's academic-focused (rather than religious-focused) study of topics in Judaism, including Jewish mysticism and history. I have found it to be helpful, both personally and professionally, to have a better understanding of the driving values and belief systems of people in other faith communities. I also spent a semester of studying abroad in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University, which helped to further my studies. After graduating from Duke, I entered the Cantorial School of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (now called the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music). I completed my studies there in 1998, and have been serving as a Cantor in both full and part-time capacities in synagogues since then."

What advice would you give students in Duke's Religion programs? 

"I would advise students to take classes about as many different religions as they can. It is difficult to decide whether to dive more deeply into one or two or to take more of a survey approach. There were only eight courses required in the major when I was there. I would encourage students to take more classes if they can, so that they can do both the deeper dive and also survey other religions (unless there is a survey course about a bunch of different religions, which I think would be a great idea for an intro. course)."

Sarah Zemel