Ira Zweig

Ira's winning project, submitted in his Death, Dying, and Religion class taught by Dr. Todd Perreira, offered Ira a way to learn more about his grandfather. I began my questions here:

Harrison: What does family mean to you, and how has your family impacted who you are as a student/scholar?

Zweig: My family is of mixed backgrounds; my father’s side of the family is Jewish, but my mother’s is not. I grew up with the vague notion that I was someone who could call themself a Jew, but for the most part I did not go out of my way to connect with that aspect of my identity. When someone asks me about my family, I usually take that to mean just my parents because I have not in my life had particularly strong relationships with other members of my family whether they be Jewish or not. Yet the story of my grandfather, a practicing Jew who fled to the US from Germany, always stuck with me and my family has encouraged me to connect more with my Jewishness in recent years. Going into college, my parents’ encouragement was definitely part of what made me want to reach out to the Jewish aspect of my background more than I have in my life before.

Harrison: Why have you chosen SJSU and particularly the department of Philosophy as your place of learning?

Zweig: I chose to major in philosophy because it seemed like a fairly open major. Philosophy students are not expected to take a great deal of prescribed course requirements, and philosophy was a subject that I supposed I had some vague interest in, so that was what I put down when applying to college. These are fairly trivial reasons, but I did not enter college with a strong sense of what academic/career pathway I wanted to pursue and philosophy just seemed like a reasonably non-intrusive yet intriguing topic to choose. It was only after choosing to major in philosophy that I was reminded that my grandfather was a philosophy professor himself. It seems that I unintentionally followed in his footsteps, and I hope studying philosophy will assist me in discovering the direction I want to take my life in and beyond college that I did not initially have while enrolling.

Harrison: Choose a particular class you've taken in your first year here, and let me know how it's impacted you already?

Zweig: The class with the clearest connection to Jewishness that I’m taking this semester is of course Professor Perreira’s class on death and dying. Being able to observe Jewish tradition from a primary-source standpoint by reading and analyzing the Torah let me feel like I was digging deeper into what it might mean to be Jewish in a way that I had never experienced before. There is also Professor Aleksander’s class on ancient philosophy, which has partly focused on Jewish perspectives (particularly that of Maimonides) on philosophy. Reading about ethics, virtue, and religion under a philosophic lens as they pertain to Judaism in this class was another impactful opportunity that allowed me to broaden the horizons of my understanding of Jewish culture, thought, and people. Realizing the fairly significant overlap between these two classes was a particular point of interest, and observing how their content intersected at times made me feel like I was being informed about Jewishness from many different viewpoints.