Born and raised in Orlando, Florida; Miriam Yoachim graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (RN) and a Bachelors of Arts in Judaic Studies and Linguistic Anthropology. Through her involvement as a volunteer with the Holocaust survivor community of South Florida during her undergraduate career Miriam began to work in the field after graduation. Miriam worked as coordinator of the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Miami for one year focusing heavily on Israel programing and Holocaust Education prior to making Aliyah and beginning this program. Miri discusses her experiences in our MA program below:
My name is Miriam Yoachim and I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. I attended the University of Miami, completing a Bachelors of Arts in Judaic Studies and Anthropology (with a linguistic focus) and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. While completing my undergraduate degrees I spent a semester in Israel studying religion, archaeology, and history in the Galilee.
What led you to pursue an MA degree in Holocaust Studies?
After completing my studies and becoming a Registered Nurse, I realized that this was not the career path I wanted and began searching for another direction. Knowing that I was planning on moving to Israel within the next year, I worked temporarily as the coordinator of the Judaic Studies Department at the University of Miami. I always had a keen interest in the Holocaust—it was the focus of my Judaic Studies major—and through my studies and work I became heavily involved with the field while in Miami. The combination of my previous curiosity regarding the subject and the awareness of new opportunities led me to pursue a Masters degree in the field.
How did you pick the University of Haifa?
While working at the University of Miami, one of my previous academic advisors forwarded me an email about the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa. I was immediately captivated and by the end of the day, after reading all the information I could find, had decided that this was the program for me. The interdisciplinary structure of the program really stood out to me; the option to take courses on the Holocaust in the fields such as psychology and anthropology was a perfect fit for me. It was the subject matter I wanted, through the lens I loved.
Do you have a favorite course so far?
My favorite course so far is Anthropology of Memory, taught by Dr. Carol Kidron. In this course, we use the lens of anthropology to discuss the effects of the Holocaust not only on survivors, but also on their descendants and Israeli society as a whole. The type of analyses and research that we are working with in this course are familiar to me, as I studied anthropology in undergrad. Aside from the content of the course, Dr. Kidron provides an incredible learning environment. She encourages students to voice their opinions and criticisms without restraint for fear of offending or being “wrong”. She poses thought provoking questions to the class, which open incredible group discussions. This type of open environment coupled with the incredibly interesting material being discussed provides for an unforgettable course.
What kind of interning are you involved in (or will be in the future)?
This summer I hope to intern with the archaeologists who are currently excavating Nazi death camps in Poland. Having participated in archaeological excavations in Israel, I know that this is an incredibly unique experience and even more so when coupled with the locations such as Treblinka and Sobibor.
What do you think of this MA program? How is it different from other academic programs you’ve been involved in?
I am really enjoying this program. The eclectic nature of the program is something I have yet to come across in another academic situation. Not only are the courses incredibly varied, but so are the students. The students in our classes come from various national, ethnic, religious, academic, and political backgrounds. Each unique individual understands the material and reacts to it in his own way. As such, we have a mixture of worldviews and insights that come to each lecture. This adds an incredible diversity to our seminar classes.
What ideas do you have for a thesis topic?
For my thesis I plan to write on the use of Holocaust related words—such as Shoah (Holocaust), Nazi, and Auschwitz—in modern vernacular Hebrew and its implications. I will be exploring the origins of this new contextual use, the demographic of users, the connotative meanings the words have come to hold, and examining how this new daily use and connotative value affects the understanding and memory of the Holocaust in Israeli society.
Do you have a favorite movie, play or book about the Holocaust?
I have many favorites. Holocaust literature was one of my favorite undergraduate courses. I would have to say that Sunflower, Maus, and Fugitive Pieces are a few of my favorite novels. The poetry of Dan Pagis and Paul Celan speak to me each time anew when I read them. The Pianist would probably take place as my favorite Holocaust film; and as for dance, I found “Light: The Holocaust and Humanity Project” to be particularly moving and well produced.
What do you hope to do after you finish your degree here?
After completing my Masters at the University of Haifa, I would like to pursue a PhD in anthropology, focusing my research on the subject of the Jewish People both in Israel and the diaspora. I have not yet decided which of the subfields of anthropology I wish to practice, but am leaning towards linguistic or cultural.