On the right side of Ruth Tsuria’s desk sits a corkboard. On that corkboard, a bright magenta bumper sticker reads, “Don’t Mess with a Texas Feminist.”
Tsuria, who is originally from Israel, travelled around the world and settled in Texas. She grew up in Jerusalem, a city of different faiths and as she describes it, “politically charged.” Tsuria came to Seton Hall this semester and began teaching digital communication classes.
Although she grew up religious, she recalls having a fun childhood experience. The oldest of five brothers and sisters, Tsuria and her siblings would sneak into centuries-old abandoned homes and throw parties.
Looking back at herself as a teenager, she remembers reading a lot and even deems herself a “geek” for liking comic books, which at the time, was not popular in Israel, a “geek-culture desert.”
“When I was growing up, in the entirety of Israel, there was one comic book shop. Now we have like three,” she said. “The comic book shop was so small, one could easily walk right past it and not even realize it was there.”
She read many books growing up and noted that George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” heavily influenced her and her interest in social and political concepts.
For her undergraduate program at Hebrew University, she double majored in Jewish philosophy and business management, but eventually changed it for something comparative in nature.
“I wanted to understand the influence that religions have on people’s lives, both in a personal matter and in a political and social matter,” she said.
However, she was not satisfied with just Jewish studies and decided to look at masters programs abroad that fit her interest for contemporary religious studies.
While earning her master’s degree in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tsuria met the man that became her husband, Nicholas Marshall, who also started teaching at SHU this semester.
“Ruth is a futuristic, forward thinking person,” Marshall said. “She’s always trying to figure out what the next trend is, and I will say, I am the opposite, I’m more of a backwards historian, which is why I think we mesh together so nicely.”
In the classroom, Tsuria approaches her students in a more forward thinking way. Students arrange the desks to form a circle, where she joins in, encourages them to participate in the discussion, and be open to share and bounce off each others ideas with what she calls “collective intelligence.”
“Not everyone knows everything, but each of us know something. So if we could just take out the best things that each of us know, we can learn a lot more from each other,” she said.
Ebony Simpson, a graduate student majoring in strategic communication said, “She teaches in a way where it’s like, ‘we’re going to discuss it, everyone’s going to have time to speak, I want to really make sure you guys are understanding the concepts I’m giving you,’ so I really like her teaching style.”
Citing a proverb from the Talmud, a central text of Judaism, Tsuria says, “I’ve learned the most from my students.”
She is currently converting her dissertation into her first book, which will focus on gender and sexuality in most religions, looking at motherhood, marriage, intimacy and reactions to feminism in the orthodox religious world, as they are communicated online.
Marianne-Grace Datu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.