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Yarden S. Fraiman ’09

M.D. Candidate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

I majored in the Department of Religion. During my junior year, I focused my independent work on early Christianity and Judaism of late antiquity. I studied two distinct communities, the Essene community at Qumran, the community responsible for producing the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Christian community at Corinth. I researched each community’s notion of religious law, particularly as it applied to what I called “hierarchies of purity.” In my senior year I focused my thesis on religious philosophies, examining three different philosophers, Emmanuel Levinas, Ahad Ha’am, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz. I examined each philosopher’s answer to the question “What is Judaism?” and how those answers gave rise to a unique and distinct vision of a Jewish state and Jewish nationalism. At the conclusion of my studies I was awarded the Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize in Religion for “outstanding work in Judaic Studies.”

I chose to major in the Department of Religion because, at the end of the day, I found that I was most passionate about learning more about the academic study of religion. Though I knew that I would not go on to study religion after my undergraduate years, since I was a pre-med student, I wanted to choose a major that I found exciting, interesting, and that engaged me. The courses I took in the department were the most fulfilling during my time at Princeton. Additionally, I loved the intimacy of the small department. The small class size, the number of students per graduating class, and the use of the space in 1879 Hall made the religion department genuinely feel like a home away from home. Finally, I found the faculty in the department extremely helpful, excited, and interested in providing mentorship.

Essential training for medicine

Following graduation, I moved to San Francisco, where I was part of a research laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco investigating reparative and palliative surgery for congenital heart defects. Concurrently with my research, I applied to medical school. I am now a first-year medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

I believe that my time at Princeton prepared me for my future career in medicine in two very important and distinct ways. First, the small class size, the emphasis on collaboration and academic discourse through precepts and small seminar learning, as well as the expectation of critical and thoughtful engagement with the learning material, have taught me essential skills for working with others in an academic and professional environment. My time at Princeton taught me how to express my opinion, listen to others, and develop intellectual relationships with my peers and mentors. These skills will undoubtedly help me in my future career goals.

Additionally, I believe that my studies in the Department of Religion have given me tools that will be invaluable in medicine. As a religion major I was expected to engage sensitive material in a non-judgmental way and to learn how to look critically at belief systems that people hold extremely dear. I am sure that these skills will become increasingly important as I interact with patients in a sensitive and respectful way. Finally, the Department of Religion has given me a base of knowledge of world religions that will better prepare me to work with patients who are different from myself.