Spiritual Life Program: Prof. Lisa Anderson-Levy

Prof. Lisa Anderson-Levy

Lisa Anderson-Levy

After her experience studying at huge research institutions, Lisa Anderson-Levy knew she didn’t want to teach at one.  Beloit is a good choice for her because here, having collegial relationships with students is not only possible but is encouraged.  As a professor of cultural anthropology, Lisa is clear and passionate about the connections between her faith and work.

Lisa“Since probably my mid-20s, I’ve thought of myself as a spiritual person.  At that time, I was dissatisfied with my religious affiliations or the religious frames that I had grown up with in Jamaica and began searching for something else.”  During this time of searching, Lisa came to see Judaism as a faith that could be home for her:  “Judaism spoke to the spiritual connectedness I was looking for and provided a religious framework that made sense.”                 

So how do Lisa’s faith and her role as Professor of Anthropology overlap?  She lays out the connections: “My work and research absolutely inform the way I interact with students, and my religious beliefs inform the work that I do.”

As a professor of cultural anthropology whose specialty is “the production of difference” (such as race, sexuality, and class), Lisa acknowledges there are many misconceptions about Jews.  “I hope that in my interactions with people they will recognize there’s not one way of being a Jew.”  With an anthropologist’s understanding of the many powerful roles faith and religion play in society, she is equally clear that for herself, faith is not a crusade but a very personal and somewhat private part of life.

What excites Lisa about her religion?  “When I participate in rituals, these are rituals that have been a part of this group for millennia.  I feel a real connection with the past and with the future in terms of teaching my children what these are and what they mean.  When I celebrate Passover with my family, for example, or during a Friday evening observance of Shabbat, Jews all over the world are doing the same thing at the same time.  There’s this connection through ritual, through the prayers, whether in English or in Hebrew, that connects people multi-generationally and historically.”