Frankel Wins Prestigious Watson Fellowship

Graduating seniors generally fall into two categories: those who already have jobs lined up for the next year and those who do not.

Those who do will face the drudgery of entry-level employment and probably wish they were back at school. The rest will continue the search and at the same time live off friends, family and acquaintances. Many will couch-hop, live on meager funds and likely wish that they too could have had another year at Colgate.

Senior Marc Frankel, however, does not fit into either of these categories. He doesn’t exactly have a job lined up, but he will certainly not be longing for another term in Hamilton.

As a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for a year of independent exploration abroad, he will travel to a variety of places in search of an answer to the question “what is a Jew?” by examining some of the most diverse and disparate Jewish communities in existence.

The project, “The World’s Forgotten Jews,” will be a personal experience for Frankel, during which he will study groups of Jews that are now small and isolated as a result of the Jewish Diaspora. His destinations include Whangarei and Waikato, New Zealand; South Africa; Spanish Morocco; Moisesville, Argentina; and Recife, Brazil.

The Watson Fellowship is granted to 50 students nationally based upon recommendations from the university that nominated them, a personal statement, their academic transcript and a detailed project proposal.

The foundation looks to select students who have shown leadership ability and genuine commitment to their subject of study. Recipients of this fellowship must have a strong background of leadership, and have a creative and interesting proposal.

Frankel’s project idea was born out of an interest in his faith as well as a recent study trip to Birobidzhan, a small community in Siberia, for his honors thesis in the Russian Studies department.Upon his return, he will present a final report to the Fellows Conference.

On the subject of what to do with the information he gathers next year, Frankel said, “I might consider coupling it with my experiences with a Jewish community in Birobidzhan, Siberia and writing something…it will depend largely on the quality of my experiences in the field next year and other future considerations.”

There is no way of knowing what knowledge of Jewish culture Frankel will unearth next year, but he is certain that the trip will be a beneficial life experience in terms of his personal independence and education.

“I do not foresee myself going into Jewish policy or world affairs for a living as a result of this year,” Frankel said, “But I can definitely see myself utilizing the leadership and competence skills that I might pick up during the Watson year for the rest of my life.”