We’ve got an informal Q&A with Linda Gradstein, the inaugural Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies. Gradstein is teaching, “ Covering Conflict the Middle East” and “Women in Israel and Palestine” on campus this Fall:
Gradstein is a journalist who reports for Public Radio International’s The World, AOL News and writes for Slate Magazine. She was the Israel correspondent for National Public Radio News from 1990 until 2009. Gradstein has covered important events in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip such as the intifada, the mass immigration of Soviet immigrants to Israel, the leadership of Yasser Arafat, Hamas in Gaza, the Persian Gulf War, and major elections in Israel. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Persian Gulf War.
Q: What do you value most about teaching?
A: What I value most about teaching is seeing students confront new ideas and change their perceptions. For example, in my course on Women in Israel and Palestine, we started with studying women’s roles in Judaism, and one of my students said, “I have a completely new perception of Judaism. I didn’t even realize how warped my perception was.” I also showed a film called Trembling Before G-d about Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality and several students said they kept thinking about the film for days afterward. It really is exciting to challenge young people’s perceptions.
Q: What is your first impression of College of Charleston students?
A: I find the College of Charleston students to be bright and curious. Some of them are widely traveled; others have never left the US. I find them polite (Israelis where I live are not known for their politeness!!) but often asking challenging questions.
Q: Why were you attracted to the Arnold Visiting Chair opportunity?
A: The Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies is a wonderful professional opportunity for me. It is always exciting to learn new skills and teaching is something that has long interested me. I have also never lived in the south before and Charleston is such a beautiful city. I feel I’ve gone from one Holy City to another!
Q: Who are your favorite journalists?
A: I have many favorite journalists including my mentor, Glenn Frankel, formerly of the Washington Post and currently the dean of the journalism school at the University of Texas in Austin who won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting while I was working for him in Jerusalem. Glenn taught me not only how to be a journalist but why journalism can make a difference in the world. I also admire Edward R. Murrow, Tom Friedman and Christiane Amanpour.
Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?
A: I hope that my classes will expand my students’ knowledge of both journalism, Israel and Palestine and leave them with more questions than they had at the beginning. After covering the Middle East for 20 years I realize I don’t have the answers either. I want to get my students excited about the things I’m excited about. Recently one of my students came to ask me for career advice – how to start a career abroad. I enjoy interacting with students both in the classroom and out.
Bonus Question: Favorite thing to do in Charleston with your family?
A: That’s a tough one. I guess it has to be going out on the water either boating or fishing. We’ve been invited on several boat trips as a family and just had a great time. Most of Israel is a desert so being surrounded with water is very different for us. One evening my husband and I also took a sunset wine and cheese cruise, which was beautiful.