The first Orthodox Jewish woman to have received a Rhodes Scholarship expressed her thanks to the Jewish Educational Center’s Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth, from which she graduated in 2007.
“At Bruriah I saw strong female role models who pursued careers that they chose for themselves,” said Miriam Rosenbaum in a press release the JEC issued shortly after she was chosen as one of 32 American winners of the prestigious scholarship. “I hope to be a role model for Orthodox girls to pursue academic achievement at the highest levels.”
Rosenbaum, of Riverdale, NY, is the second JEC graduate to receive a Rhodes. The previous recipient, in 2010, was Chaim Strauchler, who grew up in West Orange and is now rabbi of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto, Canada.
Rosenbaum, 22, spent a year at Michlalah Jerusalem College for Women. Now a senior at Princeton University, she is studying public policy at its Woodrow Wilson School with a focus on the intersection between genetics research and ethics. She plans to use the scholarship, which covers two years of study at Oxford University in England, to do a master’s program in bioethics.
JEC dean Rabbi Elazar Mayer Teitz said in the release, “We at JEC are so proud to see our students strive to the highest levels of achievement. We are equally proud to have been able to partner with her parents in preparing Miriam to attain this wonderful award.”
Rosenbaum has said that former Bruriah principal Chaya Newman inspired her with her strength and independence. When associate dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz called to congratulate her, she spoke about Bruriah’s influence.
According to the release, Rosenbaum wants to be an advocate for the elderly and the disabled. She spent three summers working at the Hebrew Academy for Special Children summer program in Brooklyn. Last summer, she worked in the National Institutes of Health’s bioethics department.
During her upcoming winter break, Rosenbaum intends to study genetic privacy laws in Iceland. After her time at Oxford, she wants to return to Princeton to complete a master’s degree focusing on the economic side of public health policy.
Rosenbaum said she found inspiration in the story of her grandfather, Mordechai Rosenbaum, a member of the renowned Mir Yeshiva in Poland. She never met him, but she grew up hearing her family talk about him. In her application essay for the Rhodes scholarship, she described how he survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Shanghai, China, helped by Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who issued visas to thousands of Jews desperately trying to escape Europe.
Rosenbaum, in an article published in the Forward, said Princeton is very accommodating of her religious requirements. She was given a manual room key to wear around her neck for use on the Sabbath to avoid using an electronic key card. She eats kosher meals at the Center for Jewish Life/Hillel, and when tests have been scheduled for Saturdays, she has been allowed to take them at another time.
Rosenbaum hasn’t confined her extramural campus contacts only to Jews. As co-convener of the Religious Life Council, she has helped organize weekly meetings and an annual retreat where students of various faiths come together to discuss their values and beliefs.