Religious Identities in the Construction of Communal Khoja Historical Memory
“Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust the Jewish people finds itself in a somewhat unexpected position,” wrote Dr. Tudor Parfitt, head of Florida International University’s Global Judaism program, in a 2016 address to the committee. Dr. Parfitt described “millions of people,” in places like Africa, Asia and the Americas, willing to step up and become Jews. “The challenge for Israel and for the Jewish people,” Parfitt wrote, “is to decide what to do about it.”
Venu Mehta Master of Arts in Religious Studies
Florida International University
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
Deuxieme Maison, Room DM 302
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami FL 33199
One of Venu Mehta’s biggest challenges as an international student at FIU was missing her family in India, particularly her mother, Dr. Purnima Mehta, whom she considers to be one of her greatest influences and mentors.
A strong sense of determination and dedication to learning helped see her through to earn her master’s degree in religious studies, adding to the Ph.D. in multiculturalism through literature education she had already earned in the Gujarat state of India.
Upon her arrival at FIU, Venu immediately stood out to her professors, who were impressed by the cutting-edge social science research she had already done on the Jain community and the American Jain diaspora.
Venu has published an award-winning primer for English speakers to learn the Gujarati language, based on her work as a Fulbright Scholar at Indiana University, Bloomington.
At FIU, she assisted her professors with an effort to catalogue another ancient language, Kacchi, for which there are few dictionaries in North America or Europe. Her work earned her induction into Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for religious studies and theology, for which she is currently president. She also founded the Preksha Meditation Club, bringing a central practice of Jain spirituality to FIU students.
Following graduation, Venu plans to continue her studies at the University of Florida, where she will pursue her Ph.D. in religious studies.
Rebecca Nicole Garcia B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology B.A. in Religious Studies Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs
A long-time desire to become an archaeologist propelled Rebecca Garcia to major in anthropology at FIU. Through coursework, she built a foundation in the study of humanity and solidified her research, writing and teamwork skills. Rebecca took a course in “Religions of Classical Mythology” taught by her mentor Janet McDaniel in the FIU Honors College. One religious studies course led to another, which led to another, each one sparking her fascination with the discipline. Discovering she could further explore history, language, culture and other topics of interest, Rebecca was sold on pursuing another degree in religious studies. Rebecca credits her degrees with giving her the capacity to better empathize and communicate with people, skills she says are critical in today’s interconnected and complex society.
In the classroom, Rebecca has conducted and presented research on the polytheistic, Canaanite religions of the Near East and Northeast Africa. She has also become proficient in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. For the past three years, Rebecca has worked in the Mt. Zion Archaeological Dig in Jerusalem, Israel where she has gained experience in excavation, record-keeping and site management.
Rebecca’s commitment to scholarship goes beyond the classroom. She has served as the president and treasurer of FIU’s chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, Religious Studies Honor Society. Rebecca also volunteers as a note-taker for students with disabilities through the FIU Disability Resource Center.
Rebecca is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She plans on pursuing graduate education in archaeology and hopes to better the field through research.