Francesca Rubinson, a Tufts alumna (LA’20) and current Harvard Divinity School student, was recently announced as the graduate student intern at the University Chaplaincy for 2022. Rubinson studies Judaism through feminist and queer lenses and plans to serve as a resource for Tufts students while also developing her own skills in multifaith chaplaincy.
Rubinson discovered her passion for religious studies and spiritual care rather unexpectedly while at Tufts. While she originally planned to study political science, a late registration time for freshman year classes led her to take a course on the Book of Genesis. Rubinson noted that the class taught her how to view religious texts critically with multifaceted historical and literary perspectives, and she ultimately graduated with a double major in political science and religion.
“Having such a positive experience in religious studies research at Tufts definitely set me on my path pursuing another degree in Jewish studies and working as an interfaith chaplain,” Rubinson wrote in an email to the Daily.
Hoping to drive social justice change, Rubinson considered a career in policymaking. But after spending some time in the nonprofit world, she decided to pursue chaplaincy and a Master of Divinity degree instead.
“I recognized that spiritual practices could serve as major sources of healing, inspiration, and community-building,” Rubinson explained.
She also referred to her mentors Professor Jennifer Eyl and Rabbi Jordan Braunig (who left Tufts in 2020 to become Emory University’s Jewish chaplain) as key influences in her religious education at Tufts.
“They encouraged me to focus on Judaism academically as I also explored my own connection to Jewish tradition and spiritual growth,” she wrote.
Rubinson grew up in the Reform Jewish tradition, which she noted emphasizes “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” She explained that her mentors and experiences at Tufts helped her realize that she could engage in “tikkun olam” through the Chaplaincy and other paths where religion and social justice work intersect.
Rubinson is two years into her education at Harvard Divinity School and one month into her position as the University Chaplaincy’s graduate student intern. Rubinson obtained the internship through Tufts’ partnership with the Harvard Divinity School Field Education Program, which gives students firsthand experience in theological service institutions. This is Tufts’ second year participating in the Field Education program.
Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger, Tufts’ university chaplain, remarked on the nature of this program.
“Tufts is a unique setting for a chaplaincy intern like Francesca as our multifaith team and student communities offer diverse opportunities for engagement and reflection,” Nelson Winger wrote in an email to the Daily. “During her year at Tufts, Francesca will get to build relationships with students and staff and also develop her own learning goals related to her Master of Divinity degree work.”
Nelson Winger also spoke about how Rubinson’s time will shape the Tufts community.
“Hosting chaplaincy interns [strengthens] and affirms our educational mission and offers all of us the opportunity to grow and learn in new ways,” she wrote. “I hope that Francesca’s time with us also inspires our current students to explore future graduate and/or community work in religious diversity, chaplaincy, and multifaith leadership.”
Rubinson has spent her first month in her new role co-facilitating the Interfaith Student Council, the Chaplaincy’s main undergraduate student advisory and programming board. She works alongside Catholic Chaplain Lynn Cooper, who discussed what Rubinson adds to the Tufts community.
“Francesca brings with her a deep sense of care and curiosity as well as a sincere desire to explore multifaith chaplaincy in higher education,” Cooper wrote in an email to the Daily. “I am excited for her to be on campus and to learn the new landscape through 1:1’s and ministry of presence.”
“I look forward to seeing how she will integrate her own expertise and interests into the offerings of the University Chaplaincy and our wider campus community,” she added.
One of Rubinson’s goals is to expand religious community and thought “across lines of difference.” This coincides with the Chaplaincy’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion efforts in campus religious life — for instance, it is currently collaborating with the Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion to host True Colors: An Interfaith Queer Space.
Rubinson expressed her hopes for her new position.
“This semester, I look forward to building more connections with students and assisting with the University Chaplaincy’s larger events such as the Pax Et Lux winter celebration,” Rubinson wrote. “I hope to serve as another resource and listening ear for students wrestling with big questions and seeking community.”
Rubinson emphasized that she wants students to know that “spiritual care and counseling is available to you, whatever your relationship to religion may be!”