Seizing the Days

For Lander psychology grad and Jewish Studies student Moishy Gerstel, every opportunity is golden.

April 08, 2013

“It’s almost a full-time occupation,” Gerstel concedes of Psy.D. enrollment. “I left it to do for this year, and once I had that time I wanted to get a more rigorous academic background in Jewish history.” That’s why he’s currently earning a master’s through Touro’s Graduate School of Jewish Studies. “I very much appreciate studying things in an academic context where you’re accountable for the information,” he elaborates, “So I took the opportunity.”

That head-on attitude toward accruing different experiences was instilled at an early age. “There are elements to the ethic that I get from home,” he says, recalling how his mother would take him on trips to their local science center. But Gerstel’s exploratory nature was always there under the surface, waiting to be nurtured. “I was generally a curious person,” he continues. “I definitely liked to read since I was little. Kudos to my mom again. She would offer to pay us five dollars if we read the first chapter of a book and did not want to continue…I always continued. At some point, I became conscious of the importance of being curious, and how curiosity has contributed to my development, intellectually and otherwise. Over the last few years, I’ve worked toward cultivating curiosity in many areas, even if I’m not interested in them at first glance. I’ve come to recognize the value of this trait.”

Gerstel points to his years on the Lander campus with providing an environment to indulge and refine his interests. Or, as he puts it, “I was a Psychology major, but I wanted to take other sciences. I took a semester of Biology, I took a semester of Chemistry, I did a history course, I did a computer course. Opportunity nurtures opportunity, so there was a path of nurturing.”

That academic nurturing, in turn, influences his life outside the classroom. A la Gerstel’s inspiration for investigating Jewish philosophy in a classroom setting, he approaches his overall education as one integral element in a formula for self-discovery. “My study is life, more than any specific discipline,” he explains. “So psychology in that sense is very close to how one practices life. For me, it’s a question of understanding human behavior, it’s not just a dry intellectual pursuit. Whenever I’m studying a subject, I ask myself, ‘Is this the way I look at it? How can I incorporate this into my day-to-day life?’ I like to nurture a kind of dialogue between the way I live my life and my intellectual world. In that sense, being religious ties right in, it’s an element of how I live my life.”

As for what opportunities Gerstel foresees once his Master’s and Ph.D. have been acquired, his goals as a practicing doctor are, in fact, quite down to earth. Once all that curiosity has been sated, he’d “like to both engage in research and the application of interventions that will help the community improve socially and emotionally [and] help individuals come closer to optimal functioning.” All of which is certainly worth being psyched about.