In Toledo, Spain

In Toledo, Spain

Several of my students offered to share testimonials of their experiences of my courses over the years. Here are just a few. 


"I recently graduated from the University of Virginia and double majored in Classics and Medieval Studies. I had become interested in medieval Spain, but the course offerings were sparse, especially for those who do not know Spanish. What I find interesting about medieval Spain is how there were three very distinct cultures closely associated with religion prospering during that time—Christian, Muslim and, of course, Jewish, but unless you actively seek out this information I feel it is rather difficult to find much on it in a regular survey course (for example). It was really fascinating not only to supplement my existing knowledge of medieval Europe with this course, but also to learn about how Ladino managed to survive after the expulsion of the Jewish people in Spain in the late 15th century. I learned a lot because Judith carefully and thoughtfully prepared each class. It was not a class where we had to do a lot of reading, but the readings we were assigned were thought-provoking (for ex. The proliferation of anti-Semitic narratives usually concerning the murder of Christian children). My favorite part of the class was towards the end when we were preparing for the Ladino Lives! presentation, because the poetry I decided to recite was beautifully written (another cultural aspect Judith introduced us to). I also remember a fun class where we wrote our own poetry! And, of course, I loved listening to Ladino music. As I’ve mentioned, the class was rich in knowledge dissemination and cultural exchange, and I truly appreciate that Judith offered the course." ~E.Y.

"It was really fascinating not only to supplement my existing knowledge of medieval Europe with this course, but also to learn about how Ladino managed to survive after the expulsion of the Jewish people in Spain in the late 15th century."


"As I was taking an Intermediate Spanish class, i decided to take Judith's class as well since I was interested in linguistics and endangered languages.  Judith made me feel at home in her class, teaching with a combination of lectures and close, thoughtful discussions.  I learned a great deal about a culture I had known nothing about, speaking the language, listening to the music, eating the food, and a variety of other activities.  The highlight of the class was when I presented what I'd learned in the class at a talk about Sephardic culture.  It was a huge reward, being able to bring all the knowledge I'd gained during class to bear in such a effective way." ~W.C.

 "Judith made me feel at home in her class."

Teaching at the Ladino Bive event

Teaching at the Ladino Bive event

I attended Ms. Hilgartner’s class on Ladino Language and Sephardic Culture, which she taught at the University of Virginia. Ms. Hilgartner was an engaging, knowledgeable and energetic teacher. Despite the late hour of the class (6 – 7:30 pm), she managed to convey her excitement and enthusiasm about the topic, thereby energizing the members of the class. Her style of teaching was one of inclusion and engagement. I was always impressed by how welcoming she was of students’ varying contributions to the topics we examined, and her ability to consider a variety of interpretations of the literature that we studied.

Having some familiarity with Ladino culture, I was impressed with Ms. Hilgartner’s breadth of knowledge. She made many interesting historical connections and enabled us to appreciate the Ladino experience in today’s world. In addition to Ms. Hilgartner’s capable teaching, I would add that she is a warm and personable individual. I found her to be a very conscientious teacher who took joy in helping her students understand material that clearly excites her. ~D.A.

"Her style of teaching was one of inclusion and engagement." 

Everyone enjoying the Ladino BIve event

Everyone enjoying the Ladino BIve event

 "I have known Judith over the course of several years when she was pursuing graduate study at the University of Virginia. In addition to several larger public events which she planned at the University, I had the pleasure of seeing the kind of work she did in diverse settings in our synagogue community. Judith has a real ability to engage her audience with the subject at hand, and to impart her enthusiasm for her chosen field of Ladino Studies.   

She taught a class on the poetry of Ibn Gabirol in our Bet Midrash (adult text-study) program at Congregation Beth Israel which so delighted and involved her audience with its insight into Gabirol’s textual threads and themes that the group  (by popular acclamation ) pre-empted a second scheduled class in order to be able to continue to study with her. She ably bridged the gap between Medieval Hebrew and modern translation to enliven the text and to solicit truly thoughtful conversation which generated a stimulating discussion which continued into the lobby long after the class had ended.  

I was also present to witness the extraordinary program which she prepared and presented to our high-school-aged students on the topic of the Ladino language and popular culture. I was not surprised to learn afterwards that she had some previous background as a high-school teacher, because she had their interest and participation from the very first moment. I was impressed at her ability to be at ease with such diverse audiences and to shape her presentations accordingly. 

In yet a third setting, Judith delivered a lecture on Ladino culture as part of our Adult Lecture Series on Sephardic Culture. Again, she seemed to be able to convey her enthusiasm for the topic combined with an insightful approach to the material that sharpened our understanding and elicited a vibrant question-and-answer period. She is a kind of natural teacher who obviously enjoys that role.

Her academic insight, passion for her subject and desire to share of her knowledge make her the kind of lecturer who will always be asked to return for another presentation in the future. Judith was generous with her time and diligent in her preparation. Beyond these three lectures she served as an important link between our synagogue community and the university. Several members of our congregation were avid followers of the classes, presentations and other related cultural events she led at the university, and spoke highly of her leadership in these areas as well." ~T.G.

"I was impressed at her ability to be at ease with such diverse audiences and to shape her presentations accordingly." 

The "Ladino Bive" event held at the Univeristy of Virginia in spring 2016

The "Ladino Bive" event held at the Univeristy of Virginia in spring 2016

"I was an undergraduate student in her Intermediate Spanish course in the spring of 2013 at the University of Virginia. The class met twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes. After the end the course, she became my unofficial mentor. I am confident in Ms. Hilgartner’s mastery of the Spanish language, ability to teach and support students, and willingness to offer qualified mentorship.

Ms. Hilgartner’s well-rounded knowledge of and contagious passion for the Spanish language has fostered within me the desire to continuously improve my proficiency in the language. Her journey from being a Spanish language student to becoming an instructor gave me the confidence to get over the fear of pursuing an intensive study of a foreign language. She structured the course in a way that allowed her students to incorporate the study of the

Spanish language into everyday life. She encouraged us to listen to Spanish language music, watch cultural videos from Spanish-speaking countries, and attend Spanish literature events on campus. She relayed to us that these are some of the most effective ways of mastering the materials covered in class. The well-rounded educational experience I gained from Ms. Hilgartner’s course has helped me develop a profound understanding and appreciation of the Spanish language.

Furthermore, Ms. Hilgartner was always available to assist students and prepared to work with students from different cultures and backgrounds. As a recent immigrant to the United States, it was at times difficult for me to simultaneously improve my proficiency in both English and Spanish languages. Ms. Hilgartner was sympathetic to my situation and able to offer advice because of her own efforts to learn new languages and exposure to cultures of different countries. One of the most helpful tips I received from her was to recognize the similarities and differences between the English and Spanish languages and use these characteristics to my advantage. The various conversations I had with Ms. Hilgartner have made the learning process enjoyable and productive.

Her eagerness to support students goes beyond the classroom. After I completed the course, we stayed in touch and Ms. Hilgartner became my unofficial mentor. I periodically sought her guidance on how to improve my mastery of the English and Spanish languages and succeed in college. She went out of her way to help me become a better speaker and writer. I am immensely grateful for the countless hours she spent going over my application essays and coaching me on how to conduct myself during job interviews. Ms. Hilgartner’s consistent mentorship has helped me become a better version of myself.

I believe Ms. Hilgartner embodies the qualities students want to see in their instructors. She has an impressive command of the Spanish language and a strong desire to help her students succeed in and out of the classroom. I am certain that Ms. Hilgartner will be a great addition to your institution." ~H.A.

"Ms. Hilgartner’s consistent mentorship has helped me become a better version of myself."