By Jessica Trondsen, Opinion Editor
Students in Assistant Professor of Religion Antonios Finitsis’ Religion 211 course applied modern-day relevance to the Hebrew Bible by writing, acting, filming and editing ten-minute video reinterpretations of biblical text.
The filmographers then vied against one another in an online voting competition. The three videos with the most votes were presented Thursday at a live finale, where faculty judges declared a winner.
A record-breaking 210 votes were cast this year. The video “Joe Nalone and the Muggles’ Potion,” by senior Thomas Nelson, sophomore Maura Winter and junior Brendan Meehan won first place.
“We chose two things that no college student could refuse: coffee and Harry Potter,” Nelson said.
“The Good Life” won second place and “Anything but Tammy” took third. An Excellence in Production award went to “Oh, the Weakness of Men.”
The event, hosted by senior Sean Andrascik and junior Christney Kpodo, featured a string quartet, red carpet interviews with the student filmmakers, a showing of the top three videos and the use of a TriCaster to provide live streaming of the event in progress.
Finitsis said this was the event’s first year in the CK, which allowed more room.
“We keep upping the ante. Each year it grows and grows,” Finitsis said.
Now in its fifth year, what started as a video assignment in Finitsis’ Religion 211 course turned into a campus-wide event when the submissions “were too good to keep in the classroom,” Finitsis said. “They’re really worth looking at. I thought we ought to acknowledge the work.”
Hebrew Idol is a grassroots movement that began as a one-man show, but is now a production that requires at least 30 people to put on, Finitsis said.
This year’s judges, dressed as different characters from Biblical stories, were Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, Professor of Philosophy Erin McKenna, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Justin Lytle, Associate Professor of Religion Suzanne Crawford O’Brien and External Relations Coordinator MaryAnn Anderson.
“I think it’s wonderful that he [Finitsis] does it. What I learn from Hebrew Idol is that you can take emerging technologies and pair them with outstanding pedagogy and current scholarship and students will learn,” Ihssen said. “I think Hebrew Idol challenges other professors to be creative in the classroom too. “
Hebrew Idol recently won the NWACC Award for Innovation in Educational Technologies. Next year, instructional technologies team master Nick Butler said he hopes Hebrew Idol will be broadcast in HD.
“We’re at the forefront,” Butler said. “Every year we come back and reach for those stars. Sometimes we land on the moon, but we get out there.”
The course, Religion and Literature of the Hebrew Bible, is offered both fall and spring semesters. Planning for Hebrew Idol begins every October with the creation of graphics for the event. The process continues until April when online voting ends and event details are finalized. A website, Facebook page and flyers routinely advertise the event.
Finitsis says he will keep putting on Hebrew Idol for the students.
“Each year they keep surprising me. They do excellent work,” Finitsis said. “Whatever I expect, they’re going to exceed it. They have amazing ideas. The least I can do is recognize it.”