Languages & Literatures Professor Follows Her Passion

Ninah Beliavsky

For Ninah Beliavsky, Ph.D., passion is the most important element of any pursuit. “I tell my students to be passionate about anything they approach,” she said. “Life is beautiful, and you should take from it everything you can.”

Dr. Beliavsky received the Excellence in Teaching award from the National Society of Leadership and Success at the Sigma Alpha Pi Induction Ceremony on April 29, 2019. She serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), Lingustics, and Modern Hebrew, and is also Coordinator of ESL.

An expert in applied linguistics and a professional Argentine tango dancer, Dr. Beliavsky’s passion is communication, both verbal and – in dance – non-verbal. She comes from a family of professional musicians and dancers. Her father is a professional violinist who has played with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Her older brother is also a violinist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her paternal grandmother studied and danced under Isadora Duncan in Russia. On her mother’s side, her cousin, Maya Plisetskaya, was a Russian prima ballerina. Dr. Beliavsky’s younger brother is also a professional pianist and filmmaker; he chairs the Fine Art and Music department at Yeshiva University.

As a child with her family, Dr. Beliavsky emigrated from Moscow to Jerusalem, where she grew up, and later moved to Milwaukee, where she studied at Hillel Academy. During her undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin, she studied abroad at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, adding French to her extensive repertoire of languages, which already included Russian, Hebrew, and English. Later, while doing her graduate work at Tel-Aviv University and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Dr. Beliavsky developed a passion for teaching as a mode of performance, one that allowed her to engage with her students in a pedagogically effective manner.

Because of her experiences learning new languages in each new place her family lived, she is deeply empathetic toward her students who are learning English at St. John’s University.

Dr. Beliavsky received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Northwestern University. She is married and has two daughters, both of whom are artists. Her current research focuses on discourse analysis of non-verbal communication in Argentine tango and its therapeutic value in the rehabilitation of people with Parkinson’s disease.

“I am blessed to do what I love,” she said.