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Meet Some of Our Graduate Students


Chris AndersonChris Anderson is interested in the intellectual, cultural, and social history of the ancient Near East as it is reflected in both texts and archaeology. Within this wide field, his research interests include Akkadian language and literature, the various influences of Neo-Assyrian imperialism on ancient Israel and the development of biblical literature. He is also interested in the formation, reception, and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, especially Pentateuchal theory. He holds a MA and a MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Aviv Ben OrAviv Ben-Or, Schusterman Scholar, is a doctoral student in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University, as well as a fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. He is studying Modern Hebrew literature and the Jewish literary tradition in a broad sense, ranging from the medieval period to modern times; he is concentrating specifically on Jewish cultures and histories in the Arabic-speaking milieu. Aviv's doctoral work explores the contact between Hebrew and Arabic literatures and cultures, as well as manifestations and expressions of Arab-Jewish identity, and his research will be centered on Iraqi-Jewish authors in Israel who produced writings in both languages.

 BernsteinRachel Bernstein received her B.A. in Jewish Studies from the University of Virginia and her M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. As a PhD student, Rachel's research interests include emerging adulthood and Jewish young professionals, Jewish culture and the arts, and gender and sexuality. Rachel has worked as a research assistant on projects examining new Jewish leadership, Jewish education, and gender and American Jewish families.

Brown-DeVostBronson Brown-deVost comes from a background in Classical languages (BA, Loyola Marymount University) and began his graduate career in Bible/Northwst Semitic Languages (MA, the Catholic University of America). He is currently working towards his PhD in Bible and the Ancient Near East, is finishing comprehensive examinations, and preparing for his dissertation. He currently teaches Biblical Hebrew for adult learners in the Ivrit Lakol program and has taught courses in Akkadian language at Brandeis. Classical studies, however, still hold relevance for him and he continues to work as a private teacher of Greek and Latin. His interests are primarily philological in the broadest sense encompassing both text and language. This involves everything from the development of literary traditions through time and the importation and adaptation literary forms and traditions across cultural boundaries to the evolutionary development of languages themselves. Currently he is spending a lot of time thinking about ancient attitudes towards texts of various genres and in different social settings.

Esther BrownsmithEsther Brownsmith is a PhD candidate in Bible and Ancient Near East, coming to Brandeis with an MA from Yale Divinity School, summa cum laude, and a BA from Rice University. Her interests include intersectionality, intertextuality, and interpretive techniques. (Also alliteration.) In particular, she seeks to explore how poetic techniques can both constrain and enhance mythic and religious meaning. Outside of studying ancient texts, Esther enjoys baking, reading comic books, singing with her choir, and spending time with her spouse and pet degus.

brysonJamie Bryson is currently a PhD student in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis, focusing on Bible and the ancient Near East. He has a strong research interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and more specifically how they can inform our understanding of the formation of the Hebrew Bible in the cultural context of Second Temple Judaism. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Divinity from Columbia International University, and a Master of Arts from Brandeis University.

CivcikZeynep Civcik, Schusterman Scholar, is a NEJS Ph.D. student. In 2003-2004 Zeynep conducted a research project at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and wrote a thesis about the changes and continuities of Israeli security policy. For her dissertation, she is undertaking a comparative study of the role of the military in the foreign policies of Turkey and Israel.

Eli Cohn was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He went to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where he graduated with a BA in Philosophy. While in school, Eli helped found the Greater Portland Hillel and served as its first president. After graduation, Eli spent a year in Israel on the program OTZMA, where he volunteered, worked and traveled throughout the country. For the past two years Eli has worked as the Coordinator for Israel Engagement for the Hillel at Brandeis University. He also serves on the committee for ReachOut, an organization committed to engaging Jewish young adults in community service. The product of a lifetime of Jewish camping, youth groups, Hillel, and more, Eli has special interests in Jewish education, Israel and Jewish peoplehood.

CypressJoshua Cypress received his B.A. in anthropology from Princeton University and his M.A. in philosophy from Yeshiva University. Josh's focus is in modern Jewish sociology. In 1996, he received a Wexner Graduate Fellowship for rabbinic ordination and worked as an Orthodox pulpit rabbi for nine years in New York and New Haven, Connecticut. He is now a NEJS PhD student.

DeMarcoMolly Elizabeth DeMarco is a Ph.D. candidate in Bible and Ancient Near East. She received her B.A. in Philosophy at Rhode Island College in 2005 and her M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis in 2007. She is currently working on her dissertation which explores the literary correspondences between the Priestly and non-Priestly narratives in the Pentateuch. One of her primary concerns is to situate the Hebrew Bible in its broader ancient Near Eastern context.

eleffZev Eleff is a NEJS doctoral candidate in the field of American Jewish history. His scholarly focus is the Europeanization of American Judaism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His dissertation, focusing on religious authority in nineteenth century American Judaism, will play close attention to how the American Jewish experiences compared to other American religions as well as Judaism in Europe. Eleff received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he has authored more than a dozen books and scholarly articles in the area of American Jewish history.

FinottoLucia Finotto came to Brandeis after several years of professional experience as a translator in Milan, Italy. Her doctoral studies are in Medieval Sephardic Judaism and Medieval Islam with a focus on the Jews of the medieval kingdom of Sicily. Her dissertation work examines the role of Jewish translators of 13th and 14th-century Sicily in the transmission of Islamic scientific and philosophical texts to pre-modern Europe. Besides her native Italian, Lucia's languages include Arabic, Hebrew, French and Latin.

Eva GurevichEva Gurevich is a PhD student at NEJS. Her interests include the aesthetics of Israeli and Palestinian geopolitics, with a special focus on art and its representation of land relations. Other related interests include aesthetics of Zionist environmental design as well as cartography. She holds a BFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, and has worked in several Jewish museum and art institutions including The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at University of California, Berkeley.

Eric HarveyEric Harvey is a PhD student, focusing on Bible and the Ancient Near East. He holds a BA in Psychology from Colorado State University, an MA in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Languages from Fuller Seminary, and an MA from Brandeis. He is primarily interested in the historical development of religious and cultural thought and literature throughout the cultures of the ancient Near East. More specifically, he is interested in mythological literature, the mythological background of the Hebrew Bible, and the reuse, reformulation, and transformation of texts and traditions over time.

HarrisDavid Harris is a second-year MA student specializing in the Bible and the Ancient Near East.  He received his BA in Near Eastern Studies from The Johns Hopkins University, where he studied biblical criticism, Near Eastern history, semitics and epigraphy.  After spending a year at Brandeis, he is ever-increasingly proud to be part of NEJS and the Brandeis community.  His interests are varied, but he is primarily interested in Near Eastern prophetic and cultic literature, comparative semitic philology and linguistics, Near Eastern scribal culture, inner-textual exegesis, and textual criticism.  David enjoys cooking, playing poker, Israeli films, and road trips. David hopes to return to Middlebury and/or make a trip to Israel in the summer of 2014, and is always looking for new and exciting things to do in Boston. 

HerzogAlexandra Tali Herzog received two MA degrees (one in French Literature and one in English Literature with a specialization in American Cultural Studies) from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. She is now a PhD candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies where she received a joint MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Womens and Gender Studies in 2007. Her main areas of interest are Modern Jewish Literature and Culture, Yiddish literature and Comparative Literature (French, English, German and Yiddish). She is currently working on her dissertation on the Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Justin HugueninJustin Huguenin is an M.A. student at NEJS. He holds a B.A. in History from the Ohio State University, and is excited to start graduate work at Brandeis. His primary interest is in ancient Middle Eastern religions, and in particular in alternative religious schools of thought as represented in texts such as Jubilees and Enoch. Some of his past research has focused on Zoroastrianism and martyr cults in Kievan Rus, and most recently he completed an undergraduate thesis looking at the role of politics and Hellenistic Judaism in the events leading up to the Hasmonean Revolt.

KloskoSusanna Klosko received her B.A. in History with a minor in Russian Studies from the College of William and Mary. She is currently in Israel working on her dissertation. Susanna is writing on mental health care among the Old Yishuv at the turn of the century. She compares Palestine's first mental hospital, Ezrath Nashim, to international welfare organizations for Palestine's Jews. In doing so, she examines how the language of poverty and debility used by such institutions inscribed the relationship between the healthy and the sick.

Celene LizzioCelene Ayat Lizzio is pursuing a PhD in Arab and Islamic Civilizations. She has written over twenty articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries exploring Muslim family law, Muslim feminist theology and women’s religious leadership, among other topics. Her current research explores ritual, sacred healing, and wellness practices in Shadhiliyya Sufi communities in North America. Ms. Lizzio is also lecturer on Islam, gender, and interfaith relations at Merrimack College, where she serves as an advisor to the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Studies with highest honors from Princeton University.

minderOrah Minder graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2006 with a dual major in English and religion. She then went on to pursue a Masters of Education at Lesley University. She taught for four years at the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School, now Kehillah Schechter Academy. She spent four summers at Middlebury's Bread Loaf School of English and completed her Masters of English there in August of 2010. Orah will be studying English education in the Jewish day school here at Brandeis. She is specifically interested in how Jewish day schools teach Jewish American literature and how such texts impact the formation of a Jewish American identity in day school students.

MooreJames D. Moore is a Ph.D. student in Bible and ancient Near Eastern Studies. He is primarily interested in literary, historical, and comparative approaches to ancient Near Eastern texts. He has written a Brandeis Master's Thesis on scribal culture and the invention of religious texts in the ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible. Before attending Brandeis, he wrote a Master's Thesis on wordplays in Biblical Hebrew at Vanguard University of Southern California where he also took a B.A. in religion. He has read papers at West Coast and New England regional SBL meetings––at one of which winning best student paper. He has also read papers at national SBL meetings on topics including: North West Semitic grammar, Israelite scribal culture, and the Syriac Version of Leviticus.

MoshkovskiAri Moshkovski, Schusterman Scholar, is a PhD student focusing on the history and politics of Israel and the contemporary Middle East. Ari holds a B.A. (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Jewish Studies and Political Science, and an M.A. in History from Queens College, CUNY. At Queens College, he engaged in extensive research and curriculum development on Israel and the Middle East as part of a project funded by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Ford Foundation. He was also a co-founder of the Queens College Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding under a grant from the United States Department of Education. Ari's research interests focus on the nexus between religion, narrative, and security in shaping Israeli foreign policy. During the 2012-2013 term, Ari served on the Graduate Council of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award Committee.

MoskowitzGolan Moskowitz, a NEJS doctoral student, is interested in the emergence of the modern (and postmodern) Jewish self and its relationship to gendered climates in Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East. He hopes to further investigate Jewish positioning and self-narration as they intersect with "problems" of gender, power, diaspora, and individual marginalization in the literatures, art, cultures, and social histories of modern and contemporary Jewry. A writer with a BA in studio art, Golan has authored a short graphic memoir and aspires to create graphic texts in addition to works of traditional scholarship. He also serves as an editorial assistant at the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry.

MostafaHussein Mostafa, Schusterman Scholar, is a NEJS Ph.D. student. Having received an MA degree from Al Azhar University in Cairo, in Islamic Studies in Israel, Hussein intends to broaden the outlook on Islamic Scholarly works conducted by Israeli scholars and on their connection to the Western oriental studies carried out by Jewish researchers. Aside from his native Arabic language - colloquial Egyptian and Classical Arabic - Hussein speaks Hebrew and German.

Alaa MuradAlaa Murad is an M.A. student at NEJS and COEX from Cairo, Egypt. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the British University in Egypt and is very excited to be a part of Brandeis' vibrant community. Alaa intends to concentrate on modern Jewish history, Jewish-Muslim relations, and conflict and identity in the Middle East. Before coming to Brandeis, she was a research associate at the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo and mainly focused on gender and labor in impoverished urban areas in Egypt.

OlsonJason Olson, Schusterman Scholar and NEJS Ph.D. student completed his undergraduate degree (cum laude) in Hebrew Bible, and is planning to build on that knowledge by studying how religious Zionism affects politics in Israel and the greater Middle East. He is particularly interested in the development of the US-Israel military alliance.

PradoLenny Prado is a Ph.D. student focusing on Bible and Ancient Near East. He is married and has two beautiful children. His primary research interests include such topics as the composition and compilation of the Torah; development of Israelite Religion (e.g., representation of deities, portrayals of human/divine interaction, cultic ritual practices); scribes and scribal culture in the ancient Near East; and Oral Tradition and Memory. When he is not spending time with his family or hitting the books, you can find him rooting for New York sports teams, especially the Yankees and the Knicks.


Nate Ramsayer, a second-year M.A. student in NEJS, hails from the gorgeous (but cold!) land of northern Minnesota. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Minnesota, with a focus in Hebrew Bible. For many years Nate has been a frequent guest lecturer at various venues in MN, ND, and MA, opening up the fascinating fundamentals of biblical scholarship to the wider public. His research interests include source criticism of the Torah, the intersection of ancient Near Eastern and biblical literature, Iron Age epigraphy, Hittitology, and Dead Sea Scrolls. While studying Hebrew Bible at Boston University and Harvard University, he became interested in archaeology and now supplements his study by excavating during the summers at Tell es-Safi (biblical Gath) in the Shephelah in Israel as an ASOR Heritage Fellow. Nate is also a professional choral singer in Boston, and when not studying the mysteries of the Bible and ancient Near East, he enjoys practicing the majestic art of samurai sword, watching 80’s cartoons, and chillaxin’ at home with his cat.

SheGangzheng She, Schusterman Scholar, is a NEJS Ph.D. student. A native speaker of Mandarin, Gangzheng's language skills include both modern and biblical Hebrew, Arabic and Cantonese. He intends to study Israeli society and Jewish civilization, examining Israel's multi-ethnic and transitional society through a socio-political comparison with other countries in the region.

Hannah ShermanHannah Sherman was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz where she earned her B.A. in American Studies. In her time at UC Santa Cruz, Hannah was active in Hillel and served as a Hebrew tutor. She spent three months of her senior year in college in Washington, D.C. where she was an intern for Jewish Women International, a non-profit organization working to end domestic violence. As an intern, Hannah researched and prepared information for several congressional briefings and wrote many blog posts on issues relating to Judaism and domestic violence. An avid traveller, Hannah has spent many summers abroad, including a trip to Israel in the summer of 2011. Pursuing a Dual Masters Degree in Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Hannah hopes to combine her fascination of cultural arts with her love of the Jewish community, gaining the experience in order to work in a Jewish cultural institution.

SigalowEmily Sigalow, received her B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Mathematics from Swarthmore College and her M.A. in Jewish History from Ben Gurion University, Israel. Emily's research interests include the sociological study of religion, culture, and gender, with a specific focus on contemporary Jewish communities. Before coming to Brandeis, Emily spent nearly five years studying and working in Israel.

SimkovichMalka Zeiger-Simkovich is a doctoral student studying late Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, and early Rabbinics. Her interests focus on the interaction, cultural influence, and literary sharing between Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and communities in the 1st century BCE and 1st century CE, and how such sharing is evidenced in pseudepigraphic literature. Malka has recently written an article entitled "Greek Influence on 2 Maccabees" which has been published in the "Journal for the Study of Judaism". Her 2011 paper on attitudes towards androgyny in Plato and early Midrash won the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Award for Outstanding Research Paper on Jews and Gender. Malka's languages include Syriac, Greek, and Hebrew.

SpiraKaren Spira, Schusterman Scholar, is a NEJS Ph.D. student. Karen will examine the reconstruction of Jewish family life in Israel among young Holocaust survivors, focusing on a group of child survivors from Slovakia and surrounding areas. She is particularly interested in strategies for effective Holocaust education. Karen's languages include Hebrew, German and Spanish; she plans to pursue Yiddish and Czech/Slovak, to facilitate her research in Israel and Europe.

Megan StewartMegan Stewart is a first year Masters student in the Joint MA program with NEJS and COEX. Hailing from Bangor, Maine, she received her Undergraduate Degree in Anthropology at Texas A&M University in 2012 where she focused her studies on Near Eastern religion, Arabic language studies, and archaeology. Megan's interests include both early and modern Quranic interpretation as well as improving international relations between the Near East and the United States.

Evan TaskarEvan Taksar (MA/MA) grew up in Los Angeles, California. She earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a certificate in Jewish Studies. At CU Boulder, Evan served as a board member of the CU Boulder Hillel and was active in the Program in Jewish Studies. She spent her senior year in college as the Development Intern at the Boulder Jewish Community Center. Evan has spent the past 15 summers at Camp JCA Shalom Malibu, first as a camper and, for the past 5 summers, in various staff positions. Most recently Evan served as a as Unit Head for second, third, and seventh grade students. She considers her time spent at camp to be the most defining Jewish experience of her life, both personally and professionally. After graduating college, Evan has continued to be engaged with the Jewish community. She has worked as the Youth Director and as a Jewish Educator. In her spare time, Evan enjoys cooking, live music, reading and going on adventures. Evan is excited to attend the Hornstein/NEJS program and continue her work within the Jewish communal world.

Amber TaylorAmber Taylor graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in Spanish Translation, and completed her MA at Brandeis in 2012, with her thesis, “Ezra Taft Benson and the State of Israel: A Mormon American Leader's Support for the Jewish State.” Her doctoral studies will continue to examine the history of American Christian relations with Israel. In addition to Spanish, Amber knows modern Hebrew, and plans to master Biblical Hebrew for her research.