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Meet Our Phd 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. Aviv is spending the remainder of 2013 in Israel conducting research in preparation for his dissertation.

Rachel 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.

Bronson Bown-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.

Jamie 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.

Zeynep 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.

Joshua 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.

Molly 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.

Zev 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.

Lucia 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. She is a cultural historian who is deeply interested in Israeli human geography. Her tentative dissertation topic will deal with left-wing ideological movements that supported Greater Israel, and the transformation of the Israeli political spectrum between 1967 and 1981. She is looking specifically at the [Whole] Land of Israel Movement which included many prominent figures, among them Nathan Alterman, Moshe Shamir and Yitzhak Tabenkin.

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.

Alexandra 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.

Mostafa Hussein MostafaHussein, 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.

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.

Orah 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.

James 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.

Ari 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.

Golan 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.

Jason 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.

Lenny 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.

Gangzheng 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.

Emily Sigalow received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Mathematics and her M.A. in Jewish History from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Emily's research focuses on the sociology of religion, gender, and culture, Emily Sigalowas related to contemporary Jewish life. Her dissertation project explores the historical and contemporary intersections of Judaism and Buddhism in America and asks broader questions about how multiple religious beliefs, practices, and identities get constructed and how religions interact and coalesce in everyday life. Her previous research has been published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and has been funded by the Mellon Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Research Circle on Democracy and Pluralism, and the Tauber Institute. Prior to Brandeis, Emily spent nearly five years studying and working in Israel. For more information about Emily and her current and past research, see

Malka Zieger-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.

Karen 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.

Amber TaylorAmber Taylor graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in Spanish Translation, and completed her MA at Brandeis in 2012. She is currently a Schusterman Fellow researching American Christian relations with the State of Israel, particularly relating to Christian pilgrimage in the Jewish State. Amber is fluent in Spanish and Hebrew, and plans to master Biblical Hebrew and Arabic for her research.