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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.

Daniel Berman

Daniel Berman is a doctoral student in Bible and Ancient Near East. His research interests include ancient Near Eastern religions and the development of biblical texts, especially the Pentateuch and Deuteronomistic History. Dan first became interested in biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies as an undergraduate at Cornell University. Upon earning his bachelors degree, he spent six months as a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, after which he enrolled in the masters program in Bible and Ancient Near East at Brandeis. Dan is delighted to continue his studies in Brandeis’ PhD program. A passionate foodie, Dan cooks for his friends and roommates as often as he can, and in the winter, he enjoys taking ski trips with his family.

Rachel Bernstein

Rachel 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. She has published on the sociological underpinnings of images of young Jewish women in television and film, as well as the gendered division of household and religious labor in Jewish families. Her main research interests include trends in the intersections between gender and Judaism; religious and cultural expression in emerging adulthood; and Jewish culture and the arts.

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.

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.

Robert DeBoard received his M.A. in History from Baylor University, where he wrote Robert DeBoardhis thesis on British security and counter-insurgency in Mandatory Palestine. Additionally, he worked at Baylor’s Institute for Oral History on the Texas Holocaust Liberator’s Project. Robert’s research interests include military history and foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as the Mandatory Period in Palestine and Israel in the Cold War. Tentatively, his research at Brandeis will focus on Israeli defense strategy in the 1950s.

Molly Elizabeth DeMarco is a Ph.D. candidate in Bible and Ancient Near East. Molly DeMarcoShe 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.


Rima Farah is interested in the history of Christians in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Christians in Israel. Her research on this issue is focused on the social, political, and cultural causes that contribute to conflicts among the various Christian congregations in Israel, with particular attention devoted to the contemporary divisiveness among Christians, in which there are those advocating for an Arab identity versus the anti-Arab faction who identify themselves as Aramaic and endorse Israel’s recent official recognition of the Christian Aramaic nationality. This schism has become more evident today in the wake of the political upheavals in the Middle East and Israel. Rima holds a BA in French and English language and literature, and a MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Haifa University, as well as holding an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, English, she has a good knowledge of French. 

 Sarah (Sari) Fein is a PhD student in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Sari Feinfocusing on Bible and the Ancient Near East. She studies the literature of the Second Temple period, which includes "Rewritten Bible," and both written and visual midrash. She is especially interested in how this literature changed, challenged, or developed the role of women in the Hebrew Bible. Sari holds a MTS in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard Divinity School, a MS in Special Education from CUNY Hunter College, and a BA with honors in Religion from Oberlin College. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, cooking, singing, teaching Hebrew School, and watching Doctor Who with her husband and their cat.

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.

Allyson C. Gonzalez is a doctoral candidate in the NEJS program. She researches Sephardic communities in the Alyssa Gonzalezmodern period, exploring constructions of the Sephardic at the intersection of gender and race. Her dissertation, which is supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation-Year Fellowship, examines a network of Sephardic-identified artists, writers, and cultural producers who met in Spain during World War I. She has received several grants to support her research, including from the Fulbright-Hays Program and the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry. Allyson completed her master's degree from the University of Chicago. Before returning to graduate school, she was a journalist who, with her newspaper team, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

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.

Bar GuziBar Guzi is a PhD student in NEJS who is interested in philosophy of religion, Jewish philosophy, ethics and philosophy of language. Bar is specifically interested in modern Jewish thought and American Jewish thought, secularization processes and in the philosophical attempts to describe and give meaning to the religious belief in the contemporary world. He graduated with a B.A. from Tel Aviv University with a double major in Philosophy and Hebrew Culture Studies (Ofakim Program for Jewish Philosophy and Education). During which, he taught Jewish Thought in a high school in Herzeliah, Israel.

Iddo Haklai, a Schusterman scholar, is a PhD student at NEJS. Iddo received a B.A. in Jewish Thought and Political Science and an M.A. in Political Science, both Magna Cum Laude, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked for several years at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust research and education center. His research interests focus on Orthodox Jewish thought, he is specifically interested in the theological underpinnings of the internal fragmentation of the "Dati-Le'umi" (the non-Haredi Orthodox) community in Israel in recent decades and in the re-framing of classical religious-Zionist terms and concepts as means in the internal sectorial dispute within that public. 

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.

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.

Celene Ibrahim is pursuing a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations. She has written over thirty articles, book chapters, and editorials exploring Islamic religious leadership and higher education, Islam and Muslims in North America, Islamic family law, Muslim feminist theology, and women’s religious leadership, among other topics. She holds a joint master’s degree in Women and Gender Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis, a Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. She is the Muslim Chaplain at Tufts University and the Islamic Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts, where she teaches and co-directs the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education, a nationally recognized center for training religious leaders and forwarding scholarship in interreligious studies.  Ms. Ibrahim-Lizzio lectures locally and internationally on a variety of forums and has been recognized as a Harvard Presidential Scholar and a Fellow of Religion and Diplomacy at the Liechtenstein Institute of Self-Determination at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.   

Susanna 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 healthcare 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.

Anthony Lipscomb is a PhD student in Bible and Ancient Near East. Anthony LipscombPrior to coming to Brandeis, he pursued an M.A. in Biblical Studies at Regent University and a ThM in Hebrew Bible at Trinity International University. His primary research interests include comparative and cognitive approaches to biblical and ANE literature—investigating similarities and differences of ancient literary forms and how human cognition may have contributed to their shape. He is also interested in the appropriation of Cognitive Grammar to the semantics of biblical and ANE languages. While his academic and occupational focus now lies in biblical and ANE studies, he actually comes from a computing background. He holds a BS in Computer Science and has supported the US Navy as a software engineer for nearly nine years. He is happily married and a proud father of two awesome kiddos.

Orah Minder

Orah Minder is a PhD student studying Jewish education. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2006 with a dual major in English and religion. She went on to pursue a Master of Teaching at Lesley University. She taught English Language Arts for four years at a local Jewish day school. She spent four summers at Middlebury's Bread Loaf School of English and completed her Master of English there in 2010. Orah has also designed and taught writing courses at Bunker Hill Community College. She teaches a number of writing courses at Brandeis University including: "Mourning and Melancholia in the works of J.D. Salinger," "Philip Roth's Early Complaints," and "Identity Development in Jewish American Literature." Orah also works as a field instructor in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program and as a teaching assistant in the Teacher Research course.

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 Moskowitz

Golan Moskowitz, a NEJS doctoral student, is interested in the construction of gendered selves and their relationship to legacies of Jewish history, memory, and trauma in the context of contemporary American and Israeli culture.  His dissertation will examine the role of Jewish, post-Holocaust, and queer sensibilities in Maurice Sendak's contributions to popular culture and children's literature.  A writer with a BA in studio art, Golan has authored a short graphic memoir and aspires to create visual 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, 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.

Jared Pfost is a PhD student in Bible and the Ancient Near East. He holds a BA from Brigham Young University in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. His research is primarily focused on the impact that Mesopotamian literature and culture had on ancient Israel and the creation of the Hebrew Bible. This specifically includes the way in which biblical authors used and reformulated Mesopotamian texts and traditions. He is also interested in the study of narratology in ancient Near Eastern literature.

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 She

Gangzheng She, Schusterman Scholar and  NEJS Ph.D. student. He graduated in 2011 with a degree in Hebrew Language and Culture from Peking University, where he co-founded the Jewish Cultural Research Association. He is interested in China-Middle East relations, especially China's involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict during the Cold War. He has conducted research on the evolution of Israel's national image in mainstream Chinese media from 1949-1992. Prior to Brandeis, Gangzheng worked as a research associate at China Development Research Foundation and the Foreign Affairs office of Guangzhou municipal government.

Dina ShvetsovDina Shvetsov, a Schusterman scholar, is a PhD student at NEJS. Her research is focused on legal, political, socio-cultural and religious constituents of the Israeli identity, historically and in the present, and evolutions of Israeli policy regarding immigrants, refugees and converts to Judaism. She holds Bachelors and Masters in Politics from the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia and a dual Masters in Public Policy and Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University. Dina wrote her Masters’ thesis on illegal migration from Africa to Israel. She speaks Russian and Hebrew and understands German. 

Malka Zieger-Simkovich

Malka Simkovich is currently working on a dissertation regarding universalist Jewish texts written in the Late Second Temple period.  She earned an M.A. degree in Hebrew Bible from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Bible Studies and Music Theory from Stern College of Yeshiva University in New York.   Malka is a Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union and works as an editorial assistant for the Harvard Theological Review. Her work has been published in the Journal for the Study of Judaism, and most recently she has presented at conferences in Istanbul, Montreal, and Munich. Malka has recently relocated from Brookline to Skokie, Illinois with her husband Aaron and three children, Yonatan, Hadar, and Ayelet.

Karen Spira is a 4th-year doctoral student conducting dissertation research on child Karen Spirawelfare and the Jewish orphanage institution in Palestine/Israel from the Mandate period through the 1950s. Her research explores Zionist, Jewish and American views of child-rearing and education and the effects of state-building and the Holocaust on orphaned and disadvantaged youths during this period. Karen's languages include Hebrew, Slovak and German.

Benjamin SteinerBenjamin Steiner received his B.A. from UCLA and his M.A. in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His Master’s research focused on efforts by the Conservative movement to address the plight of the agunah. More broadly, he is interested in the social history of halakhic development in Liberal Judaism. Last year he was a year fellow at Yeshivat Hadar.

Amber Taylor graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in Spanish TranslaAmber Taylortion, 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.