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Recent Faculty Publications, Lectures and Awards

Jonathan Sarna is Awarded the Lee Max Friedman Award Medal

Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society is pleased to announce that the 2016 winner of the Lee Max Friedman Award Medal for distinguished service in the field of American Jewish history has been awarded to Professor Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. The medal is awarded for special achievements in research, scientific or popular writing, teaching, encouragement and/or support of specific historical projects.  Professor Sarna has excelled in each of these areas.  He is editor, author and co-editor of more than thirty books, and has written across the entire span of American Jewish History.

The medal will be awarded to Professor Sarna during the Biennial Scholars’ Conference of the Academic Council on June 20 at an event open to the public.

The Friedman Medal is named in memory of a past president of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Jonathan Sarna Publishes Article

An opinion piece in the FORWARD about the centennial of Louis Brandeis' nomination to the US Supreme Court, "100 Years Later, Has Louis Brandeis's Supreme Court Nomination Changed Anything?" written on January 27, 2016.

>Find out more

Ilana Szobel Authors Article

Ilana's Szobel's newest article, “Lights in the Darkness”: Prostitution, Power and Vulnerability in Early Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature was published by the Indiana University Press, Prooftexts 34 (2): 2015, pp. 170-206.

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Tzvi Abusch Authors Book

An important magical text against witchcraft from Mestopotamia, the book The Magical Ceremony Maqlu: A Critical Edition was published by Koninklijke Brill in 2016.

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Reuven Kimelman Authors Article

Reuven Kimelman's article: "State-Building Can Pave the Way to Statehood" was published in 2015 Tikkun Magazine by the Duke University Press.

>see article

Yehudah Mirsky Authors Articles

In his latest publication, Yehudah Mirsky authored: "Condeming fanaticism is the easy part" on January 17, 2016 as part of a Blog on

>see article

Ari Ofengenden Authors Articles

Ari Ofengenden's newest aritlce: "Monotheism, the Incomplete Revolution: Narrating the Event in Freud's and Assmann's Moses" was published in Symploke, Volume 23, January 2016, by the University of Nebraska Press.

>see article

Ari Ofengenden wrote an article entitled, "National Identity in Global Times: Therapy and Satire in Contemporary Israeli Film and Literature" published in The Comparatist, Volume 39, October 2015, by The University of North Carolina Press.

>see article

Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell Receive Award

Lincoln and the Jews:  A History has been granted the Award of Achievement by the Lincoln Group of New York.  The award will be given officially at the February, 2016 meeting of the group in New York City. 

Yehudah Mirsky co-authors Article

Yehudah Mirsky and Rabbi Reuven Zeigler co-authored a recent article entitled, "Torah and Humanity in a Time of Rebirth:  Rav Yehuda Amital as Educator and Thinker," published in Torah and Western Thought:  Intellectual Portraits of Orthodoxy and Modernity by Maggid Books.

>see article

52nd Annual Simon Rawidowicz Memorial Lecture

David Ellenson delivered the 52nd Annual Simon Rawidowicz Memorial Lecture on November 3, 2015.  He spoke on "To Reshape the World:  Interpretation, Renewal and Feminist Approaches to Jewish Law."  Professor Ellenson is the current Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, visiting professor in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and Chancellor-emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where he served as president of HUC-JIR from 2001-2013. Click on the link below to watch a video of the lecture.

>Watch the video

Eugene Sheppard article published

"Old Stones, a Black Cat, and a New Zion" has been published in the Jewish Review of Books in their Fall 2015 issue.

>see article

Ari Ofengenden Publishes Article

"Agency, Desire, and Power in Schnitzler's Dream Novel and Kubrick's Adaptation Eyes Wide Shut" by Ari Ofengenden was recently published in CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture.

>see article


National Library of Israel invites Professor Jonathan Sarna to review American Jewry archives

Jonathan Sarna

Professor Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, is helping the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem to enhance its American Jewry collection. 

>see article

Professor Yehudah Mirsky quoted in July issue of Haaretz

"U.S. Rabbis at Odds Over Moral Implications of Iran  Deal," by Debra Nussbaum Cohen | July 15, 2015 Haaretz DailyYehudah Mirsky

“A moral clarity” is needed to assure that the conditions of the agreement with Iran are upheld, said Yehudah Mirsky, an Orthodox-ordained rabbi who served as a special advisor to the U.S. State Department’s human rights bureau during the Clinton presidency.

>read more

Distinguished scholar and teacher David Ellenson to lead the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies

From left, David Ellenson, Lisa Lynch, and Ilan Troen

David Ellenson, an internationally renowned scholar of modern Judaism, has been appointed acting director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. See Brandeis NOW for more information.

In addition, we welcome him to NEJS where he will be teaching NEJS 166b:  Who is a Jew?  Jewish Status and Identify in Israel and America this fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3:20 pm.  In the Spring 2016 semester, he will be teaching NEJS 156a:  Modern Questions, Jewish Answers:  Modern Jewish Responsa Literature.

Prof. Ilan Troen '63 elected president of the Association for Israel StudiesI

Ilan TroenIlan Troen '63, the Karl, Harry and Helen Stoll Professor of Israel Studies at Brandeis University, has been elected president of the Association for Israel Studies, the preeminent international society for scholarship and research of modern Israel. He formally assumed the presidency at the associations annual meeting June 3 in Montreal.See Brandeis NOW for more information.

A farewell reception for Professor Marc Brettler was held April 21, 2015 at the Faculty Club. President Lawrence as well as colleagues and alumni shared stories and thanked Professor Brettler for his 29 years of teaching at Brandeis. To hear the speeches, click here.To view a slideshow of pictures from the event, click here.

Professor Jonathan Krasner published Behrman House article in IMAGES: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture.

Congratulations to Professor Marc Brettler who will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at Hebrew College in Boston in May.

Congratulations to Professor Jonathan D. Sarna who will receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address at Hebrew Union College in New York in May

Congratulations to Yehudah Mirsky on his new piece in MARGINALIA: The LA Review of Books. His piece is entitled What Is a Nation State For? This essay is part of, Defining Israel: A Forum on Recent Attempts to Determine Israel's Character.

Sharon Pucker Rivo was honored by the Washington Jewish Film Festival for her 40 years of contribution to cinema.

Lincoln and the JewsJonathan Sarna
and co-author Benjamin Shapell have written a book titled, Lincoln and the Jews: A History (link to purchase book from amazon).One hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln's death, the full story of his extraordinary relationship with Jews is told here for the first time.Lincoln and the Jews: A Historyprovides readers both with a captivating narrative of his interactions with Jews, and with the opportunity to immerse themselves in rare manuscripts and images, many from the Shapell Lincoln Collection, that show Lincoln in a way he has never been seen before.

Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Cultures book cover

Jonathan Decter, co-editor with Esperanza Alfonso: Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Cultures, Vol. 34 of the Medieval Church Studies series, Brepols Publisher. Medieval and early modern cultural history has witnessed a recent shift from the study of manuscripts and early printed books as vehicles of texts and images towards their study as cultural objects in their own right.Rather than focusing solely on original authorship, scholars have turned to subjects such as the patronage, production, circulation, and consumption of texts. Codicological features, annotations, glosses, ownership notes, deeds of sale, and other traces have revealed countless insights into the social worlds of texts - their patrons, producers, and readers.

This book contributes to this area of scholarship with respect to Jewish texts and Jewish social contexts by focusing on select cases in the production of Bibles, Haggadot, religious poetry, and translations of and commentaries on scripture in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean between the tenth and sixteenth centuries.

Sharon Feiman-Nemser has recently co-edited a book with Eran Tamir and Karen Hammerness. Inspiring Teaching book coverThe book is titled:Inspiring Teaching: Preparing Teachers to Succeed in Mission-Driven Schools.

In Inspiring Teaching, leading teacher educator Sharon Feiman-Nemser and her colleagues investigate this "context-specific" approach to teacher education. They draw on the Choosing to Teach study, a detailed multiyear investigation of three selective, mission-driven teacher preparation programs--the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago, the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, and the Day School Leadership through Teaching program at Brandeis University--that traces each program's impact on graduates during their first few years of teaching.

Jonathan Krasner has recently published two articles about Brandeis University and Black-Jewish relations in the 1960s. The first article is titled: Jewish Liberalism and Racial Grievance in the Sixties: The Ordeal of Brandeis University. The second article is titled: Seventeen Months in the President's Chair Morris Abram, Black-Jewish Relations and the Anatomy of a Failed Presidency. Both articles are hyper-linked.

Jon Levisohn has recently published a new article in the Journal of Jewish Education titled: "What Work Do the Concepts of 'Language' and 'Literature' Do For Michael Rosenak?"Link to article

Congratulations to Bernadette Brooten on receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern in Switzerland. Link to Bern University article

Seventeen female theologians write about their career path in a series of "Portraits of Women" a collaboration between two Swiss universities. Professor Brooten was one of the women featured. Link to Swiss article

Sylvia Barack Fishman, Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Judaic Studies, was interviewed recently in The Times of Israel. Professor Fishman argues that observant Jews can 'have it all' and still remain within the fold in an article entitled, "Modern Orthodoxy: A model for the great American Jewish dream?" written by Amanda Borschel-Dan on 11/12/14. Link to article

Congratulations to Professor Antony Polonsky for being named the Chief Historian of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum, a $110 million public-private enterprise, which covers 1000 years of Jewish life in Poland, is preparing to celebrate its grand opening on October 28th in Warsaw.


Prof. Steven M. Cohen, President of the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry, has just announced that the 2014 winner of the distinguished Marshall Sklare Award for  "a senior scholar who has made a significant scholarly contribution to the social scientific study of Jewry" is our own Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman, Prof of Contemporary Jewish Life. The Marshall Sklare Award is named for the "founding father of American Jewish sociology," Marshall Sklare (1921-1992), the inaugural  Klutznick Family Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and Sociology at Brandeis.   Prof. Fishman is the fourth Brandeis faculty member to win this award since its creation in 1992.   Prof. Fishman will receive the award and deliver her award lecture at a special session of the Association for Jewish Studies in December.     Congratulations to Prof. Fishman on this achievement!

The Boston Globe published "Musical Setting of Dead Sea Scrolls to get Premiere" by David Weininger on 9/26/13 featuring Eric Chasalow's composition with transliteration of Hebrew texts by Marc Brettler and Aramaic texts by David Wright.

More than 300 Massachusetts college and university administrators and faculty members gathered on the Brandeis campus Sept. 17 for a forum titled “Massachusetts Steps Up: Key Sexual and Domestic Violence Issues for College Administrators.”  The event was hosted by Professor Bernadette Brooten.

Sponsored by the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — and developed by the council’s Higher Education Working Group on Sexual and Domestic Violence — the forum addressed critical campus issues regarding sexual and domestic violence.  Speakers included Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence, Provost Steve Goldstein, Professor Brooten, recent graduates, current student activists as well as representatives from other universities and community partners. 

Read more about the event on Brandeis Now.

Professor Marc Brettler will be one of the first two Brandeis professors to teach his course, The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: Then and Now, entirely online for Spring 2014, as part of Brandeis' new Semester Online program. Read more about the new Semester Online program on Brandeis Now.

Congratulations to Professor Antony Polonsky on his appointment as Chief Historian to the permanent exhibition at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Professor Marc Brettler spoke in May at the kickoff event for Brandeis' collaboration with the Museum of Science on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Professor Brettler, along with numerous biblical scholars from other universities, discussed "why are the dead sea scrolls important?" Brettler said, “The Dead Sea Scrolls are important missing links. They help us understand how the Bible became the Bible and demonstrate how little Hebrew script has changed over the past 2,000 years." Read more about the event on Brandeis Now, and learn more about the dead sea scrolls at the Museum of Science.

Professor Jonathan Sarna was recently elected to the Massachusetts Historical Society, joining the ranks of its distinguished historians. On his election, Sarna said "The society's founders probably never envisaged that an American Jewish historian would one day sit in their midst. The society has been at the forefront of promoting historical scholarship in this state and I look forward to assisting its efforts." Read more about Professor Sarna's election to the Massachusetts Historical Society on Brandeis Now.

Congratulations to Professor Sarna!

Congratulations to Professor Marc Brettler on his election to the American Academy for Jewish Research. The American Academy for Jewish Research is the oldest professional organization of scholars in Jewish Studies. Read more about Professor Brettler's accomplishments on Brandeis Now.

Professor Jon Levisohn's book Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Classical Jewish Texts was published in Spring 2013.

Professor ChaeRan Freeze received the Dean's Mentoring Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. To read more about the award and Professor Freeze, visit the Brandeis NOW website.

Professors Antony Polonsky and ChaeRan Freeze published Volume 25 of Polin: Jews in the Former Grand Duchy of Lithuania Since 1772.

Professor Jonathan Decter's book, The Hebrew Bible in Fifteenth-Century Spain: Exegesis, Literature, Philosophy and the Arts (Etudes Sur Le Judaisme Medieval), was published in June 2012

We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism--Ashamnu Al Chet (Prayers for Awe), a new book published in August 2012, contains two chapters written by NEJS faculty members, one by Professor Marc Brettler and one by Professor Reuven Kimelman.

Professor Reuven Kimelman's new book Peace, Religion, and War was published in October 2012.

The Bible and the Believer, co-authored by Professor Marc Brettler, was published in Summer 2012.

The Bible and the Believer brings together Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic perspectives on how to read the Bible critically and religiously. It examines both the history of Biblical exegesis in religious traditions, and provides a guide for students of biblical studies to reconcile both traditional and critical readings of the Bible.