NEJS Alumni

Congratulations to three NEJS PhD alumni whose books have been awarded the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards:

Yohanan Petrovsky Shtern won in the category of history for his book, Golden Age of the Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe.

Orit Kent won in the category of Jewish education for her book (with Elie Holzer), A Philosophy of Havruta: Understanding and Teaching the Art of Text Study in Pairs.

Adam Mendelsohn won in the category of American Jewish Studies for his book, The Rag Race.



Shay Rabineau is a 2014 Schusterman Center for Israel Studies post-doctoral fellow.  He earned his doctorate in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and wrote his dissertation about the history of the Israel hiking trail network. Check out his story below!

The Justice

The Christian Science Monitor

Congratulations to NEJS alum Shifra Baronofsky (MA '13) on her new position as Full Time Elementary Building Substitute and Chessed Planner at the Maimonides School in Brookline!

Congrats to Adam Mayer-Deutsch, NEJS alum (BA '07) who is following his dream to become a Jewish educator. He is currently attending the Pardes Educators Program in Jerusalem and has been featured in their electronic brochure! Read more about Adam at

David M. Freidenreich’s (NEJS '99) Foreigners and Their Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic LawFood: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law received the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Textual Studies category. Awards for Excellence honor new scholarly publications of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity and importance, books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted. Foreigners and their Food explores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims conceptualize “us” and “them” through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. This work, the first to analyze change over time across the legal literatures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, makes pathbreaking contributions to the history of interreligious intolerance and to the comparative study of religion.

David Freidenreich is the Pulver Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College.

Congratulations to NEJS alum, Sara Smith, for developing her senior thesis into an article published in the peer reviewed journal, Contemporary Jewry. Sara now resides in Los Angeles and teaches Tanakh at YULA Girls High School. She was Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and History in 2009 and received her M.A.T. from Brandeis University, specializing in teaching high school Bible, in 2010.

Click here to read the paper.

The Foundation for Iranian Studies has chosen Gershon Lewenthal's (Ph.D. 2011) dissertation as the recipient of the Ph.D. dissertation award for the academic year 2011-2012. His thesis, Qâdisiyyah, Then and Now: A Case Study of History and Memory, Religion, and Nationalism in Middle Eastern Discourse has also won the Brandeis University Glatzer Dissertation Prize (2012).

Gershon Lewenthal is currently the Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Eitan Fishbane (Ph.D. 2003), has created a website that hSabbath Soul Eitan Fishbaneighlights his academic and scholarly achievements in addition to his lecture topics and speaking engagements. 

Eitan has also recently published a book, "The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the Transformative Power of Holy Time".

Visit the website at

Tomer Levi (Ph.D. 2010) has published his first book “The Jews of Beirut: The RJews of Beirutise of a Levantine Community, 1860s-1930s” with Peter Lang Publishing.  

Tomer has taught several courses at Tufts University and Ben-Gurion University, where he was also a post-doctoral fellow. From 2010 to 2011 he was a research fellow at the Ben-Zvi Institute conducting research on Levantine Jewish society during the time of colonial expansion. 

He is now the Director of the Brandeis University-Middlebury Program in Israel

From Kabul to Queens
Sara Y. Aharon (BA '08) has published her first book, "From Kabul to Queens: The Jews of Afghanistan and Their Move to the United States", on Afghanistan's Jewish community on Decalogue Press. Originally, her honors thesis, the book examines the community's origins to the development of their Jewish communal institutions.

Sara Aharon is now a PhD candidate at New York University.

Jeffrey Stackert, (PhD '06) received the 2010 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his first book, "Rewriting the Torah: Literary Revision in Deuteronomy and the Holiness Legislation" (Tubingen:  Mohr Siebeck, 2007), which is based on his dissertation. >More

Anna P. Ronell, (PhD '04) has returned to Brandeis as the Director of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry. Dr. Ronell’s research focuses on the renewed interest in the Eastern European past in contemporary Jewish fiction as well as on Russian-language literature and art in Israel. Her fields of interest are Eastern European Jewish civilization, Hebrew-Russian literary relations, American-Jewish literature, ethnic, literary and cultural studies. >More

David Bernat, (PhD '02) has published his second book, "Sign of the Covenant, CircumcisionSign of the Covenant in the Priestly Tradition" by the Society of Biblical Literature.

"Sign of the Covenant" is the first and only full-length scholarly study of circumcision in the Hebrew Bible. Making use of a “close-reading” approach to ritually oriented texts, it offers new and important insights into the biblical idea of covenant and into core aspects of the Torah’s views on God, ritual, and Israelite destiny.

David A. Bernat is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, and Jewish Chaplain at Wellesley College. He is the co-editor of Religion and Violence: The Biblical Heritage (Sheffield Phoenix).

Sarah Shectman, (PhD '07) announces the publication of her first book, "Women in the Pentateuch: A Feminist and Source-Critical Analysis" by Sheffield Phoenix Press.
Women in the Pentateuch
For the first time, literary source criticism and feminist biblical interpretation are brought together systematically. Taking into account recent trends in Pentateuchal source criticism, Shectman divides the narrative into priestly and non-priestly threads, tracing the portrayal of women in each. In both sources, as Moses comes to the fore, women recede increasingly into the background, with the result that far fewer women appear in Exodus–Numbers than appear in Genesis.

In addition to a new and detailed source-critical analysis of women in the Pentateuch, this book also provides a detailed overview of feminist biblical criticism, from the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton up to the present, which will be useful for those interested in the history of biblical, particularly feminist, interpretation.

Sarah is Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Judaic Studies, Binghamton University (State University of New York).

As Light Before DawnEitan Fishbane, (PhD '03) has published his first book, "As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist" by Stanford University Press. This book explores the mystical thought of Isaac ben Samuel of Akko, a major medieval kabbalist whose work has until now received relatively little attention. >More

He is Assistant Professor, Department of Jewish Thought at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Avi (Goldman) Killip
(MA '08) has been awarded a Wexner Fellowship for Rabbinical School and will be moving back to Boston this fall as a Rabbinical student at Hebrew College.

Robert Rabil (PhD '01) was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at Florida Atlantic University. Robert and his wife recently welcomed a daughter, their second child.

Murder Without Hatred: Estonians and the HolocaustAnton Weiss-Wendt (PhD '05) shares that his new book, "Murder Without Hatred:  Estonians and the Holocaust" will be available in May, 2009.

This first book-length exploration of this aspect of the Holocaust enriches our knowledge of ethnic violence and reinvigorates the current debates over the roots and operation of the Holocaust.  <More.

Shai Cherry (PhD '01) is receiving ordination from the American Jewish University and will be joining the Judaics faculty at the San Diego Jewish Academy. Congratulations!

Lori Gerber
(MA '06) reports she has been enjoying teaching at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell for the past two years, most recently teaching a Russian History course.

Congratulations to Victoria Khiterer, Ph.D. '08, who received a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at Millersville University, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, beginning Fall 2009. She will be teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Russian, European History and the Holocaust.

Sarah Shectman, Ph.D. '07, reports that she has been invited to participate in The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research, sponsored by the University of Zurich, in January 2010.