History


The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute develops fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research, artistic projects and public engagement.

The world's only academic center of its kind, the HBI provides research resources and programs for scholars, students and the public. The Institute publishes books and a journal, convenes international conferences and local programming, and offers competitive grant and internship programs.

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, originally known as the International Research Institute on Jewish Women, opened at Brandeis University in January 1997. The Institute, established with a generous grant from Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc., represented a bold venture for both Brandeis University and Hadassah.

The idea for a research institute on Jewish women and gender issues originated in Voices for Change: Future Directions for American Jewish Women (1995), a report of the Hadassah-sponsored National Commission on American Jewish Women. The report highlighted the fact that research is just beginning on Jewish women’s history, lives and culture. Hadassah took up the challenge to help make this new field flourish by committing substantial resources to the creation of the institute.

The institute has several defining characteristics. It is international and interdisciplinary, and incorporates Jewish women’s issues and gender issues in diverse contexts. Our activities include initiating and supporting research projects, holding conferences and seminars, creating a monograph series and working in many other ways to enhance information about and understanding of Jewish women and Jewish gender issues. Many of our activities are carried out in partnership with other universities and organizations. Some of our work is undertaken by research associates who work at locations other than Brandeis University. We have extensive relations with scholars in Israel and in other countries.

A free-standing research enterprise that represents the highest academic and cultural standards, the institute is guided by a board of directors and by advisory committees composed of scholars, students and prominent individuals.

Our retired staff:

Shulamit Reinharz, Ph.D., retired

Founding Director
reinharz@brandeis.edu

Shulamit Reinharz received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Brandeis University. In the 1990s, Reinharz directed the Women's Studies Program at Brandeis University and she created the first graduate program in Jewish Women's Studies in the world. She also initiated the course on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children, and created the National Board for Women's Studies. Reinharz chaired Hadassah's National Commission on American Jewish Women in 1993. Subsequently, in 1997, she established the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.  Formerly the Jacob Potofsky Chair of Sociology, Reinharz is the author or co-author of 10 books including: "The JGirls' Guide" (a finalist for the Koret Prize),  "American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise""Observing the Observer: Understanding Our Selves in Field Research""Today I am a Woman: Stories of Bat Mitzvah around the World" (edited with Barbara Vinick, Indiana University Press) and "One Hundred Years of Kibbutz Life: A Century of Crises and Reinvention" (edited with Michal Palgi, Transaction Books), among others. 

Sylvia Barack Fishman, Ph.D., retired

Co-Director
fishman@brandeis.edu

Sylvia Barack Fishman is the Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life at Brandeis University and co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Professor Fishman is the author of eight books and numerous articles on the interplay of American and Jewish values, the impact of Jewish education, gender transformations, Jewish families and intermarriage, contemporary Jewish literature and film, and young American Jewish leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs and their attitudes toward Israel and Jewish peoplehood. Her most recent book is Love, Marriage, and Jewish Families: Paradoxes of a Social Revolution. Professor Fishman received the Marshall Sklare Award from the Association of the Social Scientific Study of Jewry in 2014.

Brandeis University

Characterized by academic excellence since its founding in 1948, Brandeis is one of the youngest private research universities, as well as the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country. Named for the late Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court, Brandeis University combines the faculty and resources of a world-class research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis is ranked in the top tier of the nation's universities.

Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Hadassah was founded in 1912 by Henrietta Szold. Since its inception, Hadassah has remained unwavering in its devotion to Judaism, Zionism and American ideals. As the largest volunteer organization and the largest women's organization in America, Hadassah is committed to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people. In Israel, we accomplish this through progressive healthcare, education, youth institutions, volunteerism and land reclamation. In the U.S., we reach our goals through Jewish and Zionist education programs, Zionist Youth programs and health awareness programs, as well as by advocating for issues of importance to women and to the American Jewish community.