January 2017

Topic of the Week: 'DEIS Impact

January 23, 2017

Breaking Gender Barriers in Chess: Grandmaster Susan Polgar

Chess, one of the world’s oldest games, remains gender exclusive despite its popularity in almost every culture. Join us as we co-host Grandmaster Susan Polgar, one of the strongest chess players of the past 50 years and the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title through tournament play. She will speak about gender barriers in chess and her educational efforts with young girls to break those barriers. Polgar will simultaneously place chess against five members of the Brandeis audience and take questions.

As a Jew and the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors growing up in Hungary, Polgar faced discrimination both as a woman in chess and more subtly, as a Jew, according to her comments in her Jewish Virtual Library profile. That changed when she and her sisters, Judit and Sofia, won the gold medal in the World Chess Olympiad for Hungary, the first time they beat the Soviets.

Today, Polgar holds so many records it is hard to mention them all, but visit susanpolgar.com to learn more. A highlight, and reason for HBI co-sponsorship of this event, is her trailblazing work as a barrier breaker for women in both her own accomplishments and in creating venues for other girls and women. These accomplishments include:

  • Breaking the gender barrier to qualify for the Men’s World Championship Cycle (1986)
  • Men’s Grandmaster title (1991)
  • Win the U.S. Open Blitz Championship (2003)
  • Receive the Grandmaster of the Year Award (2003)

More recently, Polgar coaches chess at the university level, bringing her teams to the number one rank as she did at Texas Tech and currently as head coach of the Webster University team, where she is also director of SPICE, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence.

Defying Expectations: Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar is part of ‘DEIS Impact and will be Wednesday, February 1, 4 to-6 p.m. in the Sherman Function Hall, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham. Sponsored by Brandeis Chess Club, HBI and Department of Sociology.


Topic of the Week: Research Awards

January 5, 2017

HBI Nurtures Field of Jews and Gender with Annual Research Awards

With titles ranging from “The Rise of Orthodox Jewish Women Comic Artists in Israel” from Noa Lea Cohn of Bar Ilan University and “The Reception of the Diary of Anne Frank: What the Japanese Search for and See in Anne,” from Mina Muraoka of the National Defense Academy of Japan, HBI recently distributed $70,000 for 25 Research Awards. Together, these awards highlight many of the values dear to HBI: supporting a range of projects true to the HBI mission, continuing support for established scholars in the field of Jews and gender and nurturing the careers of junior scholars.

To choose the annual research awards, HBI works with its Academic Advisory Committee, comprised of 170 experts and academics from 52 schools in eight countries, to read the proposals and comment over a review period. The process culminates with a day-long meeting at HBI in December to discuss the best proposals. Final decisions are made by Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman, HBI’s co-director and chair of the AAC, along with Prof. Shulamit Reinharz, HBI’s founding director and Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, associate director of HBI and director of the HBI Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law.

This year’s meeting also provided an opportunity to celebrate HBI’s 20th anniversary and to honor Professor Shulamit Reinharz, HBI’s founding director, who will retire in June.

The research awards divide into sub-categories that include History, Israel and the Yishuv; Families, Children and the Holocaust; Diaspora Studies; Judaism; Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law; Biography; Film and Video; and Arts. Fishman, also the Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Judaic Studies, explained that, “by supporting the most excellent researchers and artists who focus on Jews and gender, over the past decade-and-a- half, HBI has played a critical role in building the fields of Jewish women’s and gender studies.”

As in past years, HBI funded several scholars for the second time, including Brandeis University graduate students and former HBI interns, Ben Steiner and Golan Moskowitz.  Steiner, who researched language in ketubot as a 2013 intern and is now a doctoral candidate in Near East and Judaic Studies, received an award for his project, “Ketubot in the Early American West.” Moskowitz, also a Brandeis doctoral candidate in NEJS and a 2009 intern, will continue with his research, “Wild, Outside, in the Night: Maurice Sendak, Queer American Jewishness, and the Child.”

In another example of ongoing support, Yael Munk, a 2015 HBI Scholar-in-Residence from The Open University of Israel, received an award for “No Longer Extras in the National Drama: The Influence of Women Filmmakers on the Depolitization of Israeli Cinema.”

AAC member Debra R. Kaufman, Professor Emerita and Matthews Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University said, “Because younger scholars are often the ones in need of support systems early in their careers (if they are to succeed and/or stay in their chosen fields) and because gender is less likely to be as valued an area of research, HBI awards simultaneously provide (through the review system) a form of mentoring toward its applicants and an exploration of topics for which there is little, if any, research/scholarship.  In short, the awards encourage, through feedback and grants, the creative and often feminist approach to making heretofore invisible men and women visible and neglected topics a valued pursuit.”