Shulamit Reinharz
Founding Director

Shulamit Reinharz was born in Amsterdam, grew up in New Jersey, received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She was on the psychology faculty of the University of Michigan for 10 years, and then returned to Brandeis as a professor of sociology.

In the 1990s  Reinharz directed the Women's Studies Program at Brandeis University. Among many other innovations, she created its multi-faceted graduate program, including the first graduate program in Jewish Women's Studies in the world. She also initiated the Student-Scholar Partnership Program and 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, which she heads to this day.

The holder of 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), the highly praised "American Jewish Women and the Zionist Enterprise", "Observing the Observer: Understanding Our Selves in Field Research" and most recent titles "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. Shulamit Reinharz is the mother of two daughters and is married to Jehuda Reinharz, former president of Brandeis University.

Sylvia Barack Fishman

Sylvia Barack Fishman, Chair of the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University, is the Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life; and also co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Professor Fishman is the author of seven 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.  She is currently working on a book entitled Love, Marriage, and Jewish Families: Paradoxes of the Gender Revolution.

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe
Associate Director

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe directs the Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University. The mission of the GCRL Project is to produce scholarship that explores the tension between women’s equality claims and religious laws.  She is an expert on women’s rights under Jewish family law and African customary law and on the intersection between secular and religious law. She has co-edited several anthologies, including Gender, Religion and Family Law: Theorizing Conflicts Between Women’s Rights and Cultural Traditions (Brandeis University Press, 2012); The Polygamy Question (Colorado University Press, 2015; Women’s Rights and Religious Law, Routledge Press, 2016) and a special issue of Nashim on New Historical and Legal Perspectives on Jewish Divorce (Volume 31,forthcoming 2016). She is editor of the Brandeis University Press Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and is co-founder of the Boston Agunah Taskforce, devoted to research, education and advocacy for women under Jewish family law.

Debby Olins
Program Manager

Debby Olins joined the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute in 2000.  She holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Debby oversees all the HBI's academic programs including: the HBI Research Awards, the Scholar-in-Residence Program, HBI Internship Program, the HBI Artist-in-Residence Program and the HBI Translation Competition.

Nancy Leonard
Institute Coordinator

Nancy Leonard, as Institute Coordinator, oversees all the administrative and logistical aspects of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute's programs and events.  Nancy received her B.A. in Literature and Writing from Columbia University.  Prior to HBI, she has worked at the University of Washington, Barnes and Noble (San Diego Regional Office), and Ticketmaster (New York Corporate Office).

Amy Sessler Powell
Director of Communications

Amy Sessler Powell has been writing for local and national news organizations for 25 years. She is the former associate editor of the Jewish Journal in Salem, Mass. and former publicity director for the Lappin Foundation. She was part of the inaugural team for the Boston Globe North section. She has also written publicity materials and web content for KIPP Academy, The Cohen Foundation camps, Aviv Centers for Living, Keith Lane Creative Group and others. She holds an M.S. from Boston University and a B.A. cum laude from Tufts University. Amy is the MOMents columnist for and her work has appeared in Parenting Magazine,,,,, Twins Magazine and others.

Zanefa Walsh
Communications Coordinator

Zanefa Walsh, communications coordinator, comes to HBI with web content management and marketing communications experience.  She received a bachelors degree in Anthropology from George Washington University and a masters degree in International Relations from Switzerland's Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations.  

Melissa Grossman
National Director of HBI Conversations

Melissa Grossman is the national director of the HBI Conversations Program. She joined HBI in 2011 and is a graduate of Brandeis University where she received her B.A. in English Literature in 1991. She also received her M.S.W. from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. Prior to coming to HBI, she worked at UJA-Federation in New York, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. 

Joanna Michlic
HBI Project on Families, Children, and the Holocaust

Joanna Beata Michlic is the director of HBI Project on Families, Children, and the Holocaust at Brandeis University. She received her doctorate and her master's degree in modern European and Jewish history from University of London, and her bachelor's degree in Slavonic studies at Lódz University, Poland. Between 2000 and 2003, she was a Lady Davis Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem. Until December 2008 she was an associate professor of history and chair of the Holocaust and Ethical Values at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. She is an affiliated fellow at the Minda de Gunzberg Center for European Studies and the Center for Ukrainian Studies at Harvard University. Her major publications include "Neighbors Respond: The Controversy about Jedwabne" (2004; co-edited with Antony Polonsky) and "Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present" (hardback 2006, paperback edition 2008)(Polish and Hebrew translations in preparation). She is currently working on two monographs, "The Social History of Jewish Children in Poland: Survival and Identity, 1945-1949" and "Bringing the Dark to Light: The Memory of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe," co-edited with John-Paul Himka.