Meet Our PhD Students
Maham Ayaz is a PhD candidate and Schusterman Scholar interested in Israeli laws on citizenship and nationality. She received her BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago in 2013 where she focused her thesis on citizenship and refugee rights in Bangladesh. She has since worked at the American Bar Foundation as a research analyst. She hopes to use her background in international studies, human rights, and constitutional law to study political membership in Israel.
Yair Bar Zuri is a doctoral student in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University, as well as a fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.He is interested in modern Jewish philosophy and history, in particular, the cultural aspect of Zionism. He plans to explore the secularization of the Jewish culture as a significant element of the Zionist project, through different approaches to secularity in sociology, history and philosophy, focusing on the attempt to formulate the question of renewing of the Jewish culture in the Zionist project. To better understand the questionable paradox between secularity and religion in cultural Zionism, he hopes to delve deeper into the character of Jewish myth as it is portrayed in the writings of different Zionist scholars.
Daniel Berman is a doctoral student in Bible and Ancient Near East. His research interests include ancient Near Eastern religions and the development of biblical texts, especially the Pentateuch and Deuteronomistic History. Dan first became interested in biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies as an undergraduate at Cornell University. Upon earning his bachelors degree, he spent six months as a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, after which he enrolled in the master's program in Bible and Ancient Near East at Brandeis. Dan is delighted to continue his studies in Brandeis' PhD program. A passionate foodie, Dan cooks for his friends and roommates as often as he can, and in the winter, he enjoys taking ski trips with his family.
Rachel Bernstein is a doctoral candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology. She received her BA in Jewish Studies from the University of Virginia and her MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women's and Gender Studies from Brandeis. Her main research interests include trends in the intersections between gender and Judaism; religious and cultural expression in emerging adulthood; and Jewish culture and the arts. She has published on images of young Jewish women in television and film, and the gendered division of household and religious labor in Jewish families. She is currently working on her dissertation research investigating the cultural and ethnic connections of Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s and the relationships that impact Jewish identity during this life phase.
Esther Brownsmith is a PhD candidate in Bible and Ancient Near East, coming to Brandeis with an MA from Yale Divinity School, summa cum laude, and a BA from Rice University. Her interests include intersectionality, intertextuality, and interpretive techniques. (Also alliteration.) In particular, she seeks to explore how poetic techniques can both constrain and enhance mythic and religious meaning. Outside of studying ancient texts, Esther enjoys baking, reading comic books, singing with her choir, and spending time with her spouse and pet degus.
Jamie Bryson is currently a PhD student in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis, focusing on Bible and the ancient Near East. He has a strong research interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and more specifically how they can inform our understanding of the formation of the Hebrew Bible in the cultural context of Second Temple Judaism. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Divinity from Columbia International University, and a Master of Arts from Brandeis University.
Robert DeBoard received his MA in History from Baylor University, where he wrote his thesis on British security and counter-insurgency in Mandatory Palestine. Additionally, he worked at Baylor's Institute for Oral History on the Texas Holocaust Liberator's Project. Robert's research interests include military history and foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as the Mandatory Period in Palestine and Israel in the Cold War. Tentatively, his research at Brandeis will focus on Israeli defense strategy in the 1950s.
Rima Farah is interested in the history of Christians in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Christians in Israel. Her research on this issue is focused on the social, political, and cultural causes that contribute to conflicts among the various Christian congregations in Israel, with particular attention devoted to the contemporary divisiveness among Christians, in which there are those advocating for an Arab identity versus the anti-Arab faction who identify themselves as Aramaic and endorse Israel's recent official recognition of the Christian Aramaic nationality. This schism has become more evident today in the wake of the political upheavals in the Middle East and Israel. Rima holds a BA in French and English language and literature, and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Haifa University, as well as holding an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, English, she has a good knowledge of French.
Sarah (Sari) Fein is a PhD student in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, focusing on Bible and the Ancient Near East. She is especially interested in how early Jewish art and literature changed, challenged, and developed the role of women in the Hebrew Bible. Sari holds an MTS in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard Divinity School, an MS in Special Education from CUNY Hunter College, and a BA with honors in Religion from Oberlin College. She lives in Newton with her husband, their baby daughter, and their cat.
Eva Gurevich is a PhD student at NEJS. She is a cultural historian who is deeply interested in Israeli human geography. Her tentative dissertation topic will deal with left-wing ideological movements that supported Greater Israel and the transformation of the Israeli political spectrum between 1967 and 1981. She is looking specifically at the [Whole] Land of Israel Movement which included many prominent figures, among them Nathan Alterman, Moshe Shamir and Yitzhak Tabenkin.
Bar Guzi is interested in American Jewish thought and theology in the twentieth-century, especially among the liberal wings of American Judaism. He is particularly interested in exploring the various ways in which American Jewish thinkers revisit old theological questions – such as concepts of God, the problem of evil, supernaturalism, and questions of religious pluralism – and in the influence of the American intellectual and religious climate on their thought. Among the main themes Bar is focusing on are the American Jewish manifestations of process theology, religious pragmatism, religious naturalism, panentheism, and post-Holocaust theology. Bar holds a BA in philosophy and Jewish philosophy, and a high school teaching diploma in Jewish thought, both from Tel Aviv University.
Iddo Haklai received his BA in Jewish Thought and Political Science and MA in Political Science (both Magna Cum Laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He worked for several years at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust research and education center. His research interests focus on modern Orthodox thought, religious-Zionist thought, and especially the theological frameworks and concepts developed by thinkers within the religious-Zionist labor movement in British Mandatory Palestine. He is interested in the integration of religious traditionalism, Zionism, modernism and social-democratic ideas by individuals affiliated with the 'Torah VeAvodah' movement in the interwar period and in the implications of that integration to contemporary dilemmas facing the Israeli society.
Eric Harvey is a PhD candidate, focusing on Bible and the Ancient Near East. He holds prior MA degrees in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies from Fuller Seminary and Brandeis University. His dissertation, provisionally titled "Sing to the Lord a New(ish) Song: A Study of Doublets in the Hebrew Psalter," investigates a group of biblical psalms with substantial parallels and their implications for text production and the development of religious and cultural thought in ancient Israel. Eric's broader interests include the reformulation, transformation, and redeployment of texts in the ancient Near East, and issues relating to the relationship between language and meaning. Eric is blind, and he also researches the lives and work of blind people in antiquity and their interactions with oral, musical, and literary information systems. To read his blog, go to blindscholar.com.
Justin Huguenin is a doctoral student in Bible and Ancient Near East. His research interests focus on Canaanite and Mesopotamian mythology, particularly those dealing with netherworld cult and ritual. He also enjoys studying early biblical literature and seeks to understand its place within the larger Near Eastern milieu. Before enrolling in Brandeis' PhD program, he earned a BA in History at the Ohio State University and an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies here at Brandeis.
Celene Ibrahim is pursuing a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations. Her contributions to increasing religious and interreligious literacy have been featured on diverse forums including The New York Times, BBC Persian, Public Radio International, the Religion Initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ms. Ibrahim is widely published and holds a joint faculty appointment as Islamic Studies Scholar-in-Residence at Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School, where she is the co-director of the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education [CIRCLE]. She holds an MA in Women's and Gender Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandies, a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, and a BA in Near Eastern Studies with highest honors from Princeton University. She is honored to serve as the Muslim Chaplain for Tufts University. Ms. Ibrahim lectures on themes including Muslim feminist theology, theologies of religious pluralism, critical social theory, and the history of Islamic thought. She has been recognized as a Harvard Presidential Scholar and a Fellow in Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, among other honors.
Anthony Lipscomb is a PhD student in Bible and Ancient Near East. His research interests include the formation of the Hebrew Bible (especially of the Pentateuch and prophetic literature), Ezekiel, and the reception of biblical traditions in the Second Temple period. Prior to Brandeis, he completed an MA in Biblical Studies at Regent University and a ThM in Hebrew Bible at Trinity International University. While his academic and occupational focus now lies in biblical and ANE studies, he actually comes from a computing background. He holds a BS in Computer Science and supported the US Navy as a software engineer for nearly nine years. He is happily married and a proud father of two awesome kiddos.
Ari Moshkovski, Schusterman Scholar, is a PhD student focusing on the history and politics of Israel and the contemporary Middle East. Ari holds a B.A. (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Jewish Studies and Political Science, and an M.A. in History from Queens College, CUNY. At Queens College, he engaged in extensive research and curriculum development on Israel and the Middle East as part of a project funded by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Ford Foundation. He was also a co-founder of the Queens College Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding under a grant from the United States Department of Education. Ari's research interests focus on the nexus between religion, narrative, and security in shaping Israeli foreign policy. During the 2012-2013 term, Ari served on the Graduate Council of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award Committee.
Jared Pfost is a doctoral student in Bible and the Ancient Near East. He holds a BA from Brigham Young University in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. His research interests are primarily focused on the impact Mesopotamian literature and culture had on ancient Israel and the creation of the Hebrew Bible, especially the ways in which biblical authors used and reformulated Mesopotamian texts and traditions. He specifically seeks to illuminate the chronological relationships between Pentateuchal sources based on their potential reliance on other ancient Near Eastern texts. Jared is also interested in the history of religions and how ancient beliefs and traditions continue to influence our world today.
Lenny Prado is a PhD student focusing on Bible and Ancient Near East. He is married and has three beautiful children. His primary research interests include such topics as the composition and compilation of the Torah; development of Israelite Religion (e.g., representation of deities, portrayals of human/divine interaction, cultic ritual practices); scribes and scribal culture in the ancient Near East; and Oral Tradition and Memory. When he is not spending time with his family or hitting the books, you can find him rooting for New York sports teams, especially the Yankees and the Knicks.
Gangzheng She, Schusterman Scholar and NEJS PhD student. He graduated in 2011 with a degree in Hebrew Language and Culture from Peking University, where he co-founded the Jewish Cultural Research Association. He is interested in China-Middle East relations, especially China's involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict during the Cold War. He has conducted research on the evolution of Israel's national image in mainstream Chinese media from 1949-1992. Prior to Brandeis, Gangzheng worked as a research associate at China Development Research Foundation and the Foreign Affairs office of Guangzhou municipal government.
Karen Spira is a 4th-year doctoral student conducting dissertation research on child welfare and the Jewish orphanage institution in Palestine/Israel from the Mandate period through the 1950s. Her research explores Zionist, Jewish and American views of child-rearing and education and the effects of state-building and the Holocaust on orphaned and disadvantaged youths during this period. Karen's languages include Hebrew, Slovak and German.
Benjamin Steiner received his BA from UCLA and his MA in Jewish Gender and Women's Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His Master's research focused on efforts by the Conservative movement to address the plight of the agunah. More broadly, he is interested in the social history of halakhic development in Liberal Judaism. Last year he was a year fellow at Yeshivat Hadar.
Amber Taylor graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in Spanish Translation, and completed her MA at Brandeis in 2012. She is currently a Schusterman Fellow researching American Christian relations with the State of Israel, particularly relating to Christian pilgrimage in the Jewish State. Amber is fluent in Spanish and Hebrew, and plans to master Biblical Hebrew and Arabic for her research.