Research Team

Group photo of research team

Birthright Israel-related Research Team

The faculty and staff involved in Birthright Israel-related research have extensive experience studying Jewish young adults.

Leonard Saxe
Leonard Saxe
Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies
Director, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute
781-736-3952 Lown Center for Judaica Studies, 320

Leonard Saxe is Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies and directs the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. He is the recipient of the 2012 Marshall Sklare Award.

Professor Saxe is a social psychologist, as well as a methodologist, and is concerned with the application of social science to social policy issues. His present focus is on religious and ethnic identity and specifically addresses issues relevant to the Jewish community.

Allyson Birger
Allyson Birger
Research Specialist

Allyson Birger is a research specialist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies assisting the Birthright Israel team. She received her BA from Tufts University in 2022 in sociology, concentrating in data analysis and interpretation. At Tufts, she conducted her senior honors thesis examining Jewish youths’ understanding of early-age socialization efforts at summer camps. Allyson's research interests include identity formation, the sociology of religion and culture, social psychology, and the U.S. educational system. In her free time, she enjoys reading, painting, cooking, exploring Boston and its surroundings, and spending time with her family and friends.

Shahar Hecht
Shahar Hecht, MA
Associate Research Scientist

Shahar Hecht is an associate research scientist at CMJS. She received a joint bachelor's degree in psychology and business administration from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also received an master's degree in criminology. At CMJS, she is the project manager for the Birthright Israel evaluations and the Jewish Futures Project. She has worked on the evaluation of Birthright Israel international programs and on a study of Israelis who participate in Birthright Israel. In addition to Birthright Israel projects, she has contributed to numerous other studies, including a study of Jewish young adults on college campuses and an evaluation of the needs of Nazi victims.

Micha Rieser
Micha Rieser, MA
Research Associate

Micha Rieser is a research associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from the University of Rochester and a Master of Arts from the Communication, Culture and Technology Program at Georgetown University.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Micha participated in the joint Israeli Antiquities Authority and University of Rochester run archaeological excavation of the town of Yodefat in the Galilee. 

Prior to joining CMJS, Micha worked for Alley Cat Allies,  an animal advocacy and protection organization, collecting and analyzing survey and scientific data to be used in policy efforts directed at the reform of the animal control system in the United States. This work included several national surveys and an article on survey findings published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

He manages and analyzes data for the community studies project. He also analyzes data on Birthright Israel applicants and participants for the Birthright Israel research project.

Sasha Volodarsky
Sasha Volodarsky, MA
Research Associate

Sasha Volodarsky is a research associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. He is a PhD candidate in political science at Northeastern University. He received his BA from Tel-Aviv University and MA from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. Before he joined CMJS, Sasha worked as a researcher at Clalit in Israel and the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute for Applied Research. At CMJS, Sasha's research focuses primarily on the evaluation of Birthright Israel. He has co-authored a number of reports about the impact of Birthright, including reports about the Birthright trips from North America as well as trips from Russia, Ukraine, COVID-19 on students' mental health, and the effectiveness of online education. He is fluent in Russian, Ukrainian and Hebrew.

Graham Wright
Graham Wright, PhD
Associate Research Scientist

Graham Wright is an associate research scientist at the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. He received his PhD and MPP from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Graham has published articles on American political attitudes and political theory in the journals Political Behavior and The Journal of Public Deliberation, articles on survey methodology in the journals Survey Practice and The Journal of the International Association for Official Statistics, and has co-authored a number of articles related to Israel attitudes and Jewish life in Contemporary Jewry, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The Jewish Journal of Sociology.

His work at CMJS primarily focuses on the ongoing evaluation of Birthright Israel and studies of US undergraduates. He teaches classes in quantitative design and analysis, survey research methods, and multilevel modeling at the Heller school.

His other research interests include American public opinion and ideology, social science research methods and epistemology.