Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Explore Jews and Gender with HBI's Gilda Slifka Internship

April 6, 2017

By Amy Sessler Powell

What do Jewish women comedians share in common with niddah, the Hebrew term describing a woman during menstruation? What does Klezmer music as a stage for women's expression share with Jewish feminist underground comics from the 1970s or artistic reinterpretations of Biblical women like Miriam and Leah?

They are all research topics chosen by HBI Gilda Slifka summer interns during the past three years. Other than that, their common thread is that they produce fresh ideas about Jews and gender worldwide, the mission of the HBI.

These research opportunities are available to a future class of interns. HBI is accepting applications through April 20, 2017, for next summer's group. The paid, residential program combines an independent research project on Jews and gender with support for another scholar's research. The program is supplemented by brown bag lunches where each scholar involved in the program meets with the group. Once per week, there is a trip or workshop with either Jewish groups in the greater Boston area including Mayyim Hayyim, a traditional mikveh reinvented to serve the needs of Jews today, Keshet, an organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life, the Holocaust Memorial, Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, and more. Details for the undergraduate and graduate applications are detailed on HBI's website.

Ruth Fertig, one of last summer's undergraduate interns and a Brandeis senior, says the Gilda Slifka internship gave her the opportunity to work on a significant project that was personally meaningful. "I was able to not only do academic work that pertained to my personal interests and what I am studying in school, but to begin interrogating my own personal experiences as a Jewish woman and what they meant for me and for those around me," Fertig said.

HBI's founding director Shulamit Reinharz describes the internship as "the complementary third piece," to the winning combination of superb courses and rewarding personal relationships that college students deserve. It enables them to explore research and often leads to greater explorations as students move on to the next stages of their lives. For example, many HBI interns pursue graduate degrees at Brandeis and in other academic settings with their summer intern project serving as a springboard for future research interests.

Sarah Litvin, a 2005 HBI intern, described the experience working of working with gifted scholars and spending the summer exploring the Brandeis library at her own pace for her own project as "life-changing."

"Not only did I learn how much I enjoyed researching women’s history, but the specific project that I began as an HBI summer intern became the topic of my undergraduate thesis and now, more than 10 years later, that research is central to my doctoral dissertation in U.S. History at the CUNY Graduate Center," Litvin said.

Another former intern, Golan Moskowitz, now completing his PhD at Brandeis, established a connection with HBI when he was a summer intern eight years ago. Since then, he has continued his relationship with HBI by giving a scholarly talk on his dissertation research last year, blogging for Fresh Ideas from HBI, receiving the HBI Student Prize for one his papers, serving on the Graduate Academic Advisory Council, and receiving an HBI Research Award for his doctoral research on "Wild, Outside, in the Night: Maurice Sendak, Queer American Jewishness, and the Child."

It is an example of HBI's tradition of nurturing young scholars. "I owe much of my academic and professional success to HBI for its offering of personal connections, moral and financial support, and opportunities for cultivating my voice and articulating my perspective within a community committed to Jewish gender studies," Moskowitz said.

Sarah Snider, a graduate intern last summer who is completing MFA in creative writing at Notre Dame University said, "I had such a wonderful experience at HBI and everyone was so kind and supportive. I really feel like I left with great mentors and role models, and I loved meeting and forming relationships with like-minded peer."

In addition to the experience in the moment, she has stayed in touch with the HBI staff, professors, and former interns since last summer for an overall "wonderful and enriching expansion to my personal community of Jewish feminists."

For more information on the HBI Gilda Slifka Internship or to apply, visit our website< or contact Debby Olins, HBI Academic program manager.

Amy PowellAmy Sessler Powell is HBI’s director of communications.