Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Meet the 2018 HBI Gilda Slifka Summer Interns

June 28, 2018

By Lily Fisher Gomberg

Every summer, HBI welcomes interns from across the country and world who complete original research related to the HBI mission of fresh thinking about Jews and gender worldwide and support the work of scholars affiliated with HBI and Brandeis. During the eight-week program, the interns also attend educational lunch sessions with scholars, visit Jewish sites of interest in the Greater Boston area including Mayyim Hayyim, and a walking tour of Jewish Boston. The Gilda Slifka HBI Summer Internship is supported by a generous gift from Gilda Slifka.

Meet the 2018 interns and their work

Lily Fisher Gomberg is a rising junior at Brandeis University with a major in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and minors in women's, gender and sexuality studies and history. This summer, she is working on a project about what makes erotica and erotic writing Jewish, and what impact Jewish erotica has on sexuality education for Jews. Gomberg is also the blog assistant at the HBI's blog, Fresh Ideas, so keep an eye on the blog for more of her thoughts on Jewish women and gender. After her graduation, Gomberg plans to work on medically accurate, halachically acceptable sexuality education programming for pluralistic Jewish day schools, and then attend Reconstructing Judaism to become a rabbi and engage in pastoral counseling.

Gomberg hopes that her internship at HBI will give her more depth of understanding of the specific issues facing Jewish Women in an academic sense, and she can't wait to learn with everyone at HBI.

Rebecca Hersch is a rising senior at Brandeis University with majors in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and sociology, and a minor in religious studies. She just returned from a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. This summer, Hersch will begin research on her senior thesis. She is studying the ways that feminist and gender perspectives structure interfaith dialogue, especially in the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, and organization that builds bridges between Jewish and muslim women, and she is seeking to reconsider interfaith dialogue from a feminist perspective.

She will also be working with Jenny Sartori of the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) on a revitalization project of the online Encyclopedia of Jewish Women at the JWA. After she graduates, Hersch hopes to become a professor of sociology, and study the intersection of Jewish studies with sociology.

Naima Hirsch just completed her third semester at Hunter College with majors in English and elementary education and a minor in women and gender studies. This summer, she will follow a passion for poetry that she has had since the age of 6. At HBI, she will work on a poetry chapbook with poems about the different ways that she interacts with her identities as a Jew and as a woman. She is excited to explore the ways in which her other identities fall into these categories, and to continue to write poetry.

Hirsch will also work with Penina Adelman of the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis on her fictionalized family memoir titled "Rebels in the Family." She is currently researching the experience of steerage passengers traveling from Russia to Ellis Island to help Adelman write about her family's experience on that voyage. After university, Hirsch hopes to attend rabbinical school, as well as work with Klal Yisrael and teach Torah to children.

Laura Katz is a rising senior at Brandeis University with majors in women's, gender and sexuality studies and theatre arts, and a minor in creativity, the arts and social transformation (CAST). This summer, she plans to research Jewish women and poetry, and analyze Rachel the Poetess poetry through the lens of feminist texts and theory. Laura believes that this is important because poetry can save the lives of women, so she believes writing poetry to be a great feminist act.

Also at HBI this summer, she will work with Dalia Wassner, a research associate at HBI, on her project "Mariana Yampolsky's Mexican Art: Captured Moments in Latin America's Socialist Landscape." The project focuses on the Mexican renaissance that occurred after the revolution, and especially on photographer Mariana Yampolsky. It is especially important to Katz because she just returned from a semester abroad in Latin America.

After her graduation, Katz hopes to become a reform rabbi and use the pulpit to talk about social issues and to harness the power of the Jewish community. As a rabbi and Jewish educator, Katz also hopes to involve theatre/creative arts skills to help people reconnect with their Judaism.

Ariella Beck Levisohn is a rising senior at Brandeis University, with majors in Biology, Health Science Society and Policy, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She just returned from Copenhagen, where she spent a semester abroad for Health Science Society & Policy. This summer she will begin work on her senior thesis in the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, which will be on sexuality education in Modern Orthodox high schools.

Her research at HBI will focus on finding the existing literature and interviews. In the fall, she plans to conduct original interviews. This project is inspired by her high school senior independent project about how her school, Gann Academy, taught sexuality education. She is currently working with a teacher from her high school on a follow-up project for the women's minyan at Gann Academy.

This summer, she will also work with Rabbi Benjamin Samuels of her home congregation, Shaarei Tefillah, on his project "Is this Baby Jewish? Rabbinic Law Examines Assisted Reproductive Technologies." The project, which is about assisted reproductive technology and halachic responses, is a perfect intersection of Levisohn's interests in women's health and fertility and Judaism.

After she graduates, she hopes to work in public health for several years before going back to school for a joint degree in public health and medicine.

Samantha Pickette is a PhD candidate at Boston University in the American Studies department, with strong ties to the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies. Her dissertation is about stereotypes of Jewish women in 20th-century American literature and film, and this summer she plans to write the third chapter. It will focus on three novels written by Jewish women in the 1970s which work to undermine the definition of the "Jewish American princess" and the "Jewish mother" that Philip Roth established and thus give Jewish women a voice.

The three books that she will focus on ar "Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York" by Gail Parent, "The Launching of Barbara Fabrikant" by Louise Blecher Rose, and "Fat Emily" by Susan Ries. This summer, Pickette will also work with Brandeis Professor Sylvia Fishman on her project "The Intersection of Gender and Jewishness in The New Wave of American Jewish Writers," which is a series of articles, organized thematically, on younger American Jewish writers who are writing about Jewish topics. After she completes her PhD, Pickette hopes to become a professor to combine her love of reading, writing and researching with her love of teaching.

Ali Senal just graduated from Muhlenberg College with majors in Jewish studies and theatre, with a concentration in acting. At HBI, she will continue work on a photostory of Orthodox synagogues based on location of mechitza, and mapping performance of religious identity in Orthodox women. To make her project more accessible, she plans to create a website, as well as short write-ups of pieces of the project.

This summer, Senal will also work with Brandeis Professor Laura Jockusch on her project, "A Victim of Her Time: The Lives of Stella Goldschlag — Gestapo Informer and Holocaust Survivor." This project will ultimately be a memoir of Stella Goldschlag's life through trials, and argue that Goldschlag was convicted because she was Jewish, because she was a woman, and because the testimony against her was emotional testimony from victims. Senal will contribute to the project by finding literature and by transcribing the non-German testimonies against Goldschlag.

This fall, she hopes to work as a Jewish professional, and in the near future she plans to go back to school for a master's in Jewish studies and a doctorate in performance studies.

Elena Silesky just completed her second of three semesters as a master's student at Brandeis University in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. She is beginning work this summer on her thesis, which will be an oral history of the Sephardic Jewish community in Seattle, Washington, focusing on the role of the Sephardic women in the community in maintaining traditions and roles. Silesky grew up in this community, although not Orthodox, and she is excited to learn more about the third-largest Sephardic community in the United States.

She will also work with Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe to build a class called "Jewish Feminisms and Legal Theory." Once Silesky completes her master's, she hopes to return to Seattle and work either with a nonprofit organization or continue with academia.

Lily Fisher Gomberg is the summer blogger for Fresh Ideas. She is a rising junior at Brandeis University.