Meet the Student Docents

December 15, 2023

The Student Docent program for HBI’s exhibitions in the Kniznick Gallery this fall allowed HBI to give students opportunities to assist in all aspects of mounting and presenting an art exhibition. 

HBI hosted two exhibitions in the Kniznick Gallery. Through Feb. 1, 2024, HBI is showing Deeply Rooted: Faith in Reproductive Justice, an ambitious, multidisciplinary exhibition that looks at abortion and reproductive justice through the lens of faith, bringing artists of many cultures, religions and backgrounds into dialogue with each other. Curated by Caron Tabb, Deeply Rooted  brings together 21 national and international artists working in sculpture, photography, painting, and fiber.  View the Deeply Rooted exhibition catalog online.

Earlier in the semester, HBI hosted Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated (LEDI)  from Sept. 7 to October 24 in partnership with the Dr. David M. Milch Foundation. It was an immersive exhibition of painting and music. Painter Lauren Bergman and composer Ella Milch-Sheriff honored young women and girls murdered in the Holocaust by reimagining the lives they might have led. 

HBI’s eight student docents assisted with tasks that ranged from framing artwork to scraping text off the walls. They helped HBI curators imagine a feedback space, created a resource guide and a docent guide. They helped with exhibition outreach and gallery tours.

“I’ve learned to synthesize information so that it is accessible to everyone, no matter their levels of knowledge on these subjects before coming to the exhibitions,” said Mara Lebovitz, a senior. 

Several docents have enjoyed their interactions with the artists and curators. “Hearing them discuss the work has been a real privilege. It is so much more of an embodied experience,” Lebovitz said. 

XiHu Arfa, a Brandeis senior, said the job was a perfect fit to merge her interests in Women’s and Gender studies, Studio Art, museum studies. “It was new to me to work with the curators and the HBI staff, and to give tours and talk about the art. It was an invaluable experience,” said Arfa, who assisted with tours, framing art and hanging wall text.

HBI has hosted approximately 2000 visitors in the Kniznick Gallery over the two exhibitions. 

“We’ve learned to interact with a much larger community, and to see how art can create paths forward in a time that feels divided,” said Lebovitz. 

Meet the Docents

Image of XiHu ArfaXiHu Arfa (she/her) is a senior at Brandeis University pursuing a double major in Studio Art and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a minor in Asian American Pacific Islander Studies. She is an active member of the Women's Ultimate Frisbee team and also works at the University Library. This is XiHu's first year working with the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute but she is very excited to combine her academic interests of Women's Studies and her love of art through the Kniznick Gallery. She was very inspired by the exhibits of Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated and Deeply Rooted: Faith in Reproductive Justice presented by the Gallery and was excited to work with the HBI team. After Brandeis, XiHu hopes to continue a career in museum curation and restoration. 


Image of Bintou BaysmoreBintou Baysmore (she/her) is a junior at Brandeis University pursuing a double major in Studio Art and Computer Science. She is an active leader of Platinum Step Team and Brandeis African Students Organization. This is Bintou's first year working with the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, but she is excited to explore her love of art through the Kniznick Gallery. She was very inspired by the Deeply Rooted: Faith in Reproductive Justice exhibition presented by the Gallery and was excited to work with the HBI team. After Brandeis, Bintou hopes to have her artwork displayed at museums.


Image of Happy EmmanuelHappy Emmanuel (she/her) is a freshman at Brandeis University, planning to major in neuroscience and minor in legal studies. Happy is part of Brandeis’ Art Club, a campus group for individuals with an interest in art, whether as a hobby or career path. As a curious art enthusiast, Happy enjoys working as a student docent at the Kniznick Gallery. She is eager to engage with individuals from diverse age groups, cultures, and social backgrounds as they come together to learn and appreciate art and the message behind it.


Image of Stephanie KallishStephanie Kallish (she/her) is a junior double majoring in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and History. She currently serves as the President of the Jewish Feminist Association of Brandeis (JFAB)  and is an Undergraduate Representative for the Judaic Studies department. Stephanie is also involved in the Brandeis Orthodox Organization (BOO). She wanted to become a docent for the Kniznick Gallery because she is interested in how Judaism intersects with feminism and gender, and she collaborates with the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute through her work as JFAB president. 


Image of Mara LebovitzMara Lebovitz (she/her) is a senior at Brandeis University, with majors in anthropology and sociology, and a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Mara has been with HBI since the fall of 2022. She serves as the student office assistant and now is also a docent for the exhibitions showing in the Kniznick Gallery. Outside of HBI, Mara is currently writing an honors thesis for the department of anthropology on the institution of Al-Anon Family Groups and the phenomenon of individuals with a shared affliction who seek collective support. Mara also serves as the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the department of anthropology. She loves the sunshine in her home state of California, her two dogs Eli and Chloe, and the friends she's made at Brandeis. Mara greatly values her experience at HBI and is so thankful for the amazing team of women who make HBI the groundbreaking institution that it is!


Image of Dahlia MatankyDahlia Matanky (she/her) is a junior at Brandeis University majoring in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology with a minor in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Matanky is deeply engaged in the Jewish and feminist community, serving as the vice president of the Jewish Feminist Association of Brandeis. A former intern for Brandeis Hillel, Matanky has participated in the Jewish Learning Fellowship and Kol Yisrael as both a fellow and as an instructor. She has interned for nonprofit organizations such as Avodah and the Chicago Community Loan Fund and plans to pursue a career in the Jewish social justice nonprofit sphere. Matanky is thrilled to be working as a gallery docent for the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, a space where she is able to combine her academic and personal passions.


Image of Guhan Nandakumar Guhan Nandakumar (he/him)is a sophomore at Brandeis University majoring in Creative Writing. He is a science fiction and fantasy writer. He was drawn to work at HBI because of the art gallery and his interest in collaborative spaces for marketing, sharing and displaying art. Additionally, he was interested in seeing how artistic endeavors and historical issues are brought together and organized. 


Image of Casey Tan

Casey Tan (she/her) is a sophomore at Brandeis University studying neuroscience. She is originally from Brockton, Massachusetts. She previously worked as a student caller for the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. In her free time, she also serves as a Digital Media Chair for Brandeis’ Southeast Asia Club. Her favorite part about working as a docent at the Kniznick Gallery is meeting many of the talented artists who have showcased their art there.