Aliyah Blattner (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore at Brown University majoring in Literary Arts and Gender and Sexuality Studies. This summer, she will be working with Amy Powell, the HBI Assistant Director, to create content for HBI’s Fresh Ideas Blog. Blattner believes that storytelling is the most powerful mode of reclamation for Jewish feminists. She hopes to continue to grow into her personal voice by celebrating Jewish women’s stories, including her own, in her writing and art. To that end, Blattner will be completing a chapbook of poetry and visual art to reconstruct traditional biblical narratives in an image of divine queer womanhood. She hopes to reimagine the Torah as a mechanism of empowerment for modern Jewish women, interrogating the silences and erasures that prevent Jewish women from achieving agency through ancient texts and ritual life. Blattner looks forwards to spending the summer in community with other Jewish feminist scholars and creatives.
Bella Cameron (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore majoring in Health: Science, Society, and Policy at Brandeis University. Cameron will be assisting HBI Scholar in Residence Jonathan Branfman as he expands his dissertation research on masculinity, race, and Jewish identity within U.S. popular culture. Cameron looks forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the diversity of Jewish womanhood. She is excited to participate in research that both honors that diversity while also striving to achieve the most inclusive understanding of Jewish feminism possible. To that end, Cameron will be conducting independent research on reproductive justice movements in Israel, specifically analyzing the evolution of Israeli abortion legislation and the activists and politicians involved in its development. Cameron hopes to broaden her own understanding of Jewish feminism and the intersecting narratives that contribute to how Jewish womanhood is understood in both scholarship and activism.
Shaina Kaye (she/hers) is studying Social Sciences at Delgado Community College in Louisiana and is considering pursuing a BA in Psychology. This summer at Brandeis, she is working with HBI director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe on a new project that is focused on women who choose to leave cultural minority communities and the pathways that they take to do so. In a similar vein, Kaye will also be working on her own to create a community chapbook — a pamphlet of stories — about her journey as a Queer and Orthodox Jewish woman to discover her sexuality beyond the norms and expectations that her community placed on her. She hopes that this chapbook will help other young women who are on similar paths of discovery in realizing that there is no “right” way to have a relationship with one’s body. Kaye is excited to build relationships with her fellow interns this summer who are similarly committed to answering questions of self and purpose.
Karolina Kusto (she/hers) is a graduate student at the University of Warsaw, where she is pursuing a Masters in American Studies. For her undergraduate thesis, Kusto wrote about Assimilation in America in the 1960s, and since then, her interest in American Jewishness has grown. This summer, Kusto will be working with Laura Jockusch, Albert Abramson Assistant Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis, who is doing research on the Trials of Stella Goldschlag, a Jewish informant for the Gestapo during the Holocaust. In addition to her work with Professor Jockusch, Kusto will be pursuing her own research on the re-appropriation of Jewish gender stereotypes — particularly JAPs and Jewish mothers — through the popular television shows, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” While Kusto is neither American nor Jewish, she is looking forward to learning more about American Jewish culture from her fellow interns and is excited to explore Massachusetts.
Rachel Levy (she/hers) is a rising senior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor where she is majoring in Sociology, with a concentration in Health and Medicine, and minoring in Judaic Studies. She will be working with Amy Powell, HBI’s Assistant Director and blogging on HBI’s Fresh Ideas Blog about contemporary issues involving Jewishness and gender. Levy is interested in learning more about how to make Jewish spaces more accessible and inclusive for people of all genders, and for her independent research project she will be studying how Hillels across the United States create opportunities for Jewish students to engage with their gender identities in Jewish ways. She is excited to gain experience doing research in the Jewish social sciences and to meet and learn with the scholars at HBI.
Sarah Mandelblatt (she/hers) is a recent graduate from Boston College where she received a BA in English, concentrating on Creative Writing, and supplemented her degree with coursework in Biology and Classics. This summer, she will be working with Brandeis WSRC Scholar Janet Freedman to study the use and abuse of language in social justice movements through Freedman’s ongoing research project, The Words to Say It. Mandelblatt loves to explore her identity with a pen and paper. During her time as a Gilda Slifka intern, she is planning to produce a series of creative short stories that discuss the varying narratives of what it means to be a Jewish woman. As a native Pittsburghian, Mandelblatt has found herself contemplating her Jewishness in new ways after the October shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue and hopes to continue to learn more about her Jewish identity through her time at HBI.
Sara Marcus (she/hers) is a recent graduate from Yeshiva University where she earned degrees in English and Communications. During her time at HBI, Marcus will be assisting Shayna Weiss, the Associate Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies with researching the spatial imposition of Orthodox Jewish norms in non-religious spaces in Israel. Additionally, Marcus is looking forward to researching how power is maintained and held by religious women in conservative communities. Her research may include — but is not limited to — an analysis of the roles of Chasidic rebetzens and prominent female religious scholars in medieval ages. She is excited to learn more about Judaism, womanhood and their intersection this summer; both from scholars as well as her peers.
Eliana Padwa (she/hers) is a rising junior at Brandeis University where she studies History and Teacher Education. Padwa hopes to become a history teacher for middle or high school aged students, and her passion for education is reflected in her research placement this summer. She will work with Jonathan Krasner, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Education Research at Brandeis on his oral history project that focuses on the experiences of women teachers in Jewish day schools from past to present. Padwa is excited to learn about the social science research process and to improve her interview and oral history skills. Additionally, she will be researching Jewish academic journals and examining how women have been represented by them over time. On campus, Eliana helps to publish the Brandeis Judaic Studies Journal, and she hopes that this research will not only enhance her publication knowledge, but also provide some historical context for where women have been and are currently in the Judaic narrative.
Lily Schmidt Swartz (she/hers) is a rising senior at Brandeis University where she is majoring in Politics and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies,and minoring in Business. Swartz is originally from Los Angeles and attended an all girls Orthodox day school which informs her independent study project for this summer. Her research will revolve around the ways in which the Orthodox community manages and supports victims of pre-marital sexual abuse and assault, and whether or not there can be improvements made to the system. Additionally, she will be working with retired HBI co-director and NEJS Professor Sylvia Barack Fishman on a new project where she is analyzing relationships between Jews of Israel and the Diaspora. Swartz is a former student of Professor Fishman and took her class in “Sociology of the American Jewish Community.” She is excited to continue learning with her this summer.
Leah Trachtenberg (she/hers) is a rising Junior at Brandeis University where she studies Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and minors in Social Justice/Social Policy and Women and Gender Studies. This summer, she will be assisting Brandeis WSRC Scholar Penina Adelman in researching the story of Eve for her fictionalized family memoir, “Rebels in the Family.” Additionally, Trachtenberg will be working on her own research; comparing Isaac Bashevis Singer’s folktales to his stories published in Playboy magazine. She hopes to uncover the ways in which Bashevis Singer’s portrayal and perspective on sexuality differ between these two works.
Lily Fisher Gomberg is a 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 six. 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. That chapter 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 are “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 non-profit organization or continue with academia.
Gabriela Bucay is a recent graduate of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where she majored in Fine Art with a concentration in painting and printmaking. At HBI, Bucay will engage in a creative project exploring Jewish attitudes towards cosmetic surgery as a gendered practice. Bucay hopes to respond to rabbinic commentary which disproportionately allows for and encourages women to make surgical alterations to their appearance but forbids men to do the same on the grounds that cosmetic surgery is a “feminine practice.” Bucay is also interested in the modern representation and or erasure of women’s “Jewish” features in popular culture.
Born in Mexico City and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Bucay has grown up with a strong interest in Latin American Jewish communities and their diasporas. Through her work with Dalia Wassner, PhD, she will research this topic, focusing on the life of Mariana Yampolsky, investigating the artist’s ties to her religious and national identities. Though born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in Chicago, Yampolsky moved to Mexico City and joined the socialist movement, going on to become one the nation’s most notable photographers of indigenous groups. In her spare time, Bucay enjoys dancing, traveling, and baked goods.
Ruth Fertig, originally from Bloomington, Indiana, just graduated from Brandeis University. She will be making aliyah, moving to Israel, in August 2017 and plans to serve in the IDF. At Brandeis, Fertig completed an independent major in Gender and Social Policy and a major in Music through a Cultural Studies track. This summer she is doing a project on independent Israeli pornography — “homemade/indie” pornography being made currently, which features more marginalized groups. Since the Internet has allowed anyone to create, produce, and distribute pornography and provided greater access to greater variety, there has been a rise in gay male porn, and most of Israeli porn and cinema work seems to focus on machismo masculinity. Fertig is interested in examining how the Internet allows greater representation and access, and looking at the representations of gender and masculinity in modern “indie” pornography from the perspective of Israeli film studies and Jewish sexuality. She is also working with Janet Freedman, PhD on two projects: helping Freedman write a pamphlet for the Academic Engagement Network on feminism and Zionism, as well as making a crowdsourced glossary of terms that are commonly used by activists and the meanings they are given by activists. In her spare time, Fertig loves to sing, draw, and watch movies and television, confessing to a bit of a film habit. She especially loves to see showings of old/indie/experimental films in old theaters, and admits there’s a part of her that wants to drop everything and spend the rest of her life writing about audiovisual media.
Lindsey Jackson is a doctoral student at Concordia University in Montreal, in Religious Studies with a research focus on contemporary Canadian and American Jewish practice. She is writing her dissertation specifically on Jewish parents who are choosing not to circumcise. She also holds BA and MA degrees from Concordia in Religious Studies. During her time at HBI, Jackson will complete an article on brit milah in popular culture and submit the article for publication. She is also working with Professor and Rabbi Jane Kanarek of Hebrew College to examine a portion of tractate Arakhin, as found in the Babylonian Talmud. This research will contribute to the production of a complete feminist analysis of Arakhin for inclusion in the Feminist Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, an ongoing scholarly project conceived by Professor Tal Ilan, of the Freie Universität Berlin. In her free time, Jackson likes to run, do yoga, learn to cook vegetarian foods in creative ways, travel and spend time with her dog, Riley.
Elana Luban is a junior at Stern College for Women, part of Yeshiva University in New York, where she is majoring in psychology with plans to become an occupational therapist. At HBI, Luban works with Amy Powell, Communications Director, as a blog assistant for Fresh Ideas from HBI. Her blogs will be based on prior and ongoing experiences within the Jewish community, coupled with new material from research and interviews, and the activities of the HBI Gilda Slifka Summer Internship to develop blog articles with themes that lie at the intersection of gender and Judaism. For her independent research project, Luban, a Jew by choice, plans to create a piece of art by researching Jewish conversion and personal accounts of female converts to Judaism. Her art piece will reflect identity confusion and resolution central to the experiences of female converts. Even in her free time, Luban enjoys writing including poetry, short stories and articles for the Yeshiva University newspaper. She also loves playing guitar, especially the Russian songs which are such a large part of her family culture. Luban’s entire family emigrated from Russia, but she was born in the U.S.
Gina Malagold is a third year doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying Spanish. She holds at BA in Spanish literature and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison. At HBI, her independent project is to examine Jewish community in Mexico, in early the 20th century, specificaly Sephardic and Ashkenazi encounters. She is also working with Dalia Wassner, PhD to research Mariana Yampolsky and her role in socialist circles in Mexico. Yampolsky was an important photographer, but there is little published on her. Malagold will start initial research on Yampolsky’s role as transnational Jewish woman. In her spare time, Malagold dances salsa and flamenco, runs and enjoys cooking Argentine food. She also taught Spanish composition and language at UMass and worked as a Spanish oral historian at the Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project in Amherst, Massachusetts. Next semester, she will be a visiting member of the faculty at the University of Granada. Her family is from Uruguay.
Julie Sharff, from DeLand, Florida, is a rising junior at the Florida State University. Sharff is majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in History/Herstory. While at HBI, Sharff is researching Yentl the Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer as an example of Yiddishkeit’s creation of the potentiality for a queer culture in Judaism. She will looking ways that Yentl/ Anshel performed gender roles ultimately identified as neither male nor female. Sharff use Mishnaic texts that set precedent for “typical” female behaviors and compare ways that Yentl either portrays these standards or contradicts them. Sharff is also working with Penina Adelman, PhD, researching her fictionalized memoir by collecting information about the intersection of women and the early Hasidic movement in Eastern Europe. In Sharff’s free time, she is reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. She also loves playing with dogs and eating popcorn but not at the same time.
Noaem Shurin is a rising junior at Brandeis University majoring in Afro and African American Studies and minoring in Legal Studies while still considering an Economics major. She will research different methods of sex education in private Jewish educational institutions and try to compile a sex education pamphlet that is both blunt and kosher. Because private schools don’t always have to abide by the state rules of sex education that are usually stricter than Shurin believes they should be, they can be creative but often don’t use that freedom to help their students. Shurin is also working with Professor Joyce Antler on the completion of her book on Jewish women’s experiences in radical feminist movements of the 1970s. In her free time, she likes debate and is on the Brandeis Debate Team, practicing some evenings to be ready for fall.
Farrell Greenwald Brenner is a rising senior at Syracuse University who grew up in Sugar Loaf, New York. At Syracuse, Brenner double majors in Women’s and Gender Studies and Citizenship and Civic Engagement, minoring in Russian. She combines these fields to study feminist and decolonial Holocaust historiography.
While working at HBI, Brenner is researching the women and girl couriers of the Jewish resistance in Nazi-occupied Poland who passed as Aryan and Polish. She has been working on various projects on this topic that will culminate in her honors capstone project next year. Brenner became interested in this subject while living in Poland and participating in “Culture and Politics of Reconciliation,” where she studied memory politics, the border politics and conflict in Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition to her individual research, Brenner is working with Penina Adelman on a fictionalized family memoir entitled “Witches In The Family” that examines the interactions of Adelman’s female ancestors with the darker forces of Jewish theology and history. Brenner’s research will focus on Jewish women and witches in the Middle Ages and their relation to possession, mysticism and folklore.
When she isn’t busy studying, Brenner is hard at work as the editor-in-chief of Syracuse’s LGBTQ publication, The Out Crowd.
Claire English is from Montreal, Canada, where she is earning a doctorate in Religion at Concordia University. English studies disability in the context of Jewish communities, history and texts. She will write her thesis on Jewish deaf communities in American urban environments from the 1880s to the 1940s.
While at HBI, English is interested in stepping away from the traditional medium of academic writing and attempting a piece of textile art. Inspired by the space at HBI, where art hangs on every wall, she is interested in experimenting with research-creation in order to explore different ways of producing and conveying knowledge. The theme of the work will take up representations of disability in Talmudic texts and attempt to relate them to contemporary realities through consultation with local community organizations in the Greater Boston area.
English is also working with Professor and Rabbi Jane Kanarek of Hebrew College to examine a portion of tractate Arakhin, as found in the Babylonian Talmud. This research will contribute to the production of a complete feminist analysis of Arakhin for inclusion in the “Feminist Commentary on the Babylonian Talmud,” an ongoing scholarly project conceived by Professor Tal Ilan, of the Freie Universität Berlin.
In her limited free time, English enjoys swimming and watching films. She would love to travel, but for now is busy earning her doctorate.
Ruth Fertig grew up in Bloomington, Indiana and will be a senior at Brandeis University in the Fall. Fertig has a double major in Gender and Social Policy and Music.
For her individual research project at HBI, Fertig is examining representations of Jewishness in popular television. She has observed that Jewish characters in television must portray a specific type of Jewishness in order to be palatable to general audiences, and often cannot take their Jewishness seriously. Fertig is interested in exploring this pattern in mainstream media and relating it to her own experiences with being Jewish in non-Jewish spaces, particularly in liberal spaces and those in which she has been the “token Jew.”
At HBI, Fertig is also working with Janet Freedman on a project entitled “The Words To Say It, The Ways To Do It,” which is a study of the language used for activism. Freedman and Fertig started the project together last fall to explore language and feminist activism. But the research has evolved to focus on how language can affect being a Jewish activist and how Jewish people fit into activist circles.
Fertig also sings in a Jewish acapella group at Brandeis called Ba’note. She is involved in Jewish life and queer life on campus and is interesting in creating intersections between the two communities.
Rachel Gabrilowitz, from Cranston, Rhode Island, is a rising senior at Brandeis University. Gabrilowitz has a double major in Biology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
While working as an intern at HBI, Gabrilowitz is researching assisted reproductive technologies and the ways they intersect with Jewish law. She will also be looking at how individuals’ understanding of Judaism affect their reproductive choices.
Gabrilowitz is also working with Matt Boxer to compile a literature review of social science research on LGBTQ Jews to supplement the Cohen Center’s demographic research on Jewish people in the Greater Boston area. For the first time, the Cohen Center has gathered a sample size of LGBTQ identifying Jews that is large enough to allow them to analyze trends within the community.
In addition to studying the relationship between the sciences and gender studies, Gabrilowitz is fond of dancing, reading and hiking.
Nora Smolonsky is from Silver Spring, Maryland. She recently graduated from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where she majored in Western Society and Culture and minored in Religion.
Intrigued by the graphic novel community and social scene in Montreal, Smolonsky’s growing interest in reading graphic novels and memoirs has inspired her independent project at HBI. She will research the representations of Jewishness and gender in graphic novels and foresees the themes will revolve around the self, sex and Jewishness.
Smolonsky is also working with Amy Powell, HBI’s director of communications, on Fresh Ideas from HBI: The HBI Blog, assisting with research, interviews and writing. She is interested in learning how to write practically in terms of academic content, in a digital environment.
In her free time, Smolonsky enjoys exploring her surroundings, attending music concerts, cooking, and is an avid reader.
Sarah Snider grew up in Oak Park, Michigan and presently resides in South Bend, Indiana. Snider currently attends University of Notre Dame’s Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing with an emphasis on prose.
Snider’s individual research project at HBI is a continuation of what she refers to as her meta-memoir, which is a personal, familial, and communal memoir written in the form of “factectodes,” fragments of facts and anecdotes written without regards to chronology. Snider is interested in writing about her own life as an Orthodox woman because she has not seen her story represented in popular literature. She aspires for her work to be a part of the growing movement of female Orthodox authors writing about their unique experiences and perspectives.
In addition to her personal writing project, Snider is working with HBI Co-Director Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman doing research on author Philip Roth. Fishman and Snider will be examining a number of Roth’s texts from different time periods to identify his changing views on Jewish motherhood, the Jewish family structure and trends of the American Jewish community. They will also look at preexisting critical works on his texts to understand how others have perceived him.
Arianna Unger is a Massachusetts native now attending Brandeis University, where she studies Neuroscience with a minor in Philosophy. Unger is interested in pursuing psychiatry, and enjoys learning about 20th Century German philosophy and Jewish philosophy.
At HBI, Unger is researching how contemporary knowledge of female reproductive biology might have affected the Talmudic rabbis’ rulings on the laws of Niddah. Last year, Unger and a friend studied tractate Niddah in Chavruta and came across passages where the rabbis’ logic did not correlate with modern scientific notions. She believes that a re-evaluation of the rabbis’ jurisprudence may affect the way that birth control usage and certain fertility technologies are perceived in the Orthodox world. She will be focusing on the first chapter of Niddah, which discusses when the onset of menstruation is thought to occur, and whether a woman can “retroactively” be a Niddah.
Unger is also working with Lisa Fishbayn Joffe to develop resources for the Boston Agunah Taskforce. Unger is looking at available resources for agunot and Jewish female divorcees as well as resources for Muslim religious divorce.
She has played the violin for 12 years, writes and edits for Brandeis’ newspaper The Justice, and works in a neurobiology lab.
Hilary Wasserman is from Toronto, Ontario. She recently completed her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Ottawa. She also holds a bachelor’s degree with an honors specialization in History and a master’s degree in History both from the University of Western Ontario.
At HBI, Wasserman will be researching the Islamic divorce process. Her work will focus on Canadian mahr cases. The mahr is a sum of money paid to the wife if a couple divorces or the husband dies. Wasserman’s research will focus on the clauses in an agreement that have and have not been upheld in Canadian courts. Her goal is to create a database for solicitors so that they can become more culturally competent of their clients’ needs.
Wasserman is also working with Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, associate director of HBI, to develop a continuing professional education course for the Massachusetts Bar Association to inform practitioners about the Jewish and Islamic divorce process.
When she is not busy studying law, Wasserman enjoys traveling and reading fiction.
Morgan Flanagan-Folcarelli was a rising junior at Mount Holyoke College and a double major in English and Philosophy. She was most recently from Wethersfield, Connecticut, but grew up in both Vermont and the San Francisco Bay Area.
At HBI, Flanagan-Folcarelli interviewed bisexual Jews in the U.S. and around the world to complete a paper that examines the intersections of bisexual and Jewish identities, as well as the experiences of those who claim them. She was interested in the politics and social implications of identity labels, particularly in regard to oppression and LGBTQ+ identification, and was grateful for the opportunity that HBI provides to highlight the experiences of those she interviewed.
Flanagan-Folcarelli worked with Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, and assisted with the finalization of a manuscript on Gender, Religion and Public Life.
Fox was a fourth year undergraduate at University of California, Santa Cruz studying critical race and ethnic studies with a focus in Jewishness.
At HBI, they compiled a zine on LGBTQIA+ reclamation of the mikveh. In addition to serving as a community space to share rituals/stories/reflections/philosophical readings/art/etc., their hope was that the zine might also serve as an iterative resource guide to pluralistic mikvaot/naturally occurring mikvaot for LGBTQIA+ folks.
Fox worked with Dr. Janet Freedman, a scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, to shape a project to “find the words that say it”: deeper dialogues and conflicting discussions around paths to social justice. Fox identified as a trans/gender non-conforming white Ashkenazi Jew.
Daniela Kogan, of Queens, New York, was a rising junior at the joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University majoring in Psychology and Bible.
Her summer project at HBI was a modern reading of Biblical women where she tied the themes and issues of their stories to those faced by contemporary women. Some examples included the glass ceiling, discrimination in the workplace, reproductive issues, women's health, campus rape and body image in the Jewish community and media. She also worked with Associate Professor Raj Sampath, associate director of the Heller School master’s program in sustainable international development. Kogan helped Prof. Sampath with a feminist reinterpretation of Adam and Eve.
At school, Kogan was deeply involved in campus Hillel, where she led a seminar on Jewish education and was co-chair of Conservative movement group on campus. She taught middle schooler children in the religious school of Congregation Habonim.
Devorah Kranz, of Richmond, Virginia, was a rising sophomore at Brandeis University majoring in philosophy and neuroscience.
At HBI, she looked at feminist interpretations of Hannah Arendt and considered how her philosophical and political thought could be used to inform the way we look at modern Jewish feminism.
She also supported the work of Layah Lipsker, research associate and member of the Boston Agunah Task Force to create a website and produce an educational video so that family lawyers and people going through a divorce can learn about how civil courts can help in the event that a prenuptial agreement hasn’t been signed.
Caro Langenbucher, from Highland Park, New Jersey was a rising senior at Brandeis University, majoring in English with a minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies. Langenbucher’s preferred pronouns were they and them.
They were interested in the oeuvre of David Foster Wallace and was working on a senior thesis that would be a feminist analysis of his novel, Infinite Jest.
At HBI, they worked for the National Center for Jewish Film on Yiddish filmography. Their independent research was on non-binary (beyond male/female) gender identities in the Talmud. In the form of a self-published “zine,” they wanted to explore reclaiming these ancient genders as a genderqueer Jew in the present day.
Hannah Montañez was a rising fourth year student at the University of Virginia from Manassas,Virginia. She was a double major in foreign affairs and Jewish studies. Montañez had a particular interest in the study of Sephardic Jews, specifically those in Latin America and the Caribbean.
At HBI, Montañez researched Hispanic Jewish sexual ethics. Specifically, she studied the way Hispanic Jewish women may experience difficulty in accepting aspects of sexuality and abortion in Jewish law due to potential conflicts with the machista and Christian influences that are usually vital foundational aspects in Latino culture.
Montañez also worked with Dr. Dalia Wassner, an HBI research associate, to research prominent literary figures in Latin America and Spain who attempted to incorporate Jews in the bigger conversation of national identity, from the colonial period through the 20th century.
Madilyn Pflueger, of Austin, Texas, was a rising junior at Trinity University in San Antonio majoring in Spanish and minoring in psychology.
At HBI, Pflueger produced a visual art series portraying the matriarchs in contemporary society, looking away from the patriarchal interpretations of negative characteristics.
Pflueger also worked with Amy Powell, HBI communications director, on social media and new communications platforms.
Alec Scarf was a graduate intern from Los Angeles, California, who lived in Cambridge. Her undergraduate degree was in Classical Studies from UCSC where she graduated with honors. There, she studied middle Egyptian literature and Hellenistic Judaism, completing her thesis on Hegel’s notion on world history. At the time, she was a master’s candidate in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis and worked comparatively within Bible and modern biblical reception.
At HBI, Scarf and Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman compiled sources and conducted research in contemporary female Jewish authors in North America. Scarf’s personal research at HBI sought to understand the use of transgression and violence as a narrative technique in works of Israeli fiction.
Katherine Bleth was a rising senior from Atlanta, Georgia at University of Minnesota. She wasa triple major in English, German and Jewish studies. Bleth credited her academic advisor at University of Minnesota with kindling her interesting Judaism when she followed his advice at took an introduction to Judaism class.
Her project at HBI was to study Jewish comedians and the body of work they produced over the last four years with specific attention to Obvious Child featuring Jenny Slate, Broad City featuring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as well as the work of Rachel Bloom.
Bleth also worked with Dr. Karen Frostig, scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University as well as President and Artistic Director of the Vienna Project, the first public art memorial of its kind in Europe to symbolically represent persecuted victims and dissidents of National Socialism.
Ranana Dine was a rising junior at Williams College from Silver Springs, Maryland, pursuing a double major in religion and art history and practice. She previously attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockvill, MD.
Dine’s project at HBI was a study of the BRCA1-2 mutation in Ashkenazi Jews and how it is being linked with Jewish religious symbols in cultural discourse. The idea for the project first occurred to her when she saw a poster in a synagogue ladies’ room for BRCA gene screening that had the breast cancer ribbon filled with pink Jewish stars.
“It was an interesting symbol that played into all my interests. My dream is to somehow figure out ways to combine religion, medicine and art,” she said.
As she paid more attention, she noticed more symbols. Her work focused on the halakhic discourse about gene screening and recent conversation about Jewish genetics and whether Jews are a genetic group. Dine also supported the research of Rabbi Jane Kanarek, Associate Professor of Rabbinics at Hebrew College, with her work for the Feminist Commentary for the Babylonian Talmud project.
Fabulous Flores, from LaVerne, California, was a rising senior at Penn State University, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Jewish studies. At HBI, Flores worked on a research project that examines the stigma of multiculturalism in the Jewish community from several historical points of view. Her interest in this topic stemmed from her own experiences as a Jew with multicultural roots.
At the same time, Flores supported the work of Layah Lipsker, an HBI research associate, on the launch of the getyourget.com, a new web site that provides resources, support and education for Jewish women struggling with various aspects of Jewish divorce.
Helena Goodman, from Riverdale, New York, was rising sophomore at McGill University with a double major in English literature and Jewish studies. She attended Jewish day school for many years, but graduated from Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy.
Goodman shared a love of literature with her mother who holds a PhD in Yiddish of the first World War. At first, she rebelled, but ultimately took a class on the Yiddish literary canon.
At HBI, Goodman’s independent project was a paper studying the short stories of Jewish female writers, mainly focused on Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley and Renata Adler, looking at the short story format a “minority” format in literature written by a group identified as a double-minority. She also worked at the National Center for Jewish Film under the director of Sharon and Lisa Rivo, doing archival work.
Rachel Putterman had a varied career before coming to HBI as a graduate intern. After receiving her degree in political science from University of California, San Diego and her law degree from American University, she worked as a legal services attorney representing domestic violence survivors in their family law cases.
Recently, Putterman went back to school at Hebrew College, this time pursuing a lifelong dream to become a rabbi. She also recently trained to become a mikveh guide at Mayyim Hayyim. Her research project at HBI combined many of her interests as she conducts a gendered analysis of the ritual impurity of abnormal genital discharges in Leviticus.
She also worked with Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, director of the HBI Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and Law, to research portrayals of bagunot in Jewish and secular media, including social media. Additionally, she researched whether the public shaming of get refusers constitutes libel or defamation.
Tamar Segev was a rising junior from Needham, Massachusetts, at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. She majored in studio art with a focus in art history and psychology.
At HBI, she researched artistic representations of Biblical women, focusing mostly on Miriam while also creating her own paintings and representations of Miriam. At the same time, Segev worked with Dr. Karen Frostig, scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and President and Artistic Director of the Vienna Project, the first public art memorial of its kind in Europe to symbolically represent persecuted victims and dissidents of National Socialism.
Segev solicited archival letters and contacting groups all over the world so people will post letters on the project’s web site. She was drawn to this project because it provided an opportunity to do an art project with a research component.
Amanda Sharick, a doctoral candidate in the English Department at the University of California, Riverside, was a graduate intern at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. She specializes in late-Victorian culture and literature, Jewish Studies, gender and sexuality and media studies. Her dissertation traces the transatlantic networks of Anglo and American Jewish women writers during the turn of the twentieth century.
Sharick selected HBI because it was an “elite institution that looks at the important intersections between Jews and gender.” Her individual project was to revise a chapter in her dissertation that examines the transatlantic professional relationship between Henrietta Szold and Lady Katie Magnus during a 15-year period when Szold was a volunteer editor for the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPSA).
Sharick also supported the work of Dr. Joyce Antler, the Samuel B. Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture and Women’s and Gender Studies in her forthcoming book, “Radical Feminism and Jewish Identity,” worked on her last chapter, read and took notes on a specific British case study of radical feminism and anti-Semitism during the 1982-83 Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon.
Ilannah Donohue, McGill University
Bianca Haste, University of Indiana
Rachel Koffman, McGill University
Chelsie May, Brandeis University
Nate Merritt, Malone University
Bailey Mezan, University of Santa Cruz
Benjamin Steiner, Jewish Theological Seminary
Casey Zierler, Smith College
Aislinn Betancourt, Rollins College
Zoya Brumberg-Kraus, Mt. Holyoke University
Rachel Klionsky, Brandeis University
Francesca Petronio, Smith College
Alicja Podbielska, Polish Academy of Science
Sydney Sadur, Smith College
Hannah Scharlin-Petee, Oberlin College
Katy Swartz, Smith College
Linda Benesch, American University
Tasha Kaminsky, Brandeis University
Danya Lagos, University of Chicago
Eliana Light, Brandeis University
Elizabeth Marden, Hobart and William Smith College
Lucia Panasci, University of Massachusetts
Elena Weiner, Wheaton College
Shira Ziegler, Brandeis University
Vlada Bilyak, Queens University
Emily Christy, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Brian Hilman, University of Chicago
Leora Jackson, Queens University
Mariusz Kalczewiak, University of Poland
Jenny Levy, University of Illinois - Urbana
Sabrina Lightstone, Concordia University
Golan Moskowitz, Brandeis University
Carina Platner, Brandeis University
Shevy Baskin, Brandeis University
Adina Bernstein, Cambridge University
Aline Braun, University of Freiburg
Maria Ferenc, Warsaw University
Lee Maman, Hebrew University
Emily Sigalow, Brandeis University
Hannah Sutin, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Marley Weiner, Columbia University/JTS
Frederike Asael, Universistat Vasel
Elizabeth Bendycky, University of Virginia
Nocole Fox, Brandeis University
Alma Heckman, Wellesley College
Shari Rabin, Boston University
Katherine Romanow, Concordia University
Jennifer Roskies, Bar-Ilan University
Emily Watkins, Brandeis University
Talia Coutin, University of California - Santa Cruz
Emily Glazer, University of Toronto
Rachel Gross, University of Virginia
Rachel (Heli) Hellel, Bar-Ilan University
Lily Kowalski, Brandeis University
Erika Levin, Arizona State University
Halim Rizk, Wesleyan University
Shayna Weiss, Brandeis University
Rachel Berry, University of Michigan
Sarah Krevsky, Brandeis University
Yael Mazor, Brandeis University
Rotem Sehayek, University of Haifa
Sara Smith, Brandeis University
Judith Winkler, Trinity College
Arielle Wortzman, Oberlin College
Emily Rose Antflick
Amanada Lee Hollander (2001)
Michal Scharlin (2001)
Lauren Schiff (2001)
Rebecca Crane (2000)
Rebecca Weinstock (2000)
Rachel Cymrot (1999)
Chanel Dubofsky (1999)
Ali Feldman Gutfreund (1999)
Anne Rosenzweig (1999)
Michelle Sternthall (1999)