About Us

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe
Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, SJD
Shulamit Reinharz Director of HBI
781-736-3116 Epstein Building, 129

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe is the Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University where she teaches in the Departments of Philosophy and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She is also director of the Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law that explores the tension between women’s equality claims and religious laws. Her research focuses on gender and multiculturalism in family law and on the intersection between secular and religious law. She is the author of “Gender, Religion and Family Law: Theorizing Conflicts Between Women’s Rights and Cultural Traditions,” (2012); “The Polygamy Question,” (2015); “Women’s Rights and Religious Law,” (2016) and was guest editor of a special issue of “Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues on New Historical and Legal Perspectives on Jewish Divorce,” (Volume 31, 2017). She is a co-founder of the Boston Agunah Task Force, devoted to research, education and advocacy for women under Jewish family law. She holds three law degrees; an LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School and LLM and SJD from Harvard Law School. Before coming to HBI, she taught in the Faculty of Laws, University College London and was law clerk to Justice Frank Iacobucci of the Supreme Court of Canada. She was called to the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Sylvia Neil
Sylvia Neil
Board Member

Sylvia Markowicz Neil is lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School where she previously served as associate dean, and is appointed to the university councils for the Humanities, the Stevanovich Institute for the Creation of Knowledge and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. She is the founder and chair of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute’s Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and is co-editor of its book series. She began her career as a poverty law litigator, served as Midwest regional executive director and legal counsel of the American Jewish Congress and consulted with government and not-for-profits, establishing the Jewish Women’s Foundation for the Chicago Jewish Federation. She was appointed to both the Illinois and Cook County Commissions for Human Rights. Sylvia received the Rabbi Robert J. Marx Social Justice Award from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

Sylvia is widely involved in the civic, cultural and philanthropic community. She currently is chair of the board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, vice chair of the Art Institute of Chicago and on the board of Brandeis University where she is chair of the Board of Fellows. She also serves on the boards of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Public Radio, and the Chicago High School for the Arts. She is life trustee (former chair) of the Grand Teton Music Festival and trustee emeritus of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

Sylvia received her AB with high distinction (history) from the University of Michigan, AM (Jewish studies) from the University of Chicago and JD cum laude from Northwestern University School of Law. She is married to Daniel R. Fischel and together they collect art, enjoy music and are proud of their wonderful growing family of children and grandchildren.