Doctoral Alumni

Where are they now?

Alumni of our Schusterman Doctoral Fellowship program have gone on to work in many fascinating areas, from teaching and research to government and beyond.
Ofir Abu, PhD '13, Politics

Ofir Abu teaches at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee and Tel-Hai College. After earning his PhD, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, first at the Department of Administration and Public Policy and then at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the study of Israel and Zionism. Dr. Abu's post-doctoral work was supported by prestigious scholarships and grants, such as the Kreitman Scholarship and the Israel Institute research grant. He continues to serve as a research fellow at the Azrieli Center for Israel Studies of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the study of Israel and Zionism. He has published articles in journals, such as Citizenship Studies, Ethnicities, and Israel Studies, as well as chapters in collected volumes. The book "Through Israeli Eyes: Images, Representations, and Boundaries of the Jewish World" (in Hebrew), which he co-edited with Dr. Tanya Zion-Waldoks, was published in 2020 by the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism. Dr. Abu's current research focuses on how Israeli images and representations of Diaspora Jews affect the political and policy discourse in Israel. Ofir lives in Haifa with his wife, Dana, and their two daughters.

Guy Abutbul, PhD '11, Sociology

Guy Abutbul successfully defended his dissertation, "The Production of Sephardic, Mixed and Ashkenazi Identities in the Israeli Middle Class," in the Fall of 2011. Following graduation, he was a lecturer in sociology at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, and a post-doctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University. Since October 2015, Dr. Abutbul has been a lecturer at the College of Management Academic Studies, Rishon LeZion.

Yair Bar-Zuri, PhD'22, NEJS

In July 2022, Yair Bar-Zuri successfully defended his dissertation, "Embracing Contradiction in the Writings of Aharon David Gordon and Yosef Haim Brenner." It examines the writings of Yosef Chaim Brenner and Aharon David Gordon, two of the most charismatic and influencing figures in Zionist thought and modern Hebrew litarture. Dr. Bar-Zuri explores the usage of the notion of contradiction in their writings as expressing the challenge of Jewish existence in the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The dissertation shows how Gordon's and Brenner's thoughts illuminate not only the cultural and existential questions of the time, but also offer unique perspectives of Jewish nationalism highly relevant to explore the development of Zionism from its outset to our days. 

Aviv Ben-Or, PhD '17, NEJS

Aviv completed his doctorate in 2017 with the generous support of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship awarded by the Association of Jewish Studies. His dissertation explores the works of Iraqi-born Israeli authors Shimon Ballas and Sami Mikhael, both of whom wrote in their native Arabic before switching to Hebrew. Specifically, he explored the construction of Arab-Jewish subjectivity in the context of transition from Arabic to Hebrew, as well as the implications of translingual writing for our understanding of the literary landscape in 20th century Israel. Awarded a University Prize Instructorship, Aviv taught a course at Brandeis in Fall 2015 entitled "Modern Arab-Jewish Literature." After completing his doctorate Aviv spent four years working in cyber security for the U.S. governemnt and in the private sector. His current role is a risk and compliance analyst on Google's content compliance team.

Zeynep Civcik, PhD '14, NEJS

Zeynep successfully defended her dissertation in November 2014, entitled: "Civil-Military Relations in Israel and Turkey: A Comparative Study on Military Interventions." Part of her research was conducted at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University where she investigated the changes and continuities of Israeli security policy. Following graduation, she taught a course on Israeli politics and society at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. From 2016 to 2017 she was a visiting scholar at the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley School of Law. 

Ehud (Udi) Eiran, PhD '10, Politics
Ehud Eiran – the Center’s first doctoral student - is a senior lecturer (Tenured US Associate Professor) at the School of Political Science, University of Haifa, Israel. His second book, “Post-colonial Settlement Strategy” (Edinburgh University Press) was published in 2019. Dr. Eiran held research appointments at Harvard Law School and at the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and was a visiting lecturer at the Department of Political Science at MIT. He spent the 2019-2020 academic year as a visiting scholar at the Department of Political Science at Stanford University.
Rachel Fish, PhD '13, NEJS

In 2021 Rachel Fish co-founded the nonprofit Boundless, "a think-action tank partnering with community leaders across North America to revitalize Israel education and take bold collective action to combat Jew-hatred." Previously, Dr. Fish was the executive director of the Foundation to Combat anti-Semitism. Rachel also served as senior advisor and resident scholar at the Paul E. Singer Foundation in New York City and executive director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, where she trained the next generation of academics in the field of Israel Studies. 

Her dissertation, “Configurations of Bi-nationalism: The Transformation of Bi-nationalism and Palestine/Israel 1920’s-Present,” examines the history of bi-nationalism and alternative visions for constructing the State of Israel. 

Rachel has served on the faculty at Brandeis University, Harvard University, UMass Amherst, has written articles for several publications in the mainstream press and academic journals, and co-edited the book “Essential Israel: Essays for the 21st Century.” She is a frequent speaker in various Jewish community forums and beyond.

Eric Fleisch PhD '14, NEJS

Eric successfully defended his dissertation in 2014: "Israeli NGOs and American Jewish Donors: The Structures and Dynamics of Power Sharing in a New Philanthropic Age." In 2014-2015 was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis, conducting research on American Jewry. In Fall 2014, Eric also taught a course on Israeli history in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis. From 2015-2017 he was Visiting Assistant Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of International Relations and the Berman Center for Jewish Studies. He then became an assistant professor in the Jewish Studies Program at Penn State University, where, in 2020, he accepted a tenure track Assistant Professorship in Jewish/Israel Studies. Rutgers University Press will be publishing his book, Checkbook Zionism: Philanthropy and Power in the Israel-Diaspora Relationship. 

Randall Geller, PhD '11, NEJS

Randall successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on the Druze and other minorities in the Israel Defense Forces between 1948 and 1957. He held post-doc positions at American University and the University of Texas, Austin. In 2013 he was appointed the inaugural Les and Eva Erdi Lecturer in Israel and Middle East Studies at Monash University in Australia. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Randall was a post-doctoral fellow in Israel Studies at the University of Toronto, followed by a return to Brandeis for the Fall of 2015 as a lecturer in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. He was subsequently a lecturer in history at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and at Emmanuel College. Currently, he is a lecturer in history at Bentley University and at Bridgewater State University. His book "Minorities in the Israeli Military, 1948–58" was published in 2017. 

Iddo Haklai, PhD'22, NEJS

In September 2022, Dr. Haklai successfully defended his dissertation, "'To Hear the Calling Voice of God' - The Religious Thought of the Religious-Zionist Labor Movement in Mandatory Palestine, 1922-1948." He received his BA in Jewish Thought and Political Science and MA in Political Science (both Magna Cum Laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He worked for several years as an instructor at the Hebrew University and an educator at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national holocaust museum. His current research focuses on creative encounters between Jewish religious traditionalism and modern phenomena such as nationalism, secularism, and modern left-wing ideologies. He has written about the religious-Zionist (Orthodox) labor movement in Mandatory Palestine and its theological integration of religious traditionalism, nationalism, and social-democratic idea. He has also written about American Conservative Judaism and its grappling with issues of gender egalitarianism in Jewish ritual. His future research will examine liberal or non-traditionalist Jewish religious engagements with the modern “rise of the immanent frame” in the thought of German-Jewish thinkers such as Martin Buber and Rabbi Leo Baeck.  

Mostafa Hussein, PhD '17, NEJS
An alumnus of Al-Azhar University in Cairo (MA 2009), Mostafa came to Brandeis to broaden his scholarly interest in the intersection between Jewish and Islamic thought. His doctoral dissertation explores the Hebrew scholarship on Arabo-Islamic civilization published in Palestine/Israel during the 1880s-1950s and the refraction of fundamental issues which played an important role in shaping the consciousness of the Hebrew Yishuv: Building a new Hebrew culture; the relationship between Jews and the land; and the relationship between Jews and the local Arab population. He received a 2016 Dissertation Year Fellowship from Brandeis as well as a fellowship for 2016-2017 from the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. See him highlighted in the Schusterman Center newsletterHe was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California's Society of Fellows in the Humanities (2017-2019). In fall 2019, Mostafa became an LSA (College of Literature, Science, and the Arts) Collegiate Fellow in the Judaic Studies Program at the University of Michigan.  In May 2019, Mostafa signed a book contract for his revised dissertation manuscript with Princeton University Press. The book, tentatively entitled “Islam and Jewish Culture in Palestine,” explores Hebrew/Jewish scholarship on matters Arab and Islamic in Palestine from the 1890s until just after the birth of the state of Israel. In fall 2021, he became an assistant professor of Judaic Studies at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.
Susanna Klosko, PhD '17, NEJS

Susanna received her BA from the College of William and Mary and has been with the Schusterman Center since 2009. She was awarded the Malkin Fellowship in Israel Studies (2009-2014) and the Israel Institute Doctoral Fellowship (2013-2015). In her dissertation, she examined the historical connection between immigration, chronic illness, and the Land of Israel by exploring how these were informed by an ethos of productivization and immigration control which came to Palestine not only with Zionist activists but with the jurisdiction of Western powers. In 2016-2017, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, teaching in the Jewish Studies Department. Susanna has been working in digital humanities since June of 2019. She is the Project Designer/Manager at the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

Ari Moshkovski, PhD '20, NEJS
Ari successfully defended his dissertation “The National-Religious Party, the Rabbinate, and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process: Principle and Pragmatism in Religious-Zionist Statecraft (1974-1977)” in October, 2020. Ari's fields of specialization include the history of Zionism, contemporary Orthodox Judaism, Israeli foreign policy, and the modern Middle East. His dissertation examines the role of the National Religious Party and the Chief Rabbinate in the Egyptian-Israeli peace process of 1977-1982. He holds a BA (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and an MA from Queens College, CUNY, where he developed undergraduate and high school curricula on American relations with the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict for the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding.
Jason Olson, PhD '16, NEJS

Jason received his Ph.D. from Brandeis' Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department in 2016. He turned his dissertation into a book, "America's Road to Jerusalem: The Impact of the Six-Day War on Protestant Politics," which was published by Lexington Books in 2018. From 2014 to 2020, he served as a Navy chaplain and was stationed at an air base in Japan, as command chaplain of a cruiser, and as regimental chaplain forward at 2nd Marine Division. While deployed aboard ship, he served as faculty for Central Texas College, teaching 16 of his sailors. He holds Navy qualifications in Middle East studies, religion and culture, national security, and Fleet Marine Force. He accepted an offer in the Navy's prestigious foreign area officer community and currently serves as a political-military officer for U.S. Forces Korea, where he manages relationships with foreign counterparts and coordinates policy and strategy with the U.S. interagency community.

Shay Rabineau, PhD '13, NEJS

Shay was the Israel Institute Post-Doctoral fellow at the Schusterman Center for 2013-2014, and continued as the Israel Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2014-2015. His dissertation, “Marking and Mapping the Nation: The History of Israel’s Hiking Trail Network,” is the first to examine Israel's 10,000 kilometer trail network as a space on which Israelis articulate their relationship to the Land of Israel. In Fall 2015, Shay took a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Israel Studies at Binghamton University, where he serves as Associate Director of the Center for Israel Studies. He teaches courses on the history of Israel, walking and pilgrimage in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the environmental history of Israel and Palestine. His book, "Walking the Land: A History of Israeli Hiking Trails", will be published at Indiana University Press in 2022.

Joseph Ringel, PhD '11, NEJS

Joseph successfully defended his dissertation at Brandeis' NEJS department in 2011: "The Sephardic Rabbinate, Sephardic Yeshivot and the Shas Educational System." He taught at Drew University (2011-2012) and taught Israel studies and Jewish studies at the University of Maryland (College Park, 2012-2014). From 2014-2016, he was a Fulbright scholar in education at the University of Haifa. The the US and Israeli governments sponsored the fellowship for him to conduct research on national religious schools in Jewish settlements across the Green Line. From 2016-2018 he was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, teaching courses in Israel studies. Currently, Joseph is a fellow at Yeshiva University's Center for Israel Studies, where he is completing a manuscript for a book on Sephardic (Hispano-Arabic) religious culture in Israel, and is also editing two volumes on the Jewish communities of the Islamic world. 

Gangzheng She, PhD '18, NEJS

Upon graduation in May 2018, Gangzheng She was offered a tenure track position as Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Tsinghua ranks 17th around the world - 1st in China and the 3rd in Asia - according to the QS World University Rankings 2019. Dr. She has a degree in Hebrew Language and Culture from Peking University, where he co-founded the Jewish Cultural Research Association. His doctoral dissertation focused on China's involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict during the Cold War. He has conducted research on the evolution of Israel's national image in mainstream Chinese media from 1949-1992. Prior to Brandeis, Gangzheng worked as a research associate at China Development Research Foundation and the Foreign Affairs office of Guangzhou municipal government.

Karen Spira, PhD '22, NEJS

Karen Spira joined the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis in 2016 and is currently the center's assistant director. She holds a PhD and MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She also holds an MA in religion from the University of Georgia and a dual BA in English and religious studies from the University of Arizona. In July 2022, she successfully defended her dissertation, "Disadvantaged and Orphaned Jewish Children in Palestine, 1881-1939," which examines the development of child welfare systems in the Yishuv. Dr. Spira has taught courses on Jewish and Israeli history at Brandeis and as a community educator in a variety of settings throughout the Greater Boston area and New York. 

Amber Taylor, PhD '19, NEJS

Amber has accepted the position of Israel Institute Teaching Fellow in the History Department at the University of Oklahoma, and will be headed there once she has finished her current project at the Church History Library in Utah. Amber has successfully defended her dissertation, "Contest and Controversy in the Creation of the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, 1984-1987," on February 26, 2019. The dissertation examines the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Holy Land, with a particular interest in the way Latter-day Saints - in contradistinction to other Christian groups - have viewed and created a presence in the Land, and how that presence has been perceived by local residents as well as religious and social groups. Dr. Taylor has brought her Israel studies expertise to her position as a writer/historian at the History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, focusing on women's history.