2019-20 Publications, Lectures and Awards

May 19, 2020

By Yael PerlmanEric Harvey
(with contributions by Professors Marc Brettler, Jessie DeGrado, and David Wright)

Eric Harvey, a remarkable student and scholar, received his PhD in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) May, 2020. Throughout his studies he has amassed knowledge of over a dozen languages in their original scripts as well as in Braille. He joined the NEJS Bible and Ancient Near East PhD program in 2011 with plans to study parallel texts in the Psalms. He recently finished his dissertation, entitled “Sing to the Lord a New(-ish) Song: The Psalms of the Egyptian Hallel across Two Thousand Years.” On top of completing the challenging task of finishing his dissertation, Eric has slowly become blind over the past 9 years of his studies.

(Read Full Article)


NEJS Graduate Students Receive Outstanding Teaching Awards

May 18, 2020

Three NEJS graduate students received Outstanding Teaching Awards by GSAS Dean Eric Chasalow. 

Cheyenne Paris served as a MA Teaching Assistant in NEJS 181b:  Film and the Holocaust with Professor Rivo, a course she had taken last year.  Her interest in the subject, her work at Facing History with survivors, and the FHO curriculum provided her with a thorough knowledge of the subject matter.  She assumed the lead role on teaching the session on “Schindler’s List,” and she was invaluable in helping to set up and work remotely with students and conduct class online during the Corona-19 pandemic.  She received a 2020 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award for NEJS.

Eileen Xing served as a PhD Teaching Assistant in NEJS 162a:  American Judaism with Professor Sarna, a large writing-intensive class.  American Judaism is very distant from Eileen’s area of study, the Bible and Ancient Near East, but she stepped up to the challenge, becoming familiar with the subject matter in short order.  During this highly stressful semester, she demonstrated a warmth with the students, inspiring their confidence.  She carefully edited the writing assignments within the 48-hour turn-around time target, and devoted time to learning about Zoom and helping support “Zoomed” classes.  She received a 2020 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award for NEJS.

Carey Slaeker received a brand new award, the Exceptional Departmental Service, Remote Learning Transition of 2020 Award.  He shared a TA-ship with Eileen Xing in NEJS 162a:  American Judaism, a demanding writing-intensive course with 44 students conducted by Professor Sarna.  Carey initiated the project way back on March 9, meeting in Professor Sarna’s office to ensure the course could pivot to Zoom.  He handled the technology and showed students what to do, including a trial run in class.  By March 16, everyone was ready.  Carey suggested Professor Sarna add more on-line pictures to his lectures and showed him remotely how to make that happen.  Carey also screened the slides during class, so Professor could focus on his lecture.  Finally, he uploaded each class to Latte to ensure students in other time zones, or perhaps ill, could access the lectures at their convenience.  In short, “American Judaism’s” successful online transition was largely due to Carey’s efforts. 

May 13, 2020

The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University is proud to announce its new
Research Guide to Israel Studies, a one-stop shop for Israel Studies queries, needs, and information.

May 12, 2020

Darlene Brooks Hedstrom will be joining Brandeis as the Robert and Myra Kraft and Jacob Hiatt Chair in Christian Studies on July 1, 2020.  Professor Brooks Hedstrom (no hyphen) is the award winning author of The Monastic Landscape of Late Antique Egypt: An Archaeological Reconstruction (2017).  Professor Brooks Hedstrom offers a wide breadth of classes touching on religious studies, classics, history, Middle Eastern Studies, the politics of historical memory and archeology, as well as food studies and gender studies.  We are eager to welcome her to Brandeis, jointly appointed to the Departments of Classics and NEJS.

Professor Brooks Hestrom will be offering NEJS 130b:  Sexuality and Early Christian Communities; TTh 3:30 - 4:50pm this fall 2020.

Jillian Stinchcomb, arrives July 1, 2020 as Kay Fellow in Mediterranean Cross-Cultural Textual Traditions, and will hold a joint appointment for two years as a faculty member in the Departments of Classical Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.  She recently received her PhD “Remembering the Queen of Sheba in the First Millennium,” from the Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania.  Professor Stinchcomb brings facility with eight research languages including Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez), Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. 

She will be teaching CLAS/NEJS 118a:  Queens of the Ancient Mediterranean World; TTh 3:30 – 4:50pm.

Email Joanne Arnish before May 21 to sign up for any of those classes.

May 5, 2020

Iddo Haklai, a PhD candidate, has just had his first scholarly article published in a leading journal in the field titled, "Four Paradigms of Legal Change: American Conservative Halachic Rulings on Women’s Roles in Synagogue Practice."

Rachel Minkin, PhD '19, Research Associate at the Pew Research Center
Rachel, NEJS PhD '19, has accepted a new job as Research Associate at the Pew Research Center on the Social and Demographic Trends team studying how the US is changing along social, demographic, and economic lines. Her work will focus on survey research and include developing surveys, data analysis, and presentation of findings. She had been a researcher in the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies for the past five years, working in the Lown Building. We wish her and her family all the best as they move to the D.C. area this spring.

April 7, 2020

Hanan Khashaba, Lecturer in Arabic, has been on the forefront for the use of technology and improving accessibility in her classroom.  Here is a brief video talking about use of the iPad for teaching.

April 3, 2020

Lynn Kaye will be a Harry Starr Fellow in Judaica at Harvard's Center for Jewish Studies during AY 2020-21.  The topic for next year's fellowship is "The Changing Contours of Jewish Thought" which happens to coincide Lynn's exciting book project on the fascinating origins and surprising trajectories of "Wasting Time" in Talmudic and later rabbinic thought, literature, and everyday life.

April 3, 2020

Jon Levisohn has been named the Feith Family Fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania for Spring 2021. During his fellowship, he will pursue his project on “The Discourse of Jewish Literacy and Illiteracy.” 

March 18, 2020

Jonathan Sarna participated in a symposium last summer along with Hasia R. Diner, Eric L. Goldstein, and Beth S. Wenger on Antisemitism in the Gilded Age that may have continuing relevance for our day.  Glad to attach the pre-print; publication is slated for this summer.
Amber Taylor receives a Teaching Fellowship at the University of Oklahoma

March 9, 2020

Amber Taylor has accepted an Israel Institute Teaching Fellowship at the University of Oklahoma and will begin in January of 2021. Her contract is for the spring of 2021-spring 2022!

March 4, 2020

Reuven Kimelman delivered a talk on Religious Tolerance to several hundred Muslim and Christian clerics at the 6th Assembly of the Forum for Promoting Peace, Abu Dhabi, Dec. 10, 2019: “The Role of Religions in Promoting Tolerance: From Possibility to Necessity.”

February 25, 2020

"Despite the many obstacles, a quixotic publishing feat has generated some magic of its own."

January 30, 2020

Professor Yehudah Mirsky published an article titled, "Has Trump proposed a Middle East peace plan-or terms of surrender for the Palestinians?" where he analyzes Trump's Mideast plan.
Alexandra Herzog PhD '14 was the keynote speaker at Wheaton College

January 29, 2020

Alexandra Herzog (PhD '14) was the keynote speaker at Wheaton College on January 29, 2020 for their Holocaust Remembrance Day event. She spoke about the Holocaust and the ways to fight anti-semitism and bigotry today. Following the talk, she joined Wheaton faculty members on a panel answering student questions.  

December 16, 2019

Carl Sharif El-Tobgui offers the first comprehensive study of Ibn Taymiyya’s ten-volume magnum opus, Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql. In his colossal riposte to the Muslim philosophers and rationalist theologians, the towering Ḥanbalī polymath rejects the call to prioritize reason over revelation in cases of alleged conflict, interrogating instead the very conception of rationality that classical Muslims had inherited from the Greeks.

Based on a line-by-line reading of the entire Darʾ taʿāruḍ, El-Tobgui’s study carefully elucidates the “philosophy of Ibn Taymiyya” as it emerges from the multifaceted ontological, epistemological, and linguistic reforms that Ibn Taymiyya carries out in this pivotal work.

This book is available through Open Access.

December 15, 2019

Zinaida Poliakova (1863-1953) was the eldest daughter of Lazar Poliakov, known as the Russian Rothschild, who dominated Russian finance and railroads in Imperial Russia. Her diaries provide a rare glimpse into the world of the Jewish elites and a “political economy of intimacy” — a complex calculus of capital, aristocratic sociability, cultural patronage and philanthropy. Her aristocratic lifestyle informed her tastes, habits and sociability even as an émigré in France, during World War II in Paris, and in postwar England, after her family perished during the Holocaust. Women’s voices are often lost in the sweep of history, and so “A Jewish Woman of Distinction” is an exceptional, much-needed testament. These newly discovered primary archival sources will change the way we understand the full breadth of the Russian Jewish experience.

November 19, 2019

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency published an article about Jonathan Sarna's most recent book, "Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny."

November 14, 2019

Jonathan Decter was a finalist in the category of Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History and Culture for the 2019 Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards.


November 12, 2019

Alexander Kaye presents his lecture on "Galut: Exile and Existence in Modernity."

November 3, 2019

Justin Lustig, who received his MA from NEJS in 2009, is the host and executive producer of Jewish History Matters.

"Jewish History Matters is a podcast featuring interviews, in-depth discussion, coverage of new research, current topics, and enduring debates about Jewish history and culture."

To support this podcast, please contribute.

Brandeis NEJS at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature

November 23, 2019

The following seven Brandeis NEJS scholars will be presenting papers at the upcoming Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego, CA November 23 to 26, 2019.  The list includes six PhD students and one faculty member.  Congratulations to all!

Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Aqua 307 (Third Level) - Hilton Bayfront
Eric J. Harvey, Brandeis University, "Access and Accessibility in the Digital Humanities" (30 min)

Philology in Hebrew Studies / Biblical Lexicography / Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology
Joint Session With: Philology in Hebrew Studies, Biblical Lexicography, Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 16A (Mezzanine Level) - Convention Center
Ji Min Bang, Brandeis University, "Toward a Poetics of Speech Performance: The Iconography of the Sword and the Visual Semantics of Lāšôn" (20 min)

Religions of Israel and Judah in Their West Asian Environment
9:00 AM to 11:15 AM
Room: 10 (Upper Level West) - Convention Center
Jessie DeGrado, Brandeis University, "Transcending Monotheism: Problems in Scholarly Classifications of Yahweh and Assur" (30 min)

Religious World of Late Antiquity / Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism
Joint Session With: Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism, Religious World of Late Antiquity
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Indigo E (Second Level) - Hilton Bayfront
Sari Fein, Brandeis University, "Conceiving Motherhood: The Reception of Biblical Mothers in Jewish Literature in Late Antiquity" (15 min)

Ugaritic Studies and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 8 (Upper Level West) - Convention Center
Anthony Lipscomb, Brandeis University, "Significant Variation as Poetic Strategy in the Construction of Baal’s Palace: A View from Cognitive Poetics" (25 min)

Assyriology and the Bible
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 30D (Upper Level East) - Convention Center
Carey Slaeker, Brandeis University, "Prophetic Speech a Prophet Can Profit by: Effectual Punning in Biblical Prophecy and the Ancient Near East" (25 min)

Israelite Prophetic Literature
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 28D (Upper Level East) - Convention Center
Justin Huguenin, Brandeis University, "Peeling Back the Layers of Ezekiel 17" (30 min)

Stoll Chair Lecture by Alexander Kaye, "Galut: Exile and Existence in Modernity"

November 12, 2019

Alexander Kaye is the Karl, Harry, and Helen Stoll Assistant Professor of Israel Studies, an endowed chair established in 2002. Ilan Troen, the founding director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, was appointed as the inaugural occupant. Brandeis welcomed Professor Kaye in 2018 from The Ohio State University where he had been Assistant Professor of History.  He received his PhD from Columbia University and his Rabbinical Ordination from YCT Rabbinical School. His research deals primarily with Israel studies, Jewish thought, intellectual history, the history of political thought, legal history, and secularism and modernity. Professor Kaye is affiliated with the Schusterman Center whose main goal is to promote and teach the modern State of Israel. The community it has built includes a variety of academics across the Brandeis campus who support and encourage one another in their research.

Professor Kaye’s studies began with the history of political thought and evolved to bring the methodology of that field to Jewish history. He has written about the relationship between religion, politics and law in Jewish history, particularly in the context of the history of religious Zionism. His upcoming Stoll lecture, entitled, “Galut:  Exile and Existence in Modernity,” will develop these interests. Galut, commonly translated as “exile”, is a very old term that Jews have used to describe their situation. Originating in the context of the Jewish diaspora in antiquity, it once meant primarily geographical displacement from the Land of Israel. In time, it became a theological, even an existential concept. This lecture will examine the ways that this ancient idea has been refashioned as it encounters modern phenomena, such as the global experiences of mass migration, statelessness and political exile, and modern ideologies such as existentialism, communism and nationalism. It looks at the ways that galut remains a key term in the way that Jews are understood, both by themselves and by others.

We hope you will attend Professor Kaye’s lecture on Tuesday, November 12 at 3 p.m. as he explores these concepts and how they have changed over the millennia.   

November 1, 2019

The Brandeis Hoot published an article reviewing the Women in World Jazz event.

October 22, 2019

Jonathan Sarna announces a new edition of the first American Jewish novel written by Cora Wilburn, Cosella Wayne:  Or, Will and Destiny, which was just published and will be released October 22, 2019.  This new edition, edited and introduced by Jonathan Sarna, is supplemented with selections from Cora Wilburn’s recently rediscovered diary, which are reprinted in the appendix.  The original book was published serially in the spiritualist journal Banner of Light in 1860 and was the first novel written and published in English by an American Jewish woman. Together, these materials help to situate Cosella Wayne within the life and times of one of nineteenth-century American Jewry’s least known and yet most prolific female authors.
Jonathan Sarna's Recent Work

Professor Jonathan Sarna’s award-winning American Judaism: A History is now available in an updated and revised edition that summarizes recent scholarship and takes into account important historical, cultural, and political developments in American Judaism over the past fifteen years. The core of the book is the same as the first edition, however, Professor Sarna is able to describe recent events and cultural transitions with the second edition’s introduction and conclusion. It is the most up to date textbook on the subject at this time. 

Professor Jonathan Sarna is University Professor, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, and the Director at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. His expertise is in American Jewish history and life, Jews in the Americas, American Religion, and American Jews and Israel. His favorite time period to study is the 19th century.

Professor Sarna has also announced the publication of a new edition of the first literary American Jewish novel. Cora Wilburn’s novel,  "Cosella Wayne: Or Will and Destiny,” describes the life of a Jewish woman and her dysfunctional relationships and how she overcomes life’s trials through religious and spiritual enlightenment. Professor Sarna wrote the introduction and also edited and annotated diary entries and other publications. Professor Sarna’s discovery of these diary entries prove that Cora Wilburn used personal experiences to create the work, which makes Cosella Wayne the first example of an American Jewish writer using an alter ego in her fiction. “Cosella Wayne: Or Will and Destiny” is set to come out in October of 2019.

October 6, 2019

Rachel Fish, PhD '13, announced as founding executive director beginning October 7, 2019.

September 23, 2019

Yehuda Mirsky's interview with Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz titled "Rav Kook's Lessons for a Time of Change and Anger" is live on Youtube.

September 20, 2019

Middle East expert Yehudah Mirsky analyzes the Israeli election and what it means for the country's long-reigning prime minister.

September 16, 2019

Yehudah Mirksy reviews Bari Weiss' book, How to Fight Antisemitism.

September 1, 2019

Call for Papers Due 10/13/19:  

Brandeis Judaic Studies Journal

The Brandeis Judaic Studies Journal has put out a call for submissions for its Fall 2019 Edition. This is an exciting new student-led publication that recognizes outstanding works of academic literature produced by Brandeis-affiliated individuals (undergraduates, graduates, faculty and alumni) through the publication and distribution of a semesterly journal.