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Current Jewish Studies Graduate Students

Doctoral Minor Students

Mollie Ables (Musicology) is working on a dissertation entitled “Giovanni Legrenzi's Venetian Career and Musicians' Networks at Sacred Institutions, 1670-1690.” Her dissertation includes a Digital Humanities component, and she was an IU Institute for Digital Arts & Humanities HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) Scholar for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Charles Bonds (History) spent the 2015-2016 academic Year as a Fulbright Student Fellow in Kyiv, Ukraine. There, he conducted research for his dissertation, “Life after Zion: The Ukrainian Jewish Intelligentsia.” He is specializing in Soviet cultural history, focusing on the history of the repression of Jewish and Ukrainian cultural figures. Having found many recently declassified documents in Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Hebrew, he aims to approach the historiography of Soviet Jewish history through broader streams of Soviet and European History. He works closely with his adviser, Professor Hiroaki Kuromiya and with Professor Dov-Ber Kerler toward this goal. He studied Yiddish in Vilnius, Lithuania at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute during the summer 2016. He returned to IU in August of 2016 to work as an Associate Instructor and to begin writing his dissertation. He has received a a grant-in-aid of research from the Alice Ginott Cohn Ph.D. and Theodore Cohn Fellowship Fund and a Fulbright IIE research fellowship. 

Ramajana Hidic Demirovic’s (History) dissertation, “Performing Tradition in Modern Times: Laura Papo Bohoreta’s Search for Sephardic Woman’s Identity in Interwar Bosnia” is a biography of a well-known Sephardic writer. Ramajana has been awarded several grants for her research and teaching, including the Congressman Frank McCloskey, IREX, ACTR, Mellon, and IU Future Faculty Teaching Fellowships. Her translation of several of Bohoreta’s articles was published in a collection of primary sources entitled Sephardic Reader,edited by Sarah Stein and Julia Cohen, and published by Stanford University Press.

Brian Hillman, (Religious Studies) who is nearing the completion of his coursework, will spend the next academic year studying for qualifying examinations. His primary research interests are in modern Jewish thought and Jewish mysticism. This year, Brian presented work on religious Zionism at Northwestern University, and on Kabbalistic conceptions of the afterlife at IU. He won the Religious Studies Department Graduate Essay Prize and continued serving as the student director for the Midwestern division of the American Academy of Religion. In summer 2016, Brian continued his study of modern Hebrew with generous support from the Borns JSP.

Roy Holler is a third year Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature, with a minor in Jewish Studies. Originally from Tel Aviv, Roy worked as a reporter for the IDF radio before moving to New York City where he continued to write a weekly personal column for Yediot Ahronot. Roy is interested in representations of trauma and revenge in Israeli and African-American literature, focusing on post-Holocaust and post-Slavery fiction.

Mitsuko Kawabata’s (Ethnomusicology) research interest is Jewish youth culture in Argentina. Following dissertation fieldwork in Buenos Aires in 2012 and 2013, she is currently in Japan working on her dissertation on this topic.
During 2015-2016 academic year, ​Constanze Kolbe came close to the completion of her dissertation tentatively titled "​Trans-Imperial Networks: Jewish Merchant Mobility Across and Beyond the Mediterranean in the 19th Century," under the direction of Professors Matthias Lehmann and Mirjam Zadoff. She presented her work at  the conference "Jewish Commercial Cultures in Global Perspective" at IU, which she organized together with Dr. Papamichos-Chronakis from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was an invited speaker at the Purdue University JS Program; and, presented a paper at the conference "A Mediterranean Society?" at the USC and UC, Irvine, in April 2016. She continues as a recipient of a fellowship from the Memorial Foundation of Jewish Culture. Constanze expects to complete her dissertation in the next academic year 2016-17. 

Avi Lang (Comparative Literature) completed his qualifying exams in fall, 2015. He is researching the Tsene Urene, the seventeenth-century “Women’s Bible,” a compilation of traditional tanakhic, midrashic, and homiletic material in Yiddish. One of the most popular books ever written in Yiddish, in some Hassidic communities, it is still given as a gift to women on the occasion of their marriage. He is interested in the Tsene Urene’s place in the history of Yiddish literature: how the text represents a bridge between the genres of epic poetry and narrative prose in Yiddish, and analyzing it in the context of European vernacular Bible translation. While not necessarily a translation in the traditional sense, the Tsene Urene nevertheless constitutes a serious effort to transmit sacred knowledge through the Jewish demotic. Professor Dov Ber Kerler is Avi Lang’s dissertation director. Avi is a recipient of a grant-in-aid of research from the Alice Ginott Cohn Ph.D. and Theodore Cohn Fellowship Fund and conducted research at the Goldreich Institute in Tel Aviv this past summer.

Yehuda Magid (Political Science) successfully defended his dissertation proposal in spring 2016. Under the tutelage of Professor Karen Rasler, he is conducting research for his dissertation which will examine mechanisms of violence within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In March 2016, with generous financial assistance from the Borns JSP and the Department of Political Science, he presented “Ethnic Triads in Hegemonic States: The Effects of State-Dissident Interactions on Dominant Group Violence” and "Introducing the African Pro-government Militias (PGM) Dataset" at the International Studies Association convention in Atlanta. In the Summer 2016, with generous support from the Borns JSP grants-in-aid of research, Yehuda conducted original fieldwork in the West Bank, including extensive interviews with Jews living in Israeli settlements and outposts throughout the region. 

Matthew Niemi (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures) will begin his third year of a doctoral program in Islamic Studies beginning this Fall.  He participated in the Jewish Studies Graduate Student Conference in February, presenting his paper "Touching the Tsinnor" outlining his theories on some challenging verses of the Hebrew Bible. At the Religious Studies' Department's Workshop on “Islam as a Late Antique Religion,” his paper discussed the religio-political institutions of pre-Islamic Arabia, including how Judaism and Christianity were integrated into pagan Arabia.  He plans to take his qualifying exams in spring 2017 and begin his dissertation work soon after.

Allison Posner (Comparative Literature) passed her qualifying exams in December.  Her dissertation will focus on the difficulty of, and resistance to, “working through” in the Holocaust narratives of Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Jean Amery, and W.G. Sebald. Last spring, she taught "Coming to America," a course that explored Jewish identity and the struggles of assimilation through 20th century Yiddish, Hebrew, and English language literature. She is teaching Yiddish language in fall 2016.

Lindsey Pullum, (Anthropology) a third year Ph.D. student, delivered a paper at the 4th annual Jewish Studies Graduate Student Association conference analyzing the use of Hebrew and Arabic in the Israeli sitcom. She received two competitive scholarships from the Department of Anthropology and the Borns JSP to fund ethnographic research in fall 2016 on the tourism efforts of Jewish Israelis to Arab-Israeli villages. 
In the 2015-2016 academic year, Julia Riegel (History) conducted research for her dissertation, which focuses on music in the Warsaw Ghetto. With the support of a Fulbright IIE grant and a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Sosland Fellowship, Riegel traveled to archives in Warsaw, Poland and in Washington, D.C. While in Poland, Riegel also participated in an academic program through the Auschwitz Jewish Center. She will continue her research in D.C. during the summer and fall of 2016 and return to Bloomington in the spring of 2017 to begin writing her dissertation. 
Meghan Riley (History) spent the month of May in Perpignan, France, where she conducted pre-dissertation research at the Pyrénées-Orientales departmental archives. Her dissertation will explore the role of relief and humanitarian aid in the area during Vichy France and the Holocaust. This summer, she also participated in the Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellows Program, a fully-funded learning experience at various Holocaust sites in Poland.

Devorah Shubowitz (Anthropology) received a Wenner Gren grant for her dissertation research which deals with how Jewish women's Torah study, in gender egalitarian communities in New York, constitute gendered Jewish selves. She won the Association for Feminist Anthropology Dissertation Award in 2013 and presented a chapter of her work at a Gender and Law conference in Izmir, Turkey in 2014. She plans to complete her dissertation by April 2017.

Sean Sidky (Comparative Literature and Religious Studies) recently completed his Master's project, a translation of two acts from Sholem Aleichem's stage version of Tevye the dairyman. His research focuses on how Yiddish literature has responded to catastrophe and destruction, with a specific focus on Yiddish poetry written during or immediately after the Holocaust. In March, he presented a paper at the Northeast Modern Languages Association conference, and in Fall 2016, he will be beginning a dual Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies.

Juliane Wuensch (Germanic Studies) focuses her research on language pedagogy and the influence of identity and cultural aspects on the individual learning experience. She is an enthusiastic Yiddish learner and won the Stolnitz Yiddish Prize in 2015. She was a Max Kade Fellow in 2013-2014 and works now as Associate Instructor for German while preparing for her Ph.D. preliminary exams.

M.A. students

David Axelrod , a second year dual Jewish Studies and History M.A. student, has a primary interest in Soviet policy toward Jews during the Stalin era. His other areas of interest include contemporary expressions of antisemitism, the Holocaust, and the early history of Israel.

Adah Hetko is a first year M.A. student in Jewish Studies, and a recipient of the Graduate Studies in Yiddish Fellowship. Her primary interest is in Yiddish language and culture, including Yiddish song and the contemporary klezmer revival. Adah is a recent graduate of Oberlin College, where she studied English and Anthropology. From 2013-2015, Adah served as the Tanenbaum Inter-religious Fellow with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College. Adah performs as a storyteller and songwriter, and her song "Light Inside of Us" is featured in a video by The Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development at Vassar College.

Jaron Kanegson is a second year M.A. student in the Born Jewish Studies program. She is especially interested in the Late Antique and modern time periods, with a focus on texts, folklore, gender, and the supernatural.

Morgan Morales is a first year History and Jewish Studies dual MA student. Her emphasis is on the Holocaust and antisemitism. She is particularly interested in the eastern communities before they were destroyed and the interaction between Jews and the Germans, particularly the SS.

Jordan Sommers is pursuing a double master's degree in Russian / East European History and Jewish Studies, where his research focuses on the effects of Nazi policy upon Jewish and non-Jewish populations in Reichskommissariat Ukraine and other territories of present-day Ukraine.  In addition to his studies, he is translating a comprehensive study of the Holocaust in Ukraine from Russian to English for two Ukrainian historians.  His work has provided him with the opportunity to conduct research at the Central State Archives of Public Associations of Ukraine, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other archives.  While a researcher, he has also been privileged to work as an archivist and teacher across the U.S. and in Ukraine.  As an aspiring historian, he seeks to collaborate with scholars in order to contribute to the growing historiography of the Holocaust in Ukraine through further research in former Soviet archives.

Matt Upshaw is a first year M.A. student with an interest in Hebrew Bible, specifically source criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis (particularly in Genesis and Exodus). He is also interested in charting the interpretation and use of these texts in different cultures and over time.