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Current Jewish Studies Graduate Students

Doctoral Minor Students

Avi Blitz (Comparative Literature) 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 Hasidic 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 Blitz’s dissertation director.

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 Repression of Yiddish and the Kyivan Jewish Intelligentsia in the Postwar Era,” which focuses on the fate of Yiddish writers and activists in the postwar Soviet Union, particularly in Soviet Ukraine. 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. studied Yiddish in Vilnius, Lithuania at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute. 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.  He plans to defend his dissertation in spring 2019.

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.

During the past year, Brian Hillman (Religious Studies) passed his qualifying exams and defended his dissertation proposal. His dissertation project will focus on issues of tradition and modernity for Mithnagdic thinkers in the first half of the 19th century with a focus on their attitudes toward secular knowledge and kabbalah. Brian presented papers on modern Jewish thinkers, including Nachman Krochaml, Samuel David Luzzatto, and Kaufmann Kohler at IU and at other institutions. After studying Classical Hebrew at Middlebury College in summer 2017, Brian attended the summer Bet Midrash program at JTS in New York this past summer.

Roy Holler (Comparative Literature) is writing his dissertation, currently titled“Remembering to Forget: Passing in Hebrew Literature,”supervised by Professors Eileen Julien, Stephen Katz, and Chana Kronfeld (of UC Berkeley). Roy is the recipient of the 2018-2019 College of Arts and Sciences' Dissertation Research Fellowship. During the last academic year, he presented papers at the AJS annual conference and the American Comparative Literature Association annual meeting. He plans to defend his dissertation during the 2018-2019 year.

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.

Yehuda Magid (Political Science) is working on his dissertation on the topic of Israeli settler violence. Last year, he taught two political science courses at IU: “U.S. Foreign Policy” and “Ethnic Conflict: From Russia to ISIS to Israel Palestine”. His current projects examine the dynamics of vigilante violence, the behavior of pro-government militias, and the effects of protest campaigns and terrorism on patterns of state repression. He has developed a number of datasets related to these projects and he has conducted fieldwork in the West Bank to better understand the mechanisms underlying his quantitative data analysis.

Allison Posner (Comparative Literature) is living in Brooklyn, New York, and is working on her dissertation. She spent the summer of 2018 at the Yiddish Book Center as the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program teaching assistant. This fall, Allison will begin teaching English literature at HAFTR, a modern orthodox yeshiva on Long Island.

Lindsey Pullum-Foulks (Anthropology) conducted ethnographic field research for her dissertation in both summer 2017 and 2018 with support from a Borns Family Fellowship grant-in-aid. Her research analyzes the discursive practices of belonging among Druze in Israel and in the Golan Heights. She has presented her findings at national conferences on anthropology, Israel studies, and Middle East studies. She will be writing her dissertation this year.

Julia Riegel (History) is writing a dissertation titled “Musical Life in the Warsaw Ghetto: Sources from the Ringelblum Archive.” In the 2017-2018 academic year, Riegel attended international conferences in Warsaw and Berlin, served as the president of the JSGSA, and helped to organize the annual JSGSA conference.

With the support of a Fulbright Fellowship and a Saul Kagan Fellowship in Advanced Shoah Study, Meghan Riley (History) began her dissertation research in Paris. Her dissertation centers on American aid organizations in French concentration and internment camps during the Second World War and the Holocaust, and her adviser is Mark Roseman. In May 2018, she participated in the American Academy for Jewish Research Graduate Student Seminar at the University of Michigan. Last summer, she presented her work at the Saul Kagan Fellowship Conference in Jerusalem and participated in the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, a competitive program that involves a week of discussions about the history of humanitarianism at the University of Exeter followed by a week of research at the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. She will continue her research at archives in Paris, London, and the U.S. in the 2018-2019 school year, supported by funding from the Saul Kagan Fellowship in Advanced Shoah Studies, the American Academy of Jewish Research, the Borns JSP, and the IU Department of History.

Sean Sidky (Comparative Literature and Religious Studies) was a Steiner Summer Yiddish Program student at The Yiddish Book Center. When he teaches texts translated from Yiddish in his Composition courses or in his course on the relationship between popular culture and catastrophe, he teaches about American Jews’ post-vernacular relationship to Yiddish. When he explains to students that the text was originally in Yiddish, he uses it “as an opportunity to discuss issues of cultural memory and nostalgia” among American Jews in their relationship to Yiddish-speaking Eastern Europe. He has been a researcher for the Sydney (Australia) Jewish Museum.

Dale Spicer (Religious Studies) is preparing for his qualifying exams on critical disability theory, Judaism, the body and health, personhood, and the history of Islam. In spring 2018, he was awarded the RS Department Graduate Award for Teaching Excellence. He is looking forward to completing exams and beginning dissertation research to explore concepts of health, illness, and physical difference in religious texts.

Nicolette van Den Bogerd (Musicology) (Musicology) began coursework for her Ph. D. minor in JS, traveling to Poland and to Israel to study Hebrew and Polish, and doing exploratory research. Her scholarly focus is on Jewish music, particularly Jewish musical identity in 19th and 20th century Europe, Polish Jewish émigré composers in France, Holocaust music, the intersection of music and politics, and Jewish composers of American musical theater.  

Claire Woodward (Germanic Studies) is in her second year of the Ph.D. program and will complete the master’s portion this fall. She took two semesters of Yiddish last year, worked on narrative violence and side-taking in Fritz Breithaupt's experimental humanities lab, and furthered ideas on conflict, identity, otherness, women, and minority representations in 20th century German literature and culture.

Juliane Wuensch (Germanic Studies) is writing her dissertation entitled “German-Jewish Female Identity and the Dream of an Egalitarian Society: A Comparative Study of Rahel Varnhagen, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hannah Arendt.” She works as an Associate Instructor for the Germanic Studies Department and the Kelley School of Business.


M.A. students

Jacob Beckert, a second year M.A. student, focuses his research on the history of the relationship between Jews in the U.S and Israel, with a focus on Zionism, nationalism, and conceptions of Homeland and Diaspora. At the spring JSGSA conference, he delivered a paper There and Back Again: Conceptions of Homeland and Diaspora among American Jews After Returning From Living in Israel”. ​This year, he will continue work on his thesis exploring the relationship between the ideology of Ahad Ha'am and Jewish American organizations. He looks forward to serving as treasurer of the JSGSA. 

Hannah Mills, a first year M.A. student in Jewish Studies, is studying German Jewish Holocaust history. She will spend this year learning Yiddish and furthering her understanding of the experiences of German Jews who could not escape Germany.

Emily Franchy, a second-year student, received a Title VIII Fellowship to begin the study of Ukrainian this past summer. She was the recipient of the 2018 George and Monique Stolnitz Yiddish Prize. Her thesis will focus on Holocaust memory and pedagogy in Eastern Europe.

Morgan Morales, the 2018-2019 JSGSA president, will be going into her third year pursuing two master’s degrees – one in JS and one in History. Last year, she continued her study of Yiddish and began a research project on the Łódź Ghetto photography of Henryk Ross. This summer, with support from the Sara and Albert Reuben Scholarship, she conducted archival work for her thesis on shifting gender relations in German Jewish families between 1933-1938.

Eliana Schechter is a first year M.A. student in Jewish Studies, and is a recipient of the Graduate Studies in Yiddish Fellowship. She is studying American Judaism, with attention to gender, education, digital media, and Yiddish studies.

Jordan Sommers is entering his final year in pursuit of dual master’s degrees in Russian/East European History and JS. Supported by a Sara and Albert Reuben Fellowship, he spent summer 2018 in Ukraine, where he conducted archival research in preparation for his thesis. With funding from a Portable Title VIII Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State, he also studied advanced Ukrainian at Ukrainian Catholic University in L'viv.

updated 08/2018