2020 Judaic Studies Newsletter

Message from the Program Director
Program Spotlights
Program Kudos
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Program Director


Arie Dubnov

Arie M. Dubnov
Director, Judaic Studies Program

Dear friends,

What an eventful year this has been! I write this year’s reflection away from students and colleagues, as GW was forced to shut down its in-person operations on campus to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. We now begin a new semester of continued remote learning. I hope that you are staying well during this unusual period and keeping your spirits high — along with keeping a diary of copious notes that would surely benefit future historians!

Despite everything, we continued teaching, research and strong programming. In 2020, our program included numerous events, lectures, symposia and paper presentations. Some highlights included: 

  • a public screening of the movie Who Will Write Our History?, which tells the story of Emanuel Ringelblum and the hidden Oyneg Shabes Archive he created in the Warsaw Ghetto; 
  • a guest lecture by the Israeli award-winning author Ayelet Tsabari who spoke about growing up Mizrahi in Israel, and about challenges she has faced as an immigrant author writing about Israel in English, her second language; 
  • the annual Fleischmann Lecture, which we hosted, featuring Professor Emeritus Steven Aschheim, critically interrogating Adorno and Horkheimer's 1944 much-admired book Dialectic of Enlightenment and their view of the Holocaust; 
  • a fascinating guest lecture by Ilana Szobel examining sexualized violence in Hebrew literature
  • a discussion with the Israeli filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz following the screening of his new documentary, The Viewing Booth
  • and a talk about non-binary Hebrew with Eyal Rivlin.

In addition, our Greater Washington Jewish History Colloquium continues offering an important venue for advancing cutting-edge research, where scholars workshop article manuscripts and chapters from books in progress (all discussions focus on pre-circulated papers). Last spring, the colloquium hosted College of Charleston's Shari Rabin, who workshopped a chapter from her forthcoming book on Jews and the American South, and Elizabeth Anthony from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, who talked about her research on Viennese Jews after the Holocaust. In fall 2020, the colloquium hosted Benjamin Nathans from the University of Pennsylvania, who discussed his research on Soviet Jews and their relations with the Dissident Movement; American University's Lauren B. Strauss, who examined Jewish visual artists, radical politics and Yiddish culture in interwar New York; and Gil Rubin, a postdoc at Yale University, who presented a chapter from his forthcoming book, The Future of the Jews: Planning for the Postwar Order.

GW’s Judaic Studies (JSTD) Program continues to embody a vibrant and invaluable hub for students, faculty and the broader community interested in Jewish studies. You can read about our history as a program on our About page. I have the great honor of working in the spirit of solidarity with diligent students and distinguished colleagues, and together with this wonderful team we will continue to bring public programming online, including our endowed lecture series, and keep running our Jewish History Colloquium, Hebrew Cafe and more.

Private support has been invaluable to our mission to develop and promote teaching and research of Judaic studies. We are grateful to all our donors for their generous contributions. Your enthusiastic support helps to ensure the continued success and growth of our program with GW and beyond!


Arie M. Dubnov
Director, Judaic Studies Program

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Program Spotlights

Student’s Musical Journey Becomes a Documentary

Whaim Moshe and Mizrahi Music in the 1980s: A Film by Noah Shufutinsky, alongside a photo of Noah
Noah Shufutinsky’s acclaimed movie (left) and Noah in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament building, earlier this year (right)

Noah Shufutinsky, a senior Judaic studies major — and a rapper — took his passion for music to new creative heights. Noah decided to depart from the traditional path of just writing a senior thesis and prepared a 20-minute documentary movie instead.

The movie, Haim Moshe & Mizrahi Music in the 1980s: A Yemenite Step into the Mainstream, explores the ways in which Haim Moshe, an Israeli singer who rose to prominence in the 1980s, challenged external conventions about “authenticity” and successfully blended Yemenite influenced music with other genres and subgenres of Israeli music. Through his efforts to circumvent Orientalist notions of what “authentic Yemenite music” was, Haim Moshe, the movie suggests, exemplifies how artists of that era paved the way for today’s Israeli musicians who often combine the contemporary popular styles with traditional elements of Yemenite and Mizrahi music. Noah’s documentary movie can be viewed online.

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Unearthing Canaanite Palaces, Discovering Ancient Earthquakes

Aerial view of Tel Kabri, 2019 (left) and wall fallen into earthquake fissure within Canaanite palace (right)

Eric H. Cline, professor of classics and anthropology and a member of the Judaic Studies Program, was among the leaders of a team of Israeli and American researchers funded by the National Geographic Society and the Israel Science Foundation who conducted archaeological excavations in Tel Kabri.

Tel Kabri, in northern Israel, is an archaeological site that contains the ruins of a Canaanite palace and city, which dates back to the Middle Bronze Age (around 1900-1700 B.C). Excavations in the site helped archeologists to better understand the political economy of that region and its connections with other contemporaneous ancient cultures.

The flourishing Canaanite palace, however, was suddenly abandoned about 3,700 years ago. Why? The explanation came as the team of researchers uncovered new evidence that an earthquake may have caused the destruction and abandonment of the palatial site. The findings were reported in the journal PLoS ONE. The excavation project was featured in JewishPress and the CCAS Spotlight magazine.


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Graduate Certificate and MA Program in Israel Education

iCenter/GWU Graduate Certificate Cohort 1 in Israel, Summer 2019
iCenter/GW Graduate Certificate Cohort 1 in Israel, summer 2019

The Judaic Studies Program is a proud partner in GW’s Graduate Certificate and MA Degrees in Israel Education, which was launched in 2018. The only program of its kind in the country, the initiative is the fruit of cross-disciplinary collaboration between Judaic Studies faculty in GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and in partnership with The iCenter for Israel Education. 

The program provides rigorous academic training in the fields of experiential education and Israel studies geared towards professional Israel educators. Students complete a one-year, 15-credit academic experience, culminating in a graduate certificate, and may choose to continue for a second year to receive an additional 15 credits and a master’s degree in Israel education. All coursework is designed to support direct application of weekly learnings into students’ current workplaces.

At present, the program’s third cohort consists of 31 in-service professionals spanning the United States, Mexico and Israel, who were selected through a rigorous screening and admissions process for this prestigious opportunity. Students of the program have been featured in various publications, including The Forward and the Washington Jewish Week. Members of this cohort work in Jewish federations, foundations, advocacy and social justice organizations; day and supplementary schools; Israel travel programs; experiential education institutions; universities; campus Hillels; JCCs; Maccabi USA; and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Learn more about the program in this video clip.

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Program Kudos

  • Professor Masha Belenky published Popular Literature from Nineteenth-Century France, a scholarly edition and accompanying translation, which features a text by Eugenie Foa, the first professional Jewish women author.
  • Barry R. Chiswick, professor of economics and chair of GW’s Department of Economics, published Jews at Work: Their Economic Progress in the American Labor Market, which documents, analyzes and explains the reasons for the remarkable success in educational achievement, occupational standing and income of American Jews from 1860 to the early 21st century.  
  • Eric Cline’s Digging Up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon, has been published by Princeton University Press. It tells the story of the ancient mound at Megiddo, also known as Armageddon, and the ways in which it has become regarded as key to unlocking biblical archaeology ever since archaeologists from the University of Chicago made stunning discoveries at this site during the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Arie M. Dubnov, the Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies, served as guest editor of a special publication marking the centenary of the British mandate of Palestine. It was published as vol. 27 of the journal Israel: Studies in Zionism and the State of Israel, vol. 27 (Tel Aviv University; winter 2021) [in Hebrew]. In addition, Dubnov published an essay discussing the life, thought and legacy of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism in Hebrew, in the Israeli journal Hazman Haze. He also co-authored an encyclopedia entry about Jabotinsky in the International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Following these publications, Professor Dubnov was invited to meet with Israeli President Reuven (“Rubi”) Rivlin, who reported that he read them with much interest and expressed a desire to meet with the author. 
  • Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history, continues to publish a monthly column on American Jewish history and culture in Tablet magazine. In addition, she published two critical review essays this past year in the Jewish Review of Books, one on the relationship between material culture and history (“History with a Flourish”), the other on the kosher dairy restaurant over time and space (“The Milchik Way”). Professor Weissman Joselit has also developed several new courses, among them an undergraduate seminar on food and drink in American history and a graduate seminar on the ways in which history makes itself felt in the United States, Israel and Europe. She has also been actively engaged in the "It's Material" project, a university-wide initiative that explores the relationship between objects and the study of history.
  • Congratulations to Kyla Percival, who graduated with honors in May. Under the tutelage of Professor Daniel Schwartz and with the assistance of Professors Orian Zakai and Arie Dubnov, Kyla wrote an outstanding senior thesis on the portrait of Israeli Jewish female characters in recent Israeli and American television series. For excellent performance in the study of Hebrew language, culture, and literature, Kyla was awarded the annual Yael Moses Award for a graduating senior from the Hebrew Program. 
  • Thanks go to Professor Christopher Rollston from the Department of Classical Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, who met with Judaic studies students, shared with them his research and talked about “Jokes and Puns in Biblical Hebrew.” 
  • Daniel B. Schwartz’s latest book, Ghetto: The History of a Word (Harvard University Press, 2019), received rave reviews from the LSE Review and the AJS Review. Schwartz, the outgoing director of the Judaic Studies Program and chair of the History Department, has taken upon himself an ambitious task: to trace the centuries-old shifting meanings of the word “ghetto,” from Venice of the sixteenth century to contemporary America. The result is a fascinating account of the changing nuances of this highly charged and slippery term, as it traversed time and place in a long transatlantic voyage. He was profiled in the CCAS Spotlight magazine.
  • Hebrew contributes to our academic excellence as a flagship research institution. Once a month on Thursday evenings, the Hebrew Café brings Hebrew speakers and Hebrew learners at GW together to converse in Hebrew, under the leadership of Professor Orian Zakai, assistant professor of Hebrew language and culture and coordinator of the Hebrew program. During fall 2020, Hebrew Café participants enjoyed an evening of contemporary Hebrew slang and attended an inspiring workshop led by Eyal Rivlin from the University of Colorado at Boulder, on Nonbinary Hebrew, an innovative third-gender grammatical system that seeks to make Hebrew more inclusive for nonbinary people and promote more egalitarian use of the language. 
  • Advanced Hebrew students Yonatan Altman Shafer and Corey Feuer are working under the guidance of Professor Orian Zakai on the translation from Hebrew to English of the Memorial Book of the community of Mizocz (Poland/Ukraine) exterminated in the Holocaust. The project is a collaboration of the Hebrew Program with the nonprofit organization JewishGen. Publication of the first chapter is expected in early 2021. 
  • The Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership hosted three post-election Leadership Lunches and are planning additional lectures for the spring semester. Dr. Erica Brown, director of the center, is also engaged in a large teen leadership initiative to be completed in 2021.

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Class Notes

Sam Bernstein, BA ’12, and his wife, Jessica Bernstein, BA ’12, MPP ’14, currently live in Chicago, where Sam serves as the STEM programs project manager at Chicago Public Schools. The couple are very involved in Mishkan Chicago, a radically inclusive Jewish community.

Cassie Feldman, Ph.D., BA ’13, opened a private practice in Bay Harbor Islands, Fla. She also serves as adjunct faculty in the doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University teaching health psychology.

Rachel Fish, Ph.D., BA ’01, is the founding executive director of the Foundation to Combat Anti Semitism, a new initiative by the Kraft Family. The foundation focuses on impacting attitudes of young people around the world through leveraging social media.

Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, BA ’79, MA ’85, became a Rabbi and has served in educational and pulpit positions for the past 30 years. 

Margaret Kritzberg, BA ’19, is a paralegal at the law firm Andalman and Flynn in Silver Spring, Md., on their Disability Benefits Law team.

Benjamin Levy, BA ’04, is the dean of Judaic Studies at Denver Jewish Day School in Denver, Colo., where he has worked since 2009. He and his wife Meredith Levy (Weinberg), BA ’04, have three daughters.

Max Skidelsky, BA ’20, was accepted to the New York Law School. 

Hillel Zand, BA ’19, published an article at the Israeli Policy Forum based on the research he conducted at GW on the effects of Israeli economic policy on Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank. He currently resides in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he works as an analyst at a startup company that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help local governments make data-driven policy decisions. 

Gideon Zelermyer, BA ’97, is the cantor for Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Canada. He along with the Shaar Hashomayim Choir appeared on Leonard Cohen's Grammy nominated posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance.

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Donor Recognition

The Judaic Studies Program would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the program from July 1, 2019–December 31, 2020.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend

Yael Moses +

Nachama Moskowitz, BA ’74

Lori Ross, BA ’84

Steven Ross, BBA ’81

Rabbi A. James Rudin, AA ’55, BA ’55

Yonni Wattenmaker, BA ’93

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