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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.

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.

Jonathan Lanz (History) is currently a first year Ph.D. student with a focus on the history of the Holocaust. Most of his research interests center around the experiences of children in the Third Reich. He is currently in the process of presenting his recently finished project, which seeks to revise the history of the Kristallnacht pogrom through an emphasis on childrenís experiences. Jonathanís next project seeks to examine the experiences of Jewish children in the Nazi camp system, particularly those imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In Summer 2019, he was an Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellow. For the 2019-20 academic year, Jonathan was awarded a Glazer Family Fellowship by the Borns Jewish Studies Program in support of his research.

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.

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.


M.A. students

Claire Bergen is a first-year M.A. student, as well as a rabbinic student with the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Claire spent a number of years as a vegvazyer (secular officiant), teaching and writing curriculum at the Sholem Community in Los Angeles, CA. Their research interests include neo-diasporism and secular Yiddishist education.

Julia Sharff is a first-year M.A. student. She completed her undergraduate degree at Florida State University. After spending the summer at YIVO, she plans to continue studying Yiddish. Her research interests are in gender and identity in Yiddish literature.