Jewish Studies Undergraduate Research Award Recipients

2021 - 2022

Keely Gwynne, "The Imperceptible Jew: Crypto-Jewish Comedy in American Media" examines how and why American Jewish writers and artists have cannily disguised the Jewish roots of their art, and the Jewish identities of their characters, in one medium after another over the course of the past century. It encompasses an impressive range of media and a huge span of American Jewish cultural history. Its examples include comic book superheroes, stand-up and sketch comedians (Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Nichols and May), and the television situation comedy from The Goldbergs (1950s) through Seinfeld (1990s) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000s).

Sage Michaels, "Between Two Worlds: The Roles and Experiences of Jewish Women in Weimar Germany" examines the conflicts German- Jewish women faced during the turbulent period between the two world wars of the first half of the twentieth century. How could traditional Judaism's emphasis on the web of family and community responsibilities be reconciled with the striving of the "new woman" for self-reliance and independence, especially in a context of rising anti-Semitism? The paper draws on literary and cinematic representations of Jewish women, as well as the principal Jewish women's magazine of the period, to illuminate these tensions. And it shows how one of the most famous Jewish women of the era, the philosopher Hannah Arendt, found inspiration in the life of Rahel Varnhagen, the Jewish salonnière who had faced a similar predicament a century earlier.

Maia Zelkha, "Pens of Iron: Echoes of the Psalms of David in the Poetry of Samuel ha-Nagid and Yehuda Amichai," compares the poetry of Shmuel ibn Naghrela (993-1056), better known as Samuel HaNagid ("Samuel the Prince"), the greatest Hebrew poet in eleventh-century al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), and Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), the greatest Israeli poet of the twentieth century. But whereas his great predecessor in medieval Spain was a successful general, who inevitably identified himself with King David, Amichai was a weary veteran of three wars, conscious of the profound distance between himself and the biblical archetype of the warrior-king. Amichai, Ms. Zelkha shows, was a skeptical, ironic poet, conscious of himself not as an avatar of King David, but rather as a humble citizen-soldier, adding his wry, colloquial voice to a long tradition of poetry in Hebrew that extends over nearly three thousand years.

2020 - 2021

Lucy DaSilva, "The Blacklist Revisited: Walter Bernstein’s Memories of the McCarthy Era"

Taylor Garvey, "Opposites Attract: Sexuality in Jewish Comedy Media"

Maya Gonzalez, "Remember Us: Holocaust Representations in European-Jewish Émigré Film, 1942-1945"

2019 - 2020

Maya Gonzalez, "The German Weaponization of Jewish Victims: Jewish Complicity and 'Privilege' during the Nazi Occupation of Greek Salonica"

Sam Knobel, "Fortune's Choice: Salonican Jews and the Paths to Modernity"

Miriam Stone, "Jewish Comedy in Kafka's Short Stories: 'A Report to an Academy' and 'The Burrow'"

Samantha Stringer, "Sami Michael's Double Exodus: Iraqi-Jewish Communist Politics in Transition to Israel"

2018 - 2019

Michele Cole, "'I Remain an Irishman...and a Jew': Conflicting Identities of Ireland's Jewish Politicians"

Rachel Ledeboer, "Who's Strong and Brave, Here to Save the American Jewish Way?"

Nomi Nonacs, “'Egged on Like Seder Plates': Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the Jewish American Princess"

Avery Weinman, "Reverberations from the 'Earthquake': Collective Memory and Why Mizrahi Israelis Vote for the Israeli Right"

2017 - 2018

Robin Kopf, "Knishes and Quips: How Jewish Female Comedians Have Sparked Laughter and Change"

Ian Kussin-Gika, "Kinderlach and Communists or A Comparison Between Soviet Ethnic Policy and Labour Zionism Through the Lens of the Infamous JAO"

Avery Weinman, "Revisiting Isaac: Meaning in an Unexceptional Life"

2016 - 2017

Alex Brocchini, “A Study in Disenchantment: The Politics of Moroccan and Varsovian Jewry 1940-1950”
Alex Brocchini’s writing reflects clarity of argument, structure, and rigorous research culminating in a thorough synthesis of complex ideas. He is the only person to date who has written a paper comparing Moroccan and Polish Jewish political engagement in the 1940s and 1950s. It is an unusual comparison, but a persuasive and fruitful one, distinguished by thorough research and engagement with critical questions for the field of Jewish studies, and particularly with the tension between communist universalism and Jewish particularism in the wake of the Holocaust.

Leona Lkova, “Precarious Positions of Power: Sephardic Jews in Late Eighteenth to Mid-Nineteenth Century Morocco”
From the advent of their regime in the early seventeenth century, the Alawid sultans of Morocco employed members of wealthy Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jewish families as consuls, translators and traders in their commerce with Christian Europe and the Americas, furnishing them with letters of permission to travel and exclusive rights to export certain goods. Leona Lkova’s outstanding paper explores the rise of “Court Jews” in Morocco, as well as the reasons why their privileged status was so precarious. The author exhibits a keen eye for fascinating case histories, as well as mastery of both primary sources and the scholarly literature on the subject.

Gabriella Estevam, “New York Gothic: A Close Reading of ‘A Wedding in Brownsville’”
This outstanding essay on one of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s uncanny post-Holocaust ghost stories combines close attention to the protagonist’s reveries with an incisive interpretation of his narrative arc: a journey into a kind of limbo where the boundaries between reality and fantasy, the living and the dead, dissolve. Close reading reveals that the protagonist’s crossing of the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn is a passage into an infernal realm: Singer’s equivalent of the gothic transposed to New York. Dr. Margolin, at the end of his life, is haunted by a sense of personal failure, by the sorry state of American Judaism, but even more by memories of all those who had been “tortured, burned, gassed.” And yet in death he finds a kind of personal redemption: he is reunited with the lost love of his youth at a wedding feast attended by the ghosts of the dead. The essay captures the poignant, bittersweet quality of Singer’s irony: “He belongs with those who belong nowhere.” And: “He sorrows for more days and a fountain of youth, but it is not until his veins run dry that he lives out his dreams.”

Joseph Maggs, “Benjamin, Scholem, and the Crisis of Modernity”
Joseph Maggs’s outstanding essay illuminates the great critic Walter Benjamin as a modernist Jewish writer, triangulating him with his friend Gershom Scholem's Zionism on the one hand and Franz Kafka's "theology passed on by whispers" on the other. What kind of Jewish identity or consciousness was available to Benjamin in a "disenchanted world," a world in which the best one could hope for was to "eavesdrop on tradition"? How did Benjamin combine historical materialism with his idiosyncratic theology? The author’s answer is extraordinary for two reasons: first, the depth and sophistication of his knowledge of German and Jewish intellectual history; second, the astonishing range of his extracurricular reading in both primary and secondary sources.

Shana Pava, “Marranism Revealed: Ritual, Religion, and Resistance in Iberian Crypto-Judaism”
In writing on Yosef Haim Yerushalmi’s 1971 tome From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso: A Study in Seventeenth Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics, Shana Pava’s outstanding paper tackled one of the most difficult and densely written texts in the field of Sephardic Jewish studies. Her engagement with the text stands out for the intensity of its excavation among Yerushalmi’s primary sources, a critical engagement with the text’s shortcomings (notably the critical place of converso women in maintain Crypto-Jewish practices), and significant outside research into Sephardic and converso religious texts and customs of the period.

Jason Tomczak, “Entre Civilisations”
Jason Tomczak’s paper is an outstanding study of the life and work of the Tunisian-French-Jewish writer Albert Memmi, tracing his melding of literature, philosophy, and sociology as he crossed the boundaries of the French, Jewish, and Arab worlds. Beginning with an incisive analysis of Memmi’s first book, the autobiographical novel Pillar of Salt (1955), the paper traces the development of Memmi’s characteristic themes: isolation and exile, the dialectic of colonizer and colonized, racism and dehumanization, the conflict between Jews and Arabs, and the lure of philosophy as an alternative to the confusion of identity.

2015 - 2016

Marina Budrys, "Behind Closed Doors: The Publicization of the Private or How Does The Jewish Comedian Expose the Man Hiding Behind the Bathroom Door"

Hannah Macias, "Women’s Labor Movements in Early 20th Century Yishuv Palestine and Lower East Side New York"

Alexandra Terry, "Contentious Commandments: Arguing Over the Rules in A Serious Man and Curb Your Enthusiasm"

2014 - 2015

Noah Barerra-Stanford, “Jewish Folk Medicine from the Baal Shem Tov to An-sky and Beyond”

Amanda Botfeld, “Head Over Heart”

Elizabeth Ho, “Assimilation and Identity Preservation: The Paradox of the Kaifeng Jews”

Ariel Wexler, “The Jewish Food Movement”

Sophie Cox, “Jewish Ambivalence in Larry David’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm'”

Other Awards Received

Noah Barerra-Stanford: Deans' Undergraduate Achievement Awards, Division of the Humanities; History Department Undergraduate Education Committee Award

2013 - 2014

Elizabeth Ho, “Film and the Holocaust: The Mystery of Goodness”

Jessie Jannsen, “Seven Portraits of Death in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shosha

Bailey Mezan, “‘We are running away and Mount Sinai runs after us’

Andrea Pulido, “The Jew Abides”

Other Awards Received

Hana Rothstein - Haas/Koshland Memorial Award

Guy Herschmann, Humanities Undergraduate Research Award

2012 - 2013

Jessica Gala, "Creation and Love: Where They Meet in the Hidden World of Women"

Katherine Orton, "Branches of Identity in America: One Family's Story"

Sharice Hyde, "Jewish Mysticism in 'Tailors' Dummies'"

Aaron Uecker, "The Ancient Near Eastern Conquest of Israel & Judah: Relation Incentives Between Empire and Marginal Kingdoms"

Other Awards Received

Catherine Damon - Haas/Koshland Memorial Award

Bailey Mezan - Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Undergraduate Internship

2011 - 2012

Savyonne Steindler, "Being Baal Teshuvah"

Sarah Edelstein, "Spielberg's Holocaust: A Critical Analysis of Schindler's List"

Pamela Ong, "The Land of Exile and Humanity"

Alicia Barnett, "Keep It In the Family: Secrets and Shame Summon Jewish Jinns"

Other Awards Received

Monica Deeb - Supplementary Haas/Koshland Memorial Award

2010 - 2011

Zachary Ragent, "Providence and Personality: How and Why the Lubavitchers of the Chabad Student Center Experience Santa Cruz"

Nathan Brown, "By the Rivers of Babylon: The Near Eastern Background and Its Influence on the Power Structures of Ancient Egypt and Judah"

Savyonne Steindler, "The Message of Unity in Saving the Lost Tribe and its Relationship to the Trauma of Absorption for Ethiopian Jews"

Joshua Hungerford, "Functions of Languages in Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep

Tal Harari, "Homogenization Involved in Transgenerational Trauma"

Leah Pickar, "A Natural Connection: Discovering My Identity Through My Matriarchal Lineage"