Faculty and Student News and Awards

Faculty News and Awards

Hanan Alexander

Hanan Alexander (Koret Visiting Professor of Israel Studies, Helen Diller Center for Jewish Law and Israel Studies; and Visiting Professor of Education, School of Education) has recently published three new articles:

  • “’You Never Told Me:’ The Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) of Israel Education,” in Contemporary Jewry
  • “Seeking Abraham’s God after October 7th: From Radical Antisemitism to Relational Dialogue” in the German Journal of Religious Education (ZPT); and
  • “Interdisciplinary Learning in the Humanities: Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge Building and Transdisciplinary Identity Work,” in the Journal of Learning Sciences.

Robert Alter

Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature 

Robert has received several awards for his work, including the Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Panunzio Award from the University of California, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Jewish Book Council. In addition, his book The Art of Bible Translation was released by Princeton University Press.


Isaac L. Bleaman

Isaac L. Bleaman (Center for Jewish Studies faculty member and Assistant Professor, Linguistics) is concluding the second year of a 5-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, one of the most prestigious awards given to early-career faculty. The grant is supporting the development of a publicly accessible corpus (digital language archive) based on testimonies by Holocaust survivors in Yiddish. See this link to learn more: yiddishcorpus.org.


Robert Braun

Center for Jewish Studies faculty member and Assistant Professor of Sociology  Robert Braun is the co-author of two new papers: “Defiant Conformists: Gender and Resistance against Genocide” (Theory & Society, 2023), and “Popular Hatreds and the Spread of Kristallnacht Violence” (Annales de D´emographie Historique, 2023).

He has also received several awards for his work on antisemitism:

  • Carolina de Miguel Moyer Young Scholar Award for most significant contribution to the interdisciplinary study of Europe 2023, Council for European Studies.
  • Charles Tilly Best Article Award 2023, Comparative and Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.
  • Best Article Award 2023, Peace War and Social Conflict Section of the American Sociological Association.

Braun’s current projects include the following:

Cumulative Radicalization? A Comparative Perspective (Together with Scott Straus). This project brings together an international group of genocide experts to explore whether the notion of cumulative radicalization developed in Holocaust studies can be used to strengthen work on mass violence more broadly. It also tries to specify the contexts and conditions under which cumulative radicalization materializes

Quantifying the Holocaust (Together with Tal Brutman, Eva Kovacs, Mael Le Noc, and Claire Zalc). This three-day conference brings together roughly 50 scholars at the Sorbonne to explore the use and misuse of quantification in Holocaust studies and commemoration.


John Efron

Koret Professor of Jewish History at Berkeley

In the Fall of 2020, John was on sabbatical, working on his book All Consuming: Germans, Jews, and the Meaning of Meat. He also published  an essay on modern Jewish historiography, “Modern Jewish History in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research” in David Sorkin, ed., A Commitment to Scholarship The American Academy for Jewish Research, 1920—2020 (American Academy of Jewish Research, 2020), 157-204.

In 2019, the 3rd edition of The Jews: A History, a book that John co-wrote with Matthias Lehmann and Steven Weitzman was published by Routledge.


Ethan Katz

Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies; Faculty Director, Center for Jewish Studies

Recent Publications:

  • Antisemitism in Our Midst: Past and Present, co-written with Adam Naftalin-Kelman and Steven Davidoff Solomon, produced by Sarah Lefton (2021). Film. 11 minutes. Independently made.
  • “Muslims as Brothers or Strangers? French Jewish Thinkers Confront the Moral Dilemmas of the French Algerian War.” Extended interpretive essay followed by four short translations from French. Invited chapter in The Stranger in Early Modern and Modern Jewish Tradition, eds. Catherine Allache-Bartlett and Joachim Schlör (Leiden: Brill, 2021).
  • “Who Were the Jewish Underground of Algiers? A Sectorial Analysis of the Paths to Resistance,” in Aviad Moreno, et al., eds., The Longue durée of Jews from Islamic Lands [Hebrew] (Sde-Boker: The Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel & Zionism, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 2021).
  • “Les chemins variés de la Résistance vers le 8 Novembre 1942: Juifs et Musulmans,” in Nicole Cohen-Addad, Aissa Kadri, and Tramor Quemeneur, eds., 8 novembre 1942. Résistance et débarquement allié en Afrique du Nord (Vulaines-sur-Seine: Éditions du Croquant, 2021).
  • “Le décret Crémieux et son abrogation: Implications pour les participants au 8 Novembre 1942,” in Nicole Cohen-Addad, Aissa Kadri, and Tramor Quemeneur, eds., 8 novembre 1942. Résistance et débarquement allié en Afrique du Nord (Vulaines-sur-Seine: Éditions du Croquant, 2021).
  • “Sartre’s Algerian Jewish Question,” in Manuela Consonni and Vivian Liska, eds., Sartre, Jews, and the Other: Rethinking Antisemitism, Race, and Gender (Oldenbourg: De Gruyter, 2020).

Recent Talks:            

  • “Jewish Resisters That History Forgot: How the Jewish Underground in Algeria Helped Win World War II,” Santa Fe Distinguished Lecture Series, March 17, 2021 (via Zoom).
  • “Jews and Antisemites: The Unlikely Alliance That Paved the Way for Operation Torch,” University of California-Santa Cruz, February 18, 2021 (via Zoom).
  • “Rebel Alliance in Algiers: The Unlikely Band of Jews and Antisemites That Helped Turn the Tide in World War II,” Yale University, Program for the Study of Antisemitism, 18 November, 2020 (via Zoom).  
  • “Every Enemy a Nazi, Every Victim Like a Jew: The Omnipresence of Holocaust Talk in the French-Algerian War,” Keynote address, conference on Jewish Studies, the Study of Antisemitism and Postcolonialism: An Unacknowledged Kinship?, Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk, Berlin, June 10, 2020 (via Zoom).

Recent Awards:

Honorable Mention for the Koren Prize, given annually for the best article on any subject of French History by a U.S. or Canada-based scholar, Society for French Historical Studies, for: “Jewish Citizens of an Imperial Nation-State: Toward a French-Algerian Frame for French Jewish History,” French Historical Studies 43, 1 (February 2020): 63-84.


Claude Fischer

Professor of Sociology

Recent Publications:
  • 2020 “Of Modernity and Public Sociology: Reflections on a Career So Far.” Annual Review of Sociology 46: 19-35.  https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-soc-110419-023001.
  • 2020  Fischer and Offer, “Who is Dropped and Why? Methodological and Substantive Accounts for Network Loss.” Social Networks (May) 61:70-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2019.08.008.
  • In Press “From the Northern California Community Study, 1977-78, to UCNets, 2015-20.” In Personal Networks: Classic Readings and New Directions in Ego-Centric Analysis, eds. M.L. Small et al. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Recent Presentations:
  • 2020 Offer and Fischer, “How New is ‘New’? Who Gets Added in Panel Studies of Egocentric Networks?,” Accepted for Presentation to the Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, June, Paris (Online).
  • 2020 Ruppel, Child, Fischer, and Botchway, “Causal Relationships between Social Networks and Health: A Comparison of Three Modeling Strategies.” Presented to the American Sociological Association, August , San Francisco (Online).


Sarah Levin

Sarah Levin (Lecturer, Jewish Studies) organized two panels at the 2023 Association for Jewish Studies annual conference, presenting a paper for one and chairing the other.

Francesco Spagnolo

Curator, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Francesco is also an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music and is a faculty affiliate in the Center for Jewish Studies. In 2020, he was appointed scholar-in-residence for the “Jews & Music” initiative of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. https://philharmonia.org/jews-music/

Student Awards

2024 Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies Winners

  • Misha Lerner (G) received $2500 for his paper “ Between Press and Peshat. Sholem Aleichem’s “Dreyfus in Kasrilevke.”
  • AJ Solovy (G ) received $2500 for her  essay “Jewish Survivors and Former SS Members in the Postwar World.”
  • Emma Bellman (UG) received $2500 for her essay “Batwoman’s Ethical Promise to her Neighbors.”
  • Caledonia Krieger (UG) received $2500 for her paper “Jewish Ethics in Will Eisner’s The Spirit.”


Student News and Recent Appointments

  • Elya (Zissel) Piazza (PhD 2024) has not only produced a remarkable dissertation but they have also completed an extraordinary career as a graduate student at Berkeley. They arrived seven years ago with passions firmly in tow: Talmud, Yiddish, and queer theory. The talent and enthusiasm (and a substantial beginning on the knowledge) were there already, but we weren’t sure (that is, they and I) how it would all come together. Itt has–brilliantly. After years of devoted, rigorous, engagement with Talmudic studies, theory, and current Jewish life, especially queer, Elya has become a first-class young scholar with a major contribution to make in the coming decades, kenne horo (that’s no evil eye in Yiddish).The dissertation is a ground-breaking study of how those very folk marginalized by the dominant tradition of Talmud-study, the queer and the differently abled, can make major contributions to revealing meaning in the Talmud that is mostly lost on the mainstream and, it seems, must be taken very seriously indeed if we are to make further progress in our understanding of the Talmud itself. Piazza repeatedly shows through her sound and often brilliant philological analyses of passages that there is an emotional energy to the text that is more easily sensed and felt by by those who are most frequently “left out.” For instance, they demonstrate that in the several passages where the Talmud indicates that a biblical law was never actually practiced but is only placed in the Bible to give an opportunity for homily, this statement is, in fact, an assertion of hegemonic rabbinic authority, while the voice that pipes up to say (somewhat improbably) that “I was there when it happened, and here is his prayer shawl” is an effective affective interruptor of the Talmud’s authority within the Talmud itself. While this is a reparative project, then, it is anything but apologetic but rather reveals the Talmud as providing mechanisms for its own reparation thus potentially changing the game of talmudic study profoundly.
  • Liza Michaeli completed her PhD in Rhetoric, with Designated Emphases in Critical Theory and Jewish Studies. She will begin a teaching position in the Department of Philosophy and Jewish Thought at Shalem College in Jerusalem in the 2024-25 academic year. Her essay describing her return to Israel was recently published in the Tel Aviv Review of Books here: https://www.tarb.co.il/sharp-longing-in-jerusalem/
  • 2024 PhD graduate Alex Ullman‘s dissertation, “This Feeling Tone:The Sound of Black and Jewish Collaboration 1981-2006” is a groundbreaking interdisciplinary study that integrates critical theory, close readings, archival research and the sophisticated tool box of contemporary sounds studies (including an impressive use of pitch-tracking software) with the methods of sociolinguistics and performance studies. In his analysis of voice in the Jewish-Black artistic dialogue he develops a nuanced notion of staged conversation that is never the pat dialogue of “I’m OK, you’re OK” of American self-help books but rather that of Bakhtin, a tense dialogicity that is the only basis for solidarity. This gutsy project pairs Adrienne Rich with Audre Lorde, Studs Terkel with Anna Deveare Smith, and Tony Kushner with George C. Wolfe. Their very different forms of collaboration allow Alext to provide a series of rigorous analyses that go beyond the well-worn clichés about the decline of black-Jewish dialogue without descending into celebratory sentimentality. By exploring how these pairs of artists/activists labored to confront ethnic, racialized, and gendered histories of sound, and to negotiate these tensions in their own relationships, Alex uncovers a radical, perilous and yet oddly heartening history of collaboration, not as an abstract concept but as embodied cultural practice. And he deals head on with the very different racialized American histories of the Black and the Jewish voice, while highlighting the particular cultural practices of resistance to such racialization that each developed. Alex has accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, in their exciting Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry Program.
  • Oren Yirmiya completed his PhD in 2024. His dissertation, “The Other(‘s) Lyric: Piyyut, Identity and Alterity in Modern Hebrew Mizrahi Poetry” is an innovative, brilliant study of the Middle Eastern formations of modern Hebrew literature in their dialogue with the genre of liturgical poetry, or Piyyut, a genre that developed in Palestine as early as the 1st Century CE, reached its zenith in the Middle Ages in Al-Andalus but has continued to be composed throughout history, especially in Middle Eastern (Mizrahi) Jewish communities. The communal performance of traditional Piyyutand its modern afterlife in secularized Mizrahi modern Hebrew poetry have been reclaimed by experimental, anti-nationalist contemporary Hebrew poets, whom Oren reads with exquisite care and insight. The dissertation’s highly original contribution is twofold: on the one hand, it shows how these Middle Eastern models may compel a new way to theorize lyric poetry, taking it beyond the bourgeois individualist and apolitical views common in the West, of the isolated poet in his ivory tower, and beyond the orientalist legacy of Eurocentric critical theory. On the other hand, the dissertation compels a radical rethinking of modern Hebrew, and especially of Israeli literary historiography, calling into question the common tendency to reject Hebrew literature’s Middle Eastern others.For his next project, on the politics of gender and the non-binary options in modern Hebrew poetry, Oren has been awarded the prestigious Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan’s Frankel’s Center for Judaic Studies.

Past Award Winners

  • Shirelle Maya Doughty was the graduate recipient of the 2023 Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies, and was awarded $2,500 for her submission “Rethinking the Relationship between Women and Haskalah Literature.”
  • Hannah Hillers was an undergraduate recipient of the 2023 Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies, receiving $2,500. Her winning paper was entitled “Iraqi Jewish Identity from the Farhud to Israeli Mizrahi Identity Building.”
  • Peter Colias was an undergraduate recipient of the 2023 Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies, along with a cash prize of $2,500 for his paper “The History of the Samaritan Israelites.”
  • Oren Yirmiya was a graduate winner of the 2023 William Ze’ev Brinner Graduate Fellowship, receiving a cash award of $1,500.