August 21, 2018

HBI Awards $52,000 in Research Funds

By Amy Powell

“The LGBTQ Jewish Anthology: A Reader of Primary Sources from the Talmud to Stonewall” and “From the Gay Synagogue to the Queer Shtetl: Normativity, Innovation, and Utopian Imagining in the Lived Religion of Queer and Transgender Jews” are two of the 20 proposals given HBI Research Awards for the coming year. They were both awarded in HBI’s newest category, LGBTQ Studies.

Each year HBI selects awards that expand our thinking about Jews and gender. The anthology project, considered the first of its kind, was awarded to Noam Sienna, Brandeis ’11, now of University of Minnesota. The latter proposal was awarded to SJ Crasnow of Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school in Kansas. In total, HBI awarded $52,000 to the 20 different research projects from universities in the U.S., Israel and Hungary.

The other research awards divide into sub-categories: History, Israel and the Yishuv; Families, Children and the Holocaust; Diaspora Studies; Judaism; Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law; Biography; Film and Video; and Arts.  The awards show the range of support offered by HBI to nurture the careers of junior scholars and aid those who are already established in the field of Jews and gender.

To choose the competitive annual research awards, HBI works with its Academic Advisory Committee, comprised of 160 experts and academics from 52 schools in eight countries. These advisors read the proposals and comment over a review period. The process culminates with a day-long meeting at HBI each December to discuss the best proposals. Final decisions are made by Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman, HBI’s co-director and chair of the AAC, along with Lisa Joffe, director of HBI and also director of the HBI Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law, and HBI Assistant Director Deborah Olins.

Fishman explains that, “by supporting the most excellent researchers and artists who focus on Jews and gender, HBI has played a critical role in building the fields of Jewish women’s and gender studies.”

AAC members have praised the HBI for offering awards that support the mission of developing fresh ideas about Jews and gender. “As opportunities dry up, particularly for people in the humanities, it’s an extraordinary help. If not for this award, the field would have different terrain,” said AAC Member Ellen Golub, also a past recipient.

Lilach Rosenberg-Friedman, who recently published Birthrate Politics in Zion: Judaism, Nationalism, and Modernity under the British Mandate, was both a scholar-in-residence at HBI and recipient of multiple research awards, including one in this cycle for “Outmarriage between Jews and non-Jews in Mandatory Palestine and in Israel (1920-1968): National, Ethnic, Social and Gender Aspects – A View from Below.”  She believes that the connection with HBI was her “breakthrough as a researcher.”

At a recent launch event for her book she said, “The combination of financial and moral support from HBI was an injection of encouragement and a significant catalyst to my academic advancement. My links with HBI have grown even tighter as the institution has continued to support me.”

Professor Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University said, “These awards have been of great importance in providing assistance and offered publicity to those working in the field of women and gender studies, they have provided encouragement and recognition to those entering the field, and they have nurtured a generation of scholars.”

Fishman, also the Joseph and Esther Foster Professor of Judaic Studies, noted that the “sustained relationships between HBI and Research Award recipients add up to far more than the sum of their parts. In reunions in the United States and Israel, Research Award recipients have testified how profoundly their relationships with HBI–and with each other–have nurtured and transformed their professional lives.”

For a complete list of HBI Research Awards as well as for the criteria and an application for next year, visit HBI’s web site.

Amy Powell is the assistant director of HBI.

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