August 25, 2019

Meet the 2019 HBI Gilda Slifka Interns

By Rachel Levy

Karolina Kusto (she/hers) is a graduate student at the University of Warsaw, where she is pursuing a Masters in American Studies. For her undergraduate thesis, Kusto wrote about Assimilation in America in the 1960s, and since then, her interest in American Jewishness has grown. This summer, Kusto will be working with Laura Jockusch, Albert Abramson Assistant Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis, who is doing research on the Trials of Stella Goldschlag, a Jewish informant for the Gestapo during the Holocaust. In addition to her work with Professor Jockusch, Kusto will be pursuing her own research on the re-appropriation of Jewish gender stereotypes—particularly JAPs and Jewish mothers—through the popular television shows, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. While Kusto is neither American nor Jewish, she is looking forward to learning more about American Jewish culture from her fellow interns and is excited to explore Massachusetts. 

Rachel Levy (she/hers) is a rising senior at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor where she is majoring in Sociology, with a concentration in Health and Medicine, and minoring in Judaic Studies. She will be working with Amy Powell, HBI’s Assistant Director and blogging on HBI’s Fresh Ideas Blog about contemporary issues involving Jewishness and gender. Levy is interested in learning more about how to make Jewish spaces more accessible and inclusive for people of all genders, and for her independent research project she will be studying how Hillels across the United States create opportunities for Jewish students to engage with their gender identities in Jewish ways. She is excited to gain experience doing research in the Jewish social sciences and to meet and learn with the scholars at HBI. 

Sarah Mandelblatt (she/hers) is a recent graduate from Boston College where she received a BA in English, concentrating on Creative Writing, and supplemented her degree with coursework in Biology and Classics. This summer, she will be working with Brandeis WSRC Scholar Janet Freedman to study the use and abuse of language in social justice movements through Freedman’s ongoing research project, The Words to Say It. Mandelblatt loves to explore her identity with a pen and paper. During her time as a Gilda Slifka intern, she is planning to produce a series of creative short stories that discuss the varying narratives of what it means to be a Jewish woman. As a native Pittsburghian, Mandelblatt has found herself contemplating her Jewishness in new ways after the October shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue and hopes to continue to learn more about her Jewish identity through her time at HBI.

Sara Marcus (she/hers) is a recent graduate from Yeshiva University where she earned degrees in English and Communications. During her time at HBI, Marcus will be assisting Shayna Weiss, the Associate Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies with researching the spatial imposition of Orthodox Jewish norms in non-religious spaces in Israel. Additionally, Marcus is looking forward to researching how power is maintained and held by religious women in conservative communities. Her research may include—but is not limited to—an analysis of the roles of Chasidic rebetzens and prominent female religious scholars in medieval ages. She is excited to learn more about Judaism, womanhood and their intersection this summer; both from scholars as well as her peers.

Leah Trachtenberg (she/hers) is a rising Junior at Brandeis University where she studies Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and minors in Social Justice/Social Policy and Women and Gender Studies. This summer, she will be assisting Brandeis WSRC Scholar Penina Adelman in researching the story of Eve for her fictionalized family memoir, Rebels in the Family. Additionally, Trachtenberg will be working on her own research; comparing Isaac Bashevis Singer’s folktales to his stories published in Playboy magazine. She hopes to uncover the ways in which Bashevis Singer’s portrayal and perspective on sexuality differ between these two works.

Lily Schmidt Swartz (she/hers) is a rising senior at Brandeis University where she is majoring in Politics and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and minoring in Business. Swartz is originally from Los Angeles and attended an all girls Orthodox day school which informs her independent study project for this summer. Her research will revolve around the ways in which the Orthodox community manages and supports victims of pre-marital sexual abuse and assault, and whether or not there can be improvements made to the system. Additionally, she will be working with retired HBI co-director and NEJS Professor Sylvia Barack Fishman on a new project where she is analyzing relationships between Jews of Israel and the Diaspora. Swartz is a former student of Professor Fishman and took her class in “Sociology of the American Jewish Community.” She is excited to continue learning with her this summer. 

Shaina Kaye (she/hers) is studying Social Sciences at Delgado Community College in Louisiana and is considering pursuing a BA in Psychology. This summer at Brandeis, she is working with HBI director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe on a new project that is focused on women who choose to leave cultural minority communities and the pathways that they take to do so. In a similar vein, Kaye will also be working on her own to create a community chapbook—a pamphlet of stories—about her journey as a Queer and Orthodox Jewish woman to discover her sexuality beyond the norms and expectations that her community placed on her. She hopes that this chapbook will help other young women who are on similar paths of discovery in realizing that there is no “right” way to have a relationship with one’s body. Kaye is excited to build relationships with her fellow interns this summer who are similarly committed to answering questions of self and purpose.

Eliana Padwa (she/hers) is a rising junior at Brandeis University where she studies History and Teacher Education. Padwa hopes to become a history teacher for middle or high school aged students, and her passion for education is reflected in her research placement this summer. She will work with Jonathan Krasner, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Education Research at Brandeis on his oral history project that focuses on the experiences of women teachers in Jewish day schools from past to present. Padwa is excited to learn about the social science research process and to improve her interview and oral history skills. Additionally, she will be researching Jewish academic journals and examining how women have been represented by them over time. On campus, Eliana helps to publish the Brandeis Judaic Studies Journal, and she hopes that this research will not only enhance her publication knowledge, but also provide some historical context for where women have been and are currently in the Judaic narrative.

Rachel Levy is a rising senior at University of Michigan Ann Arbor and a HBI Gilda Slifka summer intern. 

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