September 26, 2020

Welcoming a New Year from HBI

Shana Tova from Our Director

By Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

As we head into a new academic year and a new year on the Jewish calendar, HBI wishes you a year of good health, warm relationships and meaningful engagement with stimulating new ideas. 

Through these last difficult months, HBI has created new ways to connect and support scholarship at the intersection of Jewish Studies and Gender Studies by taking our programs online. We’ve hosted Virtual Conversations of novels and memoirs by Jewish women, opened our Institute Seminar to guests from all over the world, and hosted visiting scholars and research associates in our virtual institute.

When the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic made a residential program on the Brandeis campus impossible, HBI saw an opportunity to transform the Gilda Slifka Summer Internship Program  into a virtual experience. Students, faculty and staff worked to create a new model that allowed our student interns from Brandeis and across North America to learn about Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies, make important connections to our faculty, guest lecturers, and each other, and to produce excellent work. Here is what one of our interns said:

“I do not exaggerate when I say that this summer changed my life and completely transformed the ways that I relate to my Judaism. I know with certainty that my future as a Jewish woman would look very different had I not had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people and pursue such exciting opportunities through the HBI… From thinking critically about my relationship to traditional liturgy and ancient texts to engaging in dynamic conversations on Jewish history and the challenges that await modern Jewish feminists, I can clearly picture now what a Jewish feminist future could look like and what my role is in shaping it.”

We welcome you to join us and explore what new scholarship about Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies can mean in your life by registering for our exciting program of fall events.

Some highlights include:

HBI is proud to host a book launch of Monologues from the Makom: Intertwined Narratives of Sexuality, Gender, Body Image, and Jewish Identity (Ben Yehuda Press, 2020), featuring original work from young Orthodox women in the spirit of The Vagina Monologues, edited and written by a team which includes former HBI interns and students.

In the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, join us and poet and liturgist Marcia Falk, for a reading from her book The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season (HBI Series on Jewish Women for Brandeis University Press, 2014)

Be Well and Shana Tova v’Metukah.

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe is the Shulamit Reinharz Director of HBI. 

 

Opening the Heart for Rosh Hashana with Marcia Falk’s Prayers

Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, Sept. 23 Marcia Falk will discuss and read from her book, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season, published in the HBI Series on Jewish Women. The session is designed for those seeking to connect more deeply with their Judaism, and for all those in search of a contemplative approach to these challenging times. Register or learn more here

Here are reprints of five prayers from Falk’s high holiday liturgy, taken from  The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season.

 

Opening the Heart

Opening the Heart At the year’s turn, 

in the days between, 

 

we step away from what we know into the spaces we cannot yet name. 

 

Slowly the edges begin to yield, the hard places soften,

the gate to forgiveness opens.

 

Time

We use it—wisely or not. We fill it and mark it. We try to stop it,

but there is no end to it. And yet, we never have enough. 

 

It is a circle, and it is a line. Moving forward, day by day,

year by year, we come round and round again. Again the 

spring, again the fall—but every leaf a new one, every fall

a new shape falling. 

 

Always starting, never finished, we live always in the

Between.

 

No time, we say, we have no time. Yet we have all the time in the world. 

And there is no time like now.

 

Kol Nidrey: All Vows

All vows— all promises and pledges—

 

that we have made to ourselves 

and that no longer serve

 for the good—

 

 may their grip be loosened

 

that we be present of mind and heart

to the urgency of the hour. 

 

Beneath Shekhinah’s Wings (during Yizkor service)

Like an eagle stirring its nest, hovering over its young, taking them up on widespread wings, lifting them to its breast. —Deuteronomy 32:11 

She hovers over us, 

her fledglings— 

 

the bereaved, 

the brokenhearted— 

 

lifts us to her, 

takes our sorrow. 

 

In the depth of her shade: 

Home.

Kaddish: Beauty of the World 

Praise the world— 

praise its fullness 

 

and its longing, 

its beauty and its grief. 

 

Praise stone and fire, 

lilac and river, 

 

and the solitary bird 

at the window. 

 

Praise the moment 

when the whole 

bursts through pain 

 

and the moment

when the whole 

bursts forth in joy. 

 

Praise the dying beauty 

with all your breath,

and praising, see 

 

the beauty of the world 

is your own.

The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season (HBI Series on Jewish Women) by Marcia Falk, makes a great holiday gift or addition to your Jewish library. To purchase a personally inscribed copy of the book ahead of the event, please email Marcia Falk with “Purchase Days Between” in the subject line. 

TV Family Tree: The Racial Roots Behind Jewish Media Stereotypes

By Jonathan Branfman

They crack us up, they make us proud, and sometimes they embarrass us: the neurotic Jewish men and domineering Jewish women of American TV evoke complicated feelings for many Jews. From lovably bawdy Jewish women like Fran Drescher and Tiffany Haddish to castrating terrors like Debbie Wolowitz; from cute “nice Jewish boys” like Seth Rogen to emasculated losers like George Costanza; these TV Jews shape how non-Jewish Americans view Jews, and how Jews view ourselves. 

While many American Jews know and love/hate these media stereotypes, most of us don’t know the racial history behind them. Today’s “common-sense” notion that Jewish men are neurotically feminized and that Jewish women are masculinized (aggressive, domineering, sexually overpowering) descends from about eight centuries of racial anti-Semitism. Tracing this history can be tricky because scholars debate when precisely the modern notion of “race” emerged and when it was first applied to Jews. By the fourteenth century, though, European Christian art and writing had begun to depict Jews as bodily different from gentiles, introducing patterns that would later shape anti-Semitic racial pseudo-science…and American TV. By the sixteenth century, this imagery depicted Jews not only with swarthy skin, curly dark hair, and beaked noses, but also with “deviant” Jewish gender and sexuality. For instance, medieval Christian Europeans commonly claimed that Jewish men menstruate as punishment for crucifying Jesus, and that Jews had originated the “sin” of sodomy before spreading it to Muslims and Christians. Centuries later, Nazi propaganda similarly alleged that homosexuality was a “Jewish disease” by which Jews sexually corrupted white Christians. 

Like many generations of one family, stereotypes about deviant Jewish gender have taken different forms and meanings from the 14th century to today, and from Europe to the Americas. But across all these times and places, the notion that Jewish men are emasculated, Jewish women are “too masculinized,” and both are sexually perverse has bolstered the belief that Jewishness is a bodily difference, not only a religious faith. For instance, accusations of abnormal Jewish gender and sexuality were central to 19th and early-20th-century ideologies that cast Jews as a separate race of “Orientals,” “Semites,” “Hebrews,” or “Asiatics.” Although American society largely reimagined Ashkenazi Jews from a separate race to a variety of “white ethnics” in the 1950s, long-rooted ideas about Jewish gender deviance still contribute to the ongoing ambivalence about Jewish racial status. Partly because of these gender and sexual stigmas, the sense lingers that even a Jew whose driver’s license says “white” and who often benefits from white privilege may still not fully “be white,” or at least not so white as other (gentile) white people. 

Today’s Jewish media stereotypes like the aggressive “Jewish American Princess,” overbearing “Jewish mother,” and emasculated “nice Jewish boy” are all variations on this long lineage of anti-Semitic racial-gendered-sexual imagery. This history doesn’t mean that all of today’s TV strong Jewish women and nebbishy men are automatically anti-Semitic images, though some are. Jewish performers—and especially Jewish women comedians—have often harnessed these old gender stigmas to laugh back in the face of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. The point is rather that today’s American Jews inherit a bundle of gendered and sexual stereotypes without understanding why. Learning the history behind these stigmas can help us all better make sense of the Jewish gender stereotypes that confront us in our homes and on our screens.

It may sound abstract to say that beliefs about Jewish gender, sexuality, and racial status overlap, or that today’s Jewish media stereotypes descend from an eight-hundred-year history. To make these ideas more concrete, an especially clear and hilarious example is the award-winning Comedy Central series Broad City (2014-2019). Broad City stars its co-creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer as exaggerated versions of their millennial Jewish selves, enjoying wild romps around New York City. Racial stereotypes about Jewish gender deviance form a vital but little-noticed engine that drives Broad City’s success. From the opening moments of Broad City’s pilot, its protagonists call themselves “Jewesses,” an outdated racial term for Jewish women. While the word “Jewess” might strike many American Jews today as oddly archaic, few now remember its specific gendered and sexual meanings, which play a prominent role in Broad City’s humor. The term “Jewess” and its role on Broad City thus exemplify how American Jews inherit a racial history we don’t recall, and how learning this history can help us to understand ourselves and our media representation. 

By calling themselves “Jewesses,” Broad City’s leading ladies resonate with a once-popular stereotype called “the beautiful Jewess.” The roots of this hypersexual character stretch back to a Spanish folktale from 1292, about a Jewish woman who sexually enthralls a Christian king. By the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, this Jewish female figure evolved into a stock character across British, European, and American literature, art, and media, known variously as the belle juive (French), judía fermosa (Spanish), bella ebrea (Italian), shöne Jüdin (German), and prekrasnaia evreika (Russian). Using her dark Eastern features to titillate white Christian men, the beautiful Jewess combined hypersexuality with exotic racial ambiguity. Beautiful Jewesses often appeared as tragic victims awaiting salvation by white gentile heroes, as in plays like The Merchant of Venice (1596), novels like Ivanhoe (1820), operas like La Juive (1834), and films like Romance of a Jewess (1908). Yet, Jewesses could also be threatening femmes fatales luring Christian men to ruin, just like the biblical Jewess, Judith, who seduces the Assyrian general Holofernes only to behead him. Similar to stigmas on today’s drag queens, the beautiful Jewess stood accused of possessing an exaggerated femininity that was just a deceitful veneer, concealing her true “masculine” sexual aggression. As American society began to envision Ashkenazi Jews as white in the mid-20th-century, though, this racially exotic image of the Jewess was increasingly replaced by tropes of the domineering “Jewish American Princess” or “Jewish mother,” stereotypes that are compatible with viewing Jews as white, but that still imply something physically off about Jews.

Broad City’s millennial leading ladies not only reintroduce the older term “Jewess” to American screens, but also harness the “beautiful Jewess’s” image of deceptive hyperfemininity: they instrumentalize the notion that Jewish women conceal aggressive masculinity beneath seductive, exotic façades. Broad City’s comedic appeal often depends on almost meeting dominant norms of proper, sexy femininity, but then aggressively refusing those norms in order to mock sexism. In the pilot episode, for instance, Ilana tries to make some cash by posting a Craigslist ad for half-naked housekeeping, with the headline, “We’re Just Two Jewesses Tryin’ to Make a Buck.” When she and Abbi get a response, the john tries to worm out of paying them—in other words, he tries to draw free sexual and housekeeping labor from them, as men often expect from women. Instead of accepting this exploitation, the two “Jewesses” ransack his apartment to take payment in clothes and alcohol, pivoting the situation back onto their own terms to get what they want from the john. Throughout Broad City, similar cases of socially critical comedy show Abbi and Ilana riotously refusing to act like “proper ladies,” and laughing at anyone who would pressure them to appear passive, pleasing, or beautiful for men’s enjoyment, while actively reminding the audience that they are “Jewesses.” Perhaps the most spectacular example of this seductive-yet-masculinized “Jewess comedy” comes in the episode “Knockoffs,” when Abbi straps on a dildo to peg (anally penetrate) her male partner, and then brings the dildo to Ilana’s grandmother’s shiva, where the sex toy sparks an unexpected lesson for the older Jewish guests about pegging and about questioning gender stereotypes. This storyline actively links Abbi’s gender transgressions with her Jewishness, as multiple characters describe her as a “Jewess” throughout the episode. And with her strap-on, this “Jewess” flips dominant gender expectations in her own bed while encouraging other women to do the same.  It is precisely this kind of socially critical comedy that has won Broad City such an impassioned fandom and feminist acclaim.

By revamping anti-Semitic “Jewess” stereotypes to mock American sexism on 21st-century TV, Broad City exemplifies how very old racial, gendered, and sexual ideas about Jews continue to shape present-day pop culture. If you’d like to learn more about these histories and how they structure American media, the reading list below offers a great starting point. Whether we know these histories or not, they powerfully shape our lives today. 

Jonathan Branfman is an HBI Scholar in residence and a visiting professor of English and Jewish Studies at Cornell University. 

Read Topic of the Week for additional resources and readings. 

The Other Side of Holiness: Reenvisioning Queer Womanhood in the Jewish Imagination

By Aliyah Blattner

Shterna Goldbloom, the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute’s featured artist, recently met with this year’s cohort of Gilda Slifka interns to host her virtual workshop “Self(ie) in Isolation.” As we framed shot after shot, complete with fabulous costume changes and eclectic camera angles, Goldbloom spoke to us about the concept of multiple selves, one of the themes of her current exhibit “Ich Bin Di Sitra Achra (I Am the Other)” which is on display at HBI’s Kniznick Gallery and available online. 

In a series of masterfully shot self-portraits, Goldbloom’s photography explores the Hasidic conception of “Sitra Achra,” reimagining what “the other side of holiness” looks like in a queer, feminist context. Growing up in a Lubavitch community in Chicago, Goldbloom reflects on her childhood, where the extent to which tradition was interwoven through every facet of her life ultimately resulted in what Goldbloom described as a “mutual pushing away.” In Goldbloom’s art, she celebrates both the “frum woman and the queer explorer,” bringing together two powerful subjects whose different choices are showcased as equally legitimate paths towards agency for Jewish women.  

In her Kahlo-esque titular piece Ich Bin Di Sitra Achra, Goldbloom most distinctly visualizes these two selves. On the right, the devout and modestly-clothed Goldbloom cradles a loaf of challah to her chest, evoking connotations of motherhood. On the left, Goldbloom sprawls out in her chair, androgynous in her all-black attire. The red roots, which Goldbloom found by chance at her shooting site, bridge the gap between past and present, religious and secular, traditionally feminine and transgressively queer. Like veins reaching towards each other across the divide, the brilliant crimson hue, which represented idolatry and attention during Goldbloom’s upbringing, allows Goldbloom to collapse the false dichotomy between holiness and heresy. “I want all these different truths to live at the same time in one image,” Goldbloom explained. The different versions of Goldbloom are less a reflection of a split self, and more so indicative of a multifaceted and fluid identity that straddles the line between traditional conceptions of Kedusha and new understandings of a divine queer identity within the Jewish imagination.

Dora's selfie

Dora Kianovsky poses for a selfie

Goldbloom challenged us to explore the different sides in ourselves through the workshop experience. Issuing a set of constraints that ranged the incorporation of props to the use of self-timers, she encouraged us to abandon our instinct to pose for the camera and emphasized the importance of finding joy in the process. While this seemingly innocuous activity was intended to be a lighthearted experimentation with photography and self-portraiture, what Goldbloom asked of us was intentionally transgressive. For our generation, selfies are carefully cultivated to project the best (read: objectified, hypersexualized, and performatively feminine) image. The photo that makes it to our feed is one of 30 less desirable shots, touched up, and run through filters until the final product is a subjective version of the best photo. But Goldbloom asked us to dismiss the impulse to “take our selfies for others” and what began as an awkward and panicked attempt to capture ourselves on camera transformed into an empowering experience. 

Andie's selfie

Andie Watson’s selfie

I was struck by Goldbloom’s impact on the ways we saw ourselves and each other as Jewish women/nonbinary people by the end of the workshop. “I found [Goldbloom’s work] seemed non-judgmental,” remarked intern Maya Zanger-Nadis, “one aspect of [Goldbloom’s] identity wasn’t trying to dominate the other.” It was Goldbloom’s lack of judgment that Zanger-Nadis cited as a liberating force during the workshop experience: “I started trying to see myself through the lens that I was looking at everyone else, which was way less critical.” I witnessed this same shift in perception as we scrolled through the shared folder of our silly, joyful, and strange selfies at the end of our time together. Our cohort transitioned out of an adamant discomfort at seeing ourselves in photos to a constant stream of praise, laughter, and celebration of self-portraiture as a form of reclamation. 

As Jewish women and queer people, we often are not afforded the luxury to champion and share versions of ourselves that deviate from acceptable gender norms. Unless one caters themself to the androcentric, misogynist, and heteronormative standards of our culture, many find their identities and stories to be erased, villainized, and silenced. I was reminded most strongly of this when, in our perusal of everyone’s photos, I came across a screenshot that showed the “suggestion mode” of one of the intern’s cameras. From the best lighting recommendations to suggestions on which angle to tilt one’s head to achieve the most flattering photo, I saw the lens that Jewish women are perceived through in our communities. And I could not help but wonder when I learned to stop questioning the cishet men in my life who strove to define my holiness (or lack thereof) on their terms as opposed to my own.

When asked about the concept of Sitra Achra and how womanhood and queer identity can be reenvisioned in the Jewish imagination, intern Dora Kianovsky offered her own thoughtful response: “There are so many sides to a person and so many sides to Jewishness in a person. I’ve been thinking a lot about holiness and holiness in people. There’s a power in everybody. The other side of holiness can be the process of reclaiming whatever power you have. Holiness doesn’t need to be Jewishness and it doesn’t have a specific shape. It’s about finding your power.” By embracing our multifaceted, many-faced Jewish selves, our intern cohort was able to transcend the limitations of the predominant narratives that limited our self-expression as Jewish women/nonbinary people because we were actively taking the camera back into our own hands.

At the beginning of the workshop, I was floored by the adamant discomfort that many of my peers shared when seeing themselves in photos. But I now understand that discomfort as an expression of frustration with and a rejection of the versions of ourselves we see and feel pressured to create through the eyes of cishet men. To that end, Judaism often encourages men to be both the proverbial photographer and the coder programming the suggestions that pop up on our phones. With the click of a shutter, our ability to shape our own image in the Jewish imagination is forfeited to patriarchy. For many in our community, it may feel like their holiness does not belong to them. I left Goldbloom’s workshop with a renewed understanding of the danger in allowing cishet men to unilaterally control how women and queer individuals are represented in Jewish culture, especially when the sides of women that we mark as holy or unholy are also distinguished through that gaze. 

Some may interpret Goldbloom’s work as a reckoning with an assumed objective stance taken by religious Jews on the lives and identities of women and queer folks. But I see Goldbloom’s photography as peeling back the curtain on what it means to both embrace tradition and to break from it as equally important avenues towards agency. Goldbloom’s exhibit declares that every person, from the most devout to the most radically other, holds a multitude of selves, holy and heretical alike, inside of them. There is equal power in celebrating the ways you fit, and the ways you feel that you don’t, within Jewish tradition. Goldbloom creates her own lens through which to perceive her different sides and selves, acting as the subject, the photographer, and the audience for her work. Her art challenges viewers to take back the metaphorical camera in their own lives and to question what a Jewish self would look like outside the constraints of a patriarchal tradition. By challenging those distinctions and reclaiming ownership of the lens through which Judaism understands holiness, we become empowered to celebrate every version of ourselves.

Aliyah Blattner is a rising sophomore at Brown University and an HBI 2020 Gilda Slifka summer intern.

View HBI’s exhibit with artist Shterna Goldbloom, “Ich Bin Di Sitra Achra (I Am the Other).

Meet the 2020 Gilda Slifka Summer Interns

By Aliyah Blattner

Aliyah Blattner (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore at Brown University majoring in Literary Arts and Gender and Sexuality Studies. This summer, she will be working with Amy Powell, the HBI Assistant Director, to create content for HBI’s Fresh Ideas Blog. Blattner believes that storytelling is the most powerful mode of reclamation for Jewish feminists. She hopes to continue to grow into her personal voice by celebrating Jewish women’s stories, including her own, in her writing and art. To that end, Blattner will be completing a chapbook of poetry and visual art to reconstruct traditional biblical narratives in an image of divine queer womanhood. She hopes to reimagine the Torah as a mechanism of empowerment for modern Jewish women, interrogating the silences and erasures that prevent Jewish women from achieving agency through ancient texts and ritual life. Blattner looks forwards to spending the summer in community with other Jewish feminist scholars and creatives. 

 

Bella Cameron (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore majoring in Health: Science, Society, and Policy at Brandeis University. Cameron will be assisting HBI Scholar in Residence Jonathan Branfman as he expands his dissertation research on masculinity, race, and Jewish identity within U.S. popular culture. Cameron looks forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the diversity of Jewish womanhood. She is excited to participate in research that both honors that diversity while also striving to achieve the most inclusive understanding of Jewish feminism possible. To that end, Cameron will be conducting independent research on reproductive justice movements in Israel, specifically analyzing the evolution of Israeli abortion legislation and the activists and politicians involved in its development. Cameron hopes to broaden her own understanding of Jewish feminism and the intersecting narratives that contribute to how Jewish womanhood is understood in both scholarship and activism.

 

Joelle Galatan (she/her/hers) is a rising junior at Brandeis University studying Health: Science, Society and Policy. As an avid cyclist, Galatan attributes much of her passion for feminism in the lessons she has learned from the cycling world. Galatan will be assisting Marla Brettschneider, Professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire, with her ongoing book project Revolutionary Legacies: Jewish Feminist Political Thinking, specifically editing Brettschneider’s chapter on Emma Goldman. For her personal project, Galatan’s research will focus on exploring the experiences of chronically ill and disabled women in the Jewish community. Galatan is driven to diversify the narratives that exist in the Jewish imagination relating to disability, illness, and womanhood. She hopes that by centering the experiences of disabled Jewish women, she will be helping to build both an accessible and feminist future for the American Jewish community. Galatan looks forward to learning from the other fantastic scholars and speakers at the HBI.

Goldie Gross (she/her/hers) recently graduated from Baruch College and will be attending New York University in the fall to pursue her MA in History. Coming from an Orthodox background, Gross is invested in the inner workings of and the challenges that exist within the Orthodox community, particularly as they pertain to women. She will be assisting Women’s Studies Research Center Scholar Janet Freedman in her developing project on language, racism, and women in the Orthodox community. Additionally, Gross will be completing a project that documents the lack of representation of women in ultra-Orthodox media. She hopes to track the history, reach, and effects of this erasure by creating a collage per publication that refuses to publish photos of women. Within her collages, she will use the images published in the place of women to reflect on the erasure of women from ultra-Orthodox media. Over the course of the summer, Gross looks forward to working with scholars she admires and developing a creative project that speaks to the issues about which she is  passionate.

Dora Kianovsky (she/her/hers) is a rising sophomore at Smith College focusing Jewish Studies. Kianovsky’s love for Jewish literature and history inspires her to continue to tell the stories of other Jewish women as well as to pen her own. She will be embarking upon a creative writing project set during WWII and rooted in Jewish mysticism, mythology, and Kabbalah. Her protagonist will wield Jewish magic in a quest to combat the antisemitic forces that plague her community. In addition to her creative pursuits, Kianovsky is assisting Women’s Studies Research Center Scholar Penina Adelman in researching the historical background of her family’s fictionalized memoir Rebels in the Family: A Memoir from Creation to Now. Kianovsky is looking forward to exploring biblical sources and the concept of Shechinah through her work with Dr. Adelman and hopes to learn more about Jewish feminist history and ideologies during her time as an intern.

 

Brianna Lavelle (she/her/hers) is a rising senior at Clark University where she is majoring in History with a specialization in Jewish history. This summer, Lavelle is assisting HBI Director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe in creating the curriculum for a course on Israeli feminism that she will be teaching at Brandeis. As a girl, Lavelle identified strongly with her Jewish matrilineal ancestry. While she had many outlets in her high school and early college years to explore Judaism and gender, she felt that she lacked opportunities to specifically explore her relationship with Jewish womanhood. Lavelle is deeply passionate about telling Jewish women’s stories and believes that in learning about and sharing the stories of other Jewish women, she is also telling a piece of her own story. In this vein, Lavelle will be researching genre-bending and genre-defiance in the creative works of Jewish women, specifically exploring Charlotte Salomon and Rachel Zucker among other authors. She will complete her own genre-defiant creative piece that aims to explore her own story of Jewish womanhood. Lavelle looks forward to broadening her knowledge of Jewish feminism and learning more about the Jewish feminist journeys of her fellow interns.

Sara Sharpe (she/her/hers) is a graduate student at Concordia University where she is pursuing a MA in Judaic Studies. Sharpe will be assisting Debra Kaufman, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Northeastern University, in contributing a new essay on Jewish women scholars and their influence in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in the United States for a new and updated (2021) edition of the Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Additionally, Sharpe will be working on her master’s thesis entitled “Friendship, Gender, and Jewishness: Interpersonal Connections Between Jewish Women in Montreal.” Her research is an ethnographic project employing participant observation and audio recorded interviews surrounding friendships between senior Jewish women in Montreal. Sharpe is passionate about Jewish women’s history and stories. She believes that the representation of senior Jewish women’s friendships is severely lacking and hopes to expand this representation through her project. Sharpe is excited to work with Dr. Kaufman and to learn from her fellow interns over the course of the summer. 

Andie Watson (they/them/theirs) is a rising senior at Brandeis University where they are majoring in Health: Science, Society, and Policy Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Watson will be aiding Ph.D. candidate Sari Fein in her doctoral dissertation “Conceiving Motherhood: The Reception of Biblical Mothers in the Early Jewish Imagination,” which explores biblical motherhood through prayer, resistance, grief and loss, and martyrdom. As a nonbinary person, Watson feels they have a unique lens through which to examine gender, sexuality, and relationships within the Jewish imagination. Their independent project will revolve around the study of the Jewish lesbian community during the AIDS crisis in New York City and San Francisco. In addition to a formal research paper, Watson also hopes to design and complete a memorial quilt. Watson looks forward to developing a better understanding of gender, specifically womanhood, in Judaism through engagement with the different educators and students involved with the HBI this summer.

Maya Zanger-Nadis (she/her/hers) is a rising senior at Brandeis University where she studies Linguistics. Ever since Zanger-Nadis, during her own bat mitzvah, became the first woman to lead the services at her Orthodox synagogue, she has been interested in exploring how she can be involved with and exert agency in Orthodox Jewish practice as a single woman. This summer, Zanger-Nadis will be working with Lynn Kaye, Assistant Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought at Brandeis University, in her project “Acts of Resistance in Talmudic Judicial Narratives” which examines legal narratives in the Talmud where ordinary Jews resist or talk back to judges and the subsequent portrayal of the judges’ reactions to those challenges. Zanger-Nadis finds incredible power in studying Talmud with non-male identifying scholars and is excited to embark on her own journey within the world of Jewish feminist scholarship. Additionally, Zanger-Nadis will be writing her own version of the poem “Eishet Chayil” that aims to reflect a more modern understanding of womanhood. 

Aliyah Blattner is a rising sophomore at Brown University and an HBI 2020 Gilda Slifka summer intern.

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