March 2, 2021

Welcome to HBI’s Spring Semester

By Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

The new spring term begins here at Brandeis this week. While we are still in a virtual world, we continue to offer a full roster of programs. This semester, I am looking forward to teaching, “Jewish Feminisms” to a new generation of students who are passionate about Jewish women’s and gender studies. Our expanded online offerings to the public will run through the spring with a full roster of events that include explorations of gender, race, and Israeli art through Studio Israel; meetings with authors of important new works in Jewish studies scholarship, memoir and fiction through HBI Conversations; explorations of the experience of Latin American Jewish women in programs from our  Latin American Jewish Gender Studies Project; the launch of the spring issue of our journal Nashim on Jewish Feminist Ethnographies; and the opening of our online art exhibition, The Fez as Storyteller, by Iraqi-American artist, Camille Eskell. 

Scholars in Residence

This term we welcome two virtual scholars in residence. Please join us at the Institute Seminar to learn more about their work,  and that of other HBI affiliates and invited guests.

Conceiving Motherhood: The Reception of Biblical Mothers in the Early Jewish Imagination

Sari Fein is a Ph.D. candidate in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis. Her areas of interest include Hebrew Bible, Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity, and women’s and gender studies. Sari’s dissertation is on the reception history of biblical mothers in early Jewish art and literature. During her residency, Sari will be working on chapters on the afterlife of Rachel in Lamentations Rabbah, and the many lives of the “Mother of Seven” in 2 and 4 Maccabees, and rabbinic literature.

The Crooked and the Straight: Queer Theory and Rabbinic Literature

Gwynn Kessler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and the Director of the Beit Midrash at Swarthmore College. She received her Ph.D. in Talmud and Rabbinics, with a specialization in midrash, from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the author of Conceiving Israel: The Fetus in Rabbinic Narratives (UPenn, 2009) and co-editor with Naomi Koltun-Fromm of A Companion to Late Ancient Jews and Judaism (Wiley Blackwell, 2020). She is currently working on her second monograph that uses queer theory to examine rabbinic constructions of gender and the body. 

Research Awards

We are also pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 HBI Research Awards which recognize and support new work that will make an important contribution to the field of Jewish women’s and gender studies. With the help of evaluations by our Academic Advisory Committee, HBI supported 16 outstanding projects from various disciplines. You can see the full list of award winners here. Congratulations to previous award winner Nancy Sinkoff, whose book From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish His­to­ry was honored with a 2021 National Jewish Book Award in the category of biography. 

Wishing you all a healthy and productive spring.



Dr. Lisa Fishbayn Joffe is the Shulamit Reinharz Director of Hadassah Brandeis Institute.  

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