JSEP Fellows 2010-2012

Jewish Studies Expansion Program (JSEP) Fellows, 2nd Cohort (2010-2012)

JSEP Fellows at AJS 2010 (not pictured: Sarah Wobick-Segev)

Paula Daccarett (Jim Joseph Fellow in the Jewish Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz). She earned a BA in Political Science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a PhD in Jewish History at Brandeis University, with a focus on the Sephardic experience and Jewish modernity. Her dissertation explores the political socialization and institutional growth of Salonican Jewry in the late Ottoman period. She has taught courses in Jewish/Sephardi and general history at the California State University and the National Hispanic University.

Daniella Doron (Schusterman Teaching Fellow at Colgate University). Previously, she was the Ray D. Wolfe Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. In 2009, she received her PhD in History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies from New York University. She is currently revising her dissertation, “In the Best Interest of the Child: Family, Youth, and Identity Among Postwar French Jews, 1944-1954,” into a book length manuscript. For this study she received numerous doctoral dissertation fellowships, including one from the Foundation for Jewish Culture. An article based upon this work will be forthcoming in the Journal of Jewish Identities (January 2011).

Gil Ribak (Schusterman Teaching Fellow at the University of Arizona, Tuscon). He serves as the public historian of the Educational Staff at Efal Seminary, Israel. He received Fulbright and George L. Mosse fellowships before completing his Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007. Afterward he was the Lewin Postdoctoral fellow in American Jewish History at Washington University in St. Louis (2007/8). His article about Henry Kissinger, “A Jew for All Seasons,” will be published in Israel Studies Forum (fall 2010). He is currently completing the book What the American Can Do in His Anger: The Images of Gentiles among Jewish Immigrants in New York City, 1881-1920, scheduled to be published by Rutgers University Press in 2011.

Ari Ofengenden (Schusterman Teaching Fellow at Oberlin College). Ari specializes in Hebrew Literature and Literary Theory. He studied for a Master’s in Psychology at Tel-Aviv University, and wrote his PhD on the poet Abraham Shlonsky at Haifa University. From 2005-08, he taught at the Protestant Theology department at Tübingen (Germany) and was a research fellow at the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW). In 2010 he completed a post-doctoral research and teaching fellowship at Monash University (Australia). He is the author of The Passion for Absence in Abraham Shlonksy, published in Hebrew by University Press 2010.

Loren Spielman (Schusterman Teaching Fellow at the Portland State University). As Visiting Professor in Religion at Wesleyan University, Loren has taught courses in Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Literature and Culture, and Ancient Jewish Leisure. Loren has been awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Foundation for Jewish Culture (2008-9) and a Norman and Rosita Winston Foundation Fellowship from the Charles H. Revson Foundation (2002-6).

Sarah Wobick-Segev (Jim Joseph Teaching Fellow at Syracuse University). She completed her PhD in modern European history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of several articles, including the recently published “Une place pour l’amour? Le mariage juif à Paris et à Berlin dans une ère transitionnelle, 1890-1930” in Expériences croisées, and is a co-editor of the volume Speculation and Exchange: New Approaches to the Economy in Jewish History, scheduled for publication in late 2010 with Berghahn Books.

New Jewish Culture Network: Music Commission and Tour

Galeet Dardashti’s Monajat: September 2011

The Foundation for Jewish Culture and its league of performing arts presenters have commissioned Monajat (Fervent Prayer), a multimedia concert by composer, singer, and scholar Galeet Dardashti which will tour the United States in September 2011.  Monajat, an evening of Middle Eastern musical poetry, inaugurates the New Jewish Culture Network, an initiative to create and deliver outstanding Jewish music and other art forms to audiences in the U.S. and beyond.

The six-city Monajat tour includes the following presenters:

Monajat is inspired by Selihot, the poetic prayers of forgiveness recited during the month preceding the Jewish High Holidays according to Middle Eastern tradition. This period of deep reflection and spiritual preparation serves as a backdrop for Dardashti’s time-specific concert and program. The first-time U.S. presentation of Monajat combines participatory workshops, talks, prayer services, and other educational programs to enhance the spiritual and cultural experience. Dardashti, a performer and anthropologist of Iranian descent, re-imagines the Selihot ritual in collaboration with an acclaimed ensemble of Jewish and Muslim musicians, an electronic soundscape, and dynamic video projections by video artist and designer Dmitry Kmelnitsky.

Dardashti’s acclaimed ensemble of musicians includes Omer Avital (oud, bass, vocals), Amir ElSaffar (santour, vocals), Tal Ronen (bass, vocals) and Dafer Tawil (percussion, violin, ney, oud, vocals).


Monajat is a Persian word meaning an intimate dialogue with the Divine. Using Persian melodies and Hebrew texts, the work pays homage to Galeet Dardashti’s grandfather Yona Dardashti, one of the most renowned singers of avaz (Persian classical music) from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s. In addition to his illustrious performing career, one of his passions was to chant services as a cantor for several synagogues in Tehran. Galeet Dardashti’s Monajat explores a personal history, and, more broadly, Jewish culture in the Islamic world.

When reciting the Selihot prayers in Hebrew, Galeet Dardashti’s grandfather closed the synagogue service with “Monajat,” a Persian poem attributed to the 13th-century Sufi mystic Rumi. Yona Dardashti was an innovator who incorporated non-liturgical texts such as “Monajat” into religious prayer. The poem urges listeners to shake off slumber and offer praise: “Every morning, at dawn, the roosters crow in prayer/How would you know it if you were still asleep?/Only those who are awake know this secret…” Because the Selihot prayers coincided with the Islamic muezzin’s first call to prayer in Iran, the “Monajat” poem fit the mood of the service beautifully. For this new commission, Dardashti continues her grandfather’s legacy of experimentation. She performs some of the Persian piyutim traditionally chanted by men as part of the Selihot service, as well as other liturgical and secular Hebrew and Persian poetry set to new music. An electronic soundscape weaves her live performance with recordings of her grandfather and other audio material.


Responding to Dardashti’s live performance and recorded music in Monajat, video artist and designer Dmitry Kmelnitsky generates and manipulates images in real time that float across multiple screens. Suggesting both the passage of time and the preparation of the soul for repentance and renewal, these visuals include falling rain, drifting leaves, passing clouds, and the cycles of the sun and moon. In addition, a sequence of illuminated birds in flight resembling open books suggests the potential of prayer and meditation to free the spirit. Images of a cityscape at dawn appear. Roosters crow on rooftops, beckoning the city’s inhabitants of all religious backgrounds to rise and heed the call to prayer. A woman stands before a great void seeking union with the Divine. In other sequences, Kmelnitsky further illustrates parallels between the rituals of Middle Eastern Jews and Muslims.

Residency and Educational Programs

In addition to her concerts, Dardashti will participate as an artist/scholar-in-residence in each city, offering experiential workshops and lecture-demos or leading synagogue services. Each concert will serve as a hub for a variety of activities both onsite and offsite in collaboration with other local cultural organizations and educational institutions such as the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, and Tufts University in Boston. These interpretative programs will provide context for piyutim, explaining their history and cultural significance for Jews in Muslim lands.

Dardashti’s commission launches the New Jewish Culture Network, the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s long-term initiative to commission innovative work in music and other art disciplines and to share those projects with audiences through a selective network of venues and presenters. The initiative has received major support from the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Milken Family Foundation, Sylvia M. Neil, and other individual donors. Wardrobe for the Monajat tour has been generously provided by Elie Tahari.

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