Meet the 2013-14 Doctoral Dissertation Fellows in Jewish Studies

We are pleased to announce the selection of its newest cohort of recipients for the  Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships in Jewish Studies.

The fellowship will last from September 2013 through June 2014.

Grantees include: Mika Ahuvia (Princeton University, Religious Studies), who analyzes Jewish conceptions of angels in rabbinic literature in order to uncover social dynamics in ancient Jewish communities;  Daniel Viragh’s thesis (University of California-Berkeley, History Dept.) will be the first major, sustained look at Jewish acculturation to Hungarian identity during the formative period of late 19th/early 20th centuries. Craig Perry (Emory University, History Dept.), whose thesis promises to be the first to analyze the massive trove of ancient documents from the (Cairo) Geniza repository in order to understand the changing shape of the medieval slave trade. Lillian Wohl (University of Chicago, Music) examines musical performances in Buenos Aires through the lens of both cultural memory and ethnomusicology.

Finally,  Christopher Jones (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is receiving a 2013-14 grant-in-aid to support his work to complete a thesis on “Retrofitting Jerusalem: Power, Status, and Space in Ezra-Nehemiah.”

Mika Ahuvia (Princeton University, Religious Studies)

“Israel Among the Angels: a study of Angels in Jewish texts from the fourth to eighth century CE”

In her thesis, Mika Ahuvia analyzes Jewish conceptions of angels in rabbinic literature, mystical Hekahlot texts, the poetry of the synagogue, etc., in order to uncover social dynamics in ancient Jewish communities, seeing in these writings the attempts by early Jews to strike a balance between their local religious environment (whether Roman, Christian, or Zoroastrian) and biblical or rabbinic traditions. Saying that the thesis “promises to be a real contribution to the field,” one enthusiastic evaluator wrote, “[Ahuvia’s] prospectus displays an impressive control of the different genres of rabbinic and ancient Jewish literature and the scholarship on each genre relating to her topic, as well as methodological sophistication: she clearly knows the reigning theories and is able to use them without jargon or heavy-handed pretension.”

Daniel Viragh (University of California-Berkeley, History Dept.)

“Becoming Hungarian: The Creation of a Hungarian-Language Jewish Cultural Sphere in Budapest, 1867-1914”

Daniel Viragh’s thesis will look at Jewish acculturation to Hungarian language, symbols and national identity during the formative period of late 19th/early 20th centuries. The project is an ambitious look at modern Jewish history, ethnicity, and nationalism, comparing Hungarian-Jewish acculturation with other examples to hegemonic cultures including the German, Czech, French, and Austrian ones. In selecting Viragh as a recipient of the Doctoral Dissertation fellowship, the selection committee noted that in addition to his important work in the field, Viragh is among relatively few historians of Hungary, due in part to the demanding language skill set required.

Craig Perry (Emory University, History Dept.)

“The Daily Life of Slaves and the Global Reach of Slavery in Medieval Egypt, 969-1250 CE”

Perry’s thesis promises to be the first of its kind to analyze the massive trove of ancient documents from the (Cairo) Geniza repository in order to understand the changing shape of the medieval slave trade. In awarding this fellowship, the foundation was enthusiastic about Perry’s innovative use of comparative studies of slavery in order to “unlock” the raw data found in the Geniza manuscripts. Perry is building on the groundbreaking work of Geniza research “doyens” S.D. Goitein and Moredchai Friedman, especially important research by Friedman on legal aspects of domestic slavery. Furthermore, Craig approaches his subject by examining slavery from the point of view of the slaves themselves, showing how domestic slavery in the Geniza world compares with slavery in other societies.

Lillian Wohl (University of Chicago, Music)

“Mucho Ojo!: Spectacles of Jewish Memory, Ethnicity and Religion in Contemporary Musical Performance in Buenos Aires”

Lillian Wohl’s thesis examines musical performances in Buenos Aires through the lens of both cultural memory and ethnomusicology. Building off the scholarly notion of “scenario,” she has created the idea of “sonario” to highlight performances that explore the Jewish relationship to memory and identity in Latin America. She analyzes shows, songs and themes within Jewish social networks to describe how memory shapes musical representations of Jewish heritage to create social reality that also takes in contemporary concerns about ethnicity and religion. The selection committee was struck by the cross-cultural importance of her work. As one evaluator wrote, “Ms. Wohl’s research is methodologically sophisticated and her outline suggests that she will challenge numerous aspects of the cannon in Jewish and Latin American Studies. Her language skills (Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino) mean that she has done research in many contexts that are often ignored by scholars who only work in the national language.”

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Christopher Jones (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is receiving a 2013-2014 grant-in-aid to support the completion of a thesis on “Retrofitting Jerusalem: Power, Status, and Space in Ezra-Nehemiah.” Drawing on contemporary critical spatial theory, Jones’s project studies the ways in which the various authors of the biblical book of Ezra-Nehemiah retrofitted physical structures of Jerusalem with a new history and thus a new set of symbolic values to match the ideology of the book’s authors. Such retrofittings were constructed in an effort to correct the moral failures of previous generations by imagining the city of Jerusalem as a place that, by its physical structure and by its network of power and status relations with the rest of the world, guaranteed the future righteousness of its people.

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Fellowship grants are made on the recommendation of the FJC’s Academic Advisory Committee.  The selection committee included: Dr. Beth Wenger (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Christine Hayes (Yale University) Co-Chairs. The selection panel also included: Dr. Jeremy Dauber (Columbia University), an expert in early modern and modern Yiddish literature, Dr. Benjamin Gampel (JTS), a scholar of medieval Jewish history, and Dr. Antony Polonsky (Brandeis University), a historian of Eastern European history with a specialization in Polish Jewry. Dr. Wenger and Dr. Gampel are former Doctoral Dissertation fellowship recipients, and Dr. Polonsky won the 2007 Gantz Zahler Prize for Nonfiction.

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Applications for 2014-2015 will be posted by September 1, 2013. To download the guidelines please click here. For more information on the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, click here.

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