Graduate Students

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Graduate Student Network

The Jewish Studies Graduate Student Network is an informal  group of graduate students interested in the interdisciplinary field of Jewish Studies. Run out of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies and mentored by faculty advisers, the group brings together graduate students from a wide variety  of fields on campus who maintain interests in Jewish Studies. The group meets on a regular basis throughout the year for works-in-progress sessions, luncheon seminars with guest speakers, and other events where graduate students have the chance to interact with students and faculty involved with the field of Jewish Studies. The only requirements for  participating are an interest in Jewish Studies and current enrollment as a graduate student. To get on the mailing list for forthcoming events or to learn more, email the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, at ccjs@unc.edu.

Graduate Students

t.alexander.web Travis Alexander is a doctoral fellow in UNC’s Department of English and Comparative Literature. He received a B.A. in Plan II Honors and English at The University of Texas at Austin in 2013. His current research considers the leveraging of Jewish identity in postmodern American novels—particularly those of non-Jewish writers like Thomas Pynchon. Also within the scope of Jewish Studies, Travis is interested in the rise of midcentury-modern domestic architecture in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s, and its association with the photography of Julius Shulman. More broadly, Travis’ research considers biopolitics, prosthetic memory, and aesthetics of the neoliberal state.
 Blanchard.vsm  Joshua Blanchard is a graduate student in the philosophy program at UNC (Chapel Hill). He has an MA in philosophy from Brandeis University, and a BA in philosophy and near eastern studies from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). Joshua’s main areas of interest are in epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. He has a particularly strong interest in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s contributions to 20th century moral and religious thought, and how Heschel applied his dual roots in Hasidism and European phenomenology to contemporary problems.
 Buller Robin Buller is a graduate student in the History department. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014 with a B. A. in History and Classical Civilization. Robin’s research looks at the role of language and multilingualism in the Holocaust. She is particularly interested in the experience of Greek Jews in Nazi concentration camps.
 coussens Brian Coussens is a Graduate Student in the Department of Religious Studies.  Brian received a BA in Anthropology & History from Georgia Southern University in 2006 and a MA in New Testament Archaeology from Wheaton College in 2008. His research focuses on the archaeology and history of early Judaism and Christianity.  He is currently a staff member at UNC’s Huqoq Excavation Project in Israel, where he has been assisting with the excavation of the abandoned modern village of Yaquq.  His recent research projects examine Second Temple Judaism by understanding Jewish material culture as a means of self-representation and self-identity and as a means of cultural negotiation in an ever-changing socio-political climate. His other interests include theories on the creation, sustainability, and transformation of place and the manner in which material culture influences these processes.
 doughtery Matthew Dougherty is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies in the Religion in the Americas track. He graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Religion and English, and from Harvard Divinity School with a Master of Theological Studies (MTS). His dissertation focuses on the “Jewish Indian theory”– the idea that some or all Native Americans are the descendants of Ancient Israelites– in the United States during the early Nineteenth century. It argues that American Protestant readings of Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures shaped changing concepts of Natives and whiteness. His broader interests include missions and Native American religion in North America from the colonial period to the mid-nineteenth century.
bradleyerickson.vsm Bradley Erickson is a graduate student in Religious Studies, concentrating in the field of ancient Mediterranean Religions. He graduated from Centre College in 2009 with a double major in History and Religious Studies.  In 2012, he received a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School.  For the past three summers, Bradley has dug with Dr. Jodi Magness at the Huqoq Excavation Project in the Galilee of Israel.  His research interests include Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, and studying the relationship between material culture and religious text.
Rachel-Gelfand Rachel Gelfand received a BA in American Studies from Smith College. Before returning to American Studies, she produced radio pieces, deejayed radio shows, and worked on projects of public memory and oral history. In memory studies, she is pursuing a project concerning a set of Holocaust drawings and intergenerational familial memory. She is originally from the greater Boston area.
gindi.vsm Joseph Gindi Joseph Gindi is student in the Religion and Culture track of  the  Religious Studies Department at UNC-CH.  His work focuses on  the  production of religious and political meaning of contemporary  American  Jews.  Joseph has studied at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem and has a masters degree in Near Eastern and  Judaic Studies from Brandeis  University and a bachelors degree in Anthropology  from Wesleyan University.
tessagurney  Tessa Gurney is a doctoral student in the Romance Languages department. She specializes in Early Modern Italian theater, and is writing a dissertation on the figure of the Jewish Other in late cinquecento and early seicento comedy. The first chapter of her project, a study on the Jewish and Muslim presence in the work of capocomico Giovan Battista Andreini, is to be included in the volume The Medici and the Levant: Interlacing Cultures from Florence to the Eastern Mediterranean (1532-1743), forthcoming in 2014. She is currently the Samuel Kress fellow at the Medici Archive Project, a digital humanities initiative based at the State Archive in Florence, Italy.
 huckestein Erika Huckestein is a doctoral student in the Department of History at UNC.  She received her BA in History from Carleton College in 2010 and her MA in History from UNC in 2013. Her dissertation focuses on the intersections between British women’s activism, anti-fascism, pacifism and international politics in the period between the two world wars. She is currently the Graduate Assistant for the Center.
 kessler Sam Kessler is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies. He graduated with a B.A. in History from New York University and received his M.A. in Religious Studies from UNC. His research focuses on the interaction between theology and Enlightenment science in nineteenth-century Europe, with a specific emphasis on rabbinics. His dissertation examines the works of Rabbi Adolf Jellinek, arguing that rabbinic history must be read as fully involved in, and contributory to, the challenges and transformations that followed European Enlightenment.
 kushkova Anna Kushkova is a 4th-year PhD student at the Department on Anthropology. The tentative title of her dissertation is “Jewish ethnic economy during the late socialism in the USSR”. She has been engaged in the field study of the Jewish population in her native city of St. Petersburg, as well as in Western Ukraine and Moldova. She had received her BA in foreign languages at A.I. Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg, an MA in English Literature at the University of Northern Iowa, and an equivalent of PhD in Ethnology at the European University at St. Petersburg. She is the Silver Fellow for 2013-2014 and she is currently doing her dissertation field research in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ukraine and Moldova.
 max Max Lazar is a first year MA student in the history department. In his graduate work, Max hopes to investigate the mass immigration of Soviet Jews to divided and reunified Germany during the 1980s and 1990s. Before arriving at UNC, he spent a year as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Vienna, Austria and was the Richard Sonnenfeldt Fellow at the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin. A proud native of New Jersey, Max graduated with a B.A. in history from the College of William & Mary.
 annegret.vsm  Annegret Oehme is a graduate student in the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies. She received her B.A. in Jewish Studies and her M.A. in Medieval and Early Modern German Literature and Language from Freie Universität in Berlin. During her time in Berlin Annegret transliterated and edited Middle Dutch sermon tracts as a research assistant for Dr. Norbert Winkler and worked as teaching assistant for Middle High German and medieval literature. Her research interests include medieval and early modern German and Yiddish literature. For her dissertation project she is researching the various adaptations and transformations of the story of the Arthurian knight Wigalois, across different languages (Yiddish and German) and different media (manuscripts, prints, wall paintings, comics) from the 13th to the 21st centuries.
 parshall_smaller Josh Parshall is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies. He is interested in American Jewish identity, with an emphasis on the American south.  His current research focuses on the activities of the Southern District of the Workmen’s Circle during the first half of the twentieth century.  Previously, Josh worked as an oral historian in Jewish communities throughout the region. He holds a BA in American studies from the University of Kansas and an MA in folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 Tine Tine Rassalle is a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies, Ancient Mediterranean Religions track. She received her BA and MA in Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the University of Gent, Belgium and a second BA in Hebrew and Aramaic languages and cultures at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. She is interested in archaeology, ancient Judaism and Christianity, ancient inscriptions and religions in the Middle East in general. She has conducted over 15 excavations and has been a staff member on multiple digs in Israel. Since last summer she is also involved in the excavation project in Huqoq, directed by Professor Jodi Magness.
 schindler Daniel Schindler is a graduate student in the Department of Classics where he studies the archaeology of  Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Palestine, specializing in ceramics. He received his B.A. in classical and near eastern archaeology, Latin and Greek from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and M.A. in classical archaeology from UNC – Chapel Hill. He has worked at two sites in Israel: Tel Kedesh directed by Andrea Berlin and Sharon Herbert, and most recently the Huqoq excavation project under the direction of Jodi Magness and David Amit as the site ceramicist. For his dissertation he will be creating a typology and chronology of the local Galilean plain wares of the 4th through 6th centuries CE.
Guy Guy Shalev is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology. He received his B.A. in Psychology and Sociology, and his M.A. in Anthropology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on politics of expertise and border making in Israel/Palestine. Guy’s dissertation research looks into the experiences of Palestinian physicians in the Israeli health system. He is particularly interested in the practice and assertion of medical neutrality, examining how it conceals political conflict and difference but also how it serves as a ground for social mobility and political action for Palestinian physicians in Israel. He is the 2014-2015 Silver Fellow.
 somogvi Allison Somogyi is a doctoral student in the History department. She received a B.A. in History at Grinnell College in 2009 and an M.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her dissertation chronicles the history of everyday life of the Jewish community in Budapest under Nazi occupation, with a focus on widespread, small-scale resistance efforts.
 woelk Emma Woelk is a fourth-year PhD student in the Carolina-Duke Joint Program in German Studies. She has a B.A. in German studies and microbiology from Vassar College. Her interests include 20th century German literature, Yiddish, and theater. Emma is currently working on a dissertation project on Yiddish in postwar German literature, for which she spent last spring in libraries and archives in Berlin. This project allows Emma to look both at East and West German literary history and the relationship between politics and literature.
Recent Graduates
CarrieDuncan Carrie Duncan was a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies,  studying the archaeology of early Judaism and Christianity. She received her  B.A. in archaeology from Tufts University and M.A. in Near Eastern Languages  and Civilizations from Harvard University. She has worked on archaeological  excavations in Greece, Italy, and Israel, most recently at the Yotvata  Archaeological Project in the Arava Valley directed by UNC professor Jodi  Magness. Carrie’s dissertation focused on the archaeological evidence for  the position of women in the synagogues and churches of late antiquity.
StevenWerlin Steve Werlin was a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies where he studies the archaeology of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine  Palestine, as well as ancient Judaism.  He has worked under the direction  of Dr. Jodi Magness since 1999, first as an undergraduate at Tufts University, and then  as a doctoral candidate at UNC.  His research interests include Ancient  Synagogue Art and Architecture, Hasmonean and Herodian Architecture and  History, and Jewish Religious Practices in the Classical and Near Eastern  world.
 tobin.crop.vs Patrick Tobin enrolled in the Ph.D. History program at  the UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall 2007, where he studied the Holocaust and  Holocaust memory in Germany. His current project examines West German trials for crimes of the Holocaust,  with a focus on how these trials informed Germans’ understandings of their own  past.
 graber.crop.vs Naomi Graber’s research concerns German-Jewish composers who escaped fled Germany for the U.S. in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She is particularly interested in how these composers navigated the culture of the U.S. by combining their German and Jewish heritage with new ideas and styles they encountered in America. Her dissertation subject is Kurt Weill, who went from collaborating with avante-garde playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht in Germany to writing Broadway musicals. Graber explores how Weill drew on his experiences as a German-Jew to provide new perspectives on race relations, the New Deal, and American history to his new audience.