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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 at Carolina. To get on the mailing list for forthcoming events or to learn more, email the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, at


Check back in September for Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 Events and Meetings.


Grad Student Network Events Spring 2022:

Meeting Dates/Topics TBA

Grad Student Network Lecture/Seminars: April 13, 2022 with Olivia Stewart Lester
Seminar: The Sibylline Oracles: A Case Study in Ancient and Modern Anti-Judaism
Lecture: Ambivalent Appropriation: Apollo in Jewish Texts and Material Culture


Grad Student Network Events Fall 2021:
November 8: Gendering Modern Jewish Thought with Andrea Cooper, Religious Studies

October 29: Social Media and Internet Securing with Irene Newman, grad student, American Studies

Grad Student Network Events Spring 2021:

February 10, 1-2pm: Grant writing workshop with Yaron Shemer and Ruth von Bernuth

March 24, 1-2pm: Graduate student meeting with Noam Pianko.

April 14, 1-2pm: Roundtable discussion with Jewish studies center directors.

April 21: Center Review Committee meeting. April 21.

Info for Prospective and Current Grad Students:

Thinking about graduate studies in a Jewish studies field at Carolina? Already here and looking to meet other UNC graduate students and faculty? Wondering how to get funding for your research initiatives? Interested in meeting leading national and international experts in your field? Tine Rassale, graduate assistant for the Center, TEP Fellow, and graduate student in the department of religious studies, hosted a casual roundtable conversation with a few of our students to talk about how the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies has improved their graduate studies. Watch on our Vimeo site or our YouTube channel.


Robin Buller defended her dissertation in spring 2021, and has a post-doc position at Berkeley starting fall 2021. She shared her story as part of UNC’s Giving Day celebrations… watch the video!


Many thanks to all the graduate students who joined us for our online roundtable discussion on the current job market with various Jewish Studies Center Directors. [April 2021.] Our event for grad students featured several Center directors who gave career advice and answered questions. Special thank you to the Center directors: Moderator: Laura Lieber, Duke University. Participants: Steve Weitzman, University of Pennsylvania; Jonathan Boyarin, Cornell University; Eva Mroczek, UC Davis; Anna Shternshis, University of Toronto. If you missed it, a portion of the presentation is now available for viewing on our Vimeo site and our YouTube channel.

Resources: Funding Opportunities for grad students in Jewish studies. PDF: Fellowship List Jewish Studies 2021

Graduate Students 2021-2022


Emily Branton is a doctoral student studying Ancient Mediterranean Religions in the Department of Religious Studies here at UNC. She has a BA in Religion from Smith College, and an MA in Religious Studies, with a concentration in Hebrew Bible, from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She studies ancient Near Eastern languages and mythologies, and her research currently focuses on theories of mind, body, and speech in ancient Israelite and Judean literature.

Jocelyn Burney is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. She received an MAR with a concentration in Second Temple Judaism from Yale Divinity School and a BA in Religious Studies and Archaeology from UNC. Her dissertation analyzes the funding, construction, and maintenance of synagogues and burials by diaspora Jewish communities in the late Roman Aegean. Her research has recently been supported by fellowships from the Archaeological Institute of America and the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. Jocelyn is also an area supervisor for the Huqoq Excavation Project, a UNC-led excavation of a late antique Jewish village and synagogue in lower eastern Galilee.


Seonghyun Choi is a PhD student in Religious Studies, focusing on the Hebrew Bible. His research interests include the Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Judaism, history of Biblical interpretation, disability studies, and philology. His expected graduation date is May 2024.

Brian A. Coussens is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies. Brian received a BA in Anthropology & History from Georgia Southern University in 2006, a MA in New Testament Archaeology from Wheaton College in 2008, and a MA in Religious Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014. His research focuses on the archaeology and history of early Judaism. His dissertation examines how Herod the Great’s burial site fits within his architectural corpora and cultural contexts. 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.


Alison Curry is a PhD student in the History Department. She studies modern Polish-Jewish history, the Holocaust, and collective memory. Alison graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a B.A. in Anthropology and History. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities from George Mason University and a Masters degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Gratz College. Her current research focuses on the function of Jewish cemeteries in Poland during World War II and the immediate post-war.


Oskar Czendze is a PhD candidate in the History Department. His research interests include modern Jewish history, the cultural and social history of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Jewish immigrant experience in the United States. He is particularly interested in questions of belonging and place in the modern era, memory, and transnationalism. Oskar’s dissertation, under the supervision of Dr. Karen Auerbach, will explore the life and migration experience of Jews from the Habsburg province of Galicia from the late 19th century until the outbreak of the Second World War. In 2015-16, he spent an academic year as an exchange graduate student at Emory University. In 2017, he graduated with an MA in Modern and Contemporary History from the University of Augsburg, Germany.


Luke Drake is a doctoral student of Ancient Mediterranean Religions in the Religious Studies Department. His research interests include Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity and the ancient transmission and interpretation of Jewish and Christian literature. He has worked with the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts on the Vatican Syriac Manuscript Project, and he is the editor of The Emergence of Christianity (Mohr Seibeck, 2013), a collection of the papers of the Swiss biblical scholar, François Bovon.


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.


Jordan Klevdal’s research focuses on questions of memory and nostalgia in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Her past work has examined the ways in which shifts in photographic technology, political borders and intellectual thought have changed literature’s relationship to memory. Specifically, she is interested in the early history of photography and its relationship to memory and questions of immigrant belonging. In the future, she hopes to work on Yiddish periodicals and newspapers to examine the way text and image interact with one another to produce a sense of belonging based on a network that is not only historical and memorial, but creative.

Elena Peña-Argüeso is a PhD student at the Romance Studies department. My focus of research is on Peninsular Spanish literature with an emphasis on the depictions of the Other in relation to Spain’s nation-building in the medieval and the early modern era. I am interested in the issue of the Other from historical and literary perspectives, especially in the representations of Muslims, Jews, Amerindians, and protestants and how these portrayals reflect and reveal Spain’s self-image.

Tine Rassalle is a Ph.D. candidate 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) Belgium and a second BA in Hebrew and Aramaic languages and cultures at the University of Leiden (the Netherlands). She is interested in archaeology, more specifically in the material culture of ancient Judaism and early Christianity in the Middle East. She has conducted over 20 excavations and has been a staff member on multiple digs in Israel. She is currently writing her dissertation on coin hoards that have been found in ancient synagogues in Palestine.


Joshua Shelly joined the Carolina-Duke German Studies program in Fall 2016. He holds a BA in German and History from Wayne State University (2011), and an MLS (2013) and MA in Religious Studies (2015) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research field covers German Jewish literature during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his dissertation, he explores the role of German Jewish literature, especially utopian works, in imagining a future Jewish state. His dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Leo Baeck Institute (2019–2020) and the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies (2020–2021).


Miguel M. Vargas is a PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies. His MA is from the University of North Texas, where he studied Roman history, Second Temple Judaism, and classical rhetoric. At Carolina, his research focuses on Second Temple Jewish prophecy, Jewish responses to the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman Empire, and the Jewish revolts. His current project examines notions of prophecy held by the Jewish communities of Greco-Roman Egypt.




Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler was a MA student in the Folklore program working on the Yiddish music and poetry of Jewish partisans with Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger. She is a regular contributor to the Jewish Women’s Archive and Lilith Magazine, and her work has been featured in the Bitter Southerner, the New York Times, and the Harvard Civil Liberties Review.


Max Lazar was a PhD Candidate in history. His dissertation is a local study of Jewish integration in Frankfurt am Main between 1914 and 1938. Max’s research interests include modern Germany, modern Jewish history, urban history, and spatial theory. In spring 2020 and spring 2021, Max led a new, one-credit course on Confronting Antisemitism. Max was the Center’s Goodman Fellow for 2020-2021.


Lea Greenberg was a Ph.D. candidate in the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies. She earned a B.A. in German with a Concentration in Russian, Central and East European Studies from Grinnell College in 2014. After graduation, she worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Berlin. Her dissertation research considers issues of language, literacy, and gender in German and Yiddish literature. In 2018–2019, Lea was a fellow of the Berlin Program of the Freie Universität Berlin and German Studies Association. She held a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship in her last year at Carolina.

Robin Buller was a doctoral candidate in the history department, where she is advised by Dr. Karen Auerbach and Dr. Donald Reid. Her dissertation examines the history of Sephardi Jewish immigrants in Paris during the interwar period and the Holocaust. Hailing from the recently dismantled Ottoman Empire, this population numbered upwards of twenty thousand individuals at the outbreak of the Second World War. Dr. Buller received doctoral funding from the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies in the form of the year-long Graduate Fellowship (2017), the Christopher Browning Holocaust Studies Research and Travel Grant (2017), and the Summer Stipend (2015). Her research has also been supported by the American Academy for Jewish Research and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University. Dr.Buller also was a Saul Kagan Fellow for Advanced Shoah Studies through the Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany.


Daniela R. P. Weiner was a PhD Candidate in the Department of History and the Goodman Dissertation Fellow at the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies (2019-2020). She holds an AB in History and Italian from Vassar College, a MS in Education from Johns Hopkins University, and a MA in History from UNC-Chapel Hill. In her dissertation “Teaching a Dark Chapter: Representations of the Holocaust and the Second World War in East German, West German, and Italian History Textbooks, 1943-2000,” she explores how the post-fascist countries of East Germany, West Germany, and Italy taught the Holocaust and the Second World War in their educational systems. Her research has been funded by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, and the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC. She earned her Ph.D., and a graduate certificate in Jewish Studies, in spring 2020.

Bradley Erickson was 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 several summers, Bradley has worked 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. He was awarded the Center’s Goodman Dissertation Fellowship in 2018-2019. He earned his Ph.D., and a graduate certificate in Jewish Studies, in spring 2020.


Travis Alexander was 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 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. After graduating from Carolina, Travis went to Rice University for a post-doc position.


Erika Huckestein was 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. For three years, she was the Graduate Assistant for the Center. After graduating, she went on to hold an adjunct faculty position at Rowan College, N.J.

somogvi Allison Somogyi was 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. After Carolina, Allison went to Yale as a Fortunoff-USC Joint Postdoctoral Fellow.

Guy Shalev was 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 was the Center’s 2014-2015 Silver Fellow. After Carolina, he went on to hold the Shapiro Postdoctoral Fellowship at Tel Aviv University.


Scott Krause was a doctoral candidate in the Department of History. His work examines Berlin’s transformation from the capital of Nazi Germany to a symbol of freedom and resilient democracy in the Cold War. His research has unearthed how this remarkable development derived from a network of liberal American occupation officials, and returned émigrés, or remigrés, of the formerly Marxist Social Democratic Party (SPD). In the summer of 2015, the Center’s funding has allowed Scott to research motivations for return in Dutch and German archives. He is currently working as a scholar in Germany.


Meghan Harter was a doctoral student in Education, Cultural Studies and Literacies. She is a recipient of the Native American Initiative Fellowship (2013-2014) and the Samuel M. Holton Graduate Fellowship in Foundations of Education (2014-Present). She received a M.A.T. in Special Education, Mild to Moderate Disorders, and completed a graduate certificate in Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Education from Western Carolina University. She also has a B.A. in Psychology from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. She taught for three years as an English Language Arts/Special Education teacher for North Carolina public schools before returning to graduate school. Meghan is currently researching diaspora studies in relation to identity formation within Jewish and Native American populations and culturally relevant pedagogy within project-based learning.

Rachel-Gelfand-764x1024 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.

Anna Kushkova was a PhD student at the Department on Anthropology. 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 was the Center’s Silver Fellow for 2013-2014. In 2019-2020, she joined the Katz Center at University of Pennsylvania as a fellow.


Josh Parshall was 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. He is now the Director of the History Department at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi.


Annegret Oehme was 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. Her research interests include medieval and early modern German and Yiddish literature. For her dissertation project she researched 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. Annegret earned her Ph.D., plus a graduate certificate in Jewish Studies. In fall 2016, she joined the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle.


Samuel J. Kessler received his BA from New York University and MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In May 2016, he earned his Ph.D. from UNC in the Department of Religious Studies along with a graduate certificate in Jewish Studies. His dissertation, entitled “A New Shoot From the House of David: Adolf Jellinek and the Creation of the Modern Rabbinate,” traces the history and development of the role of the rabbi and the rabbi’s sermon in the modernization of Judaism during the nineteenth century. In fall 2016 he joined Virginia Tech as a visiting professor and then moved to a faculty position at Gustavus Adolphus College.


Elissa Sampson earned her Ph.D. in geography in May 2016, and also completed the graduate certificate in Jewish Studies. Her dissertation documented how the acquisition of a Lower East Side building shaped the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s stories of immigrant history. Elissa is a visiting scholar at the Jewish studies program at Cornell.

 Woelk.vsm_ Emma Woelk was the first student to complete the Carolina-Duke Joint Program in German Studies. She graduated in May 2015, and also completed the UNC graduate certificate in Jewish Studies. She has a B.A. in German studies and microbiology from Vassar College. Her research interests include 20th century German literature, Yiddish, and theater. Emma is a faculty member at St. Edward’s University in Texas.
Blanchard.vsm_ Joshua Blanchard  is a visiting assistant professor at Oakland University, in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His major research projects are in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion. In addition to those areas, he teaches a variety of courses in applied ethics, logic, Asian philosophy, and other areas.

Matthew Dougherty is a 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.


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.

duncan.topkapi.vsm_ Carrie Duncan was a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies, studying the archaeology of early Judaism and Christianity. For three years, she served as the Graduate Assistant for the Center. She received her  B.A. in archaeology from Tufts University and M.A. in Near Eastern Languages  and Civilizations from Harvard University. Carrie’s dissertation focused on the archaeological evidence for  the position of women in the synagogues and churches of late antiquity. Carrie was on the faculty at University of Missouri.

Steve Werlin was a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies where he studied the archaeology of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine  Palestine, as well as ancient Judaism. His research interests included 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 in the fall 2007, where he studied the Holocaust and Holocaust memory in Germany. His dissertation project examined West German trials for crimes of the Holocaust, with a focus on how these trials informed Germans’ understandings of their own past. For two years, he served as the Graduate Assistant for the Center. Patrick works as an adjunct professor and research and policy consultant on the east coast.
 graber.crop_.vs_ Naomi Graber’s dissertation subject was Kurt Weill, who went from collaborating with avante-garde playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht in Germany to writing Broadway musicals. She explored 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. She was the first student supported by a year-long dissertation completion fellowship from the Center. Naomi is on the faculty at University of Georgia.