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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

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Graduate Students 2022-2023 

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.




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.  



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).