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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News December 2008

December 3, 2008

Special Doctoral Scholarships

The academic year 2008 was a banner year for the Foundation's Doctoral program. The latter is one of the most important vehicles by which the Foundation is fulfilling its mandate for developing the social capital of the Jewish people, i.e., the future intellectual and cultural leadership for Jewish communities all around the world.

The success of the program this academic year is notably reflected in special grants we awarded to outstanding young men and women studying for their doctorates. These six recipients of the special doctoral scholarships, the most ever awarded, were especially impressive. They all attained the highest possible grades — priority plus — from our panel and received grants of $10,000. 39 doctoral students received regular scholarships in the amount of $5,000, which can be renewed up to four times.

I believe the most effective report that I can present about these special individuals is to introduce them through thumbnail profiles and their recent academic achievements.

Joshua Lambert is a doctoral candidate in English Literature at the University of Michigan. He received his BA with honors at Harvard University and completed a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing at Columbia University before enrolling at the University of Michigan. His Ph.D. dissertation, "Unclean Lips: Obscenity and the Jews in North American Literature and Culture," examines the relationship between Jews and obscenity in North American literature and culture. Lambert also focuses on the role Jews played in transforming American literature and in promoting freedom of expression in America.

An indication of the quality of his work is that a chapter of his dissertation has already been accepted for publication by Rutgers University Press in a collection of essays dealing with Jews and the graphic novel. He has already published fiction, book reviews, criticism and journalistic essays to considerable acclaim, is a regular contributor to the Forward Jewish newspaper, and is the editor of the online journal JBooks.com. In short, Joshua is already a leading figure in the Jewish American cultural world both as a critic and a fiction writer.

Miriam Trinh is working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Yiddish Language and Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she received her B.A. She was awarded a Masters in Yiddish Literature from the Universite de Sorbonne in Paris. During her graduate studies, she served as Instructor in Yiddish language at the Bibliotheque Medem in Paris, the Oxford Centre for Jewish Studies, and the Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Literature at the University of Vilnius in Lithuania.

Her dissertation, "The Shoah Experience and its Multicultural Aspects as Reflected in Multilingual Poetic Texts from Ghettos and Camps," is an analysis of an ample but entirely disregarded corpus of poetic works written during the Holocaust by "common folk." In his glowing recommendation for her, Prof. David Roskies, one of her doctoral advisors, Professor of Yiddish literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a leading scholar in the field, writes "It has taken many years for someone to appear who combines a mastery of Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German and the requisite cultural background and literary sophistication to undertake this project. Miriam Trinh is that young scholar. It is not every day that one encounters so mature a scholar and so bold a thesis."

In her dissertation proposal, Ms. Trinh argues convincingly for the need to refocus the study of Shoah literature on wartime writing, especially in the ghettos and death camps and to establish a new inventory of these literary genres.

Michal Kravel-Tovi is completing her doctorate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her master's thesis dealt with the ways radically messianic Chabad (Lubavitch) Chasidim are coping with the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Michal was awarded the Talmon Award as the best M.A. thesis in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University. Her thesis also won the Israeli Anthropological Association Award as the best ethnographic work in 2003, and was recently accepted for publication in the prestigious journal, American Ethnologist.

The topic of Michal's proposed dissertation is "(Ex)change of Identities: Orthodox Conversion in Israel." Michal analyzes the religious and pedagogic practices, institutional logic and social dynamics that shape the processes of orthodox conversion in contemporary Israel, and she also examines the interplay between the State, the legal system and the Rabbinate. Her advisors consider her a highly gifted young scholar with broad theoretical horizons, and one of the best, if not the finest, student in the department of anthropology.

Vered Madar is completing her doctoral studies at the Hebrew University in the Department of Jewish and Comparative Folklore. She received her B.A. in political science and M.A. in Folklore, also at the Hebrew University, where she taught undergraduate courses. Vered has already published a number of monographs in academic journals, and presented papers at academic conferences in her field of Folklore and in Jewish studies.

Her doctoral dissertation, under the supervision of Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem, involves the collection and documentation of materials related to Yemenite folk songs performed by women. The literary and ethnographic documentation and scholarly analysis of Jewish Yemenite culture has paid little attention to women's poetic creativity because of the ethnic emphasis on the male role in Yemenite society. Drawing on more recent scholarly advances in folklore theory, Vered Madar proposes to record Yemenite women's poetry.

Prof. Dan Ben-Amos, a prominent scholar of Jewish Folklore who reviewed Vered's work, notes that she represents a trend current among second generation immigrants to Israel from Arab countries to preserve, record and analyze their parental culture, using the most rigorous methods in their respective disciplines.

Arie Dubnov is completing his doctoral dissertation in the Department of History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also received his BA in history and philosophy, magna cum laude, and his MA in Jewish and intellectual history at that University. One of the outstanding students in the History Department, Arie received the prestigious George L. Mosse Fellowship for a year of study and research at the University of Wisconsin.

His dissertation, "Between Jewish Identity and Cold War Liberalism: Outlines in the Development of Isaiah Berlin's Early Thought, 1930-1960," focuses on Berlin's early years and traces Berlin's intellectual, political, diplomatic and personal development, especially aspects of his Zionist commitment and Jewish identity. His research will be the first to demonstrate that Jewish concerns were central to the formation of Berlin's liberalism.

Aliza Moreno from Beit Shemesh, Israel, is completing her doctorate in Jewish History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Born in Bogota, Colombia, she moved to Israel in 1994.

Her doctoral dissertation, under the supervision of Prof. Yosef Kaplan, deals with "The Social and Cultural Profile of Judeoconversos in Cartagena de Indias in the Seventeenth Century." Her research will not only illuminate a neglected chapter in the history of the Conversos, but will also add new insights on the presence of Jews and Judeoconversos in colonial America during the period when Jews established their first settlements in the Carribean.

Yedida Kanfer is completing her doctoral studies in History at Yale University. She also studied Russian history, language and culture and the Moscow State University following her graduation from Barnard.

Her doctoral dissertation, "Assimilation and the Jewish Merchant-Industrialists of Lodz, 1860's-1905," is a social and cultural history of Jewish industrialists in the Polish city of Lodz, a textile center in which Jewish entrepreneurs played a central role. Dr. Kanfer plans to analyze business and everyday Jewish life in a Polish context, and address the question of how Jews adapted to urban modernity in a multi-ethnic, economically developing region. She also plans to explore the evolution of Jewish identity both in relation to Jewish religious tradition and to the non-Jewish society around them. Yedida's language proficiency includes Russian, Yiddish, Polish, German, French and Hebrew.

It is very likely that most, if not all, of these recipients of Foundation support will become distinguished scholars and cultural leaders of the Jewish people.

Best wishes for a joyous Chanuka
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President