Levi Cooper, The Munkatcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira: The Hasidic Posek – Image and Approach, Bar Ilan University (Jewish Law)
How does an individual committed to personal spiritual growth balance this pursuit with loyalty to the traditions of old? Levi Cooper investigates the tension between the individual’s search for meaning in Judaism and the need to be part of a society that operates under the governing rules of Jewish law. He explores these questions through the Hasidic movement and Hasidic masters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cooper focuses on Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira, the colorful Hasidic master in Munkatch (currently located in Ukraine) from before World War I until the eve of the Holocaust, and investigates the relationship between his spiritual world and his application of normative law as an authority in Halakha. This research creatively explores the existential tension between the subjective search for meaning in Jewish practice and the communal necessity of governing rules and showing how leaders respond to competing Jewish streams in a changing reality.
Levi Cooper began doctoral work at Bar Ilan University in 2006, after completing two law degrees (LL.B. and LL.M.) at Bar Ilan. He is also an ordained rabbi, a lecturer at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and a weekly columnist for The Jerusalem Post.
Nechama (Sonya) Hadari, The Rabbinic Understanding(s) of Human Will as it Relates to the Halakhic Requirement for a Man to Divorce his Wife “Willingly,” Manchester University (Jewish Studies, Agunah Research Unit)
The philosophical underpinnings of Jewish marriage and divorce law are the subject of Nechama Hadari’s research. In particular, Hadari examines the notion of will and the Talmudic demand that a man divorce his wife “willingly” (Mishna tractate Yevamot 14:1). Drawing on Western philosophy and popular culture, she analyzes contemporary ideas about will in comparison with the models of will that were contemporaneous with the sages of the Talmud. Hadari argues that there is a disparity between contemporary and Talmudic conceptions of will, which raises the possibility that distortions of the original law may occur when applied to cases of divorce today. Hadari then analyzes various solutions to the issue of get recalcitrance in terms of which are closest to the spirit of halakhic law.
Nechama (Sonya) Hadari is a convert to Judaism who taught herself to read Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic. After receiving an undergraduate degree in English literature from Oxford University, where she also received a post graduate diploma in Theology, she studied at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem for two years.
Peter Kash, Student Satisfaction: Who is the Consumer in Jewish Education? Yeshiva University (Azrieli Graduate School)
As the number of Jews in the U.S. and Europe contracts and fewer Jewish children attend day schools, it is increasingly clear that current and future generations of Jewish children must be taught effectively and meaningfully if the Jewish community is to endure. According to Peter Kash, an educational environment with a more positive impact on students can be achieved if Jewish educators learn from student satisfaction assessment methods used in secular education, as well as from customer satisfaction measures used in the for-profit world. To this end, Kash has developed a confidential questionnaire for juniors and seniors in Jewish day schools and Hebrew high schools. The questionnaire is designed to measure student’s levels of satisfaction with respect to a variety of aspects of Jewish education.
Peter Kash’s background is in finance, marketing, and investment – he has taught courses in entrepreneurship at several universities including the Wharton School of Business, Pace University, Sy Syms School of Business, and Nihon University in Tokyo. He is the co-founder and partner of Two River and president and chairman of Riverbank Capital Securities, Inc. He brings ideas from the financial sphere to his studies in Jewish education, with the goal of understanding how to make Jewish education more successful.
Raz Segal, Embittered Legacies: Genocide in Subcarpathian Rus’, Clark University (Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies)
The history of the Jews from the end of the First World War through the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath in Subcarpathian Rus’ (SR) is the subject of Raz Segal’s research. Segal explores Jewish life in the region, the relationship between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, and the wartime policies of Hungarian and German authorities which led to the deportation and mass murder of the region’s Jews in 1944. Particular attention is paid to religious identities and affiliations, gender, and class. Sources for Segal’s study include survivors’ accounts and records in German, Hungarian, and Czech archives. Segal applies an interdisciplinary approach, including the application of psychological theories of inter-ethnic violence, to communities that have received little scholarly attention.
Raz Segal completed an MA in Jewish History at Tel-Aviv University and is the initiator and co-organizer of the first conference in Israel for graduate students in the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, held at Tel Aviv University in 2007. He is also the initiator and organizer of the First International Graduate Students’ Conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies, held at Clark University in April 2009. His MA thesis, A Past Forever Becoming: The Jews of Munkács between the World Wars and During the Holocaust, is being published by Yad Vashem Publications in 2010.
Leon Wiener Dow, Constructing a Rosenzweigian Approach to Halacha, Bar Ilan University (Philosophy)
Leon Wiener Dow is researching the philosophical and religious thought of the German Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1926), one of the twentieth century’s prodigious thinkers in religious and philosophical thought and particularly Jewish thought. Rosenzweig’s premature death prevented him from writing the book on Jewish law that he had hoped to compose, but he did leave many writings, including his magnum opus, The Star of Redemption (1919), that address this subject. The first half of this project is uses these sources to construct a Rosenzweigian approach to Halacha, while second half explores how Rosenzweig’s approach reflects deep religious intuitions consistent with existent schools within the Halakhic discourse.
Leon Wiener Dow received his BA from Princeton University before moving to Jerusalem in 1992 and receiving an MA in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, followed by private rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Professor David Hartman. He began his doctoral studies in Philosophy at Bar Ilan University in 2005. He has worked in the field of Jewish education for several years, teaches Talmud and Jewish Philosophy at Bina’s Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and at Kolot, and founded Ta Shma: Pluralistic Jewish Education in 1996, which is now a division of the Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education.
David Horowitz, Fractures and Fissures in Jewish Communal Autonomy in Hamburg and Altona, 1750-1811, Columbia University (History)
David Horowitz explores the relationship between Jews and the German state in the “Triple Community” of Hamburg-Altona-Wandsbek in the late eighteenth century. Unlike the traditional view that Jewish communal autonomy was a defining marker of Jewish life in the Diaspora until the Emancipation and that the decline of autonomy among Jewish communities in Germany was primarily a result of intrusion by absolutist or revolutionary states, Horowitz finds that Jews themselves often challenged the authority of their community’s leaders in Hamburg-Altona, and enlisted the state as an ally in these struggles. Drawing on judicial records of the Hamburg State Archives as well as Yiddish- and Hebrew-language records of the Jewish community in Hamburg-Altona, Horowitz identifies cleavages within the Jewish community over the proper exercise of communal authority. Horowitz’s research explores this complex relationship between rabbinic leaders and followers and the secular political leadership.
Prior to enrolling in the doctoral program in History, Horowitz earned a Masters of Philosophy and an MA from Columbia University and studied Rabbinics at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel for two years. He has taught Jewish adult education courses and is a contributor to Earlymodern.org.
Johanna Lehr, What it Means to be a Jew in Resistance: Jewish Studies and Education in France (1940-1962), Sorbonne (Political Science)
Johanna Lehr’s research investigates the shift in French Jewish identity that occurred after World War II and its connection to both the postwar resurgence of Jewish education and to the Jews’ political integration in France. The change in identity, or “dissimilation,” as Franz Rosenzweig termed it, occurred on the intellectual level, where there was a reversal in the centuries-old, self-denigration of Jewish thought, and on the institutional level, with the creation of schools. One focus of Lehr’s research is the work of the men who built the French Jewish educational institutions during the war and after 1945.
Prior to her graduate studies, Lehr received a law degree from the Sorbonne. In addition to completing her dissertation, she currently teaches law at the Sorbonne and works full-time for Father Patrick Desbois’ organization Yahad-In Unum, which is investigating the history of the mass killings of Jews in Ukraine and elsewhere. She has published several scholarly articles and has received fellowships to conduct research in the U.S. and Israel.