May 26, 2009 — For Aaron Koller ’99Y, ’00BR, a PhD graduate from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, there is no substitution for reading a work in its original language—even if it is an ancient Semitic language such as Akkadian or Egyptian hieroglyphs.
“The truth is that there are other languages I’d like to know, but ‘the day is short and the labor vast,’” Koller said, quoting the famous line in Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers].
Koller, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva College, wrote his dissertation on the cutting tools and verbs of cutting used in the Bible and the Ancient Near East.
“My research ranged from Natufian agriculture [spanning the period 12,500 to 9,500 BC] and Neolithic tool use, through ancient Near Eastern textual and archaeological data, to rabbinic and medieval Biblical interpretation,” said Koller, who comes from a family rich with YU connections. “My focus on specific words sheds light on larger issues, such as cultural connections between Israel and its neighbors—Egypt, the Philistines and Mesopotamia–and changes in Israelite technology and society between biblical and rabbinic times.”
Koller’s research won high praise from Dr. Lawrence Stager, Dorot Professor of the Archeology of Israel at Harvard University, who served on Koller’s dissertation committee and recommended it be awarded a distinction.
Koller traces his interests in ancient languages, history and culture to his Revel mentors, Dr. Richard Steiner, professor of Semitic languages and literatures, and Dr. Barry Eichler, professor of Near Eastern and biblical studies.
“Aaron is on his way to becoming a world-class scholar,” Steiner said. “He is an outstanding product of our institution of whom we can be very proud.”