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Revel Student’s Research Examines Daily Legalities of Biblical Life Through a Comparative Lens

Judaism relies heavily on its legal library: written discussions of the law are almost synonymous with the religion, describing practices that date back to the beginnings of the Bible and beyond. But what did those practices actually look like in the day-to-day lives of ancient Israelites? Like many civilizations of the time, the Jews of the biblical era used papyrus for everyday business affairs; few artifacts from the era survive to illustrate how the rules and regulations found in the canonical Torah were observed.

Yael_Landman WermuthFor Yael Landman Wermuth, a doctoral student at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the key to understanding these texts lies not so much in the history of ancient Jews, but in that of their neighbors.

Landman Wermuth’s doctoral thesis examines areas of biblical law through a comparative lens, drawing on examples from the contemporary Mesopotamian and Hittite law codes, which contain many similarities to that of the Bible, as well as ancient Near Eastern contracts, letters, trial records and other documents that offer a glimpse of legal practice in everyday Mesopotamian life.

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Dr. Moshe Miller

Dr. Moshe Miller (BR ’14) recently completed his doctorate in modern Jewish history. We sat down with Dr. Miller to congratulate him on this accomplishment and for a chat about his experiences at Revel, his area of specialization, and what the future holds in store for Revel’s most recent PhD graduate.

Revel News: What are Revel’s strengths for graduate students in Jewish Studies?

Dr. Miller: Revel has an extraordinary group of scholars who are experts in their fields and who devote their attention to helping students develop as scholars in their own fields of research. What makes Revel unique is the presence of scholars who, aside from their expertise in Jewish history and philosophy, have a thorough and sophisticated knowledge of rabbinic sources and how they can be utilized to understand Jewish history and thought. Furthermore, having access to the Mendel Gottesman Library, one of the finest Judaica libraries in the US, is an indispensable tool for conducting research in the field of Jewish Studies. The librarians are experts in their own right, and they are dedicated to helping students track down the sources they are seeking.

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sigurd neubauerRevel alumnus Sigurd Neubauer (BRGS ’14), now a Washington, DC-based defense and strategic affairs analyst, recently published articles about US-Iranian and -Saudi politics on the Huffington Post and Atlantic Council websites.

Neubauer has seven years experience in strategic communications, public diplomacy and research focusing on American foreign policy towards the European Union and the Middle East from both the U.S. defense industry and from the NGO sector. In his current position at SOS International Ltd., a privately held operations support company providing information engagement, intelligence solutions and stability operations, Neubauer supports the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan with their strategic communications efforts. Under a previous contract with the United States Strategic Command, he analyzed Israeli military security. Neubauer is also an adviser to the American Middle East Institute and a member of the Gulf 2000 Middle East Project at Columbia University. His work has also been translated into Arabic.



Aliza Storchan, Revel graduate studentRevel student Aliza Storchan plans to finish the coursework for her MA in Bible in June, and then take the comprehensive exam in September. At this point, Aliza explains, she has “fallen in love with the Revel community.”

Aliza came to Revel after earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, double-majoring in Judaic Studies and Psychology. Growing up, Aliza particularly enjoyed her Judaic classes, so majoring in Judaic Studies seemed to be the natural next step. Coming from a traditional Jewish day school background, Aliza soon discovered that the Judaic Studies curriculum at the University of Michigan was vastly different than anything she had ever studied before; the academic approach of her Judaic Studies classes was entirely new.  “Never before had I studied Jewish history so closely, thought about trends in the Jewish community to thoroughly, or looked at Jewish texts so critically,” she notes.

Aliza was at once intrigued and compelled by the new perspectives and ideas that she was learning, but also a little uncertain with how to reconcile this critical approach with her religious convictions. “I knew I made the right choice when on my first day of Introduction to Bible II Dr. Eichler made the point that at Revel we have the good fortune of being a Yeshiva and a University–to be religious and academic,” she recalls. 

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Taubes_67033i-14Yaakov Taubes was attracted to Revel because of the “amazing professors and small class sizes that allow students to develop a relationship with leaders in the field of Jewish studies.” Now he is a semester away from completing his MA in Medieval Jewish History. Yaakov also hopes to finish semicha at RIETS by June 2014.

Yaakov explains that he chose to focus on Medieval Jewish History while taking a course in the field during his first semester as an undergraduate at Yeshiva College. That course “rekindled my high school love of history which had been dormant during my time in Israel,” Yaakov says. “I decided to major in History and Jewish Studies to get the best of both worlds. It was therefore only natural that I would continue my studies at Revel.”

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yaelle_frohlich headshot (2)Revel welcomes back alumna Yaelle Frohlich as the graduate school’s new Alumni Relations Coordinator. Yaelle earned her master’s degree in Modern Jewish History in January 2012, and is currently studying for her doctorate in NYU’s joint program in History-Hebrew & Judaic Studies. “Although I decided to continue my academic training at NYU, I have remained connected to the Revel community,” explains Yaelle. “Therefore, I welcomed this opportunity to help build the Revel alumni community. Revel has hundreds of alumni who work in different fields, many of whom have done some really interesting, worthwhile things with their time and talents. I’m looking forward to working part-time with the Revel administration in reaching out to these alumni and helping coordinate other projects.”

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The Revel Student Liaisons can be found at the welcome desk in the new Revel Dean’s Suite. In addition to their specialized responsibilities including student development tracking, event planning, and student and alumni outreach, their job is to greet and assist students and other visitors at the Revel office.

Daniel Tabak is pursuing his doctorate in Medieval Jewish History at Revel, but that trajectory wasn’t always clear, even to him. After graduating Yeshiva College with a BA in Economics in 2007, Daniel began taking courses toward an MA at Revel as a co-requisite of his RIETS semikha program.  He ultimately chose to enroll at Revel so that he could study under Professors Berger and Kanarfogel. Read More


anna guettta-revelAnne Guetta made quite a trip to get to Revel’s Washington Heights campus. Born in Paris and raised in London, Anne had never spent much time in America—until she began her graduate career. Wishing to further her academic Jewish studies, she decided to come to Revel, where she is now pursuing a degree in medieval Jewish history. Read More

67033U-06Though Ariella Polakoff is new to Revel, her face has become a familiar one to Revel students and faculty. Ariella began serving as one of the Revel Student Liaisons  last fall, sharing her warm smile at the welcome desk in the new Revel Dean’s Suite. Read More


Aliza Storchan, Revel graduate studentAliza Storchan, who will begin serving as one of Revel’s Student Liaisons this spring, plans to finish the coursework for her MA in Bible in June, and then take the comprehensive exam in September. At this point, Aliza explains, she has “fallen in love with the Revel community.” Aliza came to Revel after earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, double-majoring in Judaic Studies and Psychology. Read More



Ahuva GoldAhuva Gold, currently finishing up her MA in Bible at Revel, will be staffing the Revel welcome desk and helping to strengthen our school’s alumni network. Ahuva has been a part of the YU community since 2008 when she began studying at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education while also teaching at the Moriah elementary school in Englewood, NJ. Ahuva loved teaching at Moriah, which she did until this past June. As she puts it, “There’s something special about giving kids the building blocks of Judaism.” This fall, however,

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Racheli TaubesRacheli Taubes (nee Ratner) was planning on becoming an optometrist.  On the other hand, she had always known that Jewish learning and teaching was something that she enjoyed and that it would be an important part of her life. When she was invited to apply to the pilot year of Stern College’s Jewish Educators Project she knew it was time to make a big decision about which direction her life would take.

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67033U-06Though Ariella Polakoff is new to Revel, her face will soon become a familiar one to Revel students and faculty. Ariella will serve as one of the Revel Student Liaisons beginning this fall, sharing her warm smile at the welcome desk in the new Revel Dean’s Suite.

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