Revel Student Awarded Prestigious Fellowship

Yael Landman Wermuth Receives Association for Jewish Studies Dissertation Completion Fellowship

Yael Landman Wermuth, a doctoral candidate at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, has been awarded a prestigious Dissertation Completion Fellowship for the 2016-17 academic year from the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). According to the AJS website, the fellowship is awarded to seven finishing-year Ph.D. candidates ($20,000 each) and seeks to “encourage the timely completion of doctorates by the most promising graduate students in the field; create a cohort of fellows who will lead the field of Jewish Studies for decades to come; expose new audiences to Jewish studies scholarship through fellows’ public lectures; and promote continued growth of academic Jewish Studies.”

Yael Landman, a Revel PhD student who was awarded the AJS Fellowship
Yael Landman, a Revel Ph.D. student, has been awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship by the Association for Jewish Studies

Dr. David Berger, Ruth and I. Lewis Gordon Professor of Jewish History and dean of Revel, highlighted the significance of the award. “This is the first year of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship competition inaugurated by the AJS, which is the major scholarly organization in North America representing academics in the field,” said Berger. “Ms. Landman Wermuth has been identified as an elite doctoral student in the field, and her award recognizes both her own achievements and the quality of the training provided by the Bernard Revel Graduate School.”

Landman Wermuth’s advisor, Dr. Barry Eichler, professor of Bible and cuneiform studies at Revel and Yeshiva College, described his student’s work as multifaceted, methodologically rigorous, and creative in addressing “significant legal issues both in biblical and cuneiform law.”

Landman Wermuth’s dissertation studies the biblical law of bailment (Exodus 22:6-14) in its ancient Near Eastern (ANE) contexts. Her methods include exegesis, legal theory, and socio-economic analysis. “I bring together previously unconnected texts (including Mesopotamian legal documents and biblical narrative and prophecy) to reconstruct the institution as it functioned and was perceived in ancient Israel and Judah,” she explained. “The law in Exodus is not just about bailment, but is also a law of fact-finding driven by an epistemological concern: How can the wronged party know that the accused is innocent?”

“The study of law and its historical development represents an important tool for our understanding of a society’s worldview and the important societal values emanating from its worldview,” said Eichler. “This understanding of law informs all of Ms. Landman Wermuth’s research and ensures that her work will be broadly humanistic in its outlook, and meaningful to all scholars interested in law and society.”

Landman Wermuth, whose grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Leo Landman, formerly served as dean of Revel, expressed her appreciation for Revel’s outstanding faculty: “When I wanted to study more Akkadian, Barry Eichler and Shalom Holtz taught me one-on-one. That kind of personal attention in a language course is unique. David Berger has been very supportive about taking outside language courses, and Revel has also subsidized the cost of attending conferences, including an upcoming conference of the Jewish Law Association in Tel Aviv (July 2016).”

Landman Wermuth also drew attention to the exceptionally high level of instruction at Revel. “One of my favorite parts of taking courses at YU is the philological prowess of Revel’s faculty members,” she said. “Because most Revel students have a strong background in Hebrew and reading primary sources, there is a depth and sophistication that professors can bring to classes that would not be possible if all of that groundwork were missing.”