Yigal Gross ’06YC, ’07R is internal counsel at Peridot Financing Solutions, a Blackstone portfolio company headquartered in New York City. Peridot is a global player in working capital finance, with offices in 20 countries and $60 billion in annual settled volumes. In addition to attending Yeshiva College (where he earned a bachelor’s in pre-engineering) and Revel Graduate school (adding a master’s in Jewish history), he also earned a J.D. at Cornell Law School in 2010.
He currently lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with Tamar Warburg, a graduate of both Stern College for Women (2005) and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (2008), and their four children: Ella, Sara, Yonatan and Aviva.
Revel News had a chance to catch up with him to discuss his career as a lawyer and how his education at Yeshiva University influenced his professional and personal lives.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lawrence, New York, and was blessed with parents who are not only observant but passionate about Jewish education and the Jewish community. The discussions around our table were about Jewish communal issues and concepts, and my parents sought out all kinds of ways to give of themselves to the Jewish community.
My father, Yaacov Gross, founded Rambam Mesivta in 1991, which I attended, and devoted countless time and energy during my childhood to communal matters.
My mother, Ronit Gross, constantly sought opportunities to learn at a high level and herself taught Tanach from 2010 to 2018 at Stern College. I love them deeply, and they were and remain my role models of what Modern Orthodox Jews should be.
What was your Jewish education like as you grew up?
My parents taught me to strive for excellence and intellectual independence. For me, that meant attending a variety of schools. I attended HAFTR for elementary school and Rambam Mesivta for high school and, after high school, Kerem B’Yavneh, Derech HaTalmud and Yeshivat HarEtzion for various periods of time. These are quite different institutions. But what they all share is a dedication to excellence and an ability to embrace independently minded students. I am deeply indebted to all of them. They each gave me something different and valuable.
What convinced you to attend Yeshiva College?
Yeshiva College is the college in the United States whose core mission is ensuring Jewish communal continuity. All other aspects of Yeshiva University, including its college and graduate programs, stem from and ultimately support (or are at least meant to support) that mission. Other schools in the United States do have a Jewish “feel,” a lot of Jewish students, robust Jewish programming and so forth. But only Yeshiva University sees a thriving American Jewish community as its responsibility.
When you study in Yeshiva University, you are not just going to college but actively, intentionally and meaningfully engaging in the Jewish communal experience. Building the Jewish future is the essence of what you do. It is the conversations in the hallway, the articles in the newspaper—everything. That’s what I wanted my college experience to be. And there is no other college in the United States that offers that.
What led you to continue your studies with Revel?
Two things. First, I fell in love with the academic study of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. Second, I made a very fortunate error and did not realize that I needed to take my LSAT a year earlier than I did. So I had a “free” year between graduation and law school. I figured what better way to spend it than by getting a Master of Arts in Jewish History at Revel.
Can you recollect one or two experiences that would give readers a feel for the essence of your Revel experience?
I pretty much lived on the fifth floor of the Gottesman Library for a year. That about sums it up. My teachers were all great, and I would feel funny singling any out because then I would need to mention them all!
What is the throughline from Revel and Jewish studies to Cornell and the law, and why Cornell?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. And Cornell Law School is an amazing place to study law. The setting is gorgeous, nestled up in Ithaca overlooking the Finger Lakes. The teachers were serious academics but also warm and accessible. I had a lovely and diverse group of classmates, many of whom have since gone on to do amazing things: Sharice Davids, whom I studied with, is in Congress, representing Kansas’s 3rd congressional district; Ari Melber, who was in my IP law class, is the chief legal correspondent at MSNBC; Quinton Lucas, who was a year above me, is now the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.
Professionally, it was absolutely the right move for me, but it was challenging. I was the only openly Orthodox student in my class. I was single. There were Israel-related flare-ups on campus that I was drawn into. The Orthodox Jewish community was small and did not have anything remotely resembling the infrastructure that I had grown accustomed to in YU. It’s not for everyone and not a step to take lightly.
What is the most satisfying work you do as a lawyer?
I enjoy helping people, being trusted and being creative. Being a lawyer allows me to do all these things. I have been fortunate to work with clients and colleagues who seek to accomplish remarkable things, which often involve significant complexity and operational hurdles. My job is to help them navigate that complexity, overcome those hurdles and, ultimately, achieve their goals. It’s a demanding job, but one that can be deeply fulfilling, particularly if you work with people you respect and continually learn from, as I do.
Does your work at Revel influence what satisfies you as a lawyer?
Of course. I took a demanding course load at Revel—I completed the master’s in a summer and two semesters. I had to work really hard to get everything—coursework, papers, comps—done, and done well, in such a short period of time. I had to be diligent and, at times, push myself. That was good preparation for law school and a legal career, where success tends to come to those who work hard rather than those who are gifted.
On a substantive level, much of what I studied in Revel involved textual analysis and attention to detail—I recall a paper I did analyzing how the Crusade Chronicles’ author utilized Tanakhaic imagery and verbiage—and that type of study was good preparation for the type of work that I do as a lawyer.
When I signed on to do so in late February 2020, I was not expecting to spend much of my first year sat in a home office becoming an amateur epidemiologist. Yet, despite the challenges this presented, thanks to Revel’s indefatigable faculty, staff, and students, we continued to progress on all fronts.
Necessity, it is often said, is the mother of invention, and the enforced move to remote platforms that we all experienced this year enabled Revel to engage new audiences both nationally and internationally. This past academic
year, our student numbers increased by almost 40%, our internationally renowned faculty continued to produce outstanding scholarship, and we were able to put on events that reached audiences the size of which Revel has never seen before.
This “Year in Review” newsletter highlights some of the best of this past year for you, emphasizing Revel’s continued commitment to superior academic achievement and communal engagement.
As we move into the academic year 2021–22, we hope to be able to share more exciting developments with you as Revel continues to build for the future.
With all best wishes,
Daniel Rynhold, PhD
Dean, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies
It is my pleasure to share some highlights of a very successful academic year at the BRGS PhD program. Despite the hardships that Covid created, our Ph.D. students enjoyed an intellectually stimulating year with significant
accomplishments. In the opening event of the fall 2020 semester, advanced PhD students presented summaries of their dissertation research to their peers. Over the course of the academic year, we had a number of Zoom gatherings where PhD students interacted with leading scholars in a range of fields, including Dr. Susan Weissman, Dr. Jordan Finken, Dr. Cedric Cohen Skalli, and Dr. Lawrence Schiffman.
I am honored to recount the accomplishments of our students. Several articles published by our students are listed later in this publication. BRGS is especially proud of our two most recent PhD graduates who both successfully defended their first-rate dissertations. Dr. Asher Oser’s dissertation, “When an American Jew Produced: Judah David Eisenstein and the First Hebrew Encyclopedia,” tells the story of the publication of the first modern Hebrew encyclopedia, Ozar Yisrael, by Judah David Eisenstein, an amateur scholar and entrepreneurial immigrant to New York City. Dr. Jeong Mun. Heo’s dissertation, “Images of Torah From the Second Temple Period Through the Middle Ages,” tracks the ramifications of the development of conceptions of Torah across a long historical period. We wish Drs. Oser and Heo great success in their future academic endeavors. We are looking forward to building on this year’s successes in the year to come.
Jonathan V. Dauber, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Jewish Mysticism
Director of the Ph.D. Program
JULY 3, 2020
How Will We Remember Covid? A View from the Archives
Presented by Shulamith Berger and Prof. Steven Fine
FEB 10, 2021
On the Margins of Medieval Jewish Society in Halakhah and History: the Ger Toshav and the Apostate
Presented by President Ari Berman and Prof. Ephraim Kanarfogel celebrating the publication of Prof. Kanarfogel’s Brothers from Afar: Rabbinic Approaches to Apostasy and Reversion in Medieval Europe
FEB 16, 2021
Shabbetai Zvi and the Most Successful Messianic Movement in Jewish History after the First Century
Presented by Prof. David Berger
Sponsored by a Revel supporter and hosted by Young Israel of Great Neck
MARCH 17 2021
Crisis and Hope: Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Rabbi Yosef Blau in Conversation
Presented by Prof. Jess Olson
APRIL 27, 2021
Antisemitism, White Nationalism and Racism in America Today
Presented by Eric Ward and Prof. Jess Olson
MAY 5, 2021
Magefah: Pandemics throughout Jewish History
Presented by Prof Richard Hidary, Prof. Ronnie Perelis and Prof. Jess Olson
Sponsored by a Revel supporter and hosted by DAT Minyan
The Chinese-Jewish Conversation held its last in-person event on March 3, 2020 on Biblical and Chinese Ecological Values. The next day, YU shut down due to Covid. During the academic year 2021/22, the CJC migrated to an online platform, both in English and Chinese. The newly designed CJC website includes a rich video library that presents aspects of the Chinese and Jewish traditions comparatively. The newly created CJC Chinese blog presents essays on Jewish beliefs and customs, festivals, ancient and modern history, and world-famous personalities. Through the CJC WeChat account, the blog is publicized widely on Chinese social media, answering questions that many Chinese people have about Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture and history.
- “Scholarship and the blood libel: Past and present.” In A. Lange, K. Mayerhofer, D. Porat, & L.H. Schiffman (eds.), Confronting anti-semitism in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (pp. 71-85). De Gruyter. (2020).
- “The problem of exile in medieval Jewish-Christian Polemic. In Y. Berger & C. Milikowski (eds.), In the dwelling of a sage lie precious treasures: Essays in Jewish studies in honor of Shnayer Z. Leiman (pp. 189-204). KTAV Publishing House. (2020).
- “Metamorphoses of the concept ‘antisemitism’: A response to David Engel’s article.” In S. Ury & G. Miron (eds.), Antisemitism: Historical concept, public discourse (pp. 363-373). Zion: A Quarterly for Research in Jewish History.
MORDECHAI Z. COHEN
- The Rule of Peshat: Jewish constructions of the plain sense of scripture and their Christian and Muslim contexts, 900-1270. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Miller, S., Swartz, M., Fine, S., Grunhaus, N., & Jassen, A. (eds.). (2020). Scrolls to traditions: A Festschrift honoring Lawrence H. Schiffman. Brill.
- (2020). “The treason of Yosa Meshita (Genesis Rabba 65:27): A rabbinic reflection on the fate of the Temple Lampstand.” In S. Fine, N. Grunhaus, A. Jassen, S. Miller, & M. Swartz (eds.), Scrolls to traditions: A Festschrift honoring Lawrence H. Schiffman, (pp. 254-275). Brill.
- (2020). Review of Abraham Tal, ed., Tibåt Mårqe: The ark of Marqe: Edition, translation, commentary. In Review of Biblical Literature Online. (2020).
- Review of Ross Shepard Kraemer: The Mediterranean diaspora in late antiquity what Christianity cost the Jews. In Review of Biblical Literature Online.
- Miller, S., Swartz, M., Fine, S., Grunhaus, N., & Jassen, A. (eds.). (2020). From Scrolls to traditions: A Festschrift honoring Lawrence H. Schiffman. Brill.
JEFFREY S. GUROCK
- (2020). “The dilemmas of immigrant ‘tweeners’: An exploration of age and Americanization.” In Y. Berger & C. Milikowsky (eds.), In the dwelling of a sage lie precious treasures: Essays in Jewish studies in honor of Shnayer Z. Leiman, (pp. 281-296). KTAV Publishing House.
- (2021). Jewish geography in New York neighborhoods. In D. Soyer (ed.), The Jewish metropolis: New York from the 17th to the 21st century, (pp. 205-228). Academic Studies Press.
- (2020). “In memoriam: Moses Rischin.” Perspectives of History. Historians. READ MORE
- (2021). “A Tale of Two or Three Witnesses: Oral Testimony in Greco-Roman, Qumranic and Rabbinic Court Procedure.” In Miller, S., Swartz, M., Fine, S., Grunhaus, N., & Jassen, A. (eds.), Festschrift in Honor of Lawrence Schiffman (pp. 296-324). Brill.
- “Why Are there Lawyers in Heaven?: Rabbinic Aggadot on the Divine Courtroom” In Mehkerei Yerushalaim be-Sifrut Ivrit 31 (2020), 65-90.
- “Talmud as Rhetorical Exercise: Progymnasmata and Controversiae in Rabbinic Literature” In Mada`e Ha-Yahadut (2021), 81-113.
- (2021). “Love, loathing, and the law of return.” Tablet. READ MORE
- (2020). Contextualizing Jewish temples. The Brill Reference Library of Judaism. Brill.
- “Festschrift: Preliminary Observations on Trial Procedure in the Al-Yahudu Texts” In Koller, A., Cohen, M., & Moshavi, A. (eds.), Semitic, Biblical and Jewish Studies in Honor of Richard C. Steiner (pp 27*-37*). Bialik Institute and Yeshiva University Press.
- “Review of David A. Bosworth, House of Weeping: The Motif of Tears in Akkadian and Hebrew Prayers (2018)” In The Journal of Religion 100 (2020), 270–271.
- (2020). Brothers from afar: Rabbinic approaches to apostasy and reversion in Medieval Europe. Wayne State University Press.
- (2020). “Understanding the trajectory of medieval Jewish studies.” In D. Sorkin (ed.), A commitment to scholarship (pp. 119-32). American Academy for Jewish Research. (2020).
- “Gishot la-nevu’ah be-Zefon Zarefat ve-Ashkenaz bimei ha-Benayim.” In A. Koller, M.Z. Cohen, & A. Moshavi (eds.), Biblical, semitic, and Jewish studies in honor of Richard C. Steiner (pp. 158-75). Mosad Bialik and YU Press. (2020).
- “Prognostication in medieval Jewish law and legal thought.” In M. Heiduk, K. Herbers, & H.C. Lehner (eds.), Prognostication in the medieval world: A handbook (vol. 2, pp. 944-47). De Gruyter. (2020).
- “Assessing the (non-) reception of Mishneh Torah in medieval Ashkenaz.” In Y. Berger & C. Milikowsky (eds.), Essays in Jewish studies in honor of Shnayer Z. Leiman (pp. 123-45). Ktav. (2021).
- “Ta`amei ha-Mizvot in Medieval Ashkenaz.” In J. Brown and M. Herman (eds.), Accounting for the Commandments in Medieval Judaism: Studies in Law, Philosophy, Pietism and Kabbalah (pp. 177-90). Brill. (2021).
- “The Role of the Tosafists in Jewish-Christian Polemics” In C. Cluse and J. R. Muller (eds.), Medieval Ashkenaz: Studies in Honor of Alfred Haverkamp, (pp. 241-53). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. (2020).
- “Understanding the Trajectory of Medieval Jewish Studies.” In D. Sorkin (ed.), The American Academy for Jewish Research Centenary Volume (pp. 119-32.) American Academy for Jewish Research. (2020). “Gishot la-Nevu’ah be-Parshanut Zefon Zarefat ve-Ashkenaz Bimei ha-Benayim.” In A. Koller, M. Cohen, & A. Moshavi (eds.), Mehqarim be-Safot Shemiyyot, Miqra, u-Madda`ei ha-Yahadut, (pp. 158-75). Bialik Institute and Yeshiva University Press.
- (2020). Unbinding Isaac: The significance of the Akedah for modern Jewish thought. University of Nebraska Press, The Jewish Publication Society.
- Koller, A., Cohen, M., & Moshavi, A. (eds.) (2020). Semitic, Biblical, and Jewish studies: Festschrift for Richard Steiner. Bialik Institute and Yeshiva University Press.
- (2020). “Hebrew and Aramaic in contact.” In: R. Hasselbach-Andee (ed.), A companion to Ancient Near Eastern languages (pp. 439-455). Blackwell.
- (2020). “Richard Steiner: An appreciation.” In: A. Koller, M. Cohen, & A. Moshavi (eds.), Semitic, biblical, and Jewish studies: Festschrift for Richard Steiner (pp. 7-14). Bialik and Yeshiva University Press.
- (2020). “Thrones and crowns: On the regalia of the West Semitic Monarchy.” In: L. Naeh & D. Brostowsky (eds.), The throne in art and archaeology from the dawn of the Ancient Near East until the Late Medieval Period (pp. 123-134). Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
- (2020). “Tree and wood, polysemy and vagueness: Detangling the branches of the Hebrew word עץ . In: A. Koller, M. Cohen, & A. Moshavi (eds.), Semitic, biblical, and Jewish studies: Festschrift for Richard Steiner (pp. 164-181). Bialik Institute and Yeshiva University Press.
- “Review of James A. Diamond, Jewish Theology Unbound.” In AJS Review 44 (2020), 411-413.
- “Review of Yosef Ofer, The Masora on scripture and its methods.” In Lešonénu 82 (2020), 432-436.
- Power and Emotion in Ancient Judaism: Community and Identity in Formation, Cambridge University Press.
- (2020). “Maimonides’s theology.” In S. Kepnes (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Jewish Theology (pp.105-31). Cambridge University Press
- (2021). “The nature of good and evil.” In Dan Frank and Aaron Segal (eds.), Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed: A Critical Guide (pp. 60-77). Cambridge University Press.
- Response to Kepnes: Theology and Aesthetics.” In Journal of Textual Reasoning Volume 12:1 (2021). READ MORE
- Dr. Joshua Karlip was awarded a generous book grant from SEFER, an institute of Jewish history in Moscow, for research on his book project, Rabbis in the Land of Atheism: The Struggle to Save Judaism in the Soviet Union. • READ MORE
- Dr. Ronnie Perelis hosted a conference, Translating Americas, sponsored by the American Academy for Jewish Research. • READ MORE
- Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky, a Ph.D. student, wrote an article in the forthcoming edition of Tradition. • READ MORE
- Rabbi Yaakov Taubes, a Ph.D. student, published an article, “A Fresh Approach to Nahmanides and Aggadah at Barcelona,” in Jewish Quarterly Review 110 (2010), 769-701.
- Binyamin Goldstein, a Ph.D. student, published an article, “Encountering the Grotesque,” in (Anna Krauß, Jonas Leipziger and Friederike Schücking-Jungblut, eds.) Material Aspects of Reading in Ancient and Medieval Cultures (pp 233-250). De Gruyter.
- Miriam Zami, a Ph.D. student, published an article, “Yefet, Shem, and the New Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Tradition. • READ MORE
- Dr. Daniel Rynhold, dean, participated in the podcast “The Philosophical Legacy of Jonathan Sacks” and a panel discussion with the London School of Jewish Studies on The Life Changing Ideas of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”L. • LISTEN HERE • WATCH VIDEO
- Rabbi Dr. Yosie Levine, a recent Revel Ph.D. graduate, wrote this important article about COVID vaccines. • READ MORE
Jeong Mun Heo recently completed his Ph.D. His dissertation is titled “Images of Torah from the Second Temple Period Through the Middle Ages.” He also holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Computer Sciences from Kosin University and an M.Div. from Korea Theological Seminary in his native South Korea, and an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University Jerusalem as well as a Th.M. in Biblical Studies from Boston College. He hopes to continue research in the area of phenomenology of religion, and the philosophical and theological discourse between Judaism and Christianity. He would like to establish an academic center for Jewish Studies and Jewish-Christian Dialogue in South Korea, which would contribute to not only promoting a mutual and positive understanding of their ancient roots that preserve academic, religious, and cultural Jewish-Christian heritages but also broadening the understanding of the interreligious dialogues between Jewish-Christian faiths, as well as other religious faiths.
“Looking back at great memories of my time at YU, I can say that it was the most fortunate, blessed, and rewarding experience in my academic life.”
“I was particularly privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from Revel’s faculty. I enjoyed the classes which were taught by the excellent professors who have contributed to my experience and intellectual development—enriching and empowering my knowledge and understanding of a broad range of academic areas…[O]ne of the major highlights of my experience during the first year at YU—how, in an individual tutorial with my supervisor, Dr. Jonathan V. Dauber, I enjoyed reading the Hebrew original texts of the Nefesh HaChaim, written by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, who discusses the idea of Torah lishmah, Torah for Torah’s Sake.”
“My experiences and studies at YU provided me with immense joy of learning. I was empowered by the spirit of integrating faith and scholarship…”
Asher Oser recently completed his Ph.D. His dissertation is titled “When an American Jew Produced: Judah David Eisenstein and the First Hebrew Encyclopedia” and tells the story of the publication of first modern Hebrew encyclopedia, Ozar Yisrael, by Judah David Eisenstein, an amateur scholar and entrepreneurial immigrant to New York City.
Aron White is originally from the U.K., and has a B.Sc. in Politics and International Relations from the University of London. After studying at Yeshivat Hakotel, he began his semikha studies at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), which he completed in 2020. During his semikha studies, he also earned a certificate in Mental Health Counseling through the RIETS/Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology as well as an M.A. in Jewish History through the Bernard Revel Graduate School. Aron made aliya with his family in October 2020 and now works as the Torah Projects Coordinator for Mizrachi USA/RZA.
“I feel that my time in Revel has made me a better Jew, and enabled me to be a better Rabbi and teacher. Through the range of courses I was enabled to study, all taught by genuinely world leading professors, I felt I both deepened and broadened my understanding of Jewish history, heritage and learning. By combining the best of academic scholarship with an institution that celebrates a commitment to Jewish life, Revel has given me something invaluable that I will take with me for the rest of my life.”
Denise Zami currently teaches Tanakh to 9th and 11th grades at SAR High School in Riverdale. She just completed her M.A. in Bible Studies at Revel. Denise also received her B.A. in Jewish Education from Stern College for Women, where she was a Legacy Heritage Scholar. Denise previously taught Jewish Studies at Gann Academy, an innovative pluralistic high school in the Boston area. Denise lives in Manhattan with her husband Jason and
new baby girl, Regina.
Rebecca Zami completed her M.A. in Ancient Jewish History. Currently, Rebecca is the Leon Charney Research Associate at the YU Center for Israel Studies working on the upcoming exhibition, Samaritans: A Biblical People. Rebecca has a particular interest in Biblical archaeology and has participated in archaeological excavations in Israel and hopes to pursue a degree in archaeology following her graduation from Revel.
Incoming Ph.D. Students
Mendel Breitstein holds a bachelor’s in English literature from the University of Maryland an M.A. in Medieval Jewish history from BRGS. He is a teacher at Yeshivat Bne Akiva Netivot Haim in Pisgat Zev and also teaches in Israeli colleges. He is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish philosophy.
Avishag Damari has a joint B.Ed. in Judaic Studies and Educational technology from Michlala Jerusalem College and an M.A. in Leadership and Educational System Management from Bar-Ilan University. After teaching Middle School Judaic Studies and Media Communications for several years in Israel, Avishag came to New York as a Shlicha for the World Zionist Organization whereby she taught Hebrew Language, Israeli Culture, and Zionism, at both Barkai Yeshiva in Brooklyn and SAR Academy in Riverdale. Avishag received an MA in Jewish philosophy at the Bernard Revel Graduate School, where she is now engaged in Ph.D. studies in the same discipline.
Roy Feldman holds a B.A. in History and Linguistics from Columbia University, an M.A. in Jewish Philosophy from BRGS, and Rabbinic Ordination from RIETS. He is currently Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. Roy is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish History and has a particular interest in American Jewish History.
Elisha Fine is a doctoral student in Jewish History of the modern period at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies of Yeshiva University.
Having recently completed his M.S.W. at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, his work focuses on the cultural history of death and dying.
Noam Kornsgold holds a B.A. in History from Columbia University and a B.A. in Talmud and Rabbinics from JTS. He also earned an M.A. in Talmud and Rabbinic and rabbinic ordination from JTS.
Noam currently serves as the Director of Education and Programming at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. He is pursuing a doctorate in medieval Jewish history with a particular interest in the development of halakhah in medieval Ashkenaz.
Annie Nagel holds a B.A. in Biology from Stern College and a J.D. from UCLA School of Law. Annie practiced law in Los Angeles for several years and currently teaches Tanach at YULA Girls High School.
She is pursuing a doctorate in Bible and has a particular interest in the biblical commentaries of Ramban.
David Selis is the Leon Charney Doctoral Fellow at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies of Yeshiva University, and a research fellow of the YU Center for Israel Studies.
His particular interests are the history of the Hebrew book and Modern Jewish cultural history.
After a year of Covid -19, a pandemic hopefully receding for good, three professors at Bernard Revel Graduate School shared some varied reflections related to pandemics. Over fifty participants joined in the virtual event on May 5, Magefah: Pandemics Throughout Jewish History.
Dr. Richard Hidary presented “Talmudic Teachings on Loss and Survival during a Pandemic.” He collated sources from the Talmud which recommend introspection, repentance, and prayer in the face of a plague. Interestingly, he also showcased a Talmudic source, Bava Kamma 60b, which recommends notions of quarantine (“Come in your rooms and close your doors…(Isaiah 26:6)) and social distancing “Do not walk in the middle of the road..”
Dr. Ronnie Perelis spoke about “Dancing with Death: Life and Death and the Plague in Sepharad.” He analyzed the words of the Danse Macabre, a popular song in Spain after the Black Death which personified Death and described ‘his’ dancing with all different characters in Spanish society. Dr. Perelis argued that the specific descriptions of Jews and Muslims in the song evince the real social familiarity the different religious groups shared in medieval Spain.
Dr. Jess Olson commented on “1919 to 2020: Jews and Two Centuries of Pandemics.” He compared the influenza epidemic of 1919 to the Covid-19 pandemic of today. He mentioned that though our medical knowledge has advanced considerably in the century, the Unites States has suffered disproportionately in the Covid 19 pandemic. On a positive note, Dr. Olson suggested that the global position of Jews is more secure now than it was a century ago.
Dr. Joshua Karlip is associate professor of Jewish history and Herbert S. and Naomi Denenberg Chair of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. He has taught in the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women.
On May 17, 2021, he received a letter from the SEFER Center for University Teaching of Jewish Civilization in Moscow, Russia, announcing that he had been awarded a grant to support his newest book project, tentatively titled Rabbis in the Land of Atheism: The Struggle to Save Judaism in the Soviet Union. (YU News has posted a story about Dr. Karlip also receiving support from Yeshiva University for this project.)
“I learned about the SEFER Center and the grant through an announcement on a listserv I’m a member of,” he noted. “The grant will cover all expenses related to research, such as airfare, hotels, costs for use of archives, and so on.”
He plans to use the grant money to travel to Israel this summer to conduct research at the National Library of Israel and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, both of which are located in Jerusalem. “They possess rich archival material on the lives and writings of rabbis in the Soviet Union during the interwar period. I also plan to use the money to travel to Moscow in the summer of 2022 for the SEFER conference and also to travel to archives throughout the former Soviet Union that house material about Jewish religious life in the Soviet Union.”
Dr. Karlip explained that the heart of the book is the untold story of how Soviet rabbis attempted to keep Judaism alive and relevant to their followers when living in a militantly atheistic state. “By analyzing responsa, sermons, Hasidic addresses, and correspondence, I will demonstrate how rabbis constructed a political theology to make sense of the success of the Soviet government even as they sought to make room for religious belief and observance in the lives of Soviet Jews.
On April 6th, students and community members were treated to a special virtual tour in the latest installment of the Crisis and Hope series. Dr. Ronnie Perelis welcomed Monica Unikel-Fasja, the author of “Synagogues of Mexico.” Using many detailed photographs, Monica explored the history of the Jewish settlement in Mexico, from the first crypto- Jews to the modern day community. She specifically spoke about and showed beautiful images of the Sinagoga Justo Sierra, the first Ashkenazic synagogue in Mexico, built in 1941, where Monica now serves as director. The full video from the event can be viewed here: https://www.yu.edu/crisisandhope/past-recordings
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