Context Faculty and Staff

The faculty at Context, the adult Jewish learning program at JTS, are top scholars and teachers from a variety of colleges and universities across the United States: 

Alisa Braun is the academic director of Context and comes to The Jewish Theological Seminary from the Me'ah National Initiative, where she was its academic director. Dr. Braun served as the academic coordinator of the Jewish Studies program at the University of California, Davis, where she taught courses on modern Jewish literature, history, and film.

She has a PhD from the Department of English at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on Jewish writers in America and the institution of patronage. She has both studied and taught in the Uriel Weinreich Program in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture. Dr. Braun teaches about various aspects of the modern period in the Context program.

Lynn Feinman is the manager of site relations and administration of The Institute for Jewish Learning at JTS. She is responsible for registration, coordinating logistical matters with Context partners, supporting students' use of Blackboard, and marketing and publicity.Lynn holds a master's degree in Library Studies from the University of Rhode Island, and a bachelor of fine arts from the School of Visual Arts. She served as librarian at the 92nd Street Y for nine years, and held various positions for more than 16 years, culminating in instructional services librarian, at the Springfield City Library in Massachusetts. She loves the cultural and Jewish life of New York, and is an avid English country dancer.  



Faculty List

Eliyana Adler specializes in East European Jewish history. Her book, In Her Hands: The Education of Jewish Girls in Tsarist Russia, was published in 2011 by Wayne State University Press. At present she is pursuing a project on the experiences of Polish Jewish refugees in the Soviet Union during World War II. After completing her doctorate at Brandeis University, she taught courses on East European Jewry, the Holocaust, American and Soviet Jewish history, and Zionism at the University of Maryland. She has also taught at Georgetown and the George Washington University, and served as the Sosland Foundation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Joel Baden is assistant professor of Old Testament at the Yale Divinity School, where he specializes in the Pentateuch and Biblical Hebrew. He holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Semitic Languages, and a PhD from Harvard University in Hebrew Bible. He is the author of the books J, E, and the Redaction of the Pentateuch (Mohr Siebeck, 2009) and The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis (Yale University Press, 2012), and the coeditor of the volume The Strata of the Priestly Writings: Contemporary Debate and Future Directions (TVZ, 2009). Dr. Baden has published numerous articles and essays on individual pentateuchal texts, critical methodology, and biblical Hebrew.

Leila Gal Berner is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1983) and, as a Fulbright scholar, spent two years in the archives of Cataluña, Spain, where she wrote her dissertation on the Jewish community of Barcelona in the 13th century. She later received her PhD in Medieval Jewish History from UCLA (1986), rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (1989), and a second ordination from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (2009). She has taught at Swarthmore, Emory, and George Washington universities, and has served for the past seven years as scholar-in-residence in the department of Philosophy and Religion at American University in Washington DC. Dr. Berner is dean of students in the ALEPH Rabbinic Ordination Program, and also serves as spiritual leader of Kol Ami: The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community.

Justin Cammy, a specialist in modern Jewish literature and culture, is associate professor of Jewish Studies at Smith College. He received a PhD from the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. From 2011 to 2013, he is the director of both the Program in Jewish Studies and the Program in Middle Eastern Studies. Dr. Cammy's scholarly interests in the ways in which Jewish history, politics, and culture intersect are reflected his teaching, which includes courses on Yiddish, Israeli, and American-Jewish literature. Dr. Cammy is the translator and editor of Hinde Bergner's On Long Winter Nights: Memoirs of a Jewish Family in a Galician Township, 1870-1900. His book Young Vilna: Yiddish Culture of the Last Generation will be published by Indiana University Press in 2013.

Eliezer Diamond is the Rabbi Judah Nadich Associate Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Diamond received his PhD from JTS. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He is the author of Holy Men and Hunger Artists: Fasting and Asceticism in Rabbinic Culture (Oxford University Press, 2003). Besides asceticism, his areas of interest include Talmudic and midrashic terminology, rabbinic narrative, and Jewish law and the environment. A popular teacher and lecturer, Dr. Diamond has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Stern College.

Yaacob Dweck is assistant professor of History and Judaic Studies at Princeton University. Prior to his appointment, he was the Mellon Cotsden Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Princeton University. He is the author of The Scandal of Kabbalah: Leon Modena, Jewish Mysticism, Early Modern Venice (Princeton University Press, 2011). He received his PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania, and holds a BA from Columbia University and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. He has received fellowships from the Gates Cambridge Trust and the Wexner Foundation. In addition to his interest in Jewish history, he has translated several works of modern Hebrew literature, including Haim Sabato's The Dawning of the Day and, in collaboration with Nicholas de Lange, S. Yizhar's Khirbet Khizeh.

David E. Fishman is professor of Jewish History at JTS, teaching courses in modern Jewish history. Dr. Fishman also serves as director of Project Judaica, a Jewish studies program based in Moscow that is sponsored jointly by JTS and Russian State University for the Humanities. He received his bachelor's degree from Yeshiva University, and his master's degree and doctorate from Harvard. Dr. Fishman is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and culture of East European Jewry. His books include Russia's First Modern Jews (New York University Press) and The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (Pittsburgh University Press). Dr. Fishman is the coeditor, with Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, of From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature (Westview Press, 1999).

Arnold Franklin earned a BA at Harvard College and a PhD from Princeton University's department of Near Eastern Studies. He has taught at New York University; University of California, Davis; and Hunter College; and is currently an assistant professor in the History Department at Queens College, where he offers courses on ancient and medieval Jewish history. Dr. Franklin's book, This Noble House: Jewish Descendants of King David in the Islamic East (University of Pennsylvania Press 2012) explores the profound concern with lineage that developed among Jews in Muslim lands during the Middle Ages.

Benjamin Gampel, author and teacher, specializes in the study of the Jews of the medieval and early modern worlds. He received his PhD from Columbia University and is the Eli and Dinah Field Professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dr. Gampel edited Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World (Columbia University Press; new edition, 1998), which is an account of the international conference held in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon. At present, he is writing a book on the pogroms and forced conversions of 1391 in the Iberian Peninsula and the effects of those events on the course of Jewish history.

Jonathan Gribetz is assistant professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers University. He holds an AB from Harvard, a master's in Modern Jewish Studies from Oxford, and a PhD in History from Columbia. He is currently writing a book on the intellectual encounter between Zionists and Arabs in Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At Rutgers, he teaches courses on modern Jewish and Middle Eastern history, including the history of Jewish nationalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Jews in the Islamic world, and the city of Jerusalem.

Robert Harris is associate professor of Bible at JTS, teaching courses in biblical literature and commentary. He is a graduate of the Joint Program between JTS and Columbia University, and received an MA in Judaica, an MPhil in Bible, rabbinical ordination, and a PhD from JTS. An expert in the history of medieval biblical exegesis, Dr. Harris is the author of Discerning Parallelism: A Study in Northern French Medieval Jewish Biblical Exegesis (Brown Judaic Studies series, 2004).

David Hoffman is lecturer in Talmud and Rabbinics and scholar-in-residence for Development at JTS. Rabbi Hoffman recently completed his PhD in Talmud, writing on notions of honor and anger in rabbinic literature. He was appointed by Chancellor Arnold Eisen to serve on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, and has taught widely in synagogues across North America. Rabbi Hoffman served for many years as the director of the Eisenfeld-Duker Beit Midrash and as religious and academic adviser to the Mekhinah program of The Rabbinical School of JTS. Rabbi Hoffman was ordained at JTS, where he was a Wexner Fellow.

David Kraemer is the Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he earned a PhD in Talmud and Rabbinics. As director of The JTS Library, Dr. Kraemer oversees the most extensive collection of Judaica-rare and contemporary-in the Western hemisphere. He is a prolific author and commentator. His books include: The Mind of the Talmud (Oxford, 1990), Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature (Oxford, 1995), and The Meanings of Death in Rabbinic Judaism (Routledge, 2000). His most recent book is Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages (Routledge, 2007).

Barbara Mann is associate professor of Jewish Literature and Simon H. Fabian Chair in Hebrew Literature at JTS. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of expertise include Israeli and Jewish literature, cultural studies, modern poetry, urban studies, literary modernism, and the fine arts. Dr. Mann is the author of Space and Place in Jewish Studies (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space (Stanford University Press, 2005). She is coeditor in chief of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. 

Jonathan Milgram is an assistant professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at JTS. Dr. Milgram received bachelor's degrees from JTS and Columbia University. He earned his master's degree in Talmud and his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University, and his PhD from Bar-Ilan University. From 2000 to 2003, Dr. Milgram served as Sam and Vivienne Cohen Lecturer in Jewish Studies, a joint appointment at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and the London School for Jewish Studies. From 1997 to 2003, Dr. Milgram served as coordinator of JTS's Saul Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research, and in 2005 was assistant editor for Talmud and Rabbinics for the Encyclopedia Judaica, second edition.

Alan Mintz is the Chana Kekst Professor of Hebrew Literature at JTS. He received his PhD from Columbia University in English Literature, and then made a transition to Jewish Studies and Hebrew Literature. He taught at Columbia, the University of Maryland, and Brandeis University before coming to JTS in 2001. Together with David Roskies, he was the founder and editor of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. Among his books are Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew LiteratureBanished from Their Father's Table: Loss of Faith and Hebrew Autobiography, and Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry. He is currently working on a book about S. Y. Agnon that is supported by a Guggenheim fellowship.

Ora Horn Prouser is executive vice president and academic dean at the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic rabbinical and cantorial school located in Riverdale, New York. She received her PhD from the Department of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages and Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was adjunct faculty for 16 years. Dr. Prouser has written and published widely in scholarly journals on topics such as literary approaches to biblical study, and feminism and gender issues. She served as an academic consultant with the Melton Center for Research in Jewish Education on its development of Bible curricula for day schools through the MaToK Bible curriculum and the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks programs.

Jonathan Ray is the Samuel Eig Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology department at Georgetown University. He holds a BA from Tufts University in History and Religion, and a PhD in Jewish History from JTS. He has studied in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and Argentina, and has taught at Yale University and UCLA. Dr. Ray specializes in medieval and early modern Jewish history, focusing on the Sephardic world. His research explores the convivencia (coexistence) among Christian, Muslim, and Jewish societies in Iberia and throughout the broader Mediterranean world. He is the author of The Sephardic Frontier: The Reconquista and the Jewish Community in Medieval Iberia (Cornell University Press, 2006), as well as several articles on Jewish history and culture. He is a frequent lecturer on Jewish history and interreligious relations at the Smithsonian Institution and the US Department of State's Foreign Service Institute.

Gary A. Rendsburg is the Blanche and Irving Laurie Professor of Jewish History at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he has a joint appointment in the department of History. Dr. Rendsburg received his PhD in 1980. He previously taught at Canisius College and at Cornell University. Dr. Rendsburg's areas of special interest include literary approaches to the Bible, the history of the Hebrew language, the history of ancient Israel, and the literature and culture of ancient Egypt. Dr. Rendsburg has held a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship; and he has taught as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Colgate University, the State University of New York at Binghamton, and the University of Sydney in Australia. Dr. Rendsburg is the author of five books and more than 100 scholarly articles. His most popular book is a general survey of the biblical world entitled The Bible and the Ancient Near East, coauthored with the late Cyrus H. Gordon (1997).

Elisha Russ-Fishbane is a historian of Jewish life and culture of the medieval Islamic world. He is assistant professor in Wesleyan University's Religion department and Jewish and Israel Studies Program. Prior to this, he taught at Princeton University as a Tikvah Postdoctoral Fellow. He completed his doctorate in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. His dissertation, Between Politics and Piety: Abraham Maimonides and His Times (July, 2009), is a historical portrait of 13th-century Egyptian Jewish society and spirituality through the career of that community's foremost religious leader. Dr. Russ-Fishbane's research addresses the socioeconomic, religious, and intellectual intersections of medieval Judaism and Islam. His current work explores the history and development of the Jewish pietist movement in Egypt.

Daniel Schwartz specializes in modern Jewish and European intellectual and cultural history. He received his PhD in History from Columbia University. He is the author of The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image (Princeton University Press, 2012), a book that traces the various afterlives of the 17th-century Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza in modern Jewish culture. Dr. Schwartz is also engaged in the production of a documentary reader that will bring together a variety of responses to Spinoza in modern Jewish thought and literature. His current book project, tentatively entitled Ghetto: The Odyssey of a Word, Concept, Metaphor, and Place, explores the history of the ghetto as a real and symbolic space over time and between cultures.

Diane Sharon is currently a member of the faculty in Bible at the Academy for Jewish Religion. She taught for 10 years as assistant professor at JTS. She has also taught comparative religion and Hebrew Bible at Fordham University, General Theological Seminary (Episcopal), Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning. She is the author of Patterns of Destiny: Narrative Structures of Foundation and Doom in the Hebrew Bible (Eisenbrauns, 2002), and The JPS Commentary: Judges, as well as many articles dealing with the Hebrew Bible in its context in the ancient Near East, comparative religion, and women's studies.

Nancy Sinkoff is associate professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; she has recently been named chair of the Jewish Studies department. A historian of Early Modern / Modern Ashkenazic Jewry, she was educated at Harvard-Radcliffe College, JTS, and Columbia University, where she earned her PhD in Jewish History in 1996. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Dr. Sinkoff was a Dorot Fellow in the Skirball Department of Judaic Studies at New York University. She is the author of Out of the Shtetl: Making Jews Modern in the Polish Borderlands (Brown Judaic Studies, 2004), for which she was awarded a Korot Foundation Subvention Publication Prize. Dr. Sinkoff is currently at work on a book-length historical study of Lucy S. Dawidowicz, an American-born historian of East European Jewry.

Wendy Zierler is associate professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC). She received her MA and PhD from Princeton University. She is currently studying for an MFA degree in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Zierler was a research fellow in the English Department of Hong Kong University. She has also been a lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She is the author of And Rachel Stole the Idols: The Emergence of Modern Hebrew Women's Writing; a Feminist Haggadah commentary in My People's HaggadahTo Speak her Heart, an illustrated anthology of Jewish women's prayers and poems; and The Selected Writings of Hava Shapiro, a collaboration with Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion colleague Carole Balin.

Additional Faculty 

Leora Batnitzky (PhD, Princeton) is professor of Religion at Princeton University and the director of the Tikvah Project on Jewish Thought. Her research focuses on the philosophical and historical continuities between modern religious thought and modern legal theory.

Elissa Bemporad (PhD, Stanford) is assistant professor of history and the Jerry and William Ungar professor in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust at Queens College, CUNY. Her research focuses on the social and cultural history of the Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Yedida Eisenstat is an advanced doctoral candidate in Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation at JTS. Her research focuses on medieval Jewish biblical interpretation, especially that of the peshat school of 12th-century northern France.

Barat Ellman (PhD, JTS) teaches in the areas of Bible, rabbinic commentary, and liturgy. Her scholarly work focuses on biblical religion and ideology and on literary and mythological motifs in the Hebrew Bible.

Eitan Fishbane (PhD, Brandeis University) is assistant professor in Jewish Thought at JTS. His research focuses on the nature of mystical experience, theories of selfhood in kabbalistic thought, and the intersection of literature and religion in the study of mysticism.

Stephen Garfinkel (PhD, Middle East Languages and Cultures, Columbia University; rabbinic ordination and DHL, honoris causa, JTS) is associate provost and assistant professor of Bible at JTS. His current research focuses on early popular perceptions of Moses as a divine figure.

Olga Gershenson (PhD, University of Massachusetts) is associate professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on Russian Jewish culture.

Robert Goldenberg (PhD, Brown) is professor emeritus of History and Judaic Studies at Stony Brook University. He specializes in the history of Jews and Judaism in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Kathryn Hellerstein (PhD, Stanford) is associate professor of Germanic Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on gender, Yiddish literature, and translation.

Tamar Jacobowitz (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) teaches in the area of Rabbinics. Her research focuses on rabbinic discourse of the body in relation to reproduction, gender, disease, and illness.

Amy Kalmanofsky (PhD, JTS) is assistant professor of Bible at JTS. Her research focuses on biblical literature, religion, and feminist interpretation of the Bible.

David E. Kaufman (PhD, Brandeis) is associate professor of Religion and Florence and Robert Kaufman Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies at Hofstra University. His research focuses on American Jewish history and culture.

Mark Kligman (PhD, NYU) is professor of Jewish Musicology at HUC, where he teaches in the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. His main area of expertise is the liturgical music of Middle Eastern Jewish communities.

Anne Lapidus Lerner (PhD, Harvard University) is assistant professor emerita of Jewish Literature at JTS. Her research focuses on Jewish gender and women's studies.

Avinoam Patt (PhD, NYU) is Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. His research focuses on Jewish responses to the Holocaust.

Mordecai Schwartz (PhD, JTS) is instructor of Talmud at JTS.

Stefanie Siegmund (PhD, JTS) is associate professor of Jewish History at JTS. She specializes in the history of the Jewish family and the Jews of the early modern Italian states.

Paola Tartakoff (PhD, Columbia) is assistant professor of History and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on conversion to and from Judaism and in the medieval and Spanish inquisitions.

David Wachtel is a senior consultant for Special Collections at The JTS Library, and holds advanced degrees in Medieval History and Jewish Studies from Columbia University.