Posted in Graduate Student Funding

2021-22 Graduate Student Summer Funding Recipients

2021-22 Graduate Student Summer Funding Recipients Posted on July 20, 2022


Congratulations Graduate Student Summer Funding Recipients

The American Academy for Jewish Research is pleased to announce the winners of its grants for graduate student summer research funding.  

AAJR provides stipends for up to $4,000 to promising graduate students in any field of Jewish Studies at a North American university who have submitted their Ph.D. Dissertation prospectus and have a demonstrated need for materials from archival, library, or manuscript collections or for ethnographic research.

Elya Assayag, Columbia University
Marriage Law, Domestic Violence and Religious Conversion in Colonial Morocco (1912-1956)
The project traces women’s lives in French Colonial Morocco (1912-1956) through embroidery. Relying on the premise that the history of textiles can give us access to information other sources cannot and expose broader social issues, my study hopes to expand our knowledge about the domestic sphere, and the relations within and between the Muslim and Jewish communities.  To do so, Elya Assayag uses diverse methodologies: formal textual archives, alongside learning embroidery from Moroccan women and oral history tools to document their stories. I also document and analyze the embroidered objects, as well as the craft itself. Assayag’s research is a multilocational study in Morocco, France, and Israel, emphasizing the inseparability of immigration questions from the broader colonial ones.

Büşra Demirkol, University of Washington
Bloodstained Jewish Midwives’: the Emergence of Modern Gynecology and its Impact on Jewish Female Healthcare Workers in the Late Ottoman Era

The stigmatization of female actors in the medical field through the criminalization of abortion and the medicalization of childbirth in the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century was particularly crystallizing in discourses against Jewish midwives who, allegedly, were the main providers of abortion. Focusing on the Jewish midwives’ experience with Ottoman modernization, this project explores the extent to which the Ottoman state harnessed medical and scientific discourses to construct women’s marginality and criminality. The project traces the redefinition of women’s bodies in the context of public health and the reorganization of actors in the medical field during the nineteenth century exploring the intersection of the emergence of modern gynecology and the criminalization of abortion. It seeks to understand how this new type of control and power relationship unfolded for Ottoman women across ethnoreligious divides, with particular attention to Jewish midwives.

Ke Guo, University of Washington
Teaching music in diaspora: Inspiration and observation from Sephardic cultures

This dissertation aims to explore the transcultural interactions in music acquisition and transmission of secular Sephardi Jewish music. One central question of diasporic studies in relation to music is how music educators should teach music from diasporic cultures—where multiplicities of historical and cultural contexts are interwoven together. In the summer of 2022, Ke Guo will conduct research focusing on the music educational effort and concert tours of master Sephardic musician Paco Diez in Spain, France, and Portugal. Through active participation and observation, this ethnographic study will provide insights into the questions of transmitting Sephardic Jewish music in various educational settings, cultural exchange, assimilation, and transculturation that were produced along with the diaspora, trade activities, and migration.

Aimee Dávila Hisey, Oregon State University
Nations, Networks, and Knowledge: Circulation of Medical Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Spanish Viceroyalties

This dissertation project seeks to uncover the means of knowledge circulation between and among crypto-Jewish medical practitioners in the Spanish viceroyalties, showing that to preserve and transmit medical knowledge crypto-Jewish and converso physicians relied on the familial, economic, kinship, and faith-based networks that made up the “nation.” This research relies on scholarship and theories of circulation of knowledge production. It focuses on historical actors whose education and profession intersected, at times mortally, with their ethnicity and faith. By exploring questions of dissemination and circulation, this research calls into question the religious binaries of Jews and Christians in the seventeenth-century Atlantic world.

Jill Joshowitz, New York University
From Ancestors to Exemplars: The Emergence of Jewish Biblical Iconography in Late Antique Asia Minor

Jill Joshowitz’s project examines the visual construction of the biblical figures of Daniel and Samson as moral exemplars in the late antique synagogue communities of Sardis (Sart) and Misis-Mopsuestia (Yakapınar) in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The AAJR summer research grant enables Joshowitz to document, photograph, and analyze the rich biblical imagery of Daniel and Samson that remains in situ at Sardis and Misis and/or in Turkish museum collections. This is part of a broader dissertation research project that seeks to articulate the Jewish cultural framework that led to the emergence of Jewish biblical iconography in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Jacob Morrow-Spitzer, Yale University
State Matters: Politics, Race, and the Struggle to Define American Jewish Citizenship, 1876-1924

The project studies the tensions, debates, and political mobilizations among American Jews to create lasting and stable citizenship in the critical decades of state-building between Reconstruction and 1924. As the centralized state exhibited its expansive power after the Civil War, its potential for improving modern citizenship rights found new meaning within the American body politic. Like other Jewish communities across the modern world, American Jews fundamentally changed their relationship with their government by balancing the politics of state regulation and welfare with internal communal reforms. By studying Jews as a group seeking to define what “citizenship” should mean in twentieth-century America, this project offers a window into how—and for whom—the modern American liberal state was formed.

Andrew Sperling, American University
American Jews Against Antisemitism

Andrew Sperling’s dissertation explores American Jewish responses to extremist antisemitism between the 1920s and the 1960s by studying Jewish reactions to groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, German-American Bund, Silver Shirts, American Nazi Party, and others. Sperling investigates how Jewish individuals, communities, and institutions understood radical antisemitism across different regions. One chapter follows Klan attacks on southern synagogues between the late 1950s and 1960s. The AAJR funds support research in libraries and archives throughout the South, in Atlanta, Birmingham, Hattiesburg, Durham, and Arlington, Texas. 

The American Academy for Jewish Research ( is the oldest professional organization of Judaica scholars in North America.  Composed of the field’s most eminent and senior scholars, it is committed to professional service through this initiative and others, including the Salo Baron Prize for the best first book in Jewish Studies and workshops for graduate students and early career scholars.