Summer Scholars

From a large pool of applicants, “Privilege and Prejudice” co-directors selected 25 summer scholars, including three graduate students, one museum professional, a film maker, and 20 faculty, tenured and non-tenure track. We endeavored to achieve gender balance and to maximize diversity. Participants represented a wide array of academic fields, including Jewish studies, southern studies, literature, ethnic studies, folklore, theatre, and history. They came from as far as California and as near as South Carolina, from Massachusetts, North Dakota, Florida, Alabama, and many states in between. They all were prepared to think about the materials of southern Jewish history and culture and how they could use what they learned during the institute to deepen their own teaching and scholarship.

Each scholar was asked to create a meaningful project related to teaching or research and submit it for posting here. You can find links to these reports under participants’ bios (below) and a Table of Contents at the Research Projects tab.

Zakiya Adair

Assistant professor in Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies at the College of New Jersey, Zakiya Adair earned her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her areas of specialization are transnational women’s cultural history, African American history, and black internationalism, with a specific focus on early trans-Atlantic expressive culture.

Project Report: Insider-Outsider, Black and Jewish Interactions in Southern Port Cities

Erica Hurwitz Andrus

Senior lecturer in the Religion Department at the University of Vermont, Erica Hurwitz Andrus also serves as director of Jewish Studies. Her dissertation at UC Santa Barbara addressed the connection between Southern Evangelical Protestantism and Bluegrass music culture. She chairs the Delegates Assembly for United Academics (the UVM faculty union) and lives on a farm where her husband grows rice and where they sometimes play fiddle tunes together.

Project Report: Summer Jewish Institute Report

Anne Blankenship

Anne Blankenship, an assistant professor at North Dakota State University, received her Ph.D. in American Religious History from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research explores religious responses to injustice, relationships among national, racial, and religious identities, and Jewish American tourism. Blankenship’s current book project examines responses to mass immigration to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

Project Report: Judaism Lesson Plans for American Religious History

Jan Davidson

Jan Davidson earned her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 2000. At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (2000–2005), she worked as historian on the exhibit America on the Move and co-authored On the Move, Transportation and the American Story. Since 2005, she has served as the Cape Fear Museum’s historian and is currently engaged in a project documenting enslavement in New Hanover County, North Carolina.

Project Report: Cape Fear Historian

Terri Desai

Terri Desai grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University, majoring in history and political science. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she practiced law for several years. She currently teaches political science at Glendale Community College outside of Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her husband and near her two adult children. She enjoys reading, travel, and good food.

Project Report: Lesson Plan for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Matthew Dischinger

Matthew Dischinger is a lecturer in the Department of English at Georgia State University. His research interests include contemporary American literature, pedagogy, and the aesthetics of melancholia. He is currently co-editing a collection of essays entitled Southern Comforts: Drinking and the U.S. South (LSU Press, forthcoming spring 2020).

Project Report: Lesson Plan: William Faulkner’s “Death Drag”

Photo used with permission. ©REBurnett, 2016

Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan

Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan is Assistant Professor of Irish Research and Teaching at Georgia Southern University. She is the co-author, with Susan L. Porter and Lisa Fagin Davis, of Becoming American Jews: Temple Israel of Boston (Brandeis University Press, 2009). She has also published in the Journal of American Ethnic History, the Historical Journal of Massachusetts, and Immigrants in American History (ABC-CLIO, 2013). Her current project, Yankee Doodle Paddy and Uncle Sammy: Ethnic Patriotism in Boston’s Irish and Jewish Communities, 1880–1929, is a comparative study examining strategies of ethnic acculturation and identity.

Project Report: Lesson Plan: Comparisons and Connections: Irish and Jews in the American South Introduction

Catherine Eskin

Catherine R. Eskin (M.A., Ph.D. in English Literature and Rhetoric) is a tenured associate professor of English at Florida Southern College. She founded the Temple Emanuel Archive in 2007 to preserve the historical heritage of Jews in Polk County, Florida. Besides working in early modern studies, she has created exhibits on the Jewish community, collected more than 100 interviews, and involved her students in archive-related service learning.

Project Report:Privilege and Prejudice: Jewish History in the American South OR What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Melanie Hernandez

Melanie Hernandez is assistant professor of English at Fresno State, where she teaches courses in American literature and cultural production. Her research focuses on strategic racial performance, authenticity politics and social policing, and violent racial satire. Before she became a teacher, Hernandez worked in television and radio, including the Oxygen network, ABC’s The View, radio station K-EARTH 101, Saturday Night Live!, E! News Daily, The Howard Stern Show, and Eyewitness News. She prefers teaching.

Project Report: Intersectional Racial Productions: Two Case Studies

Michael Hoberman

Michael Hoberman teaches American literature at Fitchburg State University, in Massachusetts. His books include New Israel/New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America and A Hundred Acres of America: The Geography of Jewish American Literary History. In 2008–2009, he was an NEH Long Term Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and in 2010, he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in American Studies at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Project Report: River Crossings

Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University. As a California native, she moved to the South to attend Arkansas State University, where she received her M.A. in History. Her dissertation explores Tennessee’s early movie theaters and how a lack of Jewish representation in preservation literature impacts the public’s understanding of the Jewish influence on Tennessee’s economic and cultural development.

Project Report: NEH Lesson Plan

Adam Jortner

Adam Jortner is the Goodwin–Philpott Professor of History at Auburn University. He specializes in the study of religion in the early republic and is the author of Blood from the Sky (2017), a history of miracles, and The Gods of Prophetstown (2011), an analysis of Native American religion during the War of 1812.

Project Report: Making the Revolution Jewish: Patriotism and Citizenship in Early U.S. Synagogues

Jonathan Judaken

Jonathan Judaken is the Spence L. Wilson Chair in the Humanities at Rhodes College. He has published many academic articles on the history of existentialism, the critical philosophy of race, theories of anti-Semitism, and post-Holocaust French Jewish thought. He is the author of Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question (2006); editor of Race after Sartre (2008) and Naming Race, Naming Racisms (2009); and co-editor of Situating Existentialism (2012).

Project Report: The Zacuto Complex

Geoffrey Levin

Geoffrey Levin is the incoming Alan M. Stroock Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Jewish Studies for the 2019–2020 academic year. Levin received his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies/History from New York University in May 2019. His dissertation examined the issue of Palestinian rights in the early American Jewish relationship with Israel (1948–1977). Levin is a recipient of a 2018–2019 Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) Dissertation Completion Fellowship and the Center for Jewish History’s Graduate Research Fellowship.

Project Report: Teaching about the South in “Islamophobia and Antisemitism in American History”

Amy Milligan

Amy K. Milligan is the Batten Endowed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies and the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding at Old Dominion University. She specializes in Jewish bodies and studies of small or marginalized Jewish communities. Milligan has published two books: Jewish Bodylore: Feminist and Queer Ethnographies of Folk Practices (2019) and Hair, Headwear, and Orthodox Jewish Women: Kallah’s Choice (2014).

Project Report: The Jewish Community of Selma, Alabama

Heather Nathans

Heather S. Nathans is chair of the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, and the Alice and Nathan Gantcher Professor in Judaic Studies at Tufts University. Her publications include: Early American Theatre from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson; Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage, 1787–1861, and Hideous Characters and Beautiful Pagans: Performing Jewish Identity on the Antebellum American Stage. Nathans is also editor of the University of Iowa Press’s Studies in Theatre History and Culture series.

Project Report: Playing in the Land of Milk and Honey: Performing Southern, Jewish, and African Diasporic Identities, 1776-1915

Erich Nunn

Erich Nunn is an associate professor of English at Auburn University, where he teaches American Studies, with a focus on the South. He is author of Sounding the Color Line: Music and Race in the Southern Imagination (University of Georgia Press, 2015), and his work has appeared in journals such as PMLA, Criticism, and Studies in American Culture, and in the collections Keywords for Southern Studies and Transatlantic Roots Music.

Project Report: A Cultural History of Atlanta’s Cabbagetown

Matthew Pehl

Matthew Pehl, a graduate of the American History program at Brandeis University, is an associate professor of history at Augustana University, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He published The Making of Working-Class Religion in 2016 and is currently finishing a chapter on the origins of Midwestern feminism. His next book explores the changing political and cultural worlds of urban police officers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Project Report: History 274: Pluralism and Identity in American Religion, 1870s-1930s

David Shaerf

David Shaerf is an assistant professor of creative writing and cinema at Oakland University. His research focuses on narrative studies relative to documentary film and the depictions of niche interest groups in those films. He also works as a screenwriter and filmmaker. He has written, directed, and produced award-winning short films and theatre productions in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand. He holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Exeter.

Project Report: Our Jewish Farmers Treatment

Saskia Coenen Snyder

Saskia Coenen Snyder (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2008) is an associate professor of modern Jewish history and the associate director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. She is author of Building a Public Judaism: Synagogues and Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-Century Europe (2013). During the 2017–18 academic year, she was a Fellow-in-Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Amsterdam.

Project Report: Jewish History in the American South

Benjamin Steiner

Benjamin Steiner is a Ph.D. student in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University. His dissertation examines the evolution of the ketubah and its translation as a window into the processes of Jewish acculturation in America and England. His research interests also include American Jewish denominationalism in the 1950s, with particular emphasis on the history of the Conservative Movement.

Project Report: The Jewish Marriage Contract in Antebellum South Carolina and Georgia

Rebecca Stoil

Rebecca Stoil earned her Ph.D. in History from The Johns Hopkins University. Now an assistant professor of history at Clemson University, she specializes in political history, American rural politics, Israeli politics, politics of identity, and media. Her dissertation focused on agrarian mobilization, rural discourses, and farm crises of 1977–1987.

Project Report: Doing Honor to Yourselves: Public Commemoration of Francis Salvador and the Defense of Jewish Americanism in a Changing South

Madison Tarleton

Madison Tarleton is in the Iliff School of Theology Joint Ph.D. Program in the Study of Religion at the University of Denver. She studies the theoretical intersections between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, as well as art and media, in relation to political and cultural climates in medieval to pre–World War II Germany. Her most recent article, “Spaced and Placed: Hetero-‘Topic’ Interpretations of The Warsaw Ghetto, “ was published by the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory. Madison has written for Sacred Matters Magazine and Esthesis and has published numerous book reviews for the American Academy of Religion affiliate site “Reading Religion.”

Project Report: Special Topics Lesson Plan: Judaism

Alan W. Todd

Alan W. Todd earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University. His current academic work examines literary and archaeological records to reconstruct the ways Jews living in the Greco-Roman world used feasts to establish, maintain, and often challenge individual and communal identities. Todd is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

Project Report: Introduction to Judaism Course

David Weinfeld

David Weinfeld is a visiting assistant professor of Judaic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He has previously taught at the University of Toronto, Queens College, Temple University, and New York University. He earned his doctorate in the joint program in History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University in 2014. His book project, based on his dissertation, is titled, An American Friendship: Horace Kallen, Alain Locke, and the Development of Cultural Pluralism.

Project Report: Report on NEH Institute “Privilege and Prejudice: Jewish History in the American South”

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