Back Row Left to Right: Amanda Smith, Sarah Conwisar, Lindsey Davis, Delesiya Davis, Alexa Smith, Max Topel Front Row Left to Right: Madeline Jacobson, Erica Schuman, Alana Barofsky, Jacqueline Dresler, Emily Slavkin

The Frankel Center celebrated fifteen Judaic Studies minors, five majors, two PhDs, and one master’s student at this year’s graduation reception on May 3 in the Thayer Building.

Several students will continue their educations at graduate school. Max Topel, who was awarded the Outstanding Undergraduate Award, will be starting in the doctoral program in molecular engineering at the University of Chicago. Erica Schuman will be attending University of Michigan’s Law School and Madeline Jacobson will be studying maritime civilizations at the University of Haifa.

Shira Brandhandler, who is moving to Chicago to work as the Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Jeremiah, praised her Judaic Studies classes for allowing her to “get to know each subject deeply and participate in meaningful ways.”  Judaic Studies minor Ali Rosenblatt will also be engaging in Jewish communal leadership as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Fellow at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Sarah Prendergast studied acting, creative writing, and Judaic Studies while at U-M and is pursuing a career in the arts. “Judaic Studies offers a wide range of engaging and diverse classes,” she said, “that both encourage one to look back and examine the long, rich religious and ethnic history of the Jewish people, as well as challenges one to question what it means to be a "Jew" in today's political and cultural climate. I have learned so much about myself, the world, and humanity as a whole. I am a more informed, creative, and empathetic person because of the classes I took at the Frankel Center.”

Judaic Studies minor Henry Zou majored in Psychology and is taking a gap year. Zho stated, “Judaic Studies provided me with the valuable opportunity to improve my understanding of a global culture different from my own. It also helped me to better understand social justice from the Jewish perspective and improve my awareness of the challenges and successes of Jewish communities.” Judaic Studies major Amanda Smith will also be taking a gap year at Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield.

Rachel Ohayon majored in both Judaic Studies and Sociology. She recalled that “as an alum of Yeshiva Day school K-12 I was unsure what Judaic Studies would have to offer me,” but  “now that I have completed the program, I have learned so much new information, history, and viewpoints that I had not been exposed to previously and I am so grateful for that...Judaic Studies has shaped my future, my interests, and my opinions.”

Yaakov Herskovitz, a graduating Judaic Studies certificate student,  defended his PhD, “Linguistic Limbo: Writing and Rewriting in Hebrew and Yiddish,” in Middle East Studies under the direction of Frankel faculty Shachar Pinsker, Maya Barzilai, Mikhail Krutikov, and Anita Norich. His dissertation analyzed little known literary works by three important writers, who published in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Herskovitz  will be joining the Frankel Institute as a fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year under head fellow Julian Levinson. William Runyan, whose 2018 dissertation “Global Form and Fantasy in Yiddish Literary Culture: Visions from Mexico City and Buenos Aires”was also supervised by Norich and Krutikov, taught first and second year Yiddish in 2019. He received a translation fellowship through the Yiddish Book Center and will be translating selections from the 1935 poetry collection Shtot in profil (City in Profile) by Yankev Shternberg, a leading Yiddish cultural figure in interwar Bucharest.

Logan Wall received the Michael Bernstein Dissertation Prize, which is awarded to a recent University of Michigan graduate based on excellence of scholarship, originality of research, quality of writing, and significance of contribution to Jewish Studies. Wall successfully defended his dissertation, “Covenantal Poetics: Jewish, Irish, and African American Modernisms Beyond the Lyric,” in January. Professor Deborah Dash Moore, who worked with Wall, wrote that his dissertation “exemplifies the best in interdisciplinary scholarship that draws not only on his knowledge of 20th century American literature but also on his mastery of Judaic Studies.”

This year’s Marshall Weinberg prize, given annually to an outstanding graduate student who is engaged in writing a dissertation, was awarded to Yael Kenan, a doctoral student in the Department of Comparative Literature. Her dissertation, “Communities of Loss: National Mourning in Israeli and Palestininan Literature after 1948,”  looks at the relationship between mourning and national formation.  The prize is given annually to an outstanding graduate student who is engaged in writing his or her dissertation. Professor Emerita Anita Norich and Associate Professor Maya Barzilai  wrote, “Having read Kenan’s work over the years and witnessed her participation in the field of Jewish studies, both on campus and internationally, we can attest that she is an exceptional writer and thinker, as well as a promising future colleague.”

Yosef Gross received the Outstanding Yiddish Student Award, which is given to a student whose classwork and commitment to Yiddish stands out. Yiddish language instructor Michael Yashinsky noted that “He is taking the language not because it is integral to his academic study or career path, but rather because he has a love for Yiddish, for its words and sounds and history.”

The 2019 graduates and student award winners join a distinguished group of Frankel Center alumni.


PhD Graduates

Yaakov Herskovitz

Will Runyan


Master of Arts

Jacqueline Dressler



Shira Brandhandler

Evan Heugel

Rachel Ohayon

Amanda Smith

Max Topel (Judaic Studies Honors)



Alana Barofsky

Sarah Conwisar

Delesiya Davis

Lindsey Davis

Emily Duchene

Dalia Gatoff

Madeline Jacobson

Michael McGrath

Sarah Prendergast

Ali Rosenblatt

Erica Schuman

Emily Slavkin

Alexa Smith

Hannah Student

Henry Zou