The Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies is celebrating the Class of 2021, consisting of nineteen minors, seven majors, and four graduate certificate students. These students graduated with a wide range of scholarly focuses in addition to Judaic studies, including political science, microbiology, neuroscience, economics, linguistics, and history of art. Several graduates will be continuing their education in, law, medicine, and business, while others have already secured employment.

Miriam Saperstein won the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, given to a graduating student who has achieved a grade point average of at least 3.8 in Judaic studies courses and been nominated by a faculty member for having made stand out academic achievements. Saperstein commented, “Through Judaic Studies I got to learn more about Jewish history, which has been incredibly influential on my art. I would take history classes and incorporate that into my ritual and writing.”

Rachel Levy received the Outstanding Yiddish Student Award, which is awarded to a student whose classwork and commitment to Yiddish stands out. Levy graduated from U-M in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology of health and medicine and a minor in Judaic studies. She is currently in the Jewish Communal Leadership Program class of 2022.

This year’s Marshall Weinberg prize, given annually to an outstanding graduate student who is engaged in writing a dissertation, was awarded to Pragya Kaul. Kaul’s dissertation project, Refugees in Empire: Jewish Refugees in British India (1921-1951), makes an original and significant contribution to Jewish studies and Holocaust studies. The Frankel Center committee was particularly impressed with the methodological and theoretical breadth of her research, as well as the transnational components of her scholarship.

Graduates with degrees in Judaic studies are moving on to an array of diverse career paths, benefiting from the education they received at the Frankel Center.

Vanessa Freedman graduated with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and a minor in Judaic studies and plans on attending medical school after graduation. “I loved the variety of options for classes to take in Judaic Studies,” commented Freedman. “There is something for everyone, and I was able to focus on learning specific topics and classes that interested me the most.”

Allison Bloomberg graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Judaic studies and psychology, as well as a minor in community action and social change. “The small class sizes allow for easy recognition, and various events also offer students the opportunities to learn with professors in a more intimate setting,” noted Bloomberg. “The center has friendly faces, a plethora of opportunities both on and off campus, and has been a backbone to my Michigan experience.”

Rebecca Levy will be joining US Bank as a product manager after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science and minor in Judaic studies. “Not only was I able to take interesting classes that I really enjoyed, but I also felt a sense of community,” said Levy.

Economics major and Judaic studies minor Joshua Zack added, “The faculty and staff within the Judaic studies program at the University of Michigan are made up of high caliber individuals with impressive backgrounds and widely recognized work. I always found the semester course lineups to be intriguing, filled with interesting courses ranging from Jewish history, philosophy, culture and more. The Judaic studies program helped me as Jew learn more about my history and culture. I am very thankful to have been a part of such an impressive program.”

Honors student Jason Semaya graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Judaic studies, history, political science and Middle East & North African studies. “One of my favorite things about the Judaic studies program is the variety of different courses available,” said Semaya. “I have taken classes about Modern Hebrew, Israeli television and media, and Nazism among other courses. These have all given me a unique perspective on my own Jewish identity and they have helped me develop a strong understanding of my heritage, and the history of my community.”

To celebrate the graduates, the Frankel Center held a virtual event featuring faculty remarks from Director Jeff Veidlinger and Associate Director Shachar Pinsker congratulating the students and presenting the Judaic Studies Class of 2021 to their friends and family.

The 2021 graduates join a distinguished group of Frankel Center alumni. We wish them the best of luck!

Class of 2021

Graduate Certificate
Lauren Benjamin
Dory Fox
Yeshua Gabriel Buso Tolle
Sam Shuman

Allison Bloomberg
Ariel Lowenstern
Marie Pattipati
Brian Price
Miriam Saperstein
Jason Semaya
Lauren Silva

Stephen Beer
Molly Copley
Vanessa Freedman
Samantha Herman
Rebecca Levy
Sophie Mittman
Alayna Nugent
Ayomide Okunade
Alexandra Popkov
Noah Rubinstein
Eliana Schreier
Nikki Shultz
Allison Siegel
Ilana Weinfeld
Hannah Wolfson
Ainslie Woodward
Ilana Young
Josh Zack
Matt Zeni