The Stuart and Barbara Padnos Foundation has provided a gift to the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies to establish the Padnos Engagement on Jewish Learning fund. The initiative, which commenced last year, will facilitate annual public educational activities in Jewish Studies throughout the State of Michigan with a focus on the western part of the state.

The Padnos Public Engagement on Jewish Learning Event that took place on November 17 at 7 pm, featured Dr. Shayna Sheinfeld, Frankel Institute Fellow, University of Michigan, and Honorary Research Fellow, Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS). Dr. Sheinfeld presented a lecture called “When Patronage was ‘Matronage’: How Jewish Women’s Money Supported the Early Jesus Movement” at the Loosemore Auditorium at the Richard M. Devos Center on Grand Valley State University's Campus. The event was also virtually simulcast and can be viewed on Youtube at

Dr. Sheinfeld’s research aims to move beyond normative, elite evidence to include underrepresented populations such as women and enslaved people. She hopes that what, “people will learn from this lecture is that most common understandings of Jewish and early Christian women are inaccurate—they were not relegated to the home or ‘private sphere,’ they were not passively waiting to be guided by a man. They were active and thoughtful, they made decisions on their own, and they had money and agency and contributed in many ways to early Jewish and early Christian communities. These women were still products of their time and limited (as we all are) by our social and cultural situations.”

Sheinfeld’s current research at the Frankel Institute is geared toward her current monograph, Big Tent Judaism: Diversity in Jewish Leadership in the First through Third Centuries CE, which analyzes the varieties of leadership in Judaism in this period, including the early Jesus movement. As with her Padnos lecture, this project focuses on the inclusion of underrepresented populations in this time period, away from the traditional, masculine-centered ideas of leadership: a focus on political, religious, and military leaders. Sheinfeld explains that:

“These are essential roles for an understanding of Jewish and Christian authority in this period, to be sure, but leadership roles exist at all levels of society, and by focusing on the elite roles only, we keep our gaze only on the most prominent figures and only on the most obvious ways one might be a leader… We know that the early Jesus movement had women who were apostles and deacons, and women who financially and socially supported the movement. If we think beyond our immediate conceptions of elite leadership, we can better see the diverse communities, institutions, and leaders in ancient Judaism.”

This academic year, Dr. Sheinfeld will be hosting a book launch for her textbook, Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean (Routledge 2022), written with co-authors Dr. Meredith Warren (Sheffield) and Dr. Sara Parks (Dublin) on December 13, will speak on “Pacifism as Leadership in Jewish Antiquity” during the virtual Enoch Seminar and Frankel Institute conference "Studies in Second Temple Judaism: A Global Enterprise", which she is co-chairing in January 2022, and will be giving a talk at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies on “Was Jesus a Pharisee?” on February 28, 2022.

Dr. Sheinfeld looks forward to focusing on her research during her year at the University of Michigan and working, “with such an amazing cohort of scholars.” She reflects that, “Even just two months into the fellowship, our discussions help invigorate and excite my own research and writing, and more than once a comment by someone else has sent me on a merry research chase—I have already learned so much with this rich dialogue. I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues here, to Gabriele Boccaccini as our head fellow, and to the Frankel Institute for this opportunity.”