2013 Recipients


Raissa von Doetinchem Rande, Yale Graduate Student in Divinity School

With the generous support of a Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Student Research Grant I will be researching the legacy of Otto Weidt in Berlin. Unknown in English, I hope to make known the courage and persistence of one of the Righteous among the Nations. Not motivated by religious, economic or political concerns, Weidt resisted the Nazis by protecting his blind Jewish workers from deportations. He was able to keep his Jewish staff by insisting on the indispensability of his small workshop to the German war effort. How many he saved is uncertain but we know he hid a Jewish family and a number of individuals, such as the German-Israeli writer Inge Deutschkron.   After 1945 Weidt encouraged the establishment of a Jewish orphanage and a home for elderly Holocaust-survivors. With the help of this grant I hope to research Otto Weidt´s work and the life one of ‘his’ survivors, Inge Deutschkron, in order to make it available to a wider audience.

Lauren Gottlieb, Yale Graduate Student in History 

Bernard Lazare was already a well-published journalist and respected literary and social critic when the Dreyfus Affair exploded onto the Paris scene in late 1894.  Though Jewish-born himself, he was known for his anti-Semitic views, arguing that French Jews were at least partially responsible for their own ills, provoking anti-Semitism by remaining “an unsociable people.”  But the Dreyfus Affair changed Lazare, just as it changed French society and the nature of the Jewish Question itself.  Between 1895 and 1896, Lazare repented of his anti-Semitic views, became a leader of the Dreyfusard campaign, and along with another Paris-based writer named Theodor Herzl, placed himself at the head of the early Zionist movement.   

My research focuses on Bernard Lazare’s intellectual and ideological transformation as it represents the broader shifts in French-Jewish political identity in the late nineteenth century.  A century after the Revolution, France’s Jews discovered that their celebrated achievements of libery, equality, and fraternity within the French republic were no longer secure. They found themselves alongside their central and eastern European brethren, asking whether Jewish citizenship could ever be fully realized outside of a Jewish state.  Like Lazare’s own work alongside Herzl, French engagement with the Zionist project is a subject ripe for further exploration, which I can now pursue through archival research this summer thanks to the Jeannette M. and Salo W. Baron Student Research Grant.  

Simcha Gross, Yale Graduate Student in Religious Studies

Under Persian rule, the Jews of Babylonia produced one of their most fascinating and enduring Jewish cultural artifacts, the Babylonian Talmud (known as the Bavli). The Babylonian Talmud dramatically influenced subsequent Jewish culture, more so than its counterpart the Palestinian Talmud (and Palestinian rabbinic literature more generally), produced under Greco-Roman rule. Scholars have identified many significant differences between the Babylonian Talmud and Palestinian rabbinic literature. But what has gone largely unnoticed is how many of these differences are owed to the Bavli’s Persian context. I will research parallel ideological shifts and trends in both groups of literature and argue that the Bavli often departs from earlier rabbinic literature due to its participation in its surrounding culture.

Nathan Kurz, Yale Graduate Student in History

My dissertation investigates the ultimately problematic intersection of human rights and Jewish politics, broadly conceived, from the end of World War II to the 1970s. Longstanding Jewish organizations from Western Europe and the United States emerged from the cataclysmic events of World War II by redefining their strategies of Jewish defense in a universalist key. Part insulation against another Nazi-like world order, part accommodation to an international consensus opposing special minority protection, this generalizing move was actually quite unprecedented in modern Jewish history. Prominent Jewish individuals and associations had often tied their political and social integration to general causes, including classical liberalism and Marxism, and nurtured opportunistic alliances with other racial and religious minorities in Europe and the United States. After witnessing state-sanctioned genocide, Jewish activists now signaled a loss of faith in the state as a guarantor of rights by claiming the best defense of Jewish rights was the defense of everyone’s rights.They publicly committed themselves to creating what Hannah Arendt called a “sphere above the nations”—a world order in which international law could restrain the previously unchecked powers of the nation-state.

With the generous support of a Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Research Grant, I will be examining the interrelationship between human rights and anti-semitism in a variety of contexts. First, I will finish a deep exploration of the archives of the international French Jewish organization, Alliance Israélite Universelle, as well as the personal papers of its prominent post-war president René Cassin, who won the 1968 Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work. Less well known, however, was Cassin’s advocacy for North African Jewry in the midst of French decolonization in North Africa. Second, I will spend a month at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio, which has just recently acquired the vast archive of the American Jewish organization B’nai Brith. In particular, I will be seeking material on B’nai Brith activist William Korey’s involvement in the campaign for Soviet Jews in the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, I will mine the papers of Jewish jurist Luis Kutner at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, seeking to draw connections and find tensions between his interest in a universal right of habeas corpus and his open concern for the fate of various embattled Jewish communities in the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the 1950s and 60s.

David Michaels, Yale Graduate Student in International Relations

David Michaels will conduct a comparative survey of policy-shaper perspectives in the Muslim world on foremost issues of contemporary political relevance and, specifically, on the Jewish state. Signaling the diversity of Muslim societies, and aiming to identify distinct, constructive approaches to engagement by Muslims with others, Michaels will focus on relevant government officials, faith leaders and Western diplomats in important, disparate Muslim contexts. His research will adopt a holistic approach to matters of intercommunal relations, taking into account the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia definition of antisemitism, which encompasses forms of strident anti-Zionism, and Pew Research Center findings of dismal favorability rates toward Jews in predominantly Muslim countries.

Michaels will explore the ways in which “elites” in the Muslim world relate to this reality – as well as any correlation of views on Jewish statehood to other key political opinions. 

Katherine Peisker, Yale Graduate Student in History

With the support of a Baron Student Research Grant, I will conduct research in Cambridge, MA and the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Lviv, and Ivano-Frankivsk on perceptions and portrayals of the Jewish population of Austrian Galicia by Ukrainian temperance activists in the 19th century.  Many of these activists were clergy or lay members of the Greek Catholic Church; ultimately this research will form the basis of one of the chapters of my dissertation, which considers the development of the Greek Catholic Church and its role in Galician society.  The temperance movement was one of the first collective actions undertaken by the Ukrainian population of Galicia, and it is thus important for understanding the future development of the Ukrainian community.  I intend to challenge the dominant historiographical narrative of universal Ukrainian scapegoating of Jews, in their role as tavernkeepers.  My previous research has demonstrated that the leaders of the Ukrainian temperance movement, at least, placed the blame for Ukrainian alcoholism not on the Jews, but squarely on Ukrainians’ own collective shortcomings.  Was this conviction also adopted by the rank-and-file of the movement?  Through an examination of periodical literature and local temperance society records, I hope to elucidate precisely what role antisemitism played at a key moment in the evolution of understandings of ethnicity in a quintessentially multiethnic province.

Sasha Sesser-Ginzberg, Yale Undergraduate Student in History

What effect did the silence of the leadership of the Jewish community during the Dirty War in Argentina have on Jews who lived through this intimidating period of Argentine history?  In what way did the prior history and diversity of the Argentine Jewish community make its experience unique during this time? Why did the outspoken opposition of Rabbi Marshall Meyer, an American living in Buenos Aires, not seem to have an impact on the response of the larger Argentine Jewish community?  I propose to study how the Jewish community perceived and experienced the silence of the Jewish leadership during this time of terror, and what the lasting effects were on the Argentine Jews’ relationship to both the state and the Jewish organizations.  Furthermore, I hope to contextualize this within an investigation of the history of the Jewish community in Argentina, focusing primarily on the different factions that arose within the Jewish community, rendering it fragmented and subject to much of the same fear and silence that engulfed the rest of the country.  In order to conduct this investigation, I plan to use a number of archives in Buenos Aires and I plan to interview members of the Jewish community in Argentina as well as people who are connected to this community currently living in the United States. 

Sara Silverstein, Yale Graduate Student in History

The end of the Second World War presented a widespread health emergency among the European populations and in the displaced persons camps. My dissertation examines the survivors, displaced persons, and refugees who in these circumstances took command of healthcare both in the camps and through international relief organizations. In the process they developed new standards for a right to health and to healthcare, producing a set of principles that became a foundation for emerging welfare states, European institutions, and the United Nations. The Salo W. and Jeanette M. Baron Research Grant will support archival research in Paris and Vienna, where I will work in the private papers of Ludwik Rajchman, Julius Tandler, and Andrija Štampar, who brought experiences of different welfare traditions in interwar Poland, Austria, and Yugoslavia to their leading roles in the League of Nations Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization. This project will contribute to my dissertation’s analysis of Jewish physicians’ reorientation of individual health and collective health of society within reconstruction programs and their contribution to interweaving social and human rights norms within new health institutions. Beginning with work in the camps and moving into postwar states, many among these physicians also demonstrated an association between the social and civic exclusion that ill patients suffered as a result of limited physical abilities and the rapid disintegration of civil rights they had experienced as a result of antisemitism. They thus believed that asserting a right to health and to healthcare was the beginning of a new set of rights – integrating what we now define as social, human, and civil rights – that, if protected on both state and international levels, would prove more secure than traditional citizens’ rights in nation-states. Rebuilding the health of the Jewish community and establishing the institutions to maintain that health thus became their first tenet of reconstruction. Exploring these issues, my dissertation draws the historical narrative beyond the limitations of nationally focused analysis of rights and citizenship, revealing an original transnational understanding of postwar social democracy. 


Timothy Snyder, Bird White Housum Professor of History

Timothy Snyder received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. Before joining the faculty at Yale in 2001, he held fellowships in Paris and Vienna, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard. He is the author of five award-winning books, including: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (Harvard Press, 1998); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale Press, 2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (Yale Press, 2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of A Habsburg Archduke (Basic Books, 2008.  He is also the co-editor of two books Wall Around the West: State Power and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) and Stalin and Europe: War, Terror, Domination (forthcoming). In 2010 he published Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, a history of Nazi and Soviet mass killing on the lands between Berlin and Moscow. It has received a number of honors, including the Leipzig Prize for European Understanding and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award in the Humanities. It was named a book of the year by some dozen publications, has been translated into more than twenty languages, and was a bestseller in four countries. Click here for a list of reviews and links. Most recently he helped Tony Judt to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century, published by Penguin in February 2012.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history. In 2012-2013 he will teach History 263-264, “Eastern Europe to 1914” and “Eastern Europe Since 1914,” as well as graduate seminars on the Holocaust and on east European history as global history.

Laura Wexler, Professor of American Studies & Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

Laura Wexler completed her undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College and holds M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature. She has taught at Amherst College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University and Yale University. She served as Chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program from 2003–2007. She serves on the board of the Muriel Gardiner Society for Psychoanalysis and the Humanities and on the board of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale. She is currently a principal investigator of the Women, Religion and Globalization Project at Yale, a joint venture among the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the Yale Divinity School and the Yale Program in International Affairs, supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and the MacMillan Center at Yale.