2016 Recipients

Samuel Gurwitt, Yale Undergraduate Student

I will intern this summer at the House of the Wannsee Conference, helping with educational programs and conducting research on Holocaust memory and the evolution of the Wannsee House over the course of its existence as a site of memory. The House of the Wannsee Conference, where Nazi officials met in 1942 to coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” now serves as a museum, memorial, and educational site. Through work on the museum’s educational programs and through individual research, I hope to examine how the site has changed its methods of presenting Germany’s Nazi past over time. Why did the original attempts to found the site fail in the ‘60s and ‘70s and why did they succeed in 1992? How have the interests and makeup of visitors changed since 1992? What aspects of the exhibit were emphasized at what points in the site’s history? By researching these questions, I hope to gain insight into the role the Holocaust might play in the discourse surrounding the refugee crisis.

Amelia Nierenberg, Yale Undergraduate Student

This summer, I will conduct research on French Jewish immigration to Israel. In Ashdod, I intend to track a few French families who have recently immigrated to Israel as they acclimate to their new life. Specifically, I am curious about the shift from an “and” identity (both French and Jewish) to an “or” identity (suspending the French part of identity because the Jewish renders that unsafe) — and back to an “and” identity in Israel. Concretely, I intend to focus my attention on the French neighborhoods of Ashdod, where the French Jews have transplanted much of French culture, and are learning to adapt to their new life — learning Hebrew, buying apartments, finding employment again. It seems to be a community easing itself into a new identity, and I really want to track this development. As a journalist, I will do this both through a long form piece (thinking ~4,000 words) and also through a series of photo essays about the community at large.

Abigail Sneider, Yale Undergraduate Student

In contemporary America, 76% of states are home to at least one local Holocaust memorial or museum. In Boise, the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial displays bronze statues of Anne Frank and her dairy. In Denver, Babi Yar Park commemorates the plight of Russian Jews with a stone monument and a path outlining a star of David. Minutes from popular vacation beaches, the Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial shocks unprepared vacationers with graphic sculptures of skeletons crying out as they claw at an upward-reaching iron arm. What these monuments have in common is not structural similarity, but the lack thereof; what they share is their distinctiveness. No two monuments have the same form, character, or story. For my senior essay in history, I will be exploring the prominence of the Holocaust in American memory by researching the proliferation of local American Holocaust memorials. Recently, the number of Holocaust memorials and museums in America has only continued to rise. Since 2000, at least 30 new monuments and museums have been created across the country. These memorials have been constructed under a variety of circumstances. What is surprising, is the abundance of monuments built on public land, built with strong municipal and state support. These monuments raise a number of questions: Why do Americans seek to commemorate an event that, compared with other traumas like slavery and the Vietnam War, is relatively removed from their history? What about the Holocaust compels individuals and governments in Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, and Colorado to physically and publicly commemorate its legacy? In my senior essay, I plan to explore these matters by traveling to five cities across the country, visiting their monuments and conducting archival research. Using this subset of monuments, I will to examine how the Holocaust, a largely European event, has acquired a place of prominence in American historical memory.

Douglas L. Furth, Master of Divinity Student

Matthew 27:25:  A Marker for the Growth of Anti-Judaism in the Early Church

            For my research project, I will examine the history of early Christian interpretation of Matthew 27:25, the infamous “his blood be upon us” verse. My analysis will include the timing, geographical location, frequency and manner of usage of this passage.  Matthew 27:25 has frequently been read as meaning that all Jews, regardless of when or where in history they may have been born, are guilty of killing Jesus. Contemporary scholarly exegesis suggests that the traditional anti-Judaic reading is an anachronism because the purpose of Matthew was to persuade a largely Jewish readership that following Jesus was the scripturally mandated way to be a Jew after the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. Matthew 27:25 is better read as a polemical theological argument rather than a statement concerning an ethnic group. My hypothesis is that understanding the early exegetical history of Matthew 27:25 is a reasonable proxy for understanding when, where and in what manner anti-Judaic thought and sentiment developed in the early Church. The fact that Matthew was not intended as an anti-Judaic text is what makes it a useful historical marker. I intend to create a chart referencing among other things the name, date, location, and author of each text to the extent that the foregoing information is available. The chart will also contain a comment on each text that attempts to summarize the context in which the citation appears. It may be that an annotated map showing dispersion is also helpful, although it is premature to judge whether this will be feasible or helpful. Last, I will write a paper that analyzes the data to examine trends and to see whether reasonable conclusions can be drawn from the data.

Charlotte Kiechel, Yale Graduate Student in History

LICRA, Holocaust Memory, and the fight against prejudice: the stakes of commemoration in France

My project examines the stakes and significance of Holocaust commemoration in postwar France up until the present day. More specifically, I am interested in examining the extent to which in the postwar decades Jewish and non-Jewish communal organizations have come to see commemoration and “awareness raising” as preventative acts – that is remembrance has become a means of preventing future mass atrocities. This summer I will be approaching this line of inquiry by looking at the institutional transformation of one organization in particular – La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (LICRA). Founded in 1927, LICRA serves as notable case study. While for the first forty-nine years of existence, it was dedicated to the prevention of and to the fight against anti-Semitic violence, in 1976 it expanded its mission and began to include the fight against racism, broadly defined, as part of its institutional purview. My project asks how and why that came to be. With the aim of tackling these questions, this summer I will be visiting three archives in Paris. They include those of LICRA, le Mémorial de la Shoah (Center of Jewish Documentation), and the National Archives of Paris. Ultimately, my ambition is to map how in the postwar decades Jewish associations both responded to and defined a larger movement within France to consider the value and import of Holocaust commemoration in universalized and preventative terms. My archival work this summer is an integral part of my pre-dissertation research and I am tremendously grateful for the YPSA’s support in making it possible.

Margaret Traylor, Yale Graduate Student in History

My project examines the relationship between the critique of avant-gardism and expressions of anti-Semitism in interwar Berlin. By examining popular culture, circulating media, and personal accounts from the end of World War I to the early years of the Third Reich, I hope to trace the way in which modernist forms of expression became conceived as ‘Jewish’ within the public sphere, and how that association was absorbed into broader currents of anti-Semitism.  I hope to reveal a continuity in cultural attitudes and taste often masked in historical narratives by myopic focus on the institutional upheavals of the early 1930s. This project will address oft-ignored visual and technical continuities between avant-garde art and material culture produced within the Third Reich to suggest that anti-Semitic notions of modernism that were developed in the previous decade actively informed the aesthetic (and not merely the content) of anti-Semitic, anti-Bolshevik, and anti-American propaganda after 1933.


Thomas Connolly obtained his BA in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford in 2002. He spent three years at the École normale supérieure (Ulm) as “élève de la Sélection internationale,” and completed a “Maîtrise” and a “DEA” at the Université de Paris IV – La Sorbonne. He received a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University in May 2012.
Thomas is completing a book entitled Unfinished Poetics: Reading Poetry, Reading Celan, which attempts to formulate new modes of reading in the “sous-oeuvre,” the unauthorized, incomplete, and often overlooked elements of an author’s textual production. His new research project examines literary ekphrasis as it operates in cultures in which there has traditionally been a prohibition on representative images, focusing on Maghrebi Francophone poetry.

Liran Yadgar is the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Associate in Medieval Judaism at the Judaic Studies Program of Yale University, where he studies the history of Jews in the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria (1250-1517). Liran completed his Ph.D. at the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago in June 2016. In the academic year 2016-2017 he will examine the representation of Jews and Judaism in the thought of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a renowned theologian of the city of Damascus. Ibn Taymiyya was a prolific writer, and many of his works are devoted to polemics – against Christians, Mongols, and Shiite Muslims – although not a single tract is devoted to polemicizing against Judaism. Thus, in order to study his position regarding Jews, one has to comb through his polemics against Muslims and non-Muslims (where Jews are often compared to other ‘enemies’ of Islam), read his theological works, and extract the discussions on Judaism from the multi-volume publication of his legal opinions, Majmuʻat al-fatawa. Another source of investigation is the history of Ibn Taymiyya’s times, where Jewish matters are discussed, such as the regulation of distinctive garments to Christians and Jews, and the encounter of Ibn Taymiyya with Jewish converts to Islam. One of these converts, ‘Abd al-Sayyid al-Isra’ili (the ‘Israelite’), a physician and ophthalmologist, conducted theological discussions with the great Muslim theologian and adopted Islam in 1302.
The importance of Ibn Taymiyya nowadays lies in his position as the most-quoted medieval scholar among modern Jihadist and Salafi thinkers, due to his strict and uncompromising stand against deviant Muslims as well as against heretical non-Muslims. Therefore, a research on Jews in this scholar’s writings is a much needed contribution to the field of Islamic & Judaic Studies.