2014-2015 Prize Recipients
2014-2015 Prize Winners
The judges for the Anne and Benjamin Goor Prize in Jewish Studies selected two graduate students to receive the 2015 Goor Prize. The winners are:
Graduate student, Sheer Ganor, on her essay, “The Wiedergutmachung Network – German Jews on the Junction of Memory and Bureaucracy”
Graduate student, Danny Luzon, on his essay, “Traveling Landscapes, Imagined Centers: Hebrew and Yiddish Literary Spaces in Weimar Berlin”
Interview with Sheer Ganor
Sheer Ganor is finishing her second year at Berkeley, where she is pursuing a PhD in History with a Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies through the Center for Jewish Studies. Ganor, also from Tel Aviv University, focuses on dispersed communities of German Jews from 1933 all the way to the 1960’s. Sheer was among the recent recipients of a summer research grant awarded by the Academic Consortium of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. I sat down with Sheer to congratulate her on the recent award and to discus her upcoming research plans.
Interview by Hannah Levy, Senior Rhetoric Student, CJS Office
Like Danny, you did your undergraduate work in Tel Aviv?
Yes. Although my degree is from Tel Aviv University, I only really did half of my undergraduate work in Israel. The other half I did at Humbolt University in Berlin. I speak and read German, which is necessary because most of the texts I work on are written in German.
How did you decide on Berkeley for your PhD?
As I was applying to graduate school, I was looking for someone to work with who was very knowledgeable about German Jewish history. So I applied only to programs where I knew I would have a good advisor working with me. I got admitted to some other programs and I was going around checking on these different programs and I just clicked with Berkeley. I think I’m a Berkeley person. My advisor is John Efron, and I am positive that I made the right choice coming here in that regard as well. I feel very lucky to be working with him and with other outstanding faculty here in Berkeley, like Tom Laqueur and Stefan Hoffmann from the history department.
Did you know about the Center for Jewish Studies while you were applying?
That’s actually a really interesting story. No, I didn’t know about the Center initially. One of the first things that I did when I got here last year was to attend an event at the Center for Jewish Studies. This is where, for the first time, I met Danny and all of these other people who are now doing the DE program as well. And we became a really close-knit group. This year we formed a Graduate Student working group, where we can meet up and discuss our most recent work. We are constantly seeing how our interests converge, and that even when our research is not directly related, it is our ideas and the larger movement of our thoughts that we tend to share. And when we don’t share, we get to argue a bit. But that is why I am really glad to be in conversation with these people. It is always very inspiring and enlightening to talk to other people who are interested in Jewish themes, but who are coming from different places. So the Center really did become an intellectual and social home for us on the campus, for this core group of DE students.
You are in your second year of the PhD program. Do you know at this point what your dissertation focus will be?
My research focuses on 20th-century German Jewish history and more specifically, on the movement of German Jews following the rise of the Nazis. I am really interested in exploring both how and what of this German Jewish identity remains intact once these individuals relocated to New York, London, Palestine, Buenos Aires, or even upon returning to Germany post-war.
Congratulations on the grant. How will this enable your summer research plans?
Right now I am at the stage of my studies where I am not writing the dissertation officially, but at the same time it is very important for me to be a little ahead of the game and to use my time as wisely as I can. This summer I will be developing some preliminary acquaintance with archives with collections pertaining to German Jewish history. I will be going from archive to archive exploring what they can contribute to my research, developing relationships with archivists, and gaging more or less what I can get from each archive, so that when I actually go to do my final round of research a year or two down the line, I will know in advance exactly what I am looking for from each archive. I am planning to visit archives in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Berlin, and Munich primarily.
Interview with Danny Luzon
Danny Luzon is a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies. The Academic Consortium of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund recently awarded him a research grant for summer study. I sat down with Danny to congratulate him on his award and to discuss how he intends to use it.
Interview by Hannah Levy, Senior Rhetoric Student, CJS Office
You received both your B.A and M.A from Tel Aviv University in Israel. What made you decide to work on your PhD so many thousands of miles away in Berkeley?
I came to Berkeley because it has been a lifelong dream of mine to work with Professor Chana Kronfeld. She specializes in Hebrew and Yiddish and really sees the two literatures as maintaining a strong affinity for one another. Her work was so special because for me, it was always really important to work on Hebrew in its multilingual, multicultural contexts. Both the Center for Jewish Studies and the Comparative Literature Department are very interesting to me in a similar way, in that there is a mixture of people working on all different literatures and time periods and within different disciplines. Being exposed to that can really open your mind to the types of things that you can do and the kinds of literature out there to be worked on. Specifically here at Berkeley where there is this community of collaboration, people really engage with each other’s ideas and help each other to develop.
You work in conjunction with both Comparative Literature and The Center for Jewish Studies?
Yes. When I applied to the Comparative Literature Department I knew that the Center for Jewish Studies was coming to life, which was very exciting for me. I am part of the Center’s D.E program and I am very happy and grateful for it. I found the Center to be a very warm home, thanks to the amazing professors and grad students affiliated with it. My research aligns very well with both departments.
What do you research?
My research focuses on the mass immigration of Eastern Europeans Jews at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, and the ways in which the old centers of Jewish Literature disappeared and were replaced by the two last ‘big’ centers in the United States and Israel. I look at how both Jewish American and Hebrew literatures looked at this mass immigration wave and tried to rethink these old centers of Jewish culture into their new contexts. I focus on both Hebrew and American literatures, using Yiddish to put them in dialogue with one another.
What will you be doing with the Jewish Federation research grant?
I am going to participate in two Yiddish programs this summer, one in Tel Aviv and one in Paris. Once a year graduate students and scholars have the opportunity to meet in these programs, and then for one month you have a sense of a real, living community of Yiddish speakers. It’s fully immersive. We are speaking Yiddish all of the time, which is very special but also very challenging. The scholar Jeffrey Shandler describes the state of Yiddish today as a post-vernacular language, meaning that there is no longer a secular community of Yiddish speakers. I see these Yiddish programs as a great way to deal with this challenge. You have one month out of the year that you can go to a few cities around the world and have this chance for full immersion.
This is a very rare opportunity to get together and exchange ideas, and to be a part of this speaking community of Yiddish scholars. And of course, without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to participate in either of these two programs.
How long have you been interacting with Yiddish texts?
I started working on Yiddish texts in 2011 while I was working on my Masters. I was working on a Jewish American author, Anzia Yezierska, and I just fell in love. She’s a really great author. And because of her I started studying Yiddish, and began realizing just how important understanding Yiddish is to reading Jewish American literature.
I am in the second year of my PhD so I have some years still left, but after I finish I hope to continue doing research and to teach.
That could be nice. We’ll see where life takes me…