2022 Great Jewish Books Summer Program Faculty and Staff

Core Faculty

Jessica Kirzane is an assistant instructional professor in Yiddish in the department of Germanic languages at the University of Chicago and the editor-in-chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies. Her field of study is American Jewish literature, and she has published (or will soon be publishing) articles on the ethics of representations of African Americans in American Yiddish literature, discussions of intermarriage in American Yiddish newspapers, and the religious and social-evolutionary thinking in intermarriage narratives by San Francisco Jewish writer Emma Wolf and her contemporaries. She is also an enthusiastic translator of Yiddish literature, including work by Yiddish writers Joseph Opatoshu, Yenta Serdatsky, Dora Schulner, Perets Hirschbein, Getsl Selikovich, Miriam Karpilove, and others. She completed her translation of Miriam Karpilove's novel Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle Against Free Love (Syracuse University Press, 2020) with support from a Translation Fellowship from the Yiddish Book Center. She has also published numerous resources and reflections on pedagogy in In geveb and on the Teach Great Jewish Books website of the Yiddish Book Center. 

"This program gave me the opportunity to dive headfirst into traditional Yiddish literature and to better understand the lives of Jews, both in Europe and the United States. I loved reading and debating Yiddish stories and poems with the amazing faculty here, and I hope to continue studying more Yiddish literature in the future” — Great Jewish Books student

Lital Levy is associate professor of comparative literature and a member of the program in Judaic studies at Princeton University, where she teaches in the areas of Hebrew literature, Arabic literature, comparative literature and theory, and Jewish studies. She specializes in contact zones of Hebrew and Arabic within literature, cultural studies, and intellectual history. She is the author of Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (2014), which investigates the cultural politics of Hebrew-Arabic multilingualism and translation and how Arabic has influenced the formation of Hebrew-based Israeli culture. Her other publications include articles and book chapters on the topics of Arab Jews, Jewish literature and world literature, Jewish memories of Baghdad, and Mizrahi literary history. She is currently completing a book on the intellectual history of Arab Jews in the modern Hebrew and Arabic renaissance movements. 

Sasha Senderovich is an assistant professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and a faculty member at the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, at the University of Washington, Seattle. His field of study is Soviet Jewish culture; his first book, How the Soviet Jew Was Made is forthcoming (Harvard University Press, 2022). He has also published on Soviet-born American Jewish writers like Gary Shteyngart, Anya Ulinich, Irina Reyn, and David Bezmozgis. Together with Harriet Murav, and with the support of the Yiddish Book Center's Translation Fellowship, he translated from the Yiddish David Bergelson's novel Judgment (Northwestern University Press, 2017). He has also published essays on literary, cultural, and political topics in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New York Times, the Forward, Lilith, Jewish Currents, the Stranger, and the New Republic.

Residential Assistants (RAs)

Alexis Aaeng holds an MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut and a BA in history and Jewish studies from the University of Colorado Boulder. A two-time alumna of the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and a former Yiddish Book Center Fellow, Alexis has worked with elementary through high school students, from suburban synagogues to inner city art schools. She currently lives in Norwalk, CT, and teaches 7th grade social studies in Westport. She enjoys eating pizza, watching bad TV from the 90s, and hanging out with her cat, Momo. She is thrilled to return to Great Jewish Books for the fourth summer.

Rena Branson (they/she) has worked as an educator in a wide range of settings, from teaching ESL in Alaska to harvesting carrots for matzah ball soup with teens on a Jewish farm. They have a BA in creative writing and American studies from Oberlin College, and are the founder of A Queer Nigun Project, which organizes community singing events for LGBTQIA+ folks and provides Jewish spiritual audio content to people who are incarcerated in NYC jails. When she’s not basking in Jewish literature at Great Jewish Books, Rena works as a freelance musician and composer, serving as the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir (Lenapehoking, Philadelphia). Stay tuned for Rena’s first album of original music, coming out in fall 2022!

Sadie "Zeydi" Gold-Shapiro (Senior RA) is a curious historian, Yiddishist, and translator living on Nipmuck, Pocomtuck, and Nonotuck land in so-called western Massachusetts. They can usually be found in dusty and/or digital archives poking around in the past, or up on stage, playing music with their klezmer band Burikes (“beets” in Yiddish), or performing in Yiddish archival-based spectacle theater projects. They believe that the past is alive and always changing and love looking in new places for old answers. In 2014, they participated in the Yiddish Book Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and were also a 2016–2017 graduate fellow. This will be their fifth year staffing Great Jewish Books. They are excited to get to know you!

Zack Kronstat is a middle school English teacher in New York City. He completed his MA in English education at Teachers College, Columbia University and his BA in educational studies and sociology/anthropology at Swarthmore College. Outside of the classroom, Zack is rekindling his childhood love of skateboarding, writing poetry and creative nonfiction, and eating his way through New York. Zack is really excited to be joining for his third summer with Great Jewish Books. 

Zeke Levine is a PhD candidate in historical musicology at New York University, where he researches the relationship between Yiddish folk music and the American folk revival. He also works on subjects in Yiddish film and the history of rock music. Zeke is a proud alum of several Yiddish Book Center programs, including the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, the Fellowship Program, and the Translation Fellowship. As a translation fellow, he translated a book-length collection of short stories by the self-proclaimed radical humorist Sam Liptzin, which will be published by Farlag Press in 2023. In his spare time, Zeke likes to play guitar and take long walks through Brooklyn. On any given summer day you can find him on the Coney Island boardwalk, regaling passers-by with stories about the Jewish history of the neighborhood.

Paul Swartz holds a BA from Macalester College (History and Russian Studies, 2008) and an MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies (2011). Currently Brooklyn-based, Paul works as a middle school history teacher at Trevor Day School. He has also served as an educator at the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, the Worker’s Circle, and the New York Historical Society. Paul is an alumnus of the Yiddish Book Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program (summer 2007), a Yiddish speaker, and an inveterate reader of Jewish books. He can’t wait to kick off his sixth summer with the Great Jewish Books Summer Program!


Guest Authors

Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of Wolf Lamb Bomb (Orison Books, 2021) and The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau / Penguin Random House, 2015), which was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, a Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalist, and one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Religion Stories of the year. She is also the author of the poetry chapbook Eve and All the Wrong Men (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). Kushner is The Forward’s language columnist, and previously wrote a travel column for The International Jerusalem Post. She is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, where she directs the MFA program, a founding faculty member at the Randolph College MFA program, and a member of The Third Coast Translators Collective. Her work has been supported by the Howard Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.  

Curt Leviant's most recent books are Sholom Aleichem's long neglected short novel, Moshkeleh the Thief, which he translated. He has also translated five other volumes of Sholom Aleichem's works and books by Chaim Grade, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Avraham Reisen. Among Leviant's thirty books is his thirteenth novel, a love story set in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, Me, Mo, Mu, Ma & Mod; Or, Which Will it Be, Me and Mazal or Gilah and Me? His critically acclaimed comic novel, Diary of an Adulterous Woman, was an international best-seller translated into in nine European languages.

Ilan Sta­vans is the Pub­lish­er of Rest­less Books and the Lewis-Sebring Pro­fes­sor of Human­i­ties, Latin Amer­i­can and Lati­no Cul­ture at Amherst Col­lege. His books include On Bor­rowed WordsSpang­lishDic­tio­nary DaysThe Dis­ap­pear­ance, and A Critic’s Jour­ney. He has edit­ed The Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Lati­no Lit­er­a­ture, the three-vol­ume set Isaac Bashe­vis Singer: Col­lect­ed Sto­riesThe Poet­ry of Pablo Neru­da, among dozens of oth­er vol­umes. He is the recip­i­ent of numer­ous awards and hon­ors, includ­ing a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship, the Mass­a­chu­setts Book Award for Poet­ry, Chile’s Pres­i­den­tial Medal, the Inter­na­tion­al Lati­no Book Award, and the Jew­ish Book Award. Sta­vans’ work, trans­lat­ed into twen­ty lan­guages, has been adapt­ed to the stage and screen. A cofounder of the Great Books Sum­mer Pro­gram at Amherst, Stan­ford, Chica­go, Oxford, and Dublin, he is the host of the NPR pod­cast ​“In Contrast."


Margaret Frothingham, translation and education program manager. Margaret coordinates several programs at the Yiddish Book Center, including the Translation Fellowship, YiddishSchool, and Great Jewish Books. While she is fond of all types of literature, she has a passion for children's books, and recently received a dual MA/MFA in children's literature from Simmons University. She loves getting to know the students at Great Jewish Books!

Sylvia Peterson, associate director of education administration. Sylvia helps run educational programs for all ages at the Yiddish Book Center. Prior to joining the Center in 2014, she worked at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. She holds a BA in classics from Mount Holyoke College and has a passion for art history and museum studies. She’s also an avid baker.