2019 Great Jewish Books Summer Program Faculty and Staff

2020 faculty and staff to be announced

Core Faculty

Rachel Rubinstein is professor of American literature and Jewish studies at Hampshire College. She received her B.A. in English from Yale University and her Ph.D. from the Department of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University. She is the author of Members of the Tribe: Native America in the Jewish Imagination (Wayne State University Press, 2010) and co-editor of Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon: Essays on Literature and Culture in Honor of Ruth R. Wisse (Harvard University Press, 2008), and Teaching Jewish American Literature (MLA Publications Committee, 2019). Professor Rubinstein's teaching and research interests range across American literature and culture, with a particular focus on ethnicity and immigration, as well as Jewish and Yiddish literatures. Her current research focuses on Yiddish and translation in the Americas.

"The teachers, guest speakers, and RAs helped make this a meaningful experience. The teachers introduced me to a new kind of literary criticism, the guest speakers taught me diverse views and the RAs help me get to know myself more.”

—Great Jewish Books student

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. He regularly offers courses in Russian, Jewish, and comparative literature, culture, and cinema. His field of study is Soviet Jewish culture, and he has published articles on the writers Isaac Babel, David Bergelson, and Moyshe Kulbak, as well as on Soviet-born American Jewish writers like Gary Shteyngart, Anya Ulinich, Irina Reyn, and David Bezmozgis. He is working on his first book, How the Soviet Jew Was Made: Culture and Mobility after the Revolution; together with Harriet Murav, he translated, from the Yiddish, David Bergelson's novel Judgment (Northwestern University Press, 2017). The Yiddish Book Center awarded Sasha a translation fellowship to help complete this project. He has also published essays on literary, cultural, and political topics in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New York Times, the Forward, LilithJewish Currents, the Stranger, and the New Republic.

Claire Solomon is associate professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. Some of her recent courses include Literature and Economics, Melodrama and Cultural Anxiety, Gabriel García Márquez's A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love and Death: Jewish Literature and Culture of the Americas. She is the author of Fictions of the Bad Life: The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature 1880-2010, and essays on avant-garde theater, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, translation theory, and contemporary music. She has translated Juan Goytisolo and Roberto Arlt and is currently writing a novel about higher education.

Visiting Writers

Laura Eve Engel is the author of Things That Go (Octopus Books). The recipient of fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, her work can be found in The Awl, Best American Poetry, Boston Review, The Nation, PEN America, Tin House and elsewhere. She's in a band called The Old Year. (Session 2)

Rachel Kadish is the award-winning author of the novels From a Sealed Room and Tolstoy Lied: a Love Story, as well as the novella I Was Here. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times, Ploughshares, and Tin House, and has been anthologized in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and elsewhere. She has been a fiction fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, has received the National Jewish Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Fiction Award, and the John Gardner Fiction Award, and was the Koret Writer-in-Residence at Stanford University. She lives outside Boston and teaches in Lesley University's MFA Program in Creative Writing. (Session 2

Joy Ladin holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University, and, in 2007, became the first (and still only) openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award; a new book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, was published by Brandeis University Press in late 2018. She has also published nine books of poetry, including, most recently, The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, an American Council of Learned Societies Research Fellowship, and a Hadassah Brandeis Institute Research Fellowship, among other honors. A nationally recognized speaker on trans and Jewish identity, she serves on the Board of Keshet, an organization devoted to full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in the Jewish world. (Session 2)

Ibrahim Miari is a theater artist, originally from Israel. He holds an MFA in theater education from Boston University. While living in Israel, he was a member of the Acco Theater Center ensemble, creating original plays in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, and performing in Israel and Europe. He has performed his semi-autobiographical one-man show In Between both nationally and internationally at universities, theaters, and arts festivals. The play was nominated for the Independent Reviewers of New England award for Best Solo Show in addition to being an actor, he is also a language lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, a yoga instructor, and a Sufi dancer. (Session 1)

Idra Novey is the author of the novels Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear, winner of the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize, the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Prize, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her fiction and poetry have been translated into ten languages and she's written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Magazine. She's translated numerous writers from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector. (Session 1)

Sam Sax is a queer Jewish poet and educator. He’s the author of Madness (winner of the national poetry series) and bury it (winner of the James Laughlin award from the academy of American poets). He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion with poems in the New York Times, BuzzFeed Magazine and Poetry Magazine. Sam’s a 2018 Ruth Lilly fellow and currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. (Session 2)

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American, and Latino Culture at Amherst College, the publisher of Restless Books, and the host of NPR’s podcast In Contrast. Born and raised in Mexico, Stavans attended Yiddish day school with other children of Eastern European immigrants. He came to the U.S. in the 1980s as a graduate student and is now a bestselling cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host. He is the author of On Borrowed Words, Spanglish, El Iluminado, Singer’s Typewriter and Mine, and Quixote, and the editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature, The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, and Oy Caramba!: An Anthology of Jewish Stories from Latin America. He has translated Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges into English, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop into Spanish, Isaac Bashevis Singer from the Yiddish, Yehuda Halevi from the Hebrew, and Cervantes and Shakespeare into Spanglish. His latest books are the graphic novel Angelitos (illustrated by Santiago Cohen), the poem The Wall, the play The Oven, the collection of essays On Self-Translation, and the graphic-novel adaptation of Don Quixote. He is cofounder and academic director of the Great Books Summer Program. The recipient of many awards and honors, Stavans’ work has been translated into a dozen languages. (Session 1)

Residential Assistants

Rena Branson is thrilled about being alive, basking in words, and working with young people. She has served as an educator in various settings, from teaching ESL in Alaska to creating Jewish outdoor curricula for Eden Village Camp. After graduating from Oberlin in 2014, she participated in the Avodah Jewish Service Corps in her home city of New York City. She co-facilitated a support group for new members at Footsteps, an organization for people who grew up ultra-Orthodox and are exploring their own derech (path). She has spent the past two years immersed in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts at Pardes and the Hadar Institute. She’s excited to fast-forward a few thousand years and return for another summer of exploring modern Jewish texts with students at Great Jewish Books!

Sadie Gold-Shapiro (Senior RA)​ is a curious historian, Yiddishist, and translator based in western Massachusetts. They can usually be found in dusty and/or digital archives poking around in the past, or up on stage, playing with their klezmer band Burikes (“beets” in Yiddish). They participated in the Yiddish Book Center’s 2014 Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and were also a 2016-17 graduate fellow. Last year's Great Jewish Books was so much fun that they decided to come back this year as the Senior RA. They are excited to delve into the texts in such fine company!

Abby Johnson hails from Rochester, New York. She graduated from Vassar College, where she studied English and women's studies. She also served as the fiction editor for the Vassar Review and as president of the Vassar Jewish Union. She has worked at arts and cultural institutions such as Writers & Books in Rochester, NY and currently is the Education Programs Manager at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.

Sara Klugman is a dancer, poet, haircutter, and arts worker currently living in Jerusalem. After graduating from Carleton College with a degree in religion, Sara spent three years in New York City working in public education, counseling, and arts-access-related work with high school students. For the past year and a half, Sara has been living in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, she spent a semester studying contemporary and ancient Jewish text at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and the following six months studying and performing full-time with the Vertigo Modern Dance Company — a modern dance company based in Jerusalem. Most recently, Sara has split her time between studying part-time at the Conservative Yeshiva and working closely with Hamiffal, a Jerusalem-based art collective, to create arts programming and partnerships aimed at increasing access and decreasing segregation amongst Jerusalem’s residents.

Zack Kronstat is a middle school English teacher in New York City. He completed his M.A. in English education at Teachers College, Columbia University and his B.A. 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.

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 also serves as an instructor in the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism’s KidSchool program, where he develops and teaches fourth and fifth grade courses on Jewish folktales and Jewish-American history. Paul is an alumnus of the Yiddish Book Center’s Steiner Summer Program (summer 2007), a Yiddish speaker, and an inveterate reader of Jewish books. He can’t wait to get back to the Center this summer!


Josh Lambert is the academic director at the Yiddish Book Center and visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture, which won a Canadian Jewish Book Award and the Jordan Schnitzer Award from the Association for Jewish Studies, and American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide. His reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of BooksHaaretz, the Forward, the Globe and Mail, and many academic journals. 

Great Jewish Books Program Manager Sylvia Peterson helps to 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.

Education Program Assistant Margaret Frothingham keeps track of details for several programs at the Yiddish Book Center and enjoys getting to know the students at Great Jewish Books. Margaret is currently working towards her MA/MFA in Children's Literature through Simmons University and holds a BA in English and Art from Wheaton College.