2021 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. 

"[I loved] the community it built... The kindness and warmth from the teachers and the other kids was really nice. It felt looser than a regular classroom, and that made me feel way more comfortable and chill than regular school. I also loved that I have more books to read!”

— 2020 Great Jewish Books online 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.

Activity Leaders

Alexis Aaeng holds a BA in history and Jewish studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut. 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 New Haven, CT, teaches at Staples High School in Westport, CT, and enjoys eating pizza and hanging out with her cat, Momo. She is thrilled to return to Great Jewish Books for the third summer.

Sadie "Zeydi" Gold-Shapiro 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 fourth 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 second summer with Great Jewish Books. 

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 fifth summer with the Great Jewish Books Summer Program!

Ruby Elliott Zuckerman is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles, California. She recently graduated from Macalester College with an honors degree in creative writing and studio art, and has held positions at the Loft Literary Center, Walker Art Center, and Yale University Press. Her visual art has been exhibited at the Law Warschaw Gallery and Bethel University Gallery, and she was the winner of the 2020 Nick Adams Short Story Contest. She currently works as a copywriter for Tortoise General Store while writing a collection of short fiction. 

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.  

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."

Ayelet Tsabari was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She is the author of the memoir in essays The Art of Leaving, winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for memoir, finalist for the Writer’s Trust Hilary Weston Prize and The Vine Awards, and an Apple Books and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2019. Her first book, The Best Place on Earth, won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and was long listed to the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The book was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a Kirkus Review Best Book of 2016, and has been published internationally. She teaches creative writing at the University of Guelph Writing MFA and the University of King’s College MFA in Creative Nonfiction.  

Staff

Margaret Frothingham, Program Assistant. Margaret 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.

Sylvia Peterson, Program Manager. 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.