2023 Great Jewish Books Summer Program Faculty and Staff

2024 faculty and guests will be announced soon.

Core Faculty

Madeleine (Mindl) Cohen is the academic director of the Yiddish Book Center. Mindl has a PhD in Comparative Literature with an emphasis in Jewish Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on modern Yiddish literature and the relationships between Jewish politics in central and eastern Europe and writing about place; she is also interested in translation studies and the recovery of writing by women. Mindl has taught Yiddish language at UC Berkeley, Harvard University, the Yiddish Book Center, and for a number of community organizations. In addition to overseeing the educational programs of the Yiddish Book Center, she directs translation initiatives at the Center, which includes the Yiddish translation fellowship and the short works in translation series. Mindl was formerly chief editor for In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, and now serves as president of In geveb’s board of directors. She is a visiting lecturer in Jewish Studies at Mount Holyoke College.

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 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

Sasha Senderovich is Associate Professor of Slavic, Jewish, and International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of How the Soviet Jew Was Made (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, he is the translator of the Yiddish writer David Bergelson’s Judgment: A Novel (Northwestern University Press, 2017) and, from Yiddish and Russian, of In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Short Fiction by Jewish Writers from the Soviet Union (under contract with Stanford University Press). He has also published essays on literary, cultural, and political topics in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New York Times, the ForwardLilith, Jewish Currents, and the New Republic.


Residential Assistants (RAs)

Elijah (Eli) Burger (they/he) is a Jewish educator with a deep love for farming, singing, and the woods. He has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College where he studied poetry, political economics, German, and Spanish. Currently, they work at Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton, MA, where they wear many hats. When they are not there, they can be found trying to keep their many houseplants alive, listening to birds, watching / playing basketball, and writing songs about worms. This will be their first year staffing the Great Jewish Books Summer Program, and they are so excited to bask in the magic of Jewish literature with everyone!

Ozzy Irving Gold-Shapiro (Senior RA) is a curious historian, Yiddishist, and Jewish cultural organizer 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 orchestrate multigenerational, community-led spectacle theater parades based on Jewish folk art, music, culture, and radical histories through The People’s Puppet Parade, and co-organize KlezCummington, a yearly festival dedicated to the creation and deepening of Yiddish diasporic cultures. 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. They currently work as a bilingual (Yiddish and English) Field Fellow for the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project. This will be their sixth year staffing Great Jewish Books. They are excited to get to know you!

Saffron Kaplan recently graduated from UT Austin with her BA in Middle Eastern studies and minors in Hebrew and Arabic. She is passionate about Judaism and Jewish education, and long-term plans to attend rabbinical school. In her free time, Saffron enjoys reading, being bad at video games, and playing with her two small dogs.

Maayan Lerner (they/she) is an educator and student currently based in Worcester, Massachusetts on Nipmuc land. They are studying to become a history teacher and are passionate about creating vibrant educational spaces in and out of the classroom. Outside of the classroom Maayan does anti-occupation and alternative Jewish community organizing, reads diverse fantasy, and hangs out in gardens. She was a student in the Great Jewish Books Summer Program and can’t wait to be back at the Yiddish Book Center for her first summer staffing the program.

Zeke Levine (Senior RA) 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.

Ruby Zuckerman is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her fiction has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, The Quarterless Review, and SARKA. She is also co-owner of Judaica Standard Time, a design company that seeks to find the commonalities between Jewish culture and modernist aesthetics. As a day job, she works at a wedding DJ company and as the in-house writer for Hannah Hoffman Gallery. She attended the Great Jewish Books Summer Program as a high school student and the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program while in college.

Guest Authors

Ellen Cassedy is the translator of On the Landing: Stories by Yenta Mash. She completed the work as a Yiddish Book Center translation fellow in 2017. She is also the co-translator, with Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, of Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories by Blume Lempel, which won the 2012 Translation Prize awarded by the Yiddish Book Center and the 2018 Modern Language Association Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies. Ellen is the author of the memoir We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, which won several national awards. Her latest book, a memoir about organizing working women, is Working 9 to 5, which was published in September 2022 with a foreword by Jane Fonda. Ellen lives in New York City. You can visit her website at www.ellencassedy.com.

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. In Summer 2022, he won the 'Audience Favorite' award in an International Solo Show Festival in Bitola, North Macedonia.

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.