B.A., Skidmore College; M.A., Ph.D., Brandeis University
Sophia Moses Robison Professor of Jewish Studies and History
Director of Jewish Studies, research in Jewish and European history, founding member of Digital Heritage Mapping and Diarna project.
My research, always with a focus on Jewish history, has encompassed Jews living in medieval Spain, the lands of Islam, France, and Europe. Recent publications have included a biography of a Jew in the French Revolution, an edited volume of Jewish women writers in contemporary Europe, and an article on adolescent Jewish identities in North Africa and the Middle East (1933-36). My current book-length project is tentatively titled Teaching Freedom: Jewish Sisters in Muslim Lands 1889-1939. In the 19th century, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, an international Jewish organization founded in Paris, created a vast network of schools to “modernize” Jews living in Islamic lands. Based on thousands of letters and community archives, Teaching Freedom explores the goals, self-identity, struggles, and accomplishments of a multigenerational family of Moroccan-born women. These African-born, French-speaking, Jewish sisters and daughters founded and directed Alliance schools in 11 cities in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.
I teach a variety of courses at the introductory level, for example Jews in the Medieval and Modern World and Jews of Spain and the Lands of Islam, as well as seminars on antisemitism in historical perspective and the construction of Jewish identity in Europe, America, the Middle East, and South Asia. All these courses focus on the experience of Jews but always within the larger historical context. In Zionism and Irish Nationalism I also use a comparative lens. Student partners, one focusing on Jewish and the other on Irish history, choose a common theme for their final paper. After reading each other’s work, they add a comparative section to their own.
Wellesley College’s Jewish Studies Program has partnered with Diarna, an exciting and innovative 21st century project. Operating in an area often characterized by political and sectarian strife, Diarna (“our homes” in Judeo Arabic) is a multinational and interfaith collaboration among scholars and tour guides, technical experts who code and design the Diarna platform, young photographers and researchers who travel collecting material, and Middle Eastern youth eager to map virtual common ground. Together they locate hundreds of sites, collect archival and contemporary photographs and films, interview elderly community residents, and assemble a multimedia layer in Google Earth to share this material in myriad educational formats. Under my supervision, Wellesley students and recent alumnae have been active in all aspects of the Diarna project, including traveling to cities in North Africa and the Middle East.
I like traveling, which I can also do vicariously as one of the directors of our Morocco Wintersession program, as well as swimming, tennis, sabbaticals in Paris, the collaboration of my women’s writing group, and knitting.