Featured in this Issue


Congratulations to New PhDs

A number of graduate students with affiliations to TIJS completed their graduate programs this past year. We congratulate these students and wish them great success in their Jewish studies careers.

Ira Bedzow
Ira Bedzow

Ira Bedzow completed the PhD in religion, working with Timothy Jackson as his adviser. His dissertation is titled "A Contemporary Jewish Virtue Ethics."











Ryan Bonfiglio
Ryan Bonfiglio

Ryan Bonfiglio completed the PhD in religion with the dissertation "Reading Images, Seeing Texts: Toward a Visual Hermeneutics for Biblical Studies," under the guidance of Brent Strawn. As part of a two-year postdoctoral fellowship through the Louisville Institute, he is a faculty fellow in Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.










Abstract of "Reading Images, Seeing Texts: Toward a Visual Hermeneutics for Biblical Studies"

In the past several decades, biblical scholars have begun to turn to ancient Near Eastern art as an important resource in various avenues of research. Despite this increased interest in visual material, critical questions about visual theory and the nature of visual culture remain mostly unexplored in biblical scholarship. In response, this dissertation offers a sustained engagement of the field of visual culture studies in order to develop an interpretive framework, or "visual hermeneutics," that further informs how ancient art is utilized in the study of the Hebrew Bible and Israelite religion.

The five main chapters of this dissertation explore how prominent themes in visual culture theory apply to particular questions in biblical scholarship, including: What is visual literacy and how does this concept clarify the importance of images as a language of communication in the ancient world? (ch. 2); How have scholars conceptualized the nature of the image-text relationship and in what ways do these theories inform our analysis of visual-verbal interactions, whether between discrete images and texts or within the same artifact? (ch. 3); What differences obtain between the way in which linguistic and nonlinguistic sign systems generate meaning, and how might these differences be accounted for through particular methods of image analysis? (ch. 4); How do theories about the power and agency of images help us better understand the nature of visual representation as well as the implications of visual response in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near Eastern world? (ch. 5); and How might a consideration of visual practices and religious ways of seeing influence our understanding of important topics in Israelite religion, including the study of aniconism and the search for Yahweh's image? (ch. 6). I synthesize my reflections from chapters 2 through 6 into nine clearly delineated interpretive principles that outline a visual hermeneutics for biblical studies (ch. 7).

The goal of this dissertation is to advance the methods and practices of the field of biblical iconography. In addition, it draws attention to the need for more critical reflection on visual culture studies in related areas of inquiry, including ancient Near Eastern art history, archaeology, and Israelite religion.



Craig Perry
Craig Perry

Craig Perry completed a PhD in history with a dissertation etitled "The Daily Life of Slaves and the Global Reach of Slavery in Medieval Egypt, 969–1250 CE," with Marina Rustow (now of Johns Hopkins University) as his adviser. He is now working as a research associate at Johns Hopkins, on a collaborative grant to research documents of the Cairo Genizah and publish them online.









Abstract of "The Daily Life of Slavery and the Global Reach of Slavery in Medieval Egypt, 969–1250 CE"

This dissertation examines the geography of the slave trade, the role of slavery in the household, and the lives of domestic slave women in the medieval Egyptian Jewish community. I juxtapose records from the Cairo Genizah with medieval chronicles, travelogues, and responsa to illustrate developments at both the macro- and microlevels.

At the geopolitical level, bills of sale and merchant letters allow for a composite portrait of the Egyptian slave population's origins. My analysis of these sources demonstrates that during the course of the twelfth century, Egyptians turned increasingly toward sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean for slave imports.

The microstudy of slaves' lives provides a window into the everyday life, gendered social world, and legal systems of the Egyptian Jewish community. Domestic slaves were intimately embedded in household life, where free women used them to protect their social status and extend their practical kin networks. The presence of slave women imperiled the status of free women when husbands took slaves as concubines, a practice that was illegal in the Egyptian Jewish community and took place outside the regulatory ambit of communal authorities. I analyze legal codes and responsa alongside documentary records to explain how legal authorities' inability to regulate slave concubinage effectively led to unintended consequences: illicit concubinage greatly disrupted the household; it put the security of free women and children at greater risk; and concubines themselves were more vulnerable given that they lacked clear legal standing.

Finally, I piece together fragmentary evidence in order to chart the life course of female slaves and narrate their lived experiences from birth and childhood through maturity. Genizah records illustrate how ongoing clientage relationships between manumitted slaves and their former owners reversed the deracination and natal alienation of slavery and aided slaves in their integration into Jewish society. Investigating domestic slaves as a group enables me to overcome the limitations of medieval documentary sources, in which slaves are often obliquely mentioned. By focusing on instances in which slaves made consequential decisions, I illustrate how historians can apprehend the personhood of marginal subjects from the distant past.


Nehemia Stern
Nehemia Stern

Nehemia Stern completed a PhD in religion, under the guidance of Don Seeman, with a dissertation titled "First Flowering of Redemption: An Ethnographic Account of Contemporary Religious Zionism in Israel."











Abstract of "First Flowering of Redemption: An Ethnographic Account of Contemporary Religious Zionism in Israel"

This study explores the relationships between religious concepts and the dilemmas and challenges that animate those concepts within the everyday lives of Jewish political pietists (religious Zionists) in Israel. It argues that religious experience reflects particular modes of political practice. A focus on religious ideas and concepts must exist alongside the political, economic, and cultural factors that motivate or give meaning to the daily lives of religious nationalists.

Using this paradigm, the analysis ethnographically reexamines the category of messianism in relation to contemporary religious Zionism. For many religious Zionists in the era after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, 'Messianic Redemption' referred to a social, religious, and political process that centered on the sovereignty of the state of Israel within the land of Israel, coupled with the collective presence of the people of Israel on that land. Currently, however, religious Zionism is being practiced and experienced in ways that do not expressly revolve around collective state sovereignty or messianic redemption.

This study ethnographically documents the ways in which religious concepts and sociopolitical practices interact with one another in the daily lives of religious Zionists in Israel. It will focus on issues of Jewish settlement, Torah study, violence, military service, and travel to point to the ways in which values of collectivity, freedom, and state sovereignty manifest themselves within a political pietistic context. The ethnographic data presented here can be used to clarify certain political and social tensions that are occurring within religious Zionism and that impact not only the state of Israel but the region as a whole.


Anne Stewart
Anne Stewart

Anne Stewart completed a PhD in religion with a dissertation titled "A Honeyed Cup: Poetry, Pedagogy, and Ethos in the Book of Proverbs." Her advisers were Carol Newsom and Brent Strawn, and she has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship to serve as visiting assistant professor of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.










Abstract of "A Honeyed Cup: Poetry, Pedagogy, and Ethos in the Book of Proverbs"

From its opening words, the book of Proverbs presents itself as a manual of instruction for the student to acquire the necessary discipline and virtues to follow the wise course. Given that Proverbs often speaks in language of binary opposition (e.g., righteous/wicked, wise/foolish), many interpreters have described the book's vision of the moral world as relatively simplistic. Accordingly, shaping the student's character would seem a straightforward task of merely conveying the right course while warning of the dangers of the wrong course. However, the book imparts a much more complicated vision of the moral world than often has been assumed.

The moral world of Proverbs is closely related to the book's literary form. This project explores the strategies of character formation in Proverbs with particular attention to the function of the poetry of Proverbs. Part I of the dissertation is a methodological framework for the study, examining the "character ethics approach" and the nature of poetry in Proverbs. Character ethics, in its various forms, has given great attention to the role of narrative in the formation of character, but Proverbs challenges this narrative orientation.

Part II presents four different models of character formation: (1) rebuke, (2) motivation, (3) desire, and (4) imagination. These heuristic categories organize the diverse ways in which the book speaks about formation, uses certain rhetorical tools to enact formation within the student, and operates with implicit assumptions about the nature of learning and human beings.

Through its poetry, Proverbs presents a sophisticated understanding of the role of emotion, desire, and imagination in the formation of the moral self, thus suggesting that character formation requires educating all the senses, not simply the cognitive faculties. Although Proverbs often makes use of black-and-white binary opposition, it in fact schools the student to operate in a moral world of gray hue, a place in which the student will be constantly barraged by competing choices and desires that require the mental acuity to make wise choices.




About this Publication

Student News:
TIJS Welcomes New Graduate Fellows

Jessica GinsbergThe newest graduate fellows are Rahimjon Abdugafurov, Collin Cornell, Lisa Hoelle, and Justin Pannkuk. 
Laney Graduate School Announces Brickman-Levin fund

Tenenbaum LectureImportant to the university's healing from anti-Semitism at the dental school, the fund ensures that Jewish studies remains permanently part of the graduate curriculum. 
Annual Tenenbaum Lecture is Keynote to Borowski Symposium

Annual Tenenbaum Lecture is Keynote TO Borowski SymposiumA symposium to honor Emory's Oded Borowski was timed to coincide with the Tenenbaum Lecture— delivered this year by William G. Dever, one of Borowski's mentors.
TIJS Hosts 2014 American Jewish Historical Society Conference

TIJS Hosts 2014 American Jewish Historical Society ConferenceWith Emory serving as host, the Biennial Scholars' Conference held in June attracted 100 academics from around the world. 
TIJS Faculty Highlights

TIJS Faculty HighlightsDon Seeman is a Harvard-trained anthropologist and an accomplished textualist, studying classical Jewish legal, philosophical, and mystical texts in their original languages.
Jacob Wright's Coursera Course Brings Biblical Studies to Thousands on the Internet

Jacob Wright's Coursera Course Brings Biblical Studies to Thousands on the InternetRead a Q&A with Jacob Wright describing his first experience with a MOOC when 27,000 students registered for his course The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future.
Faculty News

2014 Blumenthal AwardsRead about David R. Blumenthal's honorary degree and Deborah LIpstadt's keynote at the Rwandan genocide conference, as well as welcome the TIJS visiting scholars for 2014–2015.
2014 Blumenthal Awards

2014 Blumenthal AwardsCongrats to Carrie Crawford and Katherine Howard (graduate) and Avi Dobrusin (undergraduate).

Thanks to Our Donors

Thanks to our donorsYou can assist the future growth of the program through endowment giving. To learn more, contact Michelle Clark at



Fall 2014
Candler Entrance

Want to subscribe?

The Tam Institute for Jewish
Studies publishes an annual
newsletter documenting the
activities and achievements of our faculty, students, alumni, and the program as a whole.

To receive an eblast announcing
the next issue, please write to us

Back to Fall 2014

Archived issues

Fall 2013

Fall 2012

Fall 2011

Fall 2010

Fall 2008

Fall 2007

Fall 2006





Copyright © Emory University 2014spcr-spcrAll Right Reservedspcr|spcr201 Dowman Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30322 USA 404.727.6123