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PhD, Education and Jewish Studies Students

Alan AbramsAlan Abrams 

Interests: Chaplaincy education 

Alan Abrams, a rabbi specializing in chaplaincy and clergy education and a Jim Joseph Fellow at NYU, believes that leadership and the ability to provide compassionate caring to people in crisis are not qualities one is born with – they are things that can be learned and can be taught. His research interests involve increasing our understanding of how the development of empathetic skills and of spiritual leadership can be fostered through educational processes, as well as our understanding of how practitioners with those skills can influence Jewish identity among those they care for in key lifecycle moments -- in birth, death, illness and marriage. He currently serves as a chaplaincy supervisor/educator in Reading, PA, and has taught techniques in Israel for composing spontaneous prayer and gave a workshop on "Working the Midrashic Muscle" at the National Association of Jewish Chaplain’s annual conference in January of 2010. Alan has taught rabbinics at the Gann Academy/New Jewish High School in Boston. He holds Masters Degrees both in Talmud and in Public Policy. Alan loves to cook and is passionate about the bicycle as a means of alternative transportation that can help us be kinder to our planet.

Mijal BittonMijal Bitton 


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: Sephardim in the United States, Religious Education, Community education, the intersectionality of ethnicity and religion in the United States

Principal Adviser(s): Harold Wechsler, Lisa Stulberg, Steven M. Cohen, Nissim Leon

Dissertation Title: “Syrian Jews in America: In Search for Community”

Mijal Bitton is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Education and Jewish Studies program. Her dissertation “Syrian Jews in America: In Search of Community” examines the mechanisms for the maintenance of religion and ethnicity in a Sephardic immigrant community. Mijal’s study aims to bring to light insights from a long understudied population to complicate and enrich normative understandings of education, ethnicity, religion, and identity in the sociology of immigrant communities in America. Ultimately, her project argues against normative notions of western religion and ethnicity that render many immigrant communities both marginal and unintelligible in academic scholarship. Using qualitative methods Mijal seeks to describe a Jewish-American-Syrian social group and its efforts towards self-perpetuation while paying careful attention to its complex genealogies.

Before beginning her doctoral studies, Mijal graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva University. She received an Avichai Fellowship and a Wexner Graduate Fellowship for her doctoral studies. Mijal works as a Doctoral Fellow and Faculty at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

Michael EmersonMichael Emerson


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: religious education, Jewish education

Principal Adviser(s): Robert Chazan

Dissertation Title: TBD

Michael Emerson is a fifth year doctoral student in the Education and Jewish Studies program. He is researching the religious beliefs of Modern Orthodox Jewish high school educators. He is particularly focused on the ways in which teachers navigate the space between their personal beliefs and their professional roles as religious educators.

Michael is a graduate of Columbia University (’09) and completed his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s RIETS in 2014. He is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. Currently, he is in his fourth year teaching at SAR High School, an Orthodox day school in Riverdale, NY. Michael has also been an educator at Drisha and the Wexner Service Corps. He has worked as a consultant for the iCenter, a Chicago based non-profit organization focused on improving Israel education in America, and as a research assistant for Eran Tamir of Brandeis University, analyzing the working conditions and induction practices of new teachers in urban public, Catholic, and Jewish day schools.

Michael lives in Forest Hills, Queens with his wife Adina Bitton and their daughter.

Jeni FriedmanJeni Friedman 

Interests:  Adult education, professional development, clergy education 

Rabbi Jeni Friedman is a doctoral student in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU where she is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar and a Jim Joseph Fellow. Jeni works with the LOMED project at the Jewish Education Project where she consults on Congregational Education for synagogues in the New York area. For the past five years Jeni was a rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom, Roslyn Heights, NY. She chairs the Advisory Board to the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship for the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Jeni holds a B.A. in Jewish Studies (Rabbinic Literature) and English Literature (Creative Writing) from the American Jewish University and Rabbinic Ordination and an M.A. in Midrash from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

David GalpertDavid Galpert 


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: education, leadership, innovation, history

Research Topic: Roles and Expectations of Educational Leaders in Modern Orthodox Jewish High Schools

David Galpert is pursuing a Ph.D. in Education and Jewish Studies at New York University as an AVI CHAI Fellow. Previously he pursued a dual master’s degree in Education and Jewish Studies and Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU as a Jim Joseph Fellow. He received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude through the History Honors Program at NYU’s College of Arts and Science, where he also minored in Public Policy & Management, General Education, and Hebrew & Judaic Studies. Prior to attending NYU, he spent a year studying advanced Judaic texts in Israel at Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi. David has diverse interests in history, education, technology, social media, innovation, and leadership. He wrote his undergraduate history honors thesis on the reactions of the Jews to the First Crusade in the Rhineland. David is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta honor societies.

David is currently the Assistant Administrator of Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School, a Modern Orthodox high school in Brooklyn, NY. In this role he is responsible for overseeing building operations for the high school, which includes facilities management, security, and a major renovation project. David also coordinates school-wide exams, including finals, Advance Placement, and College Board related exams. He also works on teacher and student schedules and programs in conjunction with the principal. In addition, David coordinates senior grade events, programs, and activities; organizes the annual open house for eighth grade students and their parents, is the social media manager, and teaches courses on leadership and Jewish ethics.

In the past, David served as the project coordinator of Sweat Equity Education, where he was responsible for overseeing the progress of their workforce development program; creating technological platforms that distributed curriculum; and producing promotional materials. David was also the project coordinator at Tiferet Academy where he oversaw the process of starting a new innovative elementary school. In that role he managed the legal status, financial planning, staffing, curriculum development, student recruitment, communications, and other areas within the school.

David is pursuing a career in the field of Jewish education as an educational leader and education reformer so as to improve the teaching and learning within schools in order to enhance students’ futures and help them become enthusiastic learners, analytical thinkers, problem solvers, and ultimately, successful leaders in their communities and industries.

Adam GaynorAdam Gaynor 


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: Management and governance of nonprofit and educational organizations

Principal Advisor(s): Robert Chazan, Bethamie Horowitz, David Elcott

Dissertation Title: “Wrestling with Strategic Paradoxes in Jewish Education: A History of American Jewish World Service”

Adam Gaynor is a doctoral candidate in Education and Jewish Studies focusing on how educational organizations make decision about mission, vision, and sustainability in light of conflicting goals among different stakeholders (e.g. professionals, volunteers, funders, partners, students…). His dissertation examines the history of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), “the first and only Jewish organization dedicated solely to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world.” AJWS is an important example because its evolution parallels and reflects the dramatic growth of the Jewish educational sector during the 1990s-2000s, as well as the forces – e.g. generational and philanthropic – with which the sector continues to wrestle.

Adam is a founding partner of Plan A Advisors, a planning and management consulting firm for nonprofit organizations. He was previously Executive Director of The Curriculum Initiative, a national program that worked with over 240 independent schools. Adam earned a BA in Women’s Studies from Bates College, an MS in Social Work from Columbia University, and an MA in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Selected Awards, Publications, and Presentations:

“Strategic Planning 101,” Metropolitan New York Library Council, January 2018

“Building your Board Strategically,” Westchester Not-for-Profit Leadership Summit XV, May 2017

“School Head Succession: Good Boards and Good Plans Aid Transition,” National Association of Independent Schools Conference, February 2016

“Scaling as Strategy: Nonprofit Growth for Sustainability,” WNFP Leadership Summit XIII, May 2015

“Scaling Up: Growth by Intention & Plan,” Nonprofit Insights and Strategic Solutions Webinar Series, US Trust, November 2015

“Bold Action in a Competitive Market: The JCC Consortium Camp,” Power Your Mission 2: Conference on Social Enterprise, UJA-Federation of New York, December 2014

“Jewish Education and JCC Day Camps in New York: Issues and Opportunities,” Jewish Community Centers of North America Biennial Convention, May 2014

“Beyond the Melting Pot: Finding a Voice for Jewish Identity in Multicultural American Schools.” Journal of Jewish Communal Service, January 1, 2011.

Pi Lambda Theta, National Honor Society of Educators, 2010

“Militant Masculinity and Jewish Women’s Peace Activism in Israel.” In (Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience. Eds. Lisa Dresdner and Laurel Peterson. Cambridge Scholars Press, London: 2008.

36 Under 36, The New York Jewish Week, 2008

Professional Leaders Project Academic Fellow, 2007

Personal Website:

Talia HurwichTalia Hurwich


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Games in Education, Jewish Graphic Novels, Jewish Modern Orthodox feminism, Literacy Education

Principal Advisor(s): Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth, Bethamie Horowitz, Camillia Matuk

Dissertation Title: Seen But Not Heard? Graphic Novel Adaptations of Texts with Jewish Feminist Religious Significance

Talia Hurwich is a doctoral candidate in the Education and Jewish Studies program focusing on graphic novels in educational settings. Her dissertation "Seen But Not Heard? Graphic Novel Adaptations of Texts with Jewish Feminist Religious Significance" examines the encounter between adolescent reader and graphic novel adaptations of traditional Jewish texts, particularly where issues relating to gender arise, focusing on how graphic novel adaptations of traditional Jewish texts shape a Modern Orthodox Jewish student's reading of women's roles in these texts. Ultimately, she hopes to chart how students' reading of texts are affected by setting (i.e., whether they are reading in or out of a classroom) and medium. Talia also works as a facilitator and research assistant with Professor Camillia Matuk on the benefits of using comic books and game design in Middle School science classrooms, and has co-written a book for educators with Dr. Meryl Jaffe on how to use graphic novels in Elementary and Middle School classrooms.

Before working as a graduate student, Talia was a middle school Hebrew teacher and assistant librarian and a writing instructor and curriculum mentor for John Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth.

Selected Awards, Publications, and Presentations:

Jaffe, M., Hurwich, T. (Contracted book in preparation) Worth A Thousand Words: Using Graphic Novels to Teach Visual and Verbal Literacy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Matuk, C., Hovey, C., Hurwich, T., Sarmiento, J.P. (2018) Cognitive processes and collaborative supports for knowledge integration among youth designing games for science learning. In Linn, M.C. & Eylon, B.-S. (chairs), Osborne, J. & Laurillard, D (discussants), Kidron, A. (organizer), Knowledge Integration in the Digital Age: Trajectories, Opportunities, and Future Directions. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference for the Learning Sciences (Vol. X, pp. xxxx-xxxx). London: International Society for the Learning Sciences.

Hovey, C., Matuk, C. & Hurwich, T. (2018) "If you add too much science, it gets boring." Exploring students' conceptual change through their game design iterations. In Proceedings fo the 13th International Conference for the Learning Sciences (Vol. X, pp. xxxx-xxxx). London: International Society for the Learning Sciences.

Jaffe, M., Hurwich, T., Maihak, M., & Pitman, E., (July, 2017). Games, Graphic Novels, and Texts: Innovative Tools for Differentiated and Diverse Classrooms. Panel presentation at the International Literacy Association Conference, Orlando, FL.

Hurwich, T. & Fogerty, L. (November, 2016). "Comics in the Classroom." Workshop presented at the NYC Board of Education Event Comics in the Classroom.

Jaffe, M., & Hurwich, T. (July, 2016). Literacy Beyond Words: Modeling Close Reading of Nonfiction Authentic Prose, Speeches, and Graphic Novels. Workshop presented at the International Literacy Association Conference, Boston, MA.

Hurwich, T., (Summer, 2016) Jewish Education Going Graphic: Classroom Strategies for Using Graphic Novels. HaYidion 24-25. Retrieved May 23, 2016 from

Panelist at Comic Con International: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018

Naomi Kalish

Interests: Professional education and training, multiculturalism 

Naomi Kalish is a doctoral student at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and a Steinhardt Fellow. She works as the Coordinator of Pastoral Care and Education at New York Presbyterian's Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. In addition to providing direct pastoral care, Naomi teaches Clinical Pastoral Education, a nationally accredited program of study, to seminary students, clergy, and lay leaders. She has taught students from a wide spectrum of Jewish and Christian affiliations and she serves as an Instructor of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Naomi is a board certified Jewish Chaplain through the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and a board certified chaplaincy supervisor through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. In 2006 she received the Lennart Cedarleaf Award for an Outstanding Theology Paper. Naomi received her undergraduate degree from Tufts University in American and Jewish Studies, and her rabbinic ordination and a Masters Degree in Jewish Philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is married to Rabbi Robert Scheinberg, a congregational rabbi, and they have three daughters. Naomi's research interests include the professional training of clergy, the history of pastoral counseling education, the interdisciplinary hospital team, and multicultural competency. 

Joshua Krug 

Interests: Modern Jewish Thought, Jewish Ethics, Jewish History, Legal Theory, Philosophy of Education 

Josh Krug is a Steinhardt Fellow in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU.

Josh earned a B.A. with Honors from Yale and an MDiv from Harvard. He is an inspired educator, facilitator, and innovator whose work testifies to how traditional and contemporary Jewish sources can animate and inform the lives of diverse young adults. Josh has collaborated with Genesis Philanthropy Group, KIVUNIM: New Directions, Prozdor, Harvard Divinity School, Moishe House, and Kevah: Making Space for Jewish Learning.

Josh lives in NYC, where he reads and writes, practices yoga, dances, sings, and facilitates intense conversations (sometimes, all at once!)

Dana Levinson SteinerDana Levinson Steiner 

Research Interests: Women in leadership programs, gender and Judaism, leadership development, gender roles, social psychology

Principal Advisor(s): Bethamie Horowitz

Dana Levinson Steiner is Director of ACCESS Global at AJC, where she oversees an international program to engage young professionals through transformative leadership development. Previously, Dana served as Manager of Jewish Leadership & Impact at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, where she founded Chutzpanit: from Campus to the C-Suite, a preparatory and mentorship program for Jewish college women that aims to close the workplace and leadership gender gap.  Dana has also been Assistant Director of Reshet Ramah: Alumni & Community Engagement Network; a teaching fellow at the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, NC; and a facilitator for Moving Traditions. Dana holds a B.Ed. in secondary history from McGill University and an M.A. in Jewish experiential education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Committed to advancing women and girls in both the Jewish communal and secular professional space, Dana sits on the board of the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York, is an advisory board member of the Gender Equity in Hiring in the Jewish Community Project, and serves as a gender equity consultant within the Jewish community. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, Ian.

Daniel LoewensteinDaniel Loewenstein

Interests: Character education, identity formation, teacher training

Hailing from Woodmere, New York, Daniel Loewenstein is a graduate of Yeshiva College and the Azrieli Graduate School of Education in New York and of the rabbinical school of Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. He has also spent time studying in Yeshivat Kerem be-Yavneh in Israel. Daniel has taught in a variety of settings, most recently teaching Hebrew language, English and creative writing at the Fasman Yeshiva High School in Chicago. Much of Daniel's graduate work thus far has focused on applying research in character education to Jewish contexts, and his informal teaching has consistently focused on demonstrating the relevance of Judaism to his students' lives.

Daniel joins the doctoral program in Education and Jewish Studies as an AVI CHAI fellow in the hopes of improving the net benefits of receiving a Jewish education. He plans to conduct research on best practices by working closely with Jewish day schools, both during his career at NYU and after, as a day school faculty member and perhaps eventually as a part of a larger educational organization. Daniel hopes to develop concrete methods for improving the effectiveness of Jewish day schools at achieving core affective educational goals, such as the promotion of good character and meaningful religious identity. He plans on starting programs geared toward training teachers, administrators and community leaders in how to effectively implement such methods through policy making, curriculum development, school-community relationship-building, and professional development.

Daniel OlsonDaniel Olson


Program: Education and Jewish Studies

Research Interests: Disability and Jewish Education, Curriculum Studies, Summer Camping

Principal Adviser(s): Bethamie Horowitz, Harold Wechsler

Daniel Olson is a second-year doctoral student in the Education and Jewish Studies program. He plans to write a dissertation about different attitudes surrounding Inclusion in the Jewish community, mostly centered on Disability, but around other axes of difference as well. Daniel has also done qualitative work on vocational training programs for young adults with disabilities at Jewish summer camps.

Before beginning his doctoral studies, Daniel graduated from Yale University with distinction with a degree in Environmental Studies. He then worked as a full-time congregational educator at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn and as the unit head for the vocational training program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Daniel is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar.

Selected Presentations:

“It’s Off to Work We Go: Vocational Training at Jewish Summer Camps” presented at the Network for Research in Jewish Education Conference and the World Congress for Special Needs Education.

Sarah OsseySarah Ossey 

Interests: Moral education, experiential education, cultural foundations of education

Sarah Ossey is a doctoral student in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU, where she is a Steinhardt Fellow and a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar. Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, she holds an MA in Jewish Education from the William Davidson School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a BA from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Spanish Language and Literature, as well as minors in Women and Gender Studies; and Hebrew Language and Literature. She worked as the Special Projects Director for Camp Ramah Darom and has focused much of her work on experiential Jewish education, particularly on Jewish camping. Recently, she has worked as a program associate at the National Ramah Commission. She serves a a graduate student representative to the executive committee of the Network for Research in Jewish Education. She is interested in the nexus between moral and experiential education. She currently resides in Manhattan with her husband.

Eszter SusánEszter Susán 

Interests: Digital media and learning, Non-formal education, Experiential education, Education management, Adult education  

Eszter Susán is a doctoral student in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU and a Steinhardt Fellow. She studied Aesthetics and German Literature at the ELTE University in Budapest, and spent three years in Berlin researching Holocaust education, and artistic representations of the Holocaust. After returning to Budapest she was a key figure in creating Sirály, the alternative JCC in the heart of the Jewish district. She worked for the JDC as a Community Projects Development Coordinator, and is a founder of MAROM Europe and served as its director in 2009 and 2011. She established the Budapest Moishe House in 2009 where she was a resident until 2011. Eszter is founder and board member at Dor Chadash, a young egalitarian minyen in Budapest and a founding member of MAROM Hungary (, which she has been active in for the past ten years. In 2010 Eszter became the academic assistant at the Center for Central European German-Jewish Culture at ELTE University.

Eszter has a great passion for the old Jewish quarter of Budapest. In 2009 she was the program organizer of MAROM ‘s Quarter6Quarter7 Festival which supports the preservation and revival of the Budapest Jewish Quarter ( As part of the festival in 2012 Eszter produced staged readings of three theatre plays written by American playwritgh Sarah Gancher reflecting on Budapest Jewish quarter and being Jewish today in Hungary. In 2013 Eszter launched the Time Traveler Project, the development of a unique, interactive e-learning 2.0 program about the old Jewish quarter of Budapest, in co-operation with high-schools, university departments and NGOs.

Rebekah Thornhill TokatlilarRebekah Thornhill Tokatlilar 

Research Interests: Jewish professional leadership, history, professions, history of education, Jewish communal leadership

Rebekah Thornhill Tokatlilar is the Managing Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University. Originally from Austin, Texas, she earned a BA in History and Jewish Studies from NYU in 2011 and an MA in Jewish Education from NYU in 2016. While an undergraduate, she was an Eryk Spektor Jewish Studies Scholar, a member of the dance team, and studied abroad at NYU’s Tel Aviv campus. Rebekah was a UJA-Federation of New York Shapiro Fellow in 2014-2015, served as vice chair of UJA’s Global Leadership Society in 2015-2016, was on the steering committee for Limmud New York, and founded the Orthodox Converts Network. In 2014, she relocated to Europe to develop Bronfman Global, a program designed to connect NYU students at NYU’s 14 global sites to Jewish communities all over the world. She started the NYU Global Ambassadors program which has since been scaled by Kahal Abroad and created the Bronfman Global Fellows, a program which aims to train emerging Jewish leaders from all over the world. Rebekah received the NYU Student Affairs Hallmark Award in 2013 and the Give-A-Violet Award in 2014 and has been asked to facilitate at Hillel International’s Global Assembly several times. Rebekah studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and is currently a PhD candidate in Jewish Education at NYU’s Steinhardt School. She lives in Chelsea with her husband, Max, and son, Sami.

Iscah WaldmanIscah Waldman

Interests: Teaching religious texts  

Rabbi Iscah Waldman came to NYU’s doctoral program in Education and Jewish Studies as a Steinhardt Fellow to examine how the study of visual culture parallels the teaching of rabbinic texts, and plans to research how midrash is currently accessed by rabbis and teachers in today's Jewish world. She has taught in a large variety of Jewish educational settings, and has spent the past 8 years as a teacher of Talmud and rabbinic literature at the Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island. She also teaching courses in Jewish law to Cantorial and Rabbinical Students at the Academy for Jewish Religion.

In addition to her love of rabbinic literature, Iscah is involved in her own artistic pursuits including cartooning and woodworking. Iscah holds a BA degree from Columbia University in Ancient studies, and a BA, MA and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband, Matt Agin and children, Tani and Shaya, in New Jersey.

Amanda WinerAmanda Winer EJST student

Amanda Winer is a fifth-year doctoral candidate.  Amanda is a social psychology researcher with a strong analytic background, including fluency in factor analysis and scale creation, structural equation modeling, multilevel modeling, and data visualization.  Amanda has vast interests in individual and community behavior, has participated in and led research projects at NYU, George Washington University, and other institutions.

Her dissertation work uses mixed methods to investigate the intersecting perceptions of advantage and marginalization across (Jewish) students in higher education.  In addition to research, Amanda's other passion is teaching, especially classes that demystify research by abating statistical coding and mathematical-related anxieties. She has served as a Course Assistant and Instructor of Record for both undergraduate and graduate classes across NYU, and has vasts experience teaching in other settings. Amanda was an NRJE Emerging Scholar and UJA-Federation of NY Graduate Fellow.  

Prior to graduate school, Amanda spent two rewarding years in the prestigious Education Fellowship at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, generating and leading innovative religious school programs to communities in the southeastern United States. Amanda is a graduate of Binghamton University, with a triple major in History, Judaic Studies, and Classical Civilization, where she received the Exemplary Student Award and Provost Academic Scholarship.