Three of the 2013-14 Jewish Studies Graduate Fellows, Esra Bakkalbasioglu, Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano, and Sarah Zaides, at a spring 2013 event. Photo by Meryl Schenker

The goal of the Jewish Studies Graduate Fellowship at the University of Washington is to build an intellectual community around Jewish Studies. Fellows participate in a workshop series to foster professional development and advance their research agendas. Now in its second year, the Fellowship is coordinated by Dr. Hannah Pressman, an affiliate faculty member of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.

Thanks to the generosity of our community supporters, five outstanding graduate students received $3,000 grants to support research related to Jewish Studies during the 2013-14 academic year. Our five new graduate fellows represent several UW departments. Each brings a unique perspective to the field of Jewish Studies and has great potential to contribute to the future of Jewish scholarship.

All of the awardees will present their work at a Spring Research Symposium on May 2, 2014. Read a preview blog post and view the complete schedule for this exciting event, which will feature topics ranging from Israeli solar panels to Russian novels and Polish films.

Keep reading to find out more about the 2013-2014 Fellows’ projects, research, and travel experiences.


Oscar Aguirre MandujanoOscar Aguirre-Mandujano (PhD Candidate, Near and Middle Eastern Studies)

Project: “Songs of War and Friendship: Ottoman Verses of Yehuda Behar”

Mickey Sreebny Memorial Scholarship in Jewish Studies

Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano is a third-year PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington.  He was born in Mexico City in 1986 and attended the National University of Mexico (UNam). In 2008 he obtained a BA degree in History and in 2009 he moved to United Kingdom to read an MA degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. Oscar’s dissertation undertakes an interdisciplinary study of the impact of book production in the emergence of a new court literary culture during the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1452-1512) in the Ottoman Empire.  As a Jewish Studies Graduate Fellow, Oscar focuses on an in-depth study of the original compositions of Yehuda (Leon) Behar in Ottoman Turkish, and examines the development of the main themes in the poetic and literary work of the Jewish community of the late Ottoman Empire.

Want to know more? Here’s a blog post by Oscar, Learning Ladino, a Language I Already Knew (Jan. 2014).


Gorasht Scholar in Jewish Studies

Esra Bakkalbasioglu (PhD Candidate, Near and Middle Eastern Studies)

Project: “Bedouins, State, and Solar Panels: State-Society Relation in the Periphery of Israel”

I. Mervyn and Georgiana Gorasht Scholarship in Jewish Studies

Esra Bakkalbasioglu is a third-year PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Program on Near and Middle Eastern Studies. She took her BA and MA degrees from the Political Science and International Relations Department of the University of Bogazici, Turkey. She wrote her masters thesis on the West Bank Wall and non-violent anti-wall movements. After taking her MA degree, she worked for two years as the Democratization Program project coordinator in one of Turkey’s prominent think-tanks, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. Her main areas of research interest are infrastructure-politics relations, social movements and state-society relations in the Middle East. Currently, Esra is working on the political and social impacts of solar panel fields in Israel, Turkey and Jordan.

Want to know more? Here’s a blog post by Esra, “Space, Society, and Solar Panels in Israel” (April 2014)


Denise GrollmusDenise Grollmus (PhD Candidate,  Dept. of English)

Project: “Dystopian Utopias: Philip Roth and Yael Bartana on Jews and the Nation-State”

Philip Bernstein Memorial Scholarship in Jewish Studies

Denise Grollmus is an award-winning journalist and Fulbright Scholar. After receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from Penn State University, Denise lived in Warsaw, Poland as a Fulbright scholar researching the Revival of Jewish Life throughout the country. At the University of Washington, her studies focus on the journalistic tradition in American literature, issues of (self-)representation and the real in Narrative Nonfiction, Jewish American literature, and Literary Theory. Her project is a comparative study of Philip Roth’s novel Operation Shylock: A Confession and Yael Bartana’s film series And Europe Will Be Stunned… that examines how the satirical representations of counter-Zionist movements in both works perform and extend Hannah Arendt’s critique of the nation-state by performing the problematics not only of Jewish nationalism, but also of nationalism (especially with regard to “The Jewish Question”) more generally.

Want to know more? Here’s a blog post by Denise, “Finding Family Roots & Exploring Jewish Nationalisms” (Nov. 2013).


Cyrus Rodgers

Cyrus Rodgers (MA Student, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Project: “The Relationship Between Art and Bolshevik Politics in the Judeo-Soviet Paradigm, 1917-1953”

Richard M. Willner Memorial Scholarship in Jewish Studies

In 2011 Cyrus began his master’s degree in the Slavic Languages and Literature Department at the University of Washington. His main interests are Soviet literature, film, and visual art with special emphasis on Jewish themes in literature. Next year he will graduate with plans to complete a Master’s thesis, which will discuss the relationship between art and Bolshevik politics at critical stages in the evolution of the Judeo-Soviet paradigm from 1917 to 1953.

Want to know more? Read a blog post by Cyrus Rodgers, “From the American Midwest to the Jewish-Soviet Crossroads” (Feb. 2014)


Sarah ZaidesSarah M. Zaides (PhD Candidate, Dept. of History)

Project: “Tevye’s Ottoman Daughter in the Ladino Press”

Samuel and Althea Stroum Fellowship in Jewish Studies 

Sarah’s work studies the cultural and social histories of Jews hailing from the former Soviet Union. She is currently at work on a dissertation titled “Tevye’s Ottoman Daughter: Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewries in the Shatterzones of Empire 1882-1923,” which follows the saga of Russian Jews migrating through the Ottoman Empire and their representations in the Ladino press. After a successful year in the first class of Jewish Studies Graduate Fellows, Sarah is returning to continue contributing to this exciting new intellectual community on campus.

Want to know more? Here’s a blog post by Sarah, “Tevye’s Ottoman Daughter in the Ladino Press” (Feb. 2014)

We thank our community supporters for making these fellowships possible!