The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies is excited to introduce the 2023-2024 cohort of graduate fellows in Jewish Studies. Fellows receive mentorship from Stroum Center faculty, attend bi-monthly workshops on public scholarship and Jewish Studies, and share their research with the community through public presentations and articles published on the Stroum Center website.
Funding for the annual fellowship program is generously provided by community supporters. Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort will open in spring 2024. Learn more about this year’s cohort of graduate fellows in Jewish Studies:
Susanna Bluhm, Pamela and Robert Center Fellow
Project — Jewish Landscape
Susanna Bluhm is a second-year MA student in the Comparative Religion program. Majoring in Judaism, her focus is on Jewish experience of landscape as informed by the Hebrew Bible. The research she is doing at UW is closely related to her art practice. Her paintings explore landscape and abstraction as records of personal experience. Susanna has an MFA in Painting and has shown her work in solo exhibitions internationally. She was the 2014 recipient of the Neddy Artist Award in Painting, and has been an artist-in-residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Karl Hofer Gesellschaft in Berlin. Her work has been featured in Art in America, Two Coats of Paint, and New American Paintings. Originally from Los Angeles, Susanna lives in Seattle with her wife and son.
Joana Bürger, Mickey and Leo Sreebny Memorial Fellow
Project — Navigating Statelessness through a Sephardic Framework: A Turkish Jew in Nazi Germany
Joana Bürger is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History who studies Jewish refugees in the eastern Mediterranean in the interwar period. Following a BSc in Psychology at Potsdam University in Germany, she completed an International Research MA in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Her M.A. thesis focused on Greco-Jewish identity formation in early 20th century Corfu and Athens. Joana became familiar with digital approaches to Holocaust remembrance while working as a translator for the oral history project “Memories of the German Occupation in Greece,” realized by Freie Universität Berlin and the National Kapodistrias University of Athens. Her research interests are modern Mediterranean Jewish history, migrations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the interwar period and comparative Holocaust memory. For her Ph.D. dissertation, she conceptualizes the Aegean (Greece and Turkey) as multidirectional transit spaces for Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s.
Büsra Demirkol, Robinovitch Family Fellow
Project — “The Abyss in which I am Collapsing”: Pregnancy, Death and Women’s Health Through a Jewish Gynecologist’s Eyes in late Ottoman İstanbul
Büsra Demirkol is a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington. She received her B.A. in sociology at Galatasaray University and her M.A. in Turkish Studies and History at Sabancı University. Her master’s thesis focused on modernization in the legal field during the late Ottoman era and its impact on women on the margins. Based on penal codes, codification discussions, and court records, she traces how marginal women have redefined and constructed within the boundaries of the public sphere in Ottoman legal culture and have been subjected to state intervention according to a modern understanding of crime and punishment. Before graduate school, she also worked as a social worker with African, Afghan, and Syrian refugees in Istanbul and researched the official and unofficial schooling of Syrian children. Her research interests include 19th-century Ottoman social history, sociological theory, history of medicine, and women, sex, and gender. Her work for the fellowship will focus on women’s stories from 19th-century İstanbul through the untapped memoir of an Ottoman-Jewish gynecologist.
Amna Farooqi, Max Sarason Fellow
Project — Modernism & the Method: Jewish Legacies, Race, and Stella Adler’s Americanization of Method Acting Onstage
Amna Farooqi is a doctoral student in the School of Drama at the University of Washington. Her research broadly focuses on identity and representation onstage, with an emphasis on examining minoritarian performances through frameworks of transnationalism and empire: specific to migrants and refugees. She has presented her work at the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) and the Mid-America Theatre Conference (MATC). She holds a B.A. in Individualized Study from NYU’s Gallatin School as well as an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Elyakim Suissa, Robinovitch Family Fellow
Project — Glimpsing the Divine Through the Mundane: Religious and Legal Structural Challenges in Sixteenth-Century Istanbul
Elyakim Suissa is a second-year Master’s student in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. Having previously completed his BA at the University of Pennsylvania, Elyakim focuses on Jewish rabbinic law, literature, and community in sixteenth-century Istanbul. His research has brought him to Israel and Turkey, where he has enrolled in several language and research programs. His current project, with a working title of “Glimpsing the Divine Through the Mundane: Religious and Legal Structural Challenges in Sixteenth-Century Istanbul,” will put Hebrew-language responsa in conversation with Ottoman Turkish fetvas to analyze themes of communal cohesion and religious space that jointly affected both Judaism and Islam. Elyakim is excited to further develop this project with the wonderful faculty at the Stroum Center.
Corinna Nichols, Ina and Richard Willner Memorial Fellow
Project — Entangled: Hair and Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Siege of Lachish
Corinna Nichols is a Ph.D. candidate in the Near and Middle Eastern Studies Interdisciplinary Program. Her field of study is the Hebrew Bible and ancient Middle East. Corinna worked for twenty-five years in the tech field, including roles at IBM, Lenovo, and Amazon, before falling in love with ancient Israel. She has a B.A. in Latin from Wellesley College, a B.S. in Computer Science from American Sentinel University, and an M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization from UW. She is the coauthor of two published papers on the Hebrew Bible.
Sasha Yilmaz-Ward, Ina & Richard Willner Memorial Fellow
Project — Istanbul’s Dönme: Citizenship, Migration, and Sephardi Identity in the 21st Century
Sasha Yilmaz-Ward is a second-year doctoral student in the Near and Middle Eastern Studies Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. Sasha’s research focuses on conspiracy theories about Jews in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Ottoman Istanbul, specifically looking at perceptions of Jews as collaborators with global socialism, Western capitalism, and American imperialism. Her work also examines conflations of Dönme (a crypto-Jewish sect originating in seventeenth-century Izmir) and normative Jews as sources of conspiracy in contemporary Turkish politics. Before coming to the University of Washington, Sasha attended culinary school at Mutfak Sanatları Akademisi in Istanbul and worked as a pastry chef in San Francisco. Outside of academia, Sasha is an avid weightlifter, literature enthusiast, and loves to go on hikes with her pet corgi, Kimchi.