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Adjunct Professor
(919) 914-2563
Alumni Building 401B

Research Interests

Pilgrimage, tourism, anthropology of religion, Holocaust memory, collective memory, Jewish-Christian relations, ethnographic writing, heritagization and comparative study of museums

Research Background

I was born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish environment in New York City, and after completing my BA at City Collège of New York, moved to Jerusalem, where I studied and obtained degrees from Hebrew University in Jewish Thought (MA) and Religious Studies (PhD). I have always been interested in the effects that short-term travel experiences – like pilgrimage and some forms of tourism – have in shaping peoples’ identities. Within three years of my arrival in Israel, I found myself working as a (Jewish-Israeli) licensed tour guide for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. My work as a guide and my studies at the university influenced each other: I shared insights from my studies on Second Temple Period Judaism and the New Testament with ‘my’ European and American pilgrims, while my pilgrims’ motivations and concerns (and a dollop of Victor Turner) generated new questions that I posed to Second Temple historical texts. My work for a Palestinian travel agency and with Palestinian bus drivers provided a unique position within the prevalent Israeli-Palestinian power relations and sensitized me to the issues facing Palestinians and Israelis living apart/together in Jerusalem – and how religious and political issues are presented to visitors. I’ve published a book and several articles on the topic.

After completing my MA thesis and traveling to the town where my father was raised, Ungvar (then Czechoslovakia, today Ukraine), and switched my focus to a contemporary pilgrimage of memory – Israeli youth voyages to Holocaust sites in Poland. Although I first thought I was witnessing the birth of a new and perhaps lasting rite of mourning for the destruction of European Jewry, I soon found that Israeli nationalism was a far more relevant prism for understanding these pilgrimages. The trips to Poland and other forms of Holocaust memory have been a major focus of my research and teaching since then, including comparisons with other voyages of identity, European commemoration of Holocaust and genocide, presentations of the Holocaust in museums, and most recently, the impact of digital and social media on Holocaust memory..

My current research project is in cooperation with the University of Tubingen, funded by the German Association for Scholarly Research (DFG): “From the Era of the Witness to Digital Remembrance: New Media, Holocaust Sites and Changing Memory Practices“. This project examines how structures of authority, place memory, and social solidarities change as a result of widespread digital technologies and social media. It includes study of virtual reality tours of Holocaust sites, Holocaust witness interactive ‘holograms’, selfies in Auschwitz, diffusion of Holocaust messages and memes on social media, and the challenges that these forms present to caretakers of memory.

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