Berkowitz Fellowship

General Information

The Berkowitz Fellowship was created thanks to a generous gift by Mr. Ivan Berkowitz. The Berkowitz Fellow is typically awarded to a more senior scholar. The area of research addresses issues from a broad spectrum of Jewish learning and civilization. The Fellowship will facilitate research and scholarship into areas that examine the historical, cultural and political forces that helped shape the intellectual atmosphere in which the integration of varying traditions of law into an operative jurisprudential system was affected.

The Fellow will become fully integrated with the intellectual community of the Law School, regularly attending events at NYU School of Law, including the faculty colloquia and other similar events. The Berkowitz Fellow will present his research in progress once in the Fall semester and once in the Spring at a Workshop, which will be open to the intellectual community of the Law School, the University as a whole and other interested individuals by invitation.

Current Berkowitz Fellow - AY 2021-2022

       Dr. Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg  (Ph.D. 2018, University of Pennsylvania) studies Jewish cultural and intellectual history in the early modern period (16th-18th centuries) in Europe. She specializes in the history of Jewish religious law (halakha), focusing on the cultural transmission of legal knowledge and its organization. Dr. Morsel-Eisenberg studies different genres of Jewish legal writing, such as codifications or rabbinic responsa, the characteristics of each, and their religious and legal significance. She also researches technologies of communicating and ordering legal knowledge, such as print, letter-writing, glossing, and codifying, and how each of these influence the ways of reading and interacting with law. Dr. Morsel-Eisenberg received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania's History Department, and is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a Starr Fellow at Harvard's Center for Judaic Studies in 2021-22.

Research Title

Jewish Religious Law (Halakha) in Early Modern Europe

Research Synopsis

My book project, Remaking Rabbinic Culture, centers on a seemingly straightforward question: How is knowledge transmitted? Typical answers tell a story of constant improvement and progress in communications and media.

This book challenges that narrative in two ways: by asking how, exactly, technology interacts with culture, and by questioning whether transmission necessarily improves with progress. I address both questions by studying the dynamics of Jewish scholarship in early modern Europe, a pivotal period in the development of Jewish religious law, or halakha.

Halakha acted as a central pillar in Jewish culture, from dictating everyday minutiae to inspiring grand intellectual achievements. While halakhic knowledge per se remained largely unchanged in the early modern period, the modes and means of halakhic transmission changed dramatically — with profound consequences.

Though the advent of print is often touted as having occasioned a knowledge revolution, it has also been shown that technology alone cannot transform cultures. By adding tradition, organization, and standardization to the picture, and by diving deep into what at first glance appear to be arcane halakhic case studies, this book deepens our understanding of knowledge transmission. In the process, the book calls into question the seeming superiority of more accessible, efficient, and organized modes of transmission so frequently taken for granted.

CONTACT: tm1090@nyu.edu

Previous Berkowitz Fellows

  • Shulamit Furstenberg-Levi
  • Yosef Sharabi
  • Yuval Blankovsky
  • Yobu (Job) Jindo
  • Eli Schonfeld
  • Jonathan Yovel
  • Shai Wozner
  • Marc Hirshman
  • Gabriella Blum
  • Rabbi Saul J. Berman
  • Dr. Joseph David
  • Dr. Leora Batnitzky
  • Dr. Shahar Lifshitz