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 2022-2023

Dr. Hanan Mazeh is a scholar of late antique Rabbinic Literature. His research explores textual and thematic developments in this corpus as a key to understanding the Rabbinic society in the first centuries CE within its cultural context. His particular focus is the Palestinian Talmud and its unique texture, and he is interested in questions of territory and relations between Jews and Gentiles in Roman Palestine as well as organization of halakhic knowledge.

Mazeh completed his PhD in Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where he has written his dissertation: “Tractate ‘Demai’ of the Palestinian Talmud: Halakha, Interpretation, and Social Dynamics during the Amoraic Period.” He is an awardee of both the Rothschild and the Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowships, and during 2021–2 was a Ruth Meltzer fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania. He has also previously been a Kreitman fellow at   Ben-Gurion University, and a research fellow at the Chronoi-Einstein Center in Berlin and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Research Title

From the Mishnah to the Talmud Yerushalmi: A Revolution within the Rabbinic Academy in its Cultural Context

Research Synopsis

This study examines the paradigm shift in the organization of knowledge and in legal discourse in the rabbinic academy in third- and forth-century Roman Palestine, as reflected in the Palestinian Talmud (the Yerushalmi), one of the most significant extant late-Antique legal corpora. This text, unlike its predecessors in rabbinic literature, is fundamentally dependent on other rabbinic texts. Aside from presenting itself as a running commentary on the Mishnah, a noteworthy innovation in itself, it is based on collecting and interpreting preexisting source material and on extensive subsurface interconnections, cross-references and borrowings between its own passages. The text in that sense, as well as the halakhic project that it represents, introduces a revolutionary transition within the legal Jewish tradition, from codification of norms to a mode of extensive internal interpretation.

My study aims to characterize this significant change by looking at three aspects:

The process by which the Yerushalmi incorporates into its discourse elements from different contexts, and the textual assumptions of the Sages that are manifest during this process as to the legal system they are creating.

The dialectical relationship between textual and legal processes when materials are transferred, and the extent to which importation of categories or constructs impacted areas of laws and vice versa.

The kind of reader the text creates and the array of hermeneutic expectations it generates for him, in light of parallel developments within the literature of Roman law and early Christianity.

With this multifront inquiry I aim to capture the Yerushalmi’s uniqueness and articulate the revolutionary change it represents. I hope that it will shed light on the cultural shift in the rabbinic academy, and more broadly, deepen our understanding of late antique legal systems and their hermeneutics.

CONTACT: hm3057@nyu.edu

Previous Berkowitz Fellows

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