Adam D. Mendelsohn is Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies & Research and Associate Professor of History at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of The Rag Race: How Jews Sewed Their Way to Success in America and the British Empire (New York University Press, 2014) and co-editor of Jews and the Civil War: A Reader (with Jonathan D. Sarna, New York University Press, 2010) and Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History (with Ava Kahn, Wayne State University Press, 2014). He was Chief Historian of the exhibition The First Jewish Americans at the New-York Historical Society, and co-curator of By Dawn’s Early Light at the Princeton University Museum of Art. He is co-editor of the journal American Jewish History.
Much of his work focuses on the relationship between Jews in America and the British Empire prior to mass eastern European migration, a time when these fledgling communities were beginning to grapple with the challenges of living in liberal societies. While the time-period that he focuses on has remained consistent – the mid-nineteenth century – the themes he has explored have been more varied: economic mobility, cultural production, and religious innovation. His latest project draws on “big data” – a large database of Jewish soldiers who served in the Civil War – to reconsider the experience of Jews during this period.
The advisory board members are:
Research Associates and Project Staff
Irwin Manoim is a former journalist and newspaper editor who is now researching Jewish history in South Africa. He was joint founder and joint editor of the Weekly Mail newspaper (now the Mail&Guardian) in 1985, and wrote a book about journalism under a State of Emergency (You Have Been Warned, Viking 1996). He published the first online news site in Africa (Electronic Mail&Guardian) from 1995 and edited a series of early books on digital technology and the internet. He has taught media theory and history, design and production to post-graduate students in the Journalism Studies Department at Wits University. His Masters dissertation (1981) dealt with the role of the mass media in the “Americanisation” of black township culture. A public lecture he delivered on behalf of the Kaplan Centre in 2017, dealing with the Jewish role in establishing a newspaper industry in South Africa, was published in Jewish Affairs (Pesach, 2018). He has been researching the development of a Progressive Jewish movement in South Africa and its impact on the wider community, and the role of the Jewish community in shaping the culture and economy of Johannesburg.
Veronica Belling was the Jewish Studies Librarian at UCT Libraries and the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research for 31 years. She is currently an Honorary Research Associate attached to the Kaplan Centre. Veronica trained in Librarianship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and obtained a Masters in Jewish Civilization cum laude and a Ph.D. in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include South African Jewish bibliography, social and cultural history, and Yiddish. She has published several books and many scholarly articles. She currently conducts a weekly Yiddish group at the Cape Jewish Seniors in Sea Point.
Brenda Gouws is a post-doctoral researcher whose research interests lie in the sphere of South African history education. These interests encompass Jewish education, Holocaust education in both schools and museums, museum guides, history teachers' personal stories, and methodologically, narrative inquiry. Her work to date has focused on Holocaust education in South Africa; for her PhD, she examined history teachers’ personal stories and how their stories shape their teaching of the Holocaust, which is part of the national History curriculum, while her Masters investigated the work of Holocaust museum educators. She has written several articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, contributed a chapter to a book entitled, Oral History Education, and is in the process of writing further articles and book chapters. She has also delivered papers on Holocaust education and history teachers' personal stories at various conferences at home and abroad. She is a qualified matriculation level Mathematics and English teacher; has studied both locally and internationally to guide at Holocaust museums; and currently works for a charitable foundation.
Kerri Serman is an applied experimental and behavioural economist. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town (since February 2019). Her current research focuses on South African Jewry and includes a large-scale social survey of the Cape Town Jewish community. More broadly, her research has focused on social norms, other behavioural biases and public good dilemmas. Her post-doc work, which evaluated the impact of behavioural interventions on effecting social change, was at the intersection of behavioural economics and randomized control trials. Kerri graduated with a PhD from the Department of Economics at the University of Cape Town in 2014.
Reviva Hasson graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Masters degree (MCom) in Economics. For almost 10 years she worked at UCT as a lecturer and course convenor for several undergraduate programmes in the School of Economics. During this time she held the position of Research Fellow at the Environmental-Economics Policy Research Unit (EPRU) where her research was published in peer reviewed journals and she was awarded the prestigious UCT Research Associateship Award. Reviva joined the Kaplan Centre in 2017 as Research Project Manager to run the initial feasibility study on the Jewish community of South Africa and then to coordinate the nationwide JCSSA survey that followed.
After completing her Master’s in Education at the University of Pretoria, Heidi-Jane Esakov-Jacobson worked in the field of education research and advocacy. Prior to relocating to Cape Town in 2014 she worked as a senior researcher at a Johannesburg based think tank which focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region. She is currently the editor of DafkaDotCom (www.dafkadotcom.org), an initiative of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research. DafkaDotCom is an online forum which seeks to deepen considered conversation in the South African Jewish community and explore the future of South African Jewry. Heidi-Jane is also currently pre-schooling her son at home.