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About us
Home > About Us > Our team

Our team


Adam D. MendelsohnAdam 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.

Advisory Board

The advisory board members are:

  • Jeffrey Bagraim
  • Louis Blond
  • Faisal Garba
  • Lesley Greenbaum
  • Lester Hoffman
  • Robert Kaplan
  • Romi Kaplan
  • Tony Leiman
  • Adam Mendelsohn
  • Gavin Morris
  • Sandra Young

Research Associates and Project Staff

Shlomo Glicksberg
Since 2014, Dr Shlomo Glicksberg has served as Rosh Kollel and Rabbi of the Mizrachi congregation in Johannesburg. In 2015 he was appointed Dayan and a member of the rabbinical court of Johannesburg. He has published dozens of articles in academic journals and six academic and halachic books. Before coming to South Africa he taught Jewish law and Jewish history at the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, Efrata College, the Lander Institute and Beit Morasha in Jerusalem.

Irwin Manoim
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
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
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
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.


David Graham
Dr David Graham is an Honourary Research Associate at the Kaplan Centre, UCT. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in London and Honorary Associate at the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, University of Sydney. A geographer by training and expert in the demographic study of Jews in Britain, Europe and Australia, his skills encompass statistical analysis, survey design, census analysis and GIS. Dr Graham has been at the forefront of multiple surveys of Jewish communities around the world and was most recently instrumental in the development and success of the nationwide Jewish Community Survey of South Africa. Dr Graham publishes widely for academic, professional and general interest audiences and holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford.

Michael Rom
Michael Rom is the inaugural Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town. He recently completed a PhD in Latin American and Jewish History at Yale University, and is currently working on a book manuscript on Jewish politics in Cold War Brazil. His research examines the relationship between political activism and national, communal, and generational belonging within Jewish communities during the Global Cold War.

Heidi-Jane Esakov-Jacobson
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.

Shirli Gilbert
Shirli Gilbert is Professor of Modern Jewish History at University College London, and Academic Director of the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre. She obtained her D.Phil. at the University of Oxford and has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Cape Town and in the Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan. Her research is focused on modern Jewish history, with particular interest in the Holocaust and its legacies, modern Jewish identity, and Jews in South Africa. Her publications include Music in the Holocaust: Confronting Life in the Nazi Ghettos and Camps (Oxford University Press, 2005), From Things Lost: Forgotten Letters and the Legacy of the Holocaust (Wayne State University Press, 2017), and most recently, with Avril Alba, Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World (Wayne State University Press, 2019). A longer biography is available on the UCL website here.