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About me

Princeton University in the late 1970sI was born in Princeton,  NJ and raised in Israel and the United States.

I graduated from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Education and Middle East History. I then enrolled in TAU’s teacher certificate program and the master’s program in history. Before completing my studies,  however,  I was accepted to the PhD program at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. I moved back to Princeton in the summer of 2004.

At Princeton,  I studied Jewish,  Ottoman,  Islamic,  and European history. I improved my Arabic and French and learned Turkish and Ottoman Turkish. I spent two summers at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul,  participating in the Turkish Language and Culture Program. I took my general examinations in three fields: Ottoman History (Professor M. Şükrü Hanioğlu),  Early Modern European History with an emphasis on social and intellectual history (Professor Anthony Grafton),  and Jewish History (Professor Mark Cohen).

My research interests are wide and diverse. They include social history (Judaism, Ottoman Empire,  Europe),  environmental history,  history of medicine and infectious diseases,  Sephardic history and Ottoman Jews,    intellectual history,  and modern political history of the Middle East. These fields shaped my doctoral research. My dissertation,  titled Plagues,  Famines,  Earthquakes:  The Jews of Ottoman Syria and Natural Disasters looked at Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire as a case study for exploring responses to natural disasters on the state,  communal,  and individual levels. My work combined sources from a number of disciplines – history,  sociology,  and psychology –  and took me to archives and libraries in Istanbul (Prime Minister’s Archives and the Süleymaniye Library),  London (The National Archives,  formerly the PRO,  and the British Library),  Marseille (Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône and Archives de la Chambre de Commerce),  Jerusalem (Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts,  at the National Library),  New York (Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary),  and the Rare Books and Special Collections department of Firestone Library,  at Princeton.

After completing my dissertation in 2009,  I’ve decided to further my research by dividing it into two major projects that would eventually lead to published monographs. The first book,  titled Natural Disasters in the Ottoman Empire:  Plagues,  Famines,  and Other Misfortunes appeared in 2014 with Cambridge University Press (and is now available in paperback).  It is based in part on the dissertation,  but also on new materials,  and covers the period from the 14th century to the early 20th,  and more specifically the 17th to 19th centuries.

As of August 2018, my second book, a new history of Ottoman Jews, is mostly written:  I have a working draft of all chapters.  Some work still remains until it is ready for publication,  and there are still a few primary and secondary sources I’d like to look at.  The book covers the 16th to the early 19th centuries, an era I call the “middle period”  –  the period in Sephardic history scholars have thus far covered the least.  Early versions of two of the chapters have already been published  (one,  on poverty and charity, and the other on the role of rabbis in their communities).  For more on this project, see the Research section of this website. This work is funded primarily by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities,  which allowed me to take a year off from teaching in the 2016-17 academic year.

Before coming to Ball State University,  I taught at the University of Oklahoma and Emory University.  You may read more about the courses I have taught so far in the teaching section.