Applied Research Fellowship


Applied Research Fellowship



The CASJE Applied Research Fellowship program, housed at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is an advanced training program that aims to prepare scholars to meet the research needs of Jewish educational and communal organizations and expand the pipeline of researchers positioned to conduct critical, high-quality applied research in Jewish education and contemporary Jewish life. The Fellowship is sponsored by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.


Fellowship Overview


Increasingly, leaders in Jewish education and Jewish communal life seek insight from research to frame practice and policy. Currently, there is a paucity of researchers available with the expertise and skill-set necessary to respond to this need. The aim of CASJE Applied Research Fellowship pilot program is to test the viability and value of advanced training for completed doctorates in Jewish education, general education, and adjacent fields primarily in order to:

  • Expand the pipeline of researchers positioned to conduct critical, high quality applied research in Jewish education and contemporary Jewish life, and;
  • Prepare scholars to meet the research needs of Jewish educational and communal organizations.

Additionally, the fellowship has been designed to:

  • Enhance the capacity of developing scholars by providing them with opportunities to continue to improve their skills and knowledge
  • Increase the diversity of scholarship on Jewish education including the backgrounds of the investigators, the array of communities they study, and the institutions they partner with to conduct research;
  • Facilitate developing fellows’ access to and capacity to successfully partner with Jewish educational and communal organizations with applied research needs;
  • Incentivize scholars from adjacent fields to focus their research on Jewish education and communal life;
  • Position fellows to pursue multiple career pathways including alt-ac positions like institutional researchers, program evaluators, and consultants, and;
  • Provide Jewish educational and communal organizations with successful experiences partnering on applied research studies.

The Fellowship consists of three key elements:


Learn how to conduct applied research responsive to the questions of Jewish communal organizations:
Cohort-based learning designed by CASJE and led by the fellowship director. Includes mentorship and career development, bimonthly virtual cohort meetings to share work in progress, a virtual invited speaker series, and annual in-person workshop.


Applied Research Project:
Designed by the fellow in partnership with a Jewish community-based organization, supported by the faculty mentor and fellowship director.


Advancing Research Capacity:
Individually tailored opportunities to further develop research skills, designed with a faculty mentor. May include coursework and (in Year 1 only) up to 12 hours a week supporting mentor research.


Meet the Fellows


Second Cohort: 2024-2026

Elana Riback Rand Headshot

Elana Riback Rand, PhD

Elana Riback Rand, Ph.D., studies issues of inclusion, dissonance and belonging in Jewish educational institutions, with a particular focus to date on the experiences of Sephardi youth.

She holds a PhD in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University and an MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Rand most recently served as the Editor-in-Chief of the JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) Sephardi & Mizrahi Education Toolkit. Professor Rebecca Lowenhaupt of Boston College will serve as her mentor.


Yael Findler Headshot

Yael Findler, PhD

Yael Findler, Ph.D., is a sociologist who studies collective identity and action in relation to suffering, healing and resilience.   Dr. Findler recently completed her doctorate at the University of Southern California. Her dissertation focused on approaches of Israeli non-profit organizations to addressing legacies of trauma. She is interested in studying how narratives of trauma and healing shape American Jewish communal identities in turbulent times. Dr. Findler’s mentor will be Professor Briana Barocas of New York University.


Zachary Nichols Headshot

Zachary Nichols, PhD

Zachary Cooper Nichols, Ph.D., is interested in the addiction-recovery and peer support experiences of American Jews, as well as the experience of Jews and other religious minorities in rural geographies.

Dr. Nichols' research has focused on addiction and recovery in the context of higher education and the criminal justice system. He holds a doctorate from Texas Tech University, as well as an MBA, and is a licensed chemical dependency counselor who has worked at the Menninger Clinic. Professor Michal Kurlaender of the University of California, Davis will serve as his faculty mentor.



First Cohort: 2023-2025

Headshot of Esther Friedman

Esther Friedman, PhD

Esther Friedman’s research interests include professional development of teachers, ways to improve teaching and learning when teachers and students hold different beliefs and ideological orientations, and education across the spectrum of Orthodoxy.

Dr. Friedman, who recently completed her doctorate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has won several research awards during her doctoral career, brings deep experience as a Jewish educator, curricular designer, department chair, new teacher mentor and professional development provider. Professor Adam Cohen of Arizona State University will serve as her faculty mentor.


Headshot of Talia Hurwich

Talia Hurwich, PhD

Talia Hurwich will delve into design-based implementation research and examine non-traditional educational tools such as online games for Jewish communities.

Dr. Hurwich is an education researcher whose work has spanned Jewish education, STEAM, and ELA education. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Drexel University, evaluating a project designed to boost graduate students' creativity through interdisciplinary collaboration. Her doctoral research at NYU was about how graphic novel adaptations of classic Jewish texts bolster reader agency and autonomy, with a particular focus on gender. Dr. Hurwich’s mentor will be Professor Jessica Hammer of Carnegie Mellon University.


Headshot of Tal Vaizman

Tal Vaizman, PhD

Tal Vaizman is a social musicologist whose research lies at the nexus of popular culture, migration, and identity/community. He will be studying the ways that engaging with popular culture, especially music, serves as a means of expression, identity and belonging among Israeli Jewish youth in the USA and other American Jews.

Dr. Vaizman completed his doctorate at the University of Haifa, where he studied musicology and education. His current research includes music mentoring and personal characteristics; music in everyday life of Jewish religious women; and music in the streaming era as a cultural pillar among immigrant communities. Dr. Vaizman will be working with Professor Yotam Shmargad of the University of Arizona.


Faculty Mentors


Briana Barocas headshot
Dr. Briana Barocas

Fellowship Mentor and Shabbat Study Research Team Member


Dr. Adam Cohen headshot
Dr. Adam Cohen

Fellowship Mentor and Shabbat Study Research Team Member

Arizona State University

Dr. Jessica Hammer headshot
Dr. Jessica Hammer

Fellowship Mentor

Carnegie Melon University

Michal Kurlaender Headshot
Dr. Michal Kurlaender

Fellowship Mentor and Shabbat Study Research Team Member

UC Davis

Rebecca Lowenhaupt Headshot
Dr. Rebecca Lowenhaupt

Fellowship Mentor

Boston College

Dr. Yotam Shmargad headshot
Dr. Yotam Shmargad

Fellowship Mentor

University of Arizona



icon of hand pressing button labeled "apply"


News and Updates Related to the Fellowship

CASJE fellows and mentors stand with the director of the fellowship in the corner of the room.

CASJE Applied Research Fellowship Begins

CASJE's fellowship program that offers advanced postdoctoral training to researchers studying contemporary Jewish education and communal life kicked off in DC.

CASJE Announces First Cohort of New Applied Research Fellowship Program

CASJE names first cohort of Applied Research Fellowship supported by Jim Joseph Foundation, including Dr. Esther Friedman, Dr. Talia Hurwich, Dr. Tal Vaizman.