Conference Participants

Presenter biographies

Joel Berkowitz is director of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies and professor of Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He earned his PhD in Theater from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1995 and previously taught at several colleges in the CUNY system, Oxford University, and the University at Albany–SUNY. Professor Berkowitz teaches courses in Jewish history, literature, and performance, and in Yiddish literature and culture. At “Sara Levy’s World,” Berkowitz will introduce and read a scene from Aaron Halle Wolfssohn’s Yiddish play Laykhtzin und fremelay (ca. 1796).

Berkowitz’s publications include Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage (2002), as well as three edited volumes, Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches (2003); Landmark Yiddish plays: A Critical Anthology (2006, with Jeremy Dauber); and Inventing the Modern Yiddish Stage: Essays in Drama, Performance, and Show Business (2012, with Barbara Henry).  He is co-founder, with Debra Caplan, of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project, an international research consortium applying Digital Humanities tools and methods to the study and preservation of Yiddish theatre.

 Shmuel Feiner is Professor of Modern Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Feiner holds a PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His fields of interest include early modern Jewish history, the processes of modernization and secularization of Judaism in Europe, and gender studies. His presentation at “Sara Levy’s World” will focus on the relationship between the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and the experience of Jewish women.

Feiner is author of Moses Mendelssohn (2005), The Enlightenment Revolution (2002), Haskalah and History (2001) and The Jewish Enlightenment (1994); he is also co-editor, with Tova Cohen, of “The Voice of a Maiden”: Nineteenth Century Enlightened Jewish Women’s Writings (2006). Feiner has been recipient of a Humboldt Research Award, among numerous other distinctions.

As one of Israel’s premier historians, Feiner has served in numerous capacities as a public humanist, including as a member of the Professional Committee for History at the Israel Ministry of Education.

Martha Helfer is Chair and Professor in the Department of Germanic, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Helfer holds a PhD from Stanford University. Her fields of interest are the literature of the age of Goethe, Romantic aesthetic and philosophical theories, German intellectual history from the 18th to the 20th centuries, questions of gender and the construction of subjectivity, philosophical approaches to literature, and representations of Jews in German critical discourse. Her lecture at “Sara Levy’s World” will focus on reception of Jews and anti-Judaism in classical German texts of the Enlightenment and within the network of salon culture. Helfer’s publications include The Word Unheard: Legacies of Anti-Semitism in German Literature and Culture (2011) and The Retreat of Representation: The Concept of Darstellung in German Critical Discourse (1996).

Her clear presentations of concepts in history, literature, and aesthetics have been recognized by a teaching award from Rutgers.

Deborah Hertz is Herman Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies and Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.  She holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota. She has also held teaching positions at the State University of New York at Binghamton and at Sarah Lawrence College, and has been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University, Haifa University, and Tel Aviv University.  She has received grants from the Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the International Research and Exchange Foundation. Hertz will be a respondent at the “Sara Levy’s World” roundtable.

Hertz’s research has been dedicated to the history of Jews in German lands, focusing specifically on questions of gender, Jewish–Christian relations, and conversion. Hertz’s books include Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (1998); Briefe an eine Freundin: Rahel Varnhagen an Rebecca Friedländer (Critical Edition, with an Introduction, 1998); and How Jews Became Germans: The History of Conversion and Assimilation in Berlin (2007).  Both of her Yale University books have been translated into German.  Her articles and reviews have appeared in the American Historical Review, the Journal of Modern History, and the New German Critique. Hertz is currently finishing a volume on the history of radical Jewish women in Russia and Palestine.

Michael Marissen is Daniel Underhill Professor of Music at Swarthmore College. Marissen holds a PhD from Brandeis University. His fields of interest are Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical European music; he has a special interest in the perception and representation of Jews within high Baroque music, including the worlds of J.S. Bach and Handel. He will respond to papers at “Sara Levy’s World” by discussing the Lutheran upbringing of Bach’s sons, with whom Levy had extensive contact, and exploring the context of inter-religious relations in late eighteenth-century Prussia.

He has written several books on Bach and Handel, including Tainted Glory in Handel’s Messiah: The Unsettling History of the World’s Most Beloved Choral Work (forthcoming, 2014); Bach’s Oratorios—The Parallel GermanEnglish Texts, with Annotations (2008); The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (1995); and Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion (1998), among others.

Robert L. Marshall, Sachar Professor Emeritus of Music at Brandeis University, was formerly Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of Chicago. His books include The Composition Process of J.S. Bach (Princeton University Press, 1972; Otto Kinkeldey Prize of the American Musicological Society, 1974), Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Sources, the Style, the Significance (Schirmer Books, 1989; ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, 1990), and Mozart Speaks: Views on Music, Musicians, and the World (Schirmer Books, 1991). He is a past president and honorary lifetime member of the American Bach Society and an honorary lifetime member of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute. Together with his wife Traute, he is presently at work on the volume Bach Country: Town by Town, a handbook to be published by University of Illinois Press in conjunction with the American Bach Society.

Natalie Naimark-Goldberg is Instructor at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Naimark-Goldberg received her PhD from Bar-Ilan University, where she is now a research fellow and Braun Chair for the History of the Jews in Prussia. Her fields of interest include Jewish women in Germany in the age of the Enlightenment, gender history, and social history. Her presentation at “Sara Levy’s World” will examine the nature of the Enlightenment as it was experienced by Jewish women in Berlin.

Naimark-Goldberg’s publications include the recent book Jewish Women in Enlightenment Berlin (2013), which provided a new, critical perspective on the Enlightenment using methodologies from gender studies; she is also co-editor, with Shmuel Feiner, of Cultural Revolution in Berlin: Jews in the Age of Enlightenment (2011).

Elias Sacks is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Sacks joined the University of Colorado faculty in 2012, and works on the Jewish tradition, religious thought, and theories and methods in the study of religion. After receiving his BA from Harvard University and studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he earned an MA in Religion from Columbia University (2007) and a PhD in Religion from Princeton University (2012). His paper at “Sara Levy’s World” focuses on Moses Mendelssohn’s aesthetic critique of Christianity.

His research focuses on the modern period, with particular areas of interest including Jewish thought, Jewish–Christian relations, philosophy of religion, religion and politics, hermeneutics, and religious ethics. His current book project, entitled The Living Script: MosesMendelssohn’s Philosophy of Judaism, explores the conception of Jewish practice in the Hebrew and German writings of Moses Mendelssohn, the 18th-century philosopher generally seen as the founder of modern Jewish thought. Sacks’s recent and forthcoming articles explore Mendelssohn as well as other figures in Medieval and modern Jewish thought, including Moses Maimonides, Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, and Jacob Taubes.

Sacks serves as a translator for the new English edition of Mendelssohn’s writings (Brandeis University Press, 2011, finalist for the National Jewish Book Award), along with a new collection of Cohen’s works and an anthology of responses to Spinoza (Brandeis University Press).

Nahma Sandrow  is the author of Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater (1996, now in its third edition) and many articles about Yiddish and other theaters.  She wrote the books for two award-winning off-Broadway musicals, Kuni-Leml and Vagabond Stars, both based on Yiddish theater material, as well as the libretto for a new opera based on I. B. Singer’s novel Enemies, A Love Story, which the Palm Beach Opera will premiere this February.  She has also taught and lectured widely. At “Sara Levy’s World” Sandrow will read a scene from Aaron Halle Wolfssohn’s Laykhtzin und fremelay.

Yael Sela-Teichler is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Open University of Israel and a junior member of the research group Daat Hamakom at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, having served previously as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also an Affiliated Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Sela-Teichler holds a PhD from the University of Oxford. Her research interests include music in Jewish culture during the 17th through 19th centuries, socio-cultural history of music in early modern Germany and England, early modern theories of music, and music in the lives of early modern women. Her presentation at “Sara Levy’s World” will focus on the aesthetic theories of Moses Mendelssohn and reception of his work in music of the Berlin Enlightenment.

Sela-Teichler’s publications include the essay “Music, Acculturation, and Haskalah between Berlin and Königsberg in the 1780s,” which appeared recently in the Jewish Quarterly Review. Her book, Soundscapes of Emancipation: Musical Encounters and the Negotiation of Jewish Modernity in Prussia, 1760–1829, is in progress.

 George B. Stauffer is Dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts and Distinguished Professor of Musicology at Rutgers University. He is known internationally as a scholar, performer, and writer on the music and culture of the Baroque Era and the life and works of J. S. Bach in particular. Educated at Dartmouth College, Bryn Mawr College, and Columbia University (PhD), he has published several widely cited and authoritative books, including Bach: the Mass in b minor (2004). He has also contributed to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Collier’s Encyclopedia, Early MusicBach-Jahrbuch, and many other American, European, and Asian publications. As a speaker, he has lectured at Harvard University, Yale University, University of Leipzig, National Sun Yat-sen University, and many other schools. As a performer, Stauffer studied organ with John Weaver and Vernon de Tar (Juilliard School). He served as University Organist and Chapel Music Director at Columbia University, where he appeared frequently in concert.

Liliane Weissberg is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in the School of Arts & Sciences and Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Weissberg holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She is among the foremost scholars of Jewish female identity in the German Enlightenment. Her presentation at “Sara Levy’s World” will focus on this subject, situating Levy within her community of Jewish female salonnières and examining their role in shaping their intellectual and artistic environment.

Weissberg’s publications include a critical edition of Hannah Arendt’s Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess (1997) and Hannah Arendt, Charlie Chaplin und die verborgene jüdische Tradition (2009). She has edited the anthologies Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity (with Dan Ben-Amos, 1999), Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race (with J. Gerald Kennedy, 2001), Affinität wider Willen? Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno und die Frankfurter Schule (2011), and the forthcoming Writing with Photography (with Karen Beckman); she has also authored dozens of scholarly articles and reviews.

Weissberg has lectured at numerous public symposia at venues, including the Center for Jewish History in New York. She has been interviewed by public radio programs and written features for non-specialist magazines and journals.

Christoph Wolff is Adams University Research Professor at Harvard University and Curator of the Isham Memorial Library. Wolff is among the world’s leading scholars of J.S. Bach and his legacy. He holds a doctorate from the University of Erlangen as well as honorary degrees from four other universities. His foundational work on Sara Levy paved the way for this conference. Working with co-organizer Rebecca Cypess, Wolff will provide commentary on the music to be performed at the concert “In Sara Levy’s Salon.”

Wolff’s books on the history of music from the 15th to the 20th centuries include Bach: Essays on His Life and Music (1991), Mozart’s Requiem (1994), and The New Bach Reader (1998). His book Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (2000) has been translated into eight languages; it also received the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society. He currently serves as Director of the Bach-Archiv in Leipzig and President of the Répertoire Internationale des Sources Musicales.

In 1982, Wolff was appointed a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Steven Zohn is Laura H. Carnell Professor of Music at Temple University. Zohn is an authority on music and aesthetics in Germany during the 18th century. He holds a PhD in music from Cornell University. Zohn’s research interests focus on the music of Telemann and the Bach family, intersections of style and genre, print culture,music as intellectual property, reception history, source studies, and historical performance practices. His presentation at “Sara Levy’s World” will deal with the musical aesthetics of the Bach family in the late 18th century, dealing with such movements as Empfindsamkeit (sensibility) and Romanticism, with special focus on instrumental music. He will also perform on the traverso flute in the concert “In Sara Levy’s Salon.”

Zohn’s work has been published widely in journals, essay collections, and reference works, including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of Musicology, Eighteenth-Century Music, Bach Perspectives, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Early Music, and The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Music. He has also edited volumes for the C.P.E. Bach and Telemann critical editions, and for the series “Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era.” His book Music for a Mixed Taste: Style, Genre, and Meaning in Telemann’s Instrumental Works (Oxford University Press, 2008) is the first major published study of the composer in English since the 1970s, and received the American Bach Society’s William H. Scheide Prize.


Dongmyung Ahn, violinist, is the director of the Queens College Baroque Ensemble and the string instructor for the Queens College Baroque Opera Workshop. She also teaches the Baroque Performance Practice course. She is a PhD candidate in Musicology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Fellowship, and has already published an article in the Rodopi series Faux Titre. Ahn’s interests span the twelfth through eighteenth centuries. She is a co-founder of Guido’s Ear, an ensemble specializing in music of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Ahn regularly performs with the Sebastian Chamber Players, TENET, Early Music New York, Pegasus, Sinfonia, The Green Mountain Project, Clarion, and Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York. She has also played the rebec in Gotham Early Music Scene’s critically acclaimed production of The Play of Daniel at the Cloisters in New York City.

Patrick Gardner, conductor, isDirector of Choral Activities at Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Gardner received his undergraduate degree in voice from California State University at Hayward and his M.M. and D.M.A. in choral conducting from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to moving to New York City to direct the Riverside Choral Society, he taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas at Austin. The Riverside Choral Society, which often performs as the chorus for the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, presents numerous major choral orchestral works each year in Manhattan at such venues as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. His choirs have given many world premieres by composers such as William Bolcom, John Harbison, Jennifer Higdon, Lou Harrison, and Lukas Foss.

Gardner is also active as a guest conductor, lecturer, and adjudicator. At Rutgers, he is Director of Choral Activities, conducts the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir and the Rutgers University Glee Club, and teaches both undergraduate- and graduate-level conducting. He has recorded for Folkways, Albany, and Ethereal records.

Christine Gummere has been playing Baroque and Classical cello since 1985, when she was invited by harpsichordist James Richman to be principal cellist for Concert Royal. During her tenure with the group, she had the great good fortune to work closely with Richman, Baroque dancer Catherine Turocy, and the New York Baroque Dance Company, all of whom deeply influenced her understanding of Baroque and Classical style. Other groups she has enjoyed performing with include Concordia, a chamber symphony led by Marin Alsop, specializing in 20th century American music; String Fever, a string swing band also led by Marin Alsop; and the Riverside Symphony, an orchestra specializing in 20th-century classical music, where she was principal cellist for 19 years.

In 2007, Gummere founded Sinfonia New York, a period instrument ensemble that performs a range of repertoire, from Monteverdi to Mendelssohn.

Sarah Paysnick, flute, performs regularly in the greater Boston area with many period-instrument ensembles, including L’AcadémieArcadia PlayersExsultemusCambridge Concentus, and Harvard Baroque, where she frequently appears as concerto soloist. She co-founded the Boston groups Musical Offering, a chamber ensemble that explores music linking the high Baroque and Classical styles, and Grand Harmonie, an ensemble of varying size bringing period-instrument performances of Classical and Romantic repertoire to the East Coast. She has also lived in Israel, where she performed with such leading historical-performance ensembles as Barrocade, the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, and Ensemble Phoenix.

Paysnick has been recognized for both modern and Baroque artistry, as winner of the Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition in 2004 and the National Flute Association’s Baroque Artist competition in 2009. Early Music America has praised her “beautifully tuned … liquid tone”; she has also been described as playing with “elegance, her tone creamy and consistent” (Pamela Hickman’s Concert Critique Blog).  She studied at both Ithaca College and the University of Texas at Austin.

She is currently serving a five-year term as Coordinator of Baroque Masterclasses and Competitions for the National Flute Association; she has also been elected to the board of the Cambridge Society for Early Music, and she has served on the board of the Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition since 2007.

Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir, an ensemble of approximately 50 members, is the most advanced choir at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Its mission is to educate professional musicians through performance. The Kirkpatrick Choir performs a significant repertory of major choral orchestral masterworks, Baroque music accompanied by period instruments, and important works of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Kirkpatrick Choir was approached by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music to record several CDs of important 20th-century works, including Miriam Gideon’s Sacred Service, which was released as part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music’s comprehensive multiyear recording series on the Naxos American Classics series. The Choir has also released a recording of Samuel Adler’s Five Sephardic Songs on the Naxos label.

Benjamin Shute, violinist, has performed internationally as concerto soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and concertmaster on both modern and period instruments.  A native of Wilmington, DE, he was drawn to Baroque music as a young teenager and was soon introduced to period instruments at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute.  Subsequent studies at the New England Conservatory led him to pursue graduate work at Musikhochschule Freiburg with Rainer Kussmaul, first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker and director of the Berliner Barock Solisten.  While in Freiburg, he also had the privilege of collaborating with Robert Hill, Gottfried von der Goltz, Michael Behringer, and other historical performance specialists.  Upon returning to the States for doctoral study, he founded and directed the New England Conservatory Early Music Society, with whom he performed in the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe Series as well as other events in the greater Boston area.  Previously a member of the faculty of Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA), he performs often as concertmaster of the Boston Chamber Orchestra.

Frederick Urrey, tenor, Professor of Voice in the Department of Music at Mason Gross School of the Arts, has been praised for his artistry, musicianship, and compelling performances of opera, oratorio, vocal recitals, and chamber music throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. His extensive repertoire features vocal music ranging from Medieval to new music. Urrey is a renowned Evangelist and tenor soloist in the passions, oratorios, and cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach; an acclaimed tenor soloist in the oratorios and operas of George Frideric Handel; and a celebrated Mozart tenor and interpreter of German Lieder.

Urrey has performed as tenor soloist at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony hall, the Vienna Musikverein, and other notable venues worldwide. He has collaborated with many leading conductors, including Sir Roger Norrington, Sir David Willcocks, Christopher Hogwood, Helmut Rilling, Robert Shaw, and Richard Westenburg.

Urrey holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Diploma in Lied and Oratorio with Distinction from the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, and Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Louisiana State University. At Mason Gross, he holds the title of Professor of Voice and serves as chair of the Voice Program of the Music Department.

Yi-heng Yang, keyboardist, earned her doctorate in piano at the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Robert McDonald, Julian Martin, and Veda Kaplinsky. She has studied fortepiano with Audrey Axinn as well as with Stanley Hoogland at the Amsterdam Conservatory. An active chamber musician, she plays in Gretchen's Muse, the Davidsbund Piano Trio, and The Sebastian Chamber Players. She is a regular faculty member at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire.

Yang won first prize in the inaugural Square Piano Competition during the Amsterdam Virtuosi Festival (2011), as well as in the Juilliard School’s Mozart Piano Concerto Competition and the Haddonfield Symphony Concerto Competition. She has been a soloist with the New Juilliard Ensemble, the York Symphony Orchestra of Toronto, and the Juilliard Orchestra. Her playing has earned her praise for “astonishing skill and vividness” (the New York Times) and "absolute mastery” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). 

Recent and upcoming performances include a solo recital debut at the Boston Early Music Festival, as well as solo and chamber music concerts at the Serenata of Santa Fe Series, the Kosmos (Albuquerque, NM), the Apple Hill Festival (Nelson, NH), the Dayton Early Music Series at Connecticut College, the Frederick Collection (Ashburnham, MA), the Finchcocks Collection (Kent, England), the Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments (Surrey, England), among others.

Steven Zohn, traverso flute, is Laura H. Carnell Professor of Music at Temple University. Zohn is an authority on music and aesthetics in Germany during the 18th century. He holds a PhD in music from Cornell University. Zohn’s research interests focus on the music of Telemann and the Bach family, intersections of style and genre, print culture, music as intellectual property, reception history, source studies, and historical performance practices.

As a performer on historical flutes, Zohn has appeared with numerous east-coast ensembles. From 1995 to 2004 he was founding Artistic Director of the period-instrument orchestra Publick Musick, and is currently a core member of the chamber ensemble Fioritura. His recordings of music by Bach, Boismortier, Handel, Telemann, and Vivaldi may be heard on the Centaur and Newport Classic labels. Among these are a world-premiere CD of recently discovered Telemann flute duets, and the first complete recording of a set of Telemann secular cantatas with soprano Julianne Baird. His contribution to the study and performance of early music has been recognized by the American Musicological Society with its Noah Greenberg Award.

Zohn’s ability to reach a varied audience is evident most obviously in his work bridging humanities scholarship and performance. His numerous recordings and performances on historical flutes use his instrument and his research to educate performers and listeners in an engaging and original way.

Sara Levy
Music and Videos

Click the player above for a sample of music associated with Sara Levy: W. F. Bach, Fantasy in D. Minor, Fk. 19. Rebecca Cypess, harpsichord


Sara Levys Salon

Click the image above to bring up videos of the conference performances and presentations

Sara Levy Symposium Sponsors

A Collaborative Project Sponsored by the Mason Gross School of the Arts, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Center for European Studies, the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, the Department of Jewish Studies, the Department of Music, the Department of History, and the Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures.

Also with the generous support of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities

Friedrich II. of Prussia (1712–1786),(Source: Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Inventar-Nr. A 2091)
Title page of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments)
Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773), etching by Johann David Schleuen d.Ä. (1767)
The Word Unheard
Landmark Yiddish Plays
Out of the Shtetl
Juden Burger Berliner
Rachel Varnhagen text