Academic Awards

Awards and Fellowships

The American Jewish Historical Society encourages interested students and scholars to apply for the following prizes and fellowships. The AJHS Academic Council is responsible for all selections.

The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing

Each year, Jewish high school students are asked to write essays on a given topic. For 2018, the theme is Jewish Americans in music fields. Writers should choose a living or deceased person and write about his or her legacy in any musical specialty such as classical, pop, rock, folk, theater, opera, klezmer, religious, etc. The subject can be a composer, lyricist, conductor, singer, soloist, etc. Also indicate why his or her accomplishments are meaningful to you. Essays not exceeding 500 words should be emailed by May 29, 2018. The winner will receive a $500 cash prize, plus the inscribed silver Alexander Award medal. Details can be found at This competition is co-sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame Division of the American Jewish Historical Society, Fresh Ink for Teens,  and The Jewish Week Media Group; it is an official program in celebration of Jewish-American Heritage Month.

The Henry L. Feingold Graduate Student Essay Prize

(formerly the Wasserman Student Essay Award)

The Henry L. Feingold Graduate Student Essay Prize in American Jewish History is awarded biennially for an outstanding paper submitted by a graduate student. Submissions should include: an original, stand-alone research paper of no more than 30 double-spaced pages, including citations in any format; and a CV that notes place of graduate study and degree pursued. Published material is not eligible for consideration. Criteria for selection will include the significance of the topic, its use of original historical sources, and its contribution to the field of American Jewish history and studies. The winning paper will be selected by a faculty committee drawn from the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society. 

Ruth B. Fein Prize

The American Jewish Historical Society awards the Ruth B. Fein Prize, a travel stipend established in honor of a past president of the Society, to a graduate student to help undertake research at the American Jewish Historical Society. The award is up to $1,000.

This year the prize was awarded to Amy Fedeski for her project, “Quiet Activism: The American Jewish NGO Reaction to the 1953 Doctors’ Plot.” 

The Sid and Ruth Lapidus Fellowship

The Sid and Ruth Lapidus Fellowship supports one or more researcher(s) wishing to use the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society. Preference is given to researchers interested in 17th and 18th century American Jewish history. At the discretion of the awards committee, the fellowship funds may also be applied to subsidizing publication of a first book in the field of American Jewish history, again with preference given to works in early American Jewish history.

This year the Fellowship was awarded to three scholars.

  • Dr. Melissa Klapper, for her project “At Home in the World: American Jewish Women Abroad, 1865-1940.”
  • Laura Michel for her project, “Benevolent Republicans: Philanthropy, Identity, and Foreign Relations in the Early United States.”
  • Connor Kenaston for his project, “Broadcasting the Gospel of Tolerance: Liberal Religion, Media, and Capitalism in Twentieth-Century America.” 

Pokross/Curhan Family Fund Prize

The American Jewish Historical Society awards the Pokross/Curhan Family Fund Prize, a grant established in honor of two past presidents, David R. Pokross (1976-1979) and Ronald C. Curhan (1990-1993), to an undergraduate or graduate student pursuing an academic degree at an accredited academic institution to help undertake research using the collections held at

American Jewish Historical Society
New England Archives
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116.

The award is $1,000. The deadline for submission is coming soon.

To apply, please send a 2-page description of your plan to produce an essay, thesis, dissertation, documentary, exhibition or other form of public program on an aspect of the American Jewish experience; and a letter of support from an undergraduate or graduate mentor to (Please Note: AJHS in New York is not associated with this prize.)

Saul Viener Book Prize

The Saul Viener Prize ($1,000) is awarded biannually, with the current competition covering books published in 2017 and 2018. Only books that focus on the history of the Jews in America are considered. Works in literature, sociology, political science, and other fields do not qualify, nor do historical studies of Jews outside of the United States. In order to be considered, books have to be original work in English and not anthologies or other edited works. Books that were supported by or are projects of the AJHS are not eligible for consideration. Books that fit these criteria should be referred to the committee. 

This year the Saul Viener Book Prize was awarded to A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America, by Kirsten Fermaglich.

A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America is Kirsten Fermaglich’s original and compelling study of Jewish name changes in New York in the twentieth century. It effectively illuminates some of the key cultural and structural dynamics that enabled the flourishing of antisemitism in employment, education, and social life from the 1910s to the 1960s, and how Jews responded. In Fermaglich’s hands, New York City Civil Court records, which she reviewed in the thousands, proved to be a remarkable source for the study of Jews, who were the majority of people who filed for name changes. The petitions offered rationales for why people sought new names, and from them she builds a powerful case for what motivated first and last name changes and what did not. This first historical study of Jewish name changes is a work of intellectual depth and originality that draws on untapped sources to tell a story about real men and women who negotiated identity, the state, and antisemitism, and the consequences of their strategies. 

Honorable Mentions were awarded to: 

  • Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism, By Jessica Cooperman
  • Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in The Reconstructionist Era, By Michael Cohen

Wasserman Essay Prize

The Wasserman Essay Prize is awarded the best article published in a volume (4 issues) of the journal American Jewish History. The award is in the amount of $125.

Lee Max Friedman Award Medal

The Lee Max Friedman Award Medal was established in memory of a past Society president and is awarded by the American Jewish Historical Society to any individual, group or association deemed to have rendered distinguished service in the field of American Jewish history. Distinguished service includes special achievements in research, scientific or popular writing, teaching, encouragement and/or support of specific historical projects, or in the field of mass communication.  The Friedman Medal is awarded biennially. In 2020 The Friedman Medal was awarded to Riv Ellen Prell