Kaplan Centre Staff
Adam Mendelsohn: Director
Adam is an associate professor and Head of the Department of Historical Studies. He is the author of Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: The Union Army (2022) and The Rag Race: How Jews Sewed Their Way to Success in America and the British Empire (2014), and co-editor of Jews and the Civil War: A Reader (with Jonathan D. Sarna, 2010), Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History (with Ava Kahn, 2014), and Yearning to Breathe Free: Jews in Gilded-Age America (with Jonathan D. Sarna, 2022). He has co-curated exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Center for Jewish History, and is a former editor of the journal American Jewish History and currently co-editor of Jewish Historical Studies.
Reviva Hasson: Research Officer
Reviva first joined the Kaplan Centre in 2017 as a research project manager to run the feasibility study on the Jewish community of South Africa, she then coordinated the nationwide Jewish Community Survey (JCSSA-2019) that followed. She returned to the Kaplan Centre in 2023 as a research officer. Prior to joining the Kaplan Centre, Reviva has worked as a lecturer in the School of Economics, as a research fellow at UCT’s Environmental-Economics Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and at Econlab Consulting. She holds a MCom and BCom Honours in Economics as well as a BSc in Environmental and Geographical Sciences, all from the University of Cape Town.
Katie Garrun: Archivist
Katie is an archivist, information specialist and researcher with a background in academic archives and libraries, as well as community archives. Special interests include open access systems for the global South and emerging technologies for galleries, libraries, archive and museums.
Ethan Roberts: Postdoctoral Fellow
Ethan Roberts is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Kaplan Centre. He holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Cape Town, where his focus was on machine learning and Bayesian statistics in astronomy. His current research is in the field of machine learning, specifically automated hate speech detection on social media in South Africa.
Heidi-Jane Esakov-Jacobson: Editor of DafkaDotCom
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, 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.
The advisory board members are:
- Prof. Jeffrey Bagraim
- Michael Bagraim
- Dr. Louis Blond
- Dr. Faisal Garba
- Lester Hoffman
- Robert Kaplan
- Romi Kaplan
- A/Prof. Shose Kessi
- Dr. Mandisa Mbali
- Gavin Morris
- Prof. Sandra Young
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kerri Serman is an applied experimental and behavioural economist. She worked as a Research Fellow at the Kaplan Centre between 2019 and 2021 with responsibility for 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.
Michael Rom was the inaugural Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Kaplan Centre from 2020 to 2022. He completed a PhD in Latin American and Jewish History at Yale University. His research examines the relationship between political activism and national, communal, and generational belonging within Jewish communities during the Global Cold War.