Dana Herman, Ph.D. (she/her)
Director of Research and Collections, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Please tell me about your Jewish journey and your journey to HUC.
I serve as Director of Research and Collections at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives on the historic Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR. I grew up in Val-David, Quebec, a small town north of Montreal in the Laurentian mountains. I moved to Cincinnati in 2005 when my husband, Jason Kalman, Ph.D., was invited to join the faculty as professor of Classical Hebrew Literature at HUC-JIR.
I attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario for my undergrad where I majored in history. I had the honor of studying with the noted Canadian Jewish historian, Gerald Tulchinsky. I returned to Quebec in 2000 to attend McGill University for my master’s and doctoral degrees where I worked with Gershon Hundert, distinguished professor of Polish Jewish history. During this period, I participated in YIVO’s Yiddish Language Summer Program, spent a year studying at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University and was a year-long fellow at the Center for Jewish History in New York. I defended my dissertation in 2008 — my subject was an institutional history of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc., an organization led by prominent Jewish scholars such as Salo Baron and Hannah Arendt that worked with the American military in Germany after the war to redistribute heirless Jewish cultural items (books and ceremonial objects) that had been confiscated by the Nazis.
Please tell me about your work at the American Jewish Archives.
In 2007, I joined the administration of the AJA. I served as managing editor of the AJA’s peer-reviewed academic journal, The American Jewish Archives Journal. I discovered that working on the journal allowed me to remain in the field while also exploring a career in historical preservation and public education. What I quickly learned was that archives themselves had rich histories and that there were many facets of archival work that were both challenging and rewarding. Over the years, my portfolio expanded to include directing the AJA’s international fellowship program, working closely with the HUC-JIR rabbinical students, overseeing the process of acquisition and collection development of the archives, and partnering with colleagues on public programming and community initiatives. I love interacting with the public and with donors. No day at the AJA is ever the same and there is always something fascinating to learn.
This month is Women’s History Month. How does your work at the American Jewish Archives help protect and expand our understanding of women’s history?
I love that the AJA holds such a wonderful array of records that preserve women’s voices from hundreds of years ago through today. One of my favorite collections is correspondence between Annie Nathan Meyer, one of the founders of Barnard College, and Zora Neale Hurston, the famed Harlem Renaissance writer. We have original correspondence of Rebecca Gratz, Emma Lazarus, Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, and Henrietta Szold, to name just a few, as well as numerous diaries and letters written by American Jewish women. For years now, we have been actively collecting the records of women rabbis and we are proud to partner with Rabbi Sally Priesand ‘72 on celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of her ordination.
How would you describe HUC in one word?
I would choose the word inspirational to describe HUC — working at the AJA every day is an important reminder of the College’s ability to inspire transformation when it works hard to be a world-class institution.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
I don’t have much spare time as I am the mother of three young children. When I can steal away a bit of time for myself, you’ll likely find me doing yoga, spending time outdoors, or indulging in my love of British period dramas and good fiction. I look forward to traveling and hosting friends at our home once this pandemic ends.