Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi (born October 31, 1942) is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi

Early life and educationEdit

DeKoven Ezrahi is the daughter of Janet and Herman DeKoven. Her mother was a social worker born in Ostrowiec, Poland, who at age 12 immigrated to the United States with her family. Her father was a lawyer born in Chicago, Illinois.[citation needed]

Ezrahi was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Highland Park, Illinois. She attended Wellesley College and spent her junior year at the Hebrew University,[1] where she completed her bachelor's degree in English and Political Science (1966). Ezrahi returned to the United States and received her M.A. (1968) and PhD (1976) in English and American literature from Brandeis University.[citation needed].[2]


In 1978, Ezrahi was appointed head of the literature section at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University. She also taught at the Rothberg School for Overseas Students at Hebrew University and served as the head of the Department of Humanities at the "Mechina", the University's academic preparatory program. In 2008, Ezrahi joined the Hebrew University's department of General and Comparative Literature. In 2011 she retired as full professor.[citation needed]

DeKoven Ezrahi served as an academic advisor to the Jewish Museum in New York (1999-2000); she received grants from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).[citation needed] In 2007, DeKoven Ezrahi was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for her project "Jerusalem and the Poetics of Return".[citation needed]

Ezrahi has been a member of the editorial boards of Tikkun, History and Memory and Teoriya u-vikoret (Hebrew). She has written reviews and opinion pieces for The New Republic, Haaretz, Tikkun, Salmagundi and others. She is a peace activist in Israel and when the First Intifada broke out she was one of the initiators of a dialogue group in Jerusalem with Palestinian residents of Beit Sahour.[citation needed]


DeKoven Ezrahi's early work engaged with representations of the Holocaust in literature and culture, and the theme of exile and homecoming in Jewish literature. Her book By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1980 and was nominated for the National Jewish Book Award in 1981.[citation needed]

DeKoven Ezrahi went on to focus on the Holocaust as a shifting component in the works of Israeli writers from S.Y. Agnon,[3] Aharon Appelfeld[4] and Dan Pagis[5] to David Grossman.[6] In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, she took part in discussions within the new theoretical field initiated by Saul Friedlander that dared to probe the "limits of representation."[citation needed].[7] "Booking Passage: On Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination" published in 2000 by the University of California Press, Berkeley, explores the Jewish Journey and the trope of "return" in Jewish literature, beginning with the poems of Yehuda Halevi in the 12th century. It was nominated for the Koret prize in 2001.[citation needed] A version of the first half of the book was published in Hebrew by Resling Press in 2017. DeKoven Ezrahi posits a generic range of Jewish literature in the twentieth century on three continents. In contrast to the tragic Jewish narrative prevailing in Europe after the shoah and the epic narrative of modern Israel, American Jewish literature has a special place in the writings of DeKoven Ezrahi as a stage for "the Jewish comedy.[8] In many essays, but particularly in monographs on Philip Roth[9] and Grace Paley,[10] she points to the moment in the middle of the twentieth century when the barriers were lifted and the comic potential was unleashed at the intersections between modern Jewish and Christian religious imaginations.

DeKoven Ezrahi's latest research focuses on post-1967 Israel, specifically on the yearning for physical proximity to the sacred following Israel's victory in Jerusalem. "When Exiles Return",[11] "From Auschwitz to the Temple Mount: Binding and Unbinding the Israeli Narrative"[12] and '"To what shall I compare thee?' Jerusalem as Ground Zero of the Hebrew Imagination",[13] explore these dilemmas. Their resolutions are articulated in the fiction of S.Y.Agnon[14][15] and the poetry of Yehuda Amichai.[16] DeKoven Ezrahi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem in 2019.


  • DeKoven Ezrahi, Sidra (1980). By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (nominated for the National Jewish Book Award in 1981)
  • DeKoven Ezrahi, Sidra (2000). Booking Passage: On Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press. (nominated for the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2001)

Personal lifeEdit

Ezrahi is married to Bernard Avishai, a writer, journalist and academic. They live alternately in Jerusalem and in New Hampshire. She has three children from her marriage to her first husband, Yaron Ezrahi.


  1. ^ Older-and Wiser?
  2. ^ The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty Research Interests
  3. ^ Agnon Before and After", Prooftexts, Vol. 2, No. 1, January, 1982, pp. 78-94.
  4. ^ "Aharon Appelfeld: The Search for a Language", in Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Vol. I, ed. Jonathan Frankel (Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 366-380.
  5. ^ Dan Pagis and the Prosaics of Memory in Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory", ed. Geoffrey Hartman (Blackwell Press, 1994), pp. 121-133
  6. ^ See Under: 'Apocalypse'", Judaism, special section on "Holocaust, Storytelling, Memory, Identity: David Grossman in California", Vol. 51, No. 1, Winter 2002, pp. 61-70.
  7. ^ The Grave in the Air: Unbound Metaphors in Post-Holocaust Poetry", in Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution, ed. Saul Friedlander (Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 259-276
  8. ^ "America as the Theatre of Jewish Comedy: From Sholem Aleichem to Grace Paley", Studia Judaica XIII, 2005, ed. Gyemant Ladislau (Cluj, Romania), pp. 74-82
  9. ^ "Philip Roth Writes the American Jewish Century", Thinking Jewish Modernity, ed. Jacques Picard, Jacques Revel, Michael Steinberg, Idith Zertal. Princeton University Press, 2016;
  10. ^ Jew-ish: Grace Paley's Prose of the City and Poetry of the Country", Contemporary Women's Writing, 2009, pp. 144-152. doi: 10.1093/cww/vpp021;
  11. ^ When Exiles Return: Jerusalem as Topos of the Mind and Soil", in Placeless Topographies: Jewish Perspectives on the Literature of Exile, ed. Bernhard Greiner (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2003), pp. 39-52.
  12. ^ "From Auschwitz to the Temple Mount: Binding and Unbinding the Israeli Narrative" in After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative, ed. Susan Suleiman, Jakob Lothe, James Phelan, Ohio State University Press, 2012, pp. 291-313
  13. ^ '"To what shall I compare thee?' Jerusalem as Ground Zero of the Hebrew Imagination", PMLA [Publications of the Modern Language Association] Special Issue on 'Cities,' edited Patricia Yaeger, January, 2007, 122:1, pp. 220-234.
  14. ^ Sentient Dogs, Liberated Rams, and Talking Asses: Agnon's Biblical Zoo--or Rereading Tmol shilshom", in AJS Review 28:1 (April, 2004), pp. 105-135
  15. ^ "S.Y. Agnon's Jerusalem: Before and After 1948", Jewish Social Studies, 18:3 (Spring/Summer 2012), pp. 136-152. c. "The Shtetl and Its Afterlife: Agnon in Jerusalem", in AJS Review 41:1 (April 2017), pp. 133-154.
  16. ^ "Yehuda Amichai: Paytan shel ha-yomyom" [Yehuda Amichai: Poet of the Quotidian], [Hebrew] Mikan 14, Spring, 2014, pp. 143-167.