Upcoming Appearances:

April 19, 2024, 2:00 pm (free tickets required)
New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Room 216 (Lenox & Astor Room)

NYPL Presents: Able to Be American

Can’t attend in person? Sign up here to be notified when the recording is posted. 
In 1891, the United States Congress made it possible for the government to classify newly arrived immigrants as “desirable” or “undesirable.” Among the determining factors were disability as well as a lack of economic security that increased the likelihood of depending on government resources. American Jewish community leaders led multifaceted efforts against this. Using the library’s collections, Hannah Zaves-Greene explores what motivated them and how they challenged the law and its administration.

The NEH Long-Term Fellowships at The New York Public Library have been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

May 12-14, 2024 – American Jewish Historical Society Scholars Conference, New York City

Revisiting Jewish New York: Centers and Peripheries

(panels and roundtable appearances TBA)


Selected Previous Appearances:

Dec. 17, 2023 – Association for Jewish Studies Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA

Subjectively Defective: American Jews Contend with Disability and Belonging in the Early 20th Century

When the United States Congress revised the public charge provision that it had first passed in 1882, it enshrined the commodification of health and the pathologization of poverty in federal law. Simply put, the statute mandated the exclusion and deportation of any immigrant considered “likely to become a public charge” due to their physical, mental, or financial condition. Though the tendrils of public charge implicated all immigrants, the capricious manner in which Ellis Island immigration authorities enforced it impacted eastern European Jews in strikingly particular ways, capturing the attention of American Jews active in immigration advocacy. Examining the protracted conflict between American Jewish attorney Max Kohler and Ellis Island Commissioner William Williams, and integrating disability as an analytical lens into American Jewish historiography, I examine its fundamental role in determining literal “fitness” for prospective American citizenship, through a close study of Kohler’s legal advocacy and interventions and Williams’ interpretation and enforcement of immigration law.

Nov. 18, 2023 – Temple Bet Am Shalom, White Plains, NY

Acharei Kiddush: Jewish Ritual Mourning Practices. Commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance

The process of dying, Jewish tradition suggests, is not complete until the last living person forgets your name. What does that mean for those of us whose true name – or even identity – is not openly known to the community? Hannah Zaves-Greene, visiting professor of Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, will explore historical and modern rituals of Jewish mourning, including a discussion of how these practices, typically centered around the twin themes of history and memory, become more complicated when mourning members of a marginalized group.

“Covid-19 Through the Lens of Disability.” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting—Conference on American History, Chicago, Illinois. April 15-18, 2021.

“Likely to Become a Public Charge: Disability and American Jewish Immigration.” Association for Jewish Studies, 52nd Annual Conference. December 13-17, 2020.