ISMI Staff

Michele Freesman - Academic Research Coordinator

Michele Freesman joined ISMI in June of 2019 as an Academic Research Coordinator.  In 2015 Michele graduated with honors from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania where she received a BA in Economics and International Studies with concentrations in the Middle East and Conflict and Peace Studies. She completed her degree with an independent study project to understand the potential impact the sale of Israeli natural gas would have for Israel’s diplomatic and economic cooperation with its neighbors.  Michele started her career at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in December of 2014 in the middle of her fourth year of college.  While at AIPAC, she served as the Senior National Engagement Field Organizer engaging, teaching, and mobilizing hundreds of college students each year.

Dr. Eli Sperling - Senior Academic Research Coordinator

Eli Sperling began working at ISMI in 2012. After receiving his BA in Middle East studies and political economy in 2006 at Evergreen in Olympia, Wa, he pursued an MA in contemporary Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University (2010). During his four and a half years in Tel Aviv, Eli worked as a research assistant to prominent scholar, Yosi Kostiner, worked with numerous political and humanitarian organizations, led groups of students and other international delegations around Israel and spent two years researching the social, political and economic conditions of the Sinai Bedouin living in Dahab, Egypt. He is a fluent Hebrew speaker who likewise reads Arabic and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, spending significant periods of time in Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula. Eli received his Ph.D. (history) from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in September 2019 and is working as the Senior Academic Research Coordinator at Emory University's Institute for the Study of Modern Israel. He teaches an undergraduate course at Emory about Israeli cultural history and regularly lectures on the Arab-Israeli conflict and other issues relating to modern Israel as a public intellectual.

Dr. Kenneth W. Stein - Director

Kenneth W. Stein is Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History and Israeli Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, where he has taught since 1977. His extensive curriculum vitae and scholarly publications can be found here. At Emory University, his honors include the highest awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching (1995), recognition for internationalizing the curriculum (2001), and lifelong exceptional mentor to students (2009).The Anti-Defamation League and the Israel on Campus Coalition awarded him the Ross Award in 2007 for his intellectual integrity in speaking out against the falsehoods in former President Jimmy Carter's 2006 book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. In 1998, he established the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel.

Rich Walter - Associate Director for Israel Education

Richard Walter has extensive experience increasing community involvement in Jewish formal and informal learning for a wide variety of age groups. Prior to joining ISMI in August 2012, he served as Director for Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, and Director of Education and Community Development at the Bureau of Jewish Education in Rhode Island. From 1997 to 2001 he taught in the Solomon Schechter School in Providence, Rhode Island. He was educated at Brandeis University where he received his BA and MA degrees focusing on Jewish history, Middle Eastern history, and Judaic Studies.

Heather Waters - Program Associate

Heather Waters has been with ISMI since its inception in 1998. Her organizational and managerial abilities have been the bedrock of ISMI's progress and successes over the last 20 years.