Prof. Esther Schely-Newman

Esther Schely-Newman

Academic Background and Fields of Interest:

My academic training at Ben Gurion University, The Hebrew University and The University of Chicago led me to an interdisciplinary approach to language and culture, particularly in Israel. An ethnographic approach to communication results in focusing on Israeli modes of speaking, considering the effects of culture, ethnicity, and gender. Life stories, folklore and media, and language socialization are the main topics of research. My current research focuses on the role of teaching Hebrew (and literacy) to migrants as a means for national cohesion.



  • 1991: Ph.D., The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. USA
  • 1987: M.A. (cum laude), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
  • 1972: B.A., Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel.


Academic positions:

  • 2012-2015:  Chair, The Noah Mozes Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2010: Associate professor, Department of Communication and Journalism
  • 2002: Senior lecturer (tenured Assistant Professor), Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • August 2007 – July 2008: Visiting scholar, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
  • September 2005-July 2007: Chair, Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • 2001: Visiting scholar, Department of Communication, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
  • October 1994: Lecturer, tenure track, Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Research Projects:

Current: French Israeli migrants of Maghrebin origins.
Recent: Adult literacy campaigns in Israel.


Recent Research grants:

  • 2013: The Smart Family Foundation: Contemporary French-Israeli migrants.
  • 2012: The Eshkol Foundation:  Studying contemporary French migrants to Israel.
  • 2006: The Smart Family Foundation: Coverage of elections in simplified Hebrew media.
  • 2005-2009: Research grant from the Israel Science Foundation, "Literacy, Citizenship an Ideology: An Israeli Case Study" (ISF 375/05).
  • 2005: Hebrew University: adult literacy program, supporting grant.
  • 2004: The Smart Family Foundation: Ideologies in Simplified Hebrew texts.
  • 2003: The Shaine Center: Seed money to study an Israeli Defense Forces program of adult literacy.



  • 2002: Our lives are but stories: Narratives of Tunisian-Israeli women. Wayne State University Press.

Journal Articles

  • 2015. First Steps: A Forty Years Perspective of the Literacy Campaign. Gadish 15: 116-127.
  • 2011. Discourse of (il)literacy: Recollections of Israeli literacy teachers. Pragmatics 21 (3): 431-452.
  • 2011. Eradicating ignorance: A gendered literacy campaign. Nashim 22: 15-31.
  • 2010. Constructing literate Israelis: A critical analysis of adult literacy texts. Israel Studies  15 (2): 196-214.
  • 2009. Defining success, defending failure: Functions of reported Speech.  Research on Language and Social Interaction 42 (3): 191-209.
  • 2009. To break down the wall: Constructing a literate self. Narrative Inquiry 19 (1):  1-17.  
  • 2008.   Local concerns, foreign heroes: George Washington in Israel. Western Folklore 67 (4): 351-378.
  • 2008. George Washington and the Hanukkah candles: Transformations of a legend. Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore 24-25: 151-173. [Hebrew].
  • 2004. Mock intimacy: Strategies of engagement in Israeli gossip columns. Discourse Studies 6 (4): 471-488.
  • 2001. Remember Shushan? Counter nostalgia in gendered discourse. Text 21 (3, August): 411-36.
  • 1999. I hear from people who read Torah: Reported speech, genre and gender relations in personal narrative. Narrative Inquiry 9:49-68.
  • 1999b. Mothers know best: Construction of meaning in a narrative event. Quarterly Journal of Speech 85:285-302.
  • 1998. Competence and ideology in performance: Language games, identity and Israeli bureaucracy in personal narrative. Text and Performance Quarterly 18:96-113.
  • 1997. Finding one’s place: Locale narratives in an Israeli moshav. Quarterly Journal of Speech 83:401-15.
  • 1995. Sweeter than honey: Discourse of reproduction among North African Israeli women. Text and Performance Quarterly 15:175-88.
  • 1993. The woman who was shot: A communal tale. Journal of American Folklore 106:285-303.
  • 1990a. Zin el Gamra: a North African Snow White. Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore, 11-12. pp. 76-101. [Hebrew].
  • 1990b. Role transformation in a Tunisian women’s tale. Jewish Folklore and Ethnography Review 12:11-13.

Chapters in Books

  • In press. Pencils and babies: Empowering Moshav women in the 1960s. In Dynamics of gender borders: Women in the Kibbutz and the Moshav.   Under contract with De Gryter and Magness Press (English edition of #22)

  • 2014, "Reported Speech," International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction, Wiley-Blackwell.

  • 2013.  Baby and pencil: Literacy and empowerment among moshav women.  In, The gender challenge in the moshav and kibbutz. Edited by Sylvie Fogiel-Bijaoui and Rachel Sharaby. Jerusalem: Yad Tabenkin and Magnes Press. Pp. 301-24. [Hebrew].

  • 2012. Ideology lite: Hanukkah in simplified Hebrew. In, Communication and Discourse: Studies in Language and Media. (Festschrift in honor of Prof. Shoshana Blum-Kulka). Edited by Michal Hamo, Tamar Liebes-Plesner and Menahem Blondheim. Jerusalem: Magnes Press. Pp. 146-173. [Hebrew].

  • 2012. Opening a gate to citizenship: Media for migrants.  In, International Handbook of Migration, Minorities, and Education, edited by Zvi Bekerman and Thomas Geisen. Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London and New York: Springer. Pp. 135-151.

  • 2008c. Re-reading tales: A feminist view of 'The Shoe' and 'The Carpet.'  In, The power of stories: Jubilee book of the Israeli Folklore Archives. Edited by Haya Bar Yitzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsburg. Haifa University Press, pp. 311-318. [Hebrew].

  • 2005.  School as meaningful experience in the lives of elderly Tunisian women.  In, Women from the East, Women in the East, edited by Shaul Regev and Tova Cohen. Bar Ilan University Press. Pp. 233-248. [Hebrew].

  • 1996a. "The nightly voyage: Encounters between immigrants and their new place." In Veterans and New Immigrants, 1948-1952. Edited by Dalia Ofer. Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute. Pp. 285-98. [Hebrew].

  • 1996b. “The peg of your tent: Narratives of North African women.” In: Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and culture in the modern era, edited by Harvey E. Goldberg. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Pp. 277-87

  • 1995b. “Looking backward with a forward view: Stories that make sense.” In: Rural cooperatives in socialist utopia: Thirty years of moshav development in Israel, edited by Moshe Schwartz, Susan Lees and Gideon M. Kressel. Westport, CT.: Praeger. Pp. 83-96

  • 1995c. “Role changes of Tunisian women in Israel.” In: Active voices: Women in Jewish culture, edited by Maurie Sachs. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Pp. 157-70


Presentations of Research (Partial listing)

A. Invited Lectures

  • "Baby and pencil: Literacy and gender in Moshavim" – The Kibbutz and Moshav   research Forum, Givat Haviva, Israel. September, 2014.
  • "French language, French people and Frenchness in 3rd millennium Israel," – The Department of Communication colloquium, Tel Aviv University. December, 2013.
  • "Aliens or daughters: Discourse of food and literacy" – Department of English, University of Verona, Italy.  May, 2010.
  • "Breaking the Wall: Literacy and Gender " – Department of Communication, Rutgers University May, 2008.
  • "The Other IDF: Educating New Immigrants" – Presented to the Chicago chapter of Friends of the Hebrew University. April, 2008.
  • "Hanukkah in Valley Forge: A Jewish-American Folktale in Israel" – The Graduate program in folklore and folklife, University of Pennsylvania. February, 2008.
  • "Education, democracy, citizenship, language" – presented to a faculty research group on democratization and migration. University of Pennsylvania. February, 2008.
  • "Babies and Pencils: Reflections on an Israeli adult literacy campaign" – presented to the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania. January, 2008

B.  Conferences

  • Old fashion news: Moroccan Judeo-Arabic in Israeli Public Sphere. International Conference on North African Jewry. Jerusalem, February 2015.
  • "French Israelis: Stories and histories," First international conference of the Oral History Division. The Hebrew University, Jerusalem. June, 2014.
  • "Unspoken Language: Judeo-Arabic in the third millennium." Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL. November, 2013.
  • "French Israelis: Narratives of hybrid identities." Annual meeting of the International Communication Association (ICA), London. June, 2013
  • "Boeing Aliya: Transglobal French migrants in Israel." Annual meeting of the Association of Jewish Studies, Chicago, IL. November, 2012.
  • "Communal Boundaries / Embodied Boundaries: Reflections of Stereotypes." Annual conference on Israeli folklore, Tel Aviv University. February, 2012.
  • "An Easy Choice? Critical Analysis of Election Coverage in Media for Migrants." Annual meeting of the International Pragmatic Association (IPrA), Manchester. July, 2011.
  • "Writing the Oral, Telling the Literate."   XVI International Oral History Conference (IOHA). Prague. July, 2010.
  • "Producing Literate Citizens."   Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Philadelphia, PA. December, 2009.
  • "Teacher as/or Guest:  Spatio-temporal Frame of Adult Literacy Classes."  "Cutting Edges: Discourse, Context and Language Education" conference. Canterbury Christ Church University, England. June, 2009.
  • "Between Failure and Success: Functions of Reported Speech in Interviews." Second Annual Conference of Language and Gender. Bar Ilan University. February, 2009.