Zehava and Zvi Friedenberg Prize Awarded to Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal

Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, the incumbent of the Rosen Family Career Development Chair in Judaic Studies at BGU’s Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought, has won a three-year grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) for her research: "The Church Fathers and the Babylonian Talmud: Heretics Stories as a Reflection of Inter-Religious Dialogue".


In addition to the grant, the ISF administration has decided to award Dr. Bar-Asher Siegal the Zehava and Zvi Friedenberg Prize from the Advancement of Education and Science Fund. The Friedenberg Fund, managed by a trust company of Bank Leumi, annually awards grants in areas specified in the will of the late Zvi Friedenberg. This year the focus was on the areas of chemicals and Jewish studies and the history of Israel.  


She is a scholar of rabbinic Judaism. Her work focuses on aspects of Jewish-Christian interactions in the ancient world, and compares between Christian monastic and rabbinic sources. She has also published on topics such as the Syriac version of Ben Sira, and the tannaitic Midrashim. After completing her Bachelors and Masters degrees at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she continued studying for a Ph.D. at Yale University and is a graduate of the Department of Religious Studies. Her dissertation was entitled “Literary Analogies in Rabbinic and Christian Monastic Sources” and her dissertation adviser was Christine Hayes, Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica at Yale. 


Bar-Asher Siegal has won many awards including the J.N. Epstein Prize from the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University; the Prize for Excellence from the Talmud Department at the Hebrew University; the Howard M. Holtzmann Fellowship from Yale University and the Allon Fellowship for Outstanding Young Researchers awarded by the Israel Council for Higher Education.

Her first book, Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press 2013), won the 2014 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Book Award for Theological Promise (Heidelberg University). It examines literary analogies in Christian and Jewish sources, culminating in an in-depth analysis of striking parallels and connections between Christian monastic texts (the Apophthegmata Patrum or “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers”) and Babylonian Talmudic traditions. The importance of the monastic Christian movement in the Persian Empire during the time of the composition and redaction of the Babylonian Talmud led to the fostering of a literary connection between the two religious populations. The shared literary elements in the literatures of these two religious communities shed new light on the surprisingly inclusive nature of the Talmudic corpus and on a non-polemical aspect of Jewish-Christian literary relations in Persia of late antiquity. In opposition to previous notions according to which the Babylonian Talmud had little to say about Christianity, and when it did allude to Christianity, its approach was a polemical one, this book offers a look at close literary contacts between the two religions, and possible monastic passages interwoven into the Talmudic narrative. 


Dr. Bar-Asher Siegal was elected last year to the Israel Young Academy of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.