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6 Months, 4 Suitcases, 2 Professors, and 1 Big Adventure in Israel/Palestinian Authority


Office hours by appointment.


Ph.D. in English, concentration in Rhetoric and Writing, from the University of Texas at Austin, 2006. MA in American Literature from the University of Texas at Austin, 2001. BA in English with Honors and concentration in Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland, 1998.


Born and raised in Gaithersburg, MD, Janice Fernheimer earned her BA in English at the University of Maryland, College Park and both her MA in American Literature and her PhD in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin.  In Fall 2008, she was a visiting scholar at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute for Gender and Jewish Studies. Prior to joining the faculty at UK, she was Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At the University of Kentucky, she is the Zantker Charitable Foundation Professor and Director of Jewish Studies and Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky and teaches courses in rhetoric, technology, and Jewish  Rhetorical Studies.

She is the author of  Stepping Into Zion: Hatzaad Harishon, Black, Jews and the Remaking of Jewish Identity (University of Alabama Press 2014) and co-editor along with Michael Bernard-Donals of Jewish Rhetorics: History, Theory, Practice (Brandeis University Press 2014). She has published essays in Rhetoric Society QuarterlyCollege EnglishJournal of Communication and ReligionComputers and Composition Online, Argumentation and AdvocacyJournal of Business and Technical CommunicationTechnical Communication, and Oral History Review, and Journal of Jewish Identities  Along with her research collaborators Dr. Beth L. Goldstein, Dr. Douglas A. Boyd, and Sarah Dorpinghaus she established the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE) Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project, a repository of 122+ oral histories for Jewish Kentuckians housed at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. In collaboration with author/illustrator JT Waldman, she is currently authoring an archives and oral-history based transmedia project America's Chosen Spirit  which includes a webcomic and podcast series that detail the influences of Jews and other minorities on the Kentucky bourbon industry.  In collaboration with students in Bourbon Oral History Spring 2021, she launched the Women in Bourbon Oral History Project. When she’s not writing or teaching, you can usually find her dancing salsa, tango, merengue, bachata, or swing or bicycling around Kentucky!


History and theory of Jewish Rhetorical Studies; Rhetoric of identity; Literacy, Technology, and Pedagogy; Rhetorical theory; History of rhetoric; Gender studies; Rhetoric of the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts; Holocaust rhetoric and representation; Nineteenth-century African-American rhetoric; Nineteenth and twentieth century African-American and Jewish literature; Archival research methods; Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Selected Publications:



Stepping Into Zion: Hatzaad Harishon, Black Jews, and the Remaking of Jewish Identity. University of Alabama Press, Series in Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Critique, 2014.

Jewish Rhetorics, edited by Michael Benard-Donals and Janice W. Fernheimer. Brandeis University Press, 2014.

Networks of Rhetorical Action and Resistance: Fela and Chaim Perelman’s Social Sphere. This monograph argues that Chaim Perelman, his wife Fela, and their network of Belgian Resistance leaders enacted the model of rhetorical action later developed in the The New Rhetoric Project. This project is in development; I spent two summers (2009, 2010) researching archival materials related to the Perelman’s resistance to German Occupation in  Belgium and participation in the Aliyah Bet. (Prospectus in progress).

Select Peer-Reviewed Articles

“Heuristics for Broader Assessment of Effectiveness and Usability in Technology-Mediated Technical Communication.” Roger A. Grice, Audrey G. Bennett, Janice W. Fernheimer, Cheryl Geisler, Robert Krull,  Raymond A. Lutzky, Matthew G.J. Rolph, Patricia Search, and James P. Zappen. (forthcoming Technical Communication).

“Transdisciplinary Itexts and the Future of Web-Scale Collaboration.” With Lisa Litterio and Jim Hendler.  Journal of Business and Technical Communication. July 2011. 322-337. 

Talmidai Rhetoricae: ‘Drashing Up Models and Methods for Jewish Rhetorical Studies.”Introduction to special issue of College English: “Composing Jewish Rhetorics” Guest Editor: Janice Fernheimer. July 2010. 577-597.

“Collaborative Convergences in Research and Pedagogy:  An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Writing with Wikis,” with Dr. Dean Nieusma, Dr. Lei Chi, Dr. Lupita Montoya, Thomas Kujala, and Andrew LaPadula. Computers and Composition Online. Fall 2009.

“Black Jewish Identity Conflict: A Divided Universal Audience and the Impact of Dissociative Disruption.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Volume 39. January 2009, p. 46-72.  

“From Jew to Israelite: Making Uncomfortable Communions and The New Rhetoric’s Tools for Invention.” Argumentation and Advocacy. Guest Editor. David Frank. Spring 2008, p. 198-212.

Bridging the Divide: Blogs in the Composition Classroom, ” with Tom Nelson.  Currents in Electronic Literacy.Volume 9. December 2005.

 Select Book Chapters Published

“Arguing from Difference: Cooper, Emerson, Guizot, and a More Harmonious America.” Speaking Our Minds: Black Women’s Thought in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. Kristin Waters and Carol B. Conaway. Lebanon, New Hampshire: University of Vermont Press, 2007. 287-305.

*Recipient of The Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize for best anthology about African American women's history for 2007.           

“Breaking the Commandments of Holocaust Representation? Conflicting Genre Expectations in Audience Responses to Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful.Beyond Life is Beautiful: Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni. Ed. Grace Russo Bullaro. Leicester, UK; Troubador Publishing, 2005. 292-321.

 Projects in Progress

The Women in Bourbon Oral History Project

·       This project fills a gap in both scholarly and popular attention to the many women who play a key role in Kentucky’s $8.6 billion dollar bourbon industry (KDA). Advancing much needed work in diversity, equity, and inclusion, this project will document the extensive record of women who have helped shape the bourbon industry and the culture of bourbon that surrounds it. The project will include a variety of  women’s voices representing multiple perspectives (including but not limited to Black women and other women of color), and will be established in partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, and advanced students in Bourbon Oral History. 

·       This project was launched in conjunction with students enrolled in WRD 569/HIS 595 Bourbon Oral History in Spring 21 and builds upon the successful model of student research developed with the Jewish Kentucky Oral History Project. This model trains both undergraduate and graduate students in professional oral history methods while providing them with access to leading women in one of the most lucrative industries in the Commonwealth; the chance to make history each time they conduct an original interview; and opportunities to publicly present their original research.

·       To date 24 interviews have been collected; over the next 3-5 years the project aims to collect 100-150 interviews of female industry leaders.


Americas Chosen Spirit: Distilling the Jewish Roots of Kentucky Bourbon 2013-present. with illustrator JT Waldman

·     This historical fiction graphic novel and transmedia project highlights the influences of Jews, women, African Americans, and immigrants on Kentucky’s iconic Bourbon industry and consists of four main components: a serial webcomic; a podcast series; a sip-and-study series, and an Omeka-based repository of curated primary materials which form the foundation and inspiriation for the historical fiction webcomic.


·       Four seasons: 10 chapters each, season 1 in progress with anticipated release in September 2022.

Submitted by jwfe223 on Tue, 01/31/2012 - 09:11 pm

How does one pack for six months of living in one of the most famous and fought about regions of the world?  This is the question that I’ve been thinking about for the past few days, as I waded through jeans, shoes, books, dresses, and other sundry items trying to figure out what was important enough to warrant space in my one suitcase. It’s not until you have to put your wordly belongings in a suitcase that you begin to realize just how many of them there are, how many you’ve come to take for granted, and how many you so easily can (and probably will) live without, perhaps temporarily, perhaps more enjoyably.  As I sat on the phone with Human Resources switching health plans, AT&T suspending U.S. cell phone service, and assorted credit card companies and  banks putting many of life’s mundane details in order, I started to focus on the daily hum-drum slowly shifting out of its realm and into the liminal space that travel thrusts upon us—the space of wonder, delight, and amazement of that which otherwise we’d fail to take notice of, the simple yet infinite details that make up lived experience in this oh-so-human life.

Why might I be taking stock of such things? I and my life partner Jim Ridolfo  (Assistant Professor of Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Cincinnati) are preparing to embark on a six-month adventure in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Jim has received a Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Fulbright to continue his work  with the Samaritan Community, and I will be accompanying him and using this time overseas to further my research on several projects and to develop some international connections for the University of Kentucky. I aim to build relationships and forge collaborations that will help to bring this part of the world just a bit closer to Lexington through scholarly exchange, shared curricula, or co-taught classes.

Mt. Gerizim street sign

We have the great fortune to travel as few have the opportunity to—not as tourists who make a brief trip and quickly return home, but rather as temporary inhabitants who become part of life’s daily rhythms for an extended time in another land.  Living the mundane through the lens of other cultures, through what the rhetorician Kenneth Burke would call someone else’s terministic screen,  offers perspective, and if you’re open to it—can usher in a certain kind of humility. Seeing how others approach similar tasks, value different ideas and behaviors, or interpret similar behaviors differently changes how you think about things.  It’s part of the reason why so many folks want to travel: to “see the world” and to perhaps develop a better sense for how the world sees differently, and of course, to puzzle over why.

It is not the first time that I’ve been lucky enough to sojourn in this part of the world. In 2000-2001, I lived in Jerusalem, Israel as a Dorot Fellow  becoming fluent in Hebrew, studying Jewish religious texts, and volunteering for the Center for Bilingual Education.  A lot has changed since then, personally, technologically, historically.  Then, I was taking a break from graduate school, and my experiences abroad influenced not only my decision to return, but also the scholarly discipline I focused on (I made the switch from English to Rhetoric) and the topic of my eventual dissertation (Black Jewish identity). Then, there were no post-911 TSA travel restrictions.  Then,  I went with not one but two suitcases, and no lap-top or cell phone. I did not get a cellphone until six months into my stay—it was the first I ever owned.  I wrote emails home in smoky cyber-cafes. There was no broadband wifi, Skype, Facebook, or social media of any kind. It was a very different world. In terms of history, I arrived in June shortly before the now-famous (and failed) Camp David Talks between Arafat and Prime Minister Ehud Barak. At the end of September, the Second Intifada erupted.  When I left the following summer, the violence was increasing at an exponential rate—in Israel, buses, restaurants, and discotheques were bursting into flames, in the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli military tightened its grip, making it difficult for Palestinians to move freely and resulting in the death of many.  

Now I am returning again, nearly 12 years later, to represent the University of Kentucky as an Assistant Professor, to continue my research on identity and rhetoric, and to hopefully build some lasting collaborations between institutions of higher education in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the University of Kentucky. As a junior scholar on the tenure track, I am firmly rooted in my discipline, though still excited by and engaged in a number of interdisciplinary projects. I just sent the book based on my revised dissertation, Arguing Black Jewish Identity: Hatzaad Harishon and Interruptive Invention, out for review with University of Alabama Press.  Now, I am mostly fluent in Hebrew (I speak better than I read, write, or type), and I am working on learning Arabic. Now, I will pack one suitcase, 1 lap top, 1 ipad2 and wireless keyboard, 3 cellphones (my US iphone and 2 cheap unlocked, unsmart International phones awaiting Israeli SIM cards—only one works and we can’t remember which is which!), an ipod---no physical CD/DVDs aside from the instructional Arabic language immersion discs or the ones to which I saved thousands of archival documents for my research on Chaim and Fela Perelman, no cookbooks, and very few physical photos. The apartment we are renting has broadband Internet, and we are realizing we need it and little else. Historically and politically, a lot has changed since I left in 2001. The events are too many to list here, but those who would like to learn more might find these timelines useful: from Wikipedia (watch it closely for editing wars), from BBC News, from Mideast Web for Co-existence.   This past year witnessed some significant events—in September the Palestinians made a bid for full membership in the U. N.,  and  in October Gilad Shalit who had been captured in the summer of 2006, was finally released back to Israel in exchange for the release of 1027 Palestinian prisoners.   It promises to be a very interesting time in the Promised Land, but then again, it always is.   I look forward to sharing snapshots of our six-month adventure on this blog.  Once we arrive, expect to hear more about hummus, rusty language skills, beer, salsa dancing, and how much we miss our scaly friends Electra and Salsa, the lovely lizards we left in Lexington to anxiously await our return.

Bearded dragon Electra with arm on Bearded dragon Salsa