Sara Halpern is a doctoral candidate in Modern Jewish and European history with a minor field in history of gender and the family.
Her dissertation, “Goodbye, Shanghai!: The Emigration of European Jewish Families, 1945-1951”, examines the transnational conversations among American, Canadian, and Australian Jewish organizations concerning the emigration of 15,000 Central European Jewish refugees from Shanghai between 1945 and 1951. It grapples with post-Holocaust and Nazism issues of Jewish ethnicity and “ex-enemy” citizenship within frameworks of United Nations’ aid policies and various immigration laws. By exploring the process, the dissertation sheds light on long-term consequences of failed international efforts to rescue German and Austrian Jewry from state-sponsored racial persecution including the Evian Conference of 1938. Simultaneously, and more relevant to the present, it showcases tensions among refugees, humanitarian organizations and the Western powers over repatriation when it becomes the last available option.
Her research has been funded by numerous agencies such as Social Sciences Research Council, Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Leo Baeck Institute, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University, DAAD, and the Mershon Center for International Security Studies among others.
Halpern is particularly interested in identity politics in the context of forced migrations, humanitarianism, and the family. While focusing on 20th century German and Jewish history, she looks at other times and places for comparative perspectives especially the current refugee crisis in Europe.
Outside of her work, she enjoys running long-distance, visiting museums (especially natural history and planetariums!) and parks, and traveling the world.