Professor Todd Presner

Principal Investigator

Todd Presner is Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature at the University of California Los Angeles. He is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and is also the Chair of the Digital Humanities Program. His research focuses on European intellectual history, the history of media, visual culture, digital humanities, and cultural geography.

Presner is the founder and director of HyperCities, a collaborative, digital mapping platform that explores the layered histories of city spaces. His research has been awarded numerous grants and prizes, including: the MacArthur “digital media and learning” prize and a Google Digital Humanities grant. His latest book, coauthored with David Shepard and Yoh Kawano, is Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Harvard University Press, 2013) which explores the “geospatial turn” within the humanities. The companion website is  He is also the author of Digital_Humanities (MIT Press, 2012), an exploration of the field co-authored with Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, and Jeffrey Schnapp; Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (Columbia University Press, 2007) which maps German-Jewish intellectual history onto the development of the railway system; and Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration (Routledge, 2007), an analysis of the aesthetic dimensions of the strong Jewish body.

Caroline Luce

Chief Curator

Prior to becoming Chief Curator, Caroline Luce served as the primary researcher for Mapping Jewish LA while completing her doctorate in History at UCLA. Her dissertation, “Visions of a Jewish Future: the Jewish Bakers Union and Yiddish Culture in East Los Angeles, 1908-1942,” explored the complexities of working-class identity and Yiddish-based labor and community organizing in Boyle Heights and inspired the MJLA exhibition The White Plague in the City of Angels.  While preparing the public research guide to Jewish related archives in the UCLA library she discovered the fascinating papers of muralist and filmmaker Hugo Ballin which led to the MJLA exhibition Hugo Ballin’s Los Angeles.  She also co-curated From the Bowl to the Boulevard. Luce’s current project involves digitizing and translating poems by Los Angeles based Yiddish writers.  She will also be teaching an undergraduate service-learning course about LA Jewish History.

Karen Wilson, PhD

Founding Chief Curator

Karen Wilson was the Kahn Research Fellow with the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies from 2012-2014 and the founding Head Curator for “Mapping Jewish Los Angeles.”  Dr. Wilson curated the 2013 Autry National Center exhibition, “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic” and edited the companion volume of the same name published by the University of California Press. She is working on a book entitled On the Cosmopolitan Frontier: Jews, Social Networks, and Nineteenth-Century Los Angeles, that examines the ways in which diverse social networks shaped the emergent American city and the incorporation and identities of Jewish settlers in post-Gold Rush society.

David Wu

Technical Oversight and Research

A UCLA alumnus, David Wu joined the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies in 2007 and is currently the Program and Digital Projects Coordinator. Serving as the graphic designer for both print and web materials, Wu is responsible for both design and technical aspects of the Mapping Jewish Los Angeles project including the maintenance of the website and implementation of GIS data in digital mapping projects. His panoramic photography of Hugo Ballin’s Los Angeles murals give the exhibition its striking impact.

Mary Enid Pinkerson, PhD

Project Development & Community Engagement

Mary Enid Pinkerson is Community Affairs Coordinator for the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. A specialist in dialogue education, she initiated and supervises the Center’s civic engagement and service learning program, working with instructors and community partners to develop courses such as Iranian Jews in Los Angeles, in which students created an MJLA exhibition. Pinkerson received her Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of  Southern California School of Religion where she was awarded the Leonard Family Dissertation Prize for her research on civic engagement in health care reform. A current focus of her work is outreach to Los Angeles synagogues concerning the preservation and presentation of archival materials.




Erik Greenberg, PhD


Erik Greenberg is the Director of Education at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.  He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Erik has spent over a decade teaching a range of students from k-college and beyond on a wide variety of historical subjects ranging from the history of the American West to the intellectual and cultural history of the American Jewish experience.  He is the forums manager of the online museum publication Plinth, and is an executive board member of the IsPrize Foundation, an organization that rewards American youth who develop practical solutions to national and global problems. Erik has lived in Los Angeles for over twenty years, and he has spent a considerable amount of time stuck in traffic in the Sepulveda Pass.

CateRoman01Cate Roman


Cate Roman is Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Woodbury University. An accomplished artist, designer, art director, and storyteller, Roman’s extensive professional experience ranges from large scale sculpture to exhibit graphics. Her interest in community building and social responsibility in design have kept her involved with community-based projects throughout her career. NPR’s StoryCorps and Roman’s own family’s experiences as immigrant grocery store owners were the inspirations for the exhibit From Grand Central Market to Supermarket: L.A. Jewish Grocers.

SabaSoomekh_01Saba Soomekh

Exhibition Coordinator

Saba Soomekh was born in Tehran and immigrated with her family to Los Angeles as a small child. Her book, From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture, was awarded the Gold Medal 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award (Religion category) and served as the primary textbook for a recent sociology class she taught at UCLA in which students created the MJLA exhibit, Iranian Jewish Life in Los Angeles: Past and Present. Sommekh also served as Project Coordinator for the major exhibition, Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews, which ran at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from October 2012 through March 2013.

Elliot Yamamoto


Elliot Yamamoto (UCLA, ’13) majored in Architectural Studies and minored in GIS. During his senior year he worked as a GIS Intern for the Mapping Jewish Los Angeles Project and used his skills to develop the MJLA exhibit On the Map, which was featured at the Autry National Center exhibition, Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic. Interested in the overlapping practices of architecture and urban design, urban geographies, and GIS applications, Elliot hopes to pursue a multidisciplinary career to advance the knowledge and creation of people-centered design and environments.

David G. Hirsch

Research Advisor

David G. Hirsch is the Librarian for Jewish and Middle Eastern Studies at UCLA and has been building up the library’s Judaica collections since 1989. In 2013 he received the UCLA Librarian of the Year Award. Hirsch received his BA Degree in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and dual Master of Arts Degrees in Library Science and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. He has lived traveled, studied and worked in many parts of the Middle East, most recently as an advisor to the National Library of Abu Dhabi.

Bill Katin

Research Assistant

Bill is in the doctoral program in the UCLA History Department, where he has been employed as a reader. He has enjoyed translating German publications composed by Rabbi Isaac Rulf in Frankfurt’s Stadt- und Universitatsbibliothek (until 1928, it was the Baron Carl von Rothschild Library). He has also translated parts of Isaiah Trunk’s Yiddish material, on the Jewish Councils of Eastern Europe during the Third Reich, which are housed in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Archives. Through the efforts of Professor Todd Presner, Bill had the opportunity to conduct interviews with a 100 year old Holocaust survivor. Bill is arranging access to German archives for a UCLA dissertation on German-Jewish businesses “aryanized” by Germans during the Third Reich.

Patrick Tran

Research Intern

A recent UCLA graduate, Patrick has been working with the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies since the summer of 2011. He has worked on the HyperCities Holocaust Survivor Stories Compilation and various HyperCities related projects. Tran contributed to the technical development of the Mapping Jewish LA project, primarily with HyperCities and other media.

Andy Trang

Research Intern

As a member of the HyperCities technical team Andy has worked on projects such as “Holocaust Survivor Stories” and “Mapping Jewish LA: Boyle Heights” and created the documentation for the HyperCities platform. Trang is also conducting research in the field of neurosurgery and neuro-oncology with UCLA’s Brain Tumor Laboratory and hopes to pursue a multidisciplinary career in digital humanities and medicine.