She recently received the Hadassah Brandeis Institute's Michael Hammer Tribute Research Grant. HBI awards 20-30 grants annually in support of academic and artistic projects about Jews and gender.
Ruth's project - (Candle)sticks on Stone: Representing the Woman in Jewish Tombstone Art - focuses on beautifully carved women's tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in Radauti, Romania, where her great-grandmother - Ettel Gruber - is buried.
The tombstones - with candlestick carvings - will be photographed. The images will be combined with historical research, personal reflection and memoir to create an interdisciplinary online gallery and exhibit to be supplemented by anecdotes, literary references and personal stories.
Sabbath candles are a common symbol on the tombstones of Jewish women. This is because lighting the Sabbath candles is one of the three so-called "women's commandments" carried out by female Jews: these also include observing the laws of Niddah separating men from women during their menstrual periods, and that of Challah, or burning a piece of dough when making bread.
She will likely include several other nearby northern Romania towns - Siret, Botosani, Gura Humorului, Suceava - focusing on the same carvings. Ruth plans to set up an additional blog where she will report on the project's progress.
For more information on the project, see Ruth's post.
Take a look at the rest of the 2008 awards at the HBI page under "Scholars and Grants." I learned that our cousin Galeet Dardashti received an Arts award for "Voices of Our Mothers: A Middle Eastern Musical Midrash for Today."
There are many interesting awards that may spur some of dedicated genealogists to propose their own projects. Categories include biography, history, Judaism, Yishuv & Israel, Film & Video, and Arts. Guidelines for the 2009 series will be posted in June.