Alma Rachel Heckman completed her Ph.D. in history from UCLA in 2015. Her research interests sit at the nexus of modern Jewish history, North African history, French empire and the history of social movements. She is currently working on a book manuscript elaborating on her dissertation, entitled: Radical Nationalists: Moroccan Jewish Communists 1925-1975.
Her book project addresses Jewish involvement in the Moroccan Communist Party as a vehicle for participation in Morocco’s national liberation movement through the vicissitudes of the 20th century. Alma's research has been supported by the Posen Society of Fellows, UCLA’s International Institute, UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies, the American Academy for Jewish Research, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Fulbright Program and more. She has conducted archival research and interviews in Morocco, France, Israel and the USA.
Alma graduated with a B.A. in French and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College in 2009. There, she became interested in North Africa due to her background in French and began to study Arabic. After graduation, Alma was awarded a Fulbright grant to Morocco for the academic year 2009-2010, where she documented Jewish sites across the country. In Morocco she met Simon Lévy, a Moroccan Jew and founder of the Moroccan Jewish Heritage Foundation and Museum. He was an ardent Moroccan nationalist and former Communist activist. Alma volunteered at Lévy’s museum documenting items from the archives ranging from old genizah materials (stored communal documents), Bar Mitzvah invitations from the 1950s to wedding ephemera from the 1990s. Over the course of the months she spent there Simon Lévy recounted stories from his life, the Jewish past in Morocco and the fraught 20th century. These stories, as well as Lévy’s personal papers, form the core of Alma’s current book project.
Alma is delighted to join the academic community of UC Santa Cruz. She will teach courses on Jewish history of North Africa and the Middle East, the Second World War and the Arab world, Latin American Jewish history, comparative radical Jewish history, al-Andalus and more.