Abby Massarano

Art History



The Akedah in Late Antique Synagogues: The Function of Figurative Art in the Expression of Localized Jewish Identity


The three late antique Levantine synagogues at Dura-Europos, Sepphoris, and Beit Alpha all include within their elaborate decorative schemes a figurative depiction of the Binding of Isaac, or Akedah narrative. Analyzing the narrative depictions in the context of the rest of the synagogue’s artistic design, the local and regional visual culture, and known Jewish synagogue practices illuminates artistic variances within each community. These variances open the door for greater speculation on the function of art in late antique Jewish communities and demonstrate the rich, sophisticated visual culture of synagogue decoration throughout the Levant.


Abigail E Massarano specializes in the figurative and decorative art found in the Levantine synagogues of Late Antiquity. Her thesis work focuses on the role this synagogue art played in both the formation and expression of localized Jewish Community Identity. Her passion is rooted in bringing attention to the elaborate and beautiful, but often overlooked oeuvre of ancient and late antique Jewish art to those who are otherwise unfamiliar. Abigail received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Mills College in 2015, and starting in the fall of 2022 is entering a doctorate program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University. While her drive to positively contribute to the global mental health crisis has led her in a new academic direction, she will still continue to pursue her passion for Jewish art history.


  • Stuart Lingo
  • Mika Ahuvia
  • Kathryn Topper


  • MA, Art History, University of Washington, Seattle 2022
  • BA, Psychology, Mills College, 2015

Awards + Fellowships

  • 2022 – de Cillia Graduating with Excellence Award
  • 2020–2021 – Stroum Center for Jewish Studies Graduate Fellowship
  • 2020–2021 – Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship
  • 2019–2020 – Top Scholar Award