April 05, 2021

Press Release

Collections Staff

Collections Staff

Jesse Abelman, Curator of Hebraica and Judaica 

Jesse Abelman is responsible for the Torah Scrolls, Judaica objects and Hebrew and Jewish books in the collections of the Museum of the Bible. He oversees the care of these objects and assists with their use in museum exhibits, programming, and research. Jesse leads The Torah Scrolls Project, a long-term project to digitize, catalog, and make the museum’s uniquely large and diverse collection of Torah scrolls available to the public.  

Prior to joining the Museum of the Bible, Jesse taught Bible and history in a variety of contexts to a diverse set of audiences, including high schools, synagogues, and university students.  He spent nine years teaching at a variety of programs at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and taught in several high schools in the New York area, as well as at Yeshiva College.

Jesse has a BA From McGill University, Rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and an MA and PhD from Yeshiva University.  He is a 2021–22 Fellow at the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies and held a Fellowship in Medieval Studies at Fordham University in 2018–19.

Robert Duke, Director of the Scholars Initiative  

Robert (Bobby) Duke has a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He has spent several years living in Jerusalem, having studied at Jerusalem University College (1996–1998) and the Hebrew University (2000–2001, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship). He also received a fellowship from the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem to work on his dissertation, which focused on Aramaic documents from Qumran. 

Bobby is a professor at Azusa Pacific University (APU) and has held numerous administrative roles, including serving as Dean of the School of Theology (2015–2021). Bobby and his wife have also been highly involved in the Los Angeles County foster care world. Bobby’s passion for foster care and higher education were his focus for a TedX Talk he gave at APU entitled, “Foster Care to College: A Crisis WE Can Solve.

Herschel A. Hepler, Associate Curator of Hebrew Manuscripts

Herschel A. Hepler has been Associate Curator of Hebrew Manuscripts at Museum of the Bible since 2016. He curates and researches the medieval Jewish codices in the Museum Collections and oversees several research projects related to medieval Jewish history and manuscript production. Herschel is especially interested in Hebrew codicology, paleography and Cairo Genizah research. He assisted in the Dead Sea Scroll forgery investigations (2016–2020), and he curated the exhibition on the Washington Pentateuch, A Fence around the Torah: Unveiling and Iconic Jewish Bible (Nov. 2019–Mar. 2020). He is currently finalizing his research on a manuscript in the Museum’s Collection—to be published in a forthcoming volume. 

Herschel received a BA (2011) and MA (2013) in theology from Southern Nazarene University, and he has completed several specialized programs such as A Short Course of Hebrew Codicology and Paleography at the Ambrosiana Biblioteca (2015) and manuSciences ’17 (2017).

Mike Holmes, Senior Advisor, Scholars Initiative

Mike Holmes joined the museum as Director of the Scholars Initiative in November 2014. He now serves the museum as Senior Advisor to the Scholars Initiative. He is also University Professor of Biblical Studies & Early Christianity Emeritus at Bethel University (St. Paul, Minnesota), where he taught from 1982 to 2017. Mike earned the PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. He currently is a member of the board of directors of the Center for the Study of NT Manuscripts and on the editorial board of TC: A Journal of Textual Criticism. 

Mike’s primary research interests include the text and transmission of the New Testament, the formation of the biblical canon, and the Apostolic Fathers (a collection of early Christian writings). He has written, edited or co-edited 11 books, including The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed. (Baker, 2007), and The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBL/Logos Bible Software, 2010), and has sat on numerous professional committees and boards. He has also published more than 60 articles and chapters in academic journals and scholarly publications, reviewed more than 270 books and lectured in several countries. Mike and his wife, Molly, live in Minnesota.

Brian Hyland, Associate Curator of Medieval Manuscripts

Brian Hyland joined Museum of the Bible in 2016 as Associate Curator of Medieval Manuscripts. In addition to curating medieval materials, he assists with Greek papyri.

Brian holds a master’s in ancient history from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maryland, College Park. He did additional studies at Cornell University and the Institut für Papyrologie, Ruprecht Karls Universität, in Heidelberg, Germany.

He chaired the social studies department and for 30 years taught Latin, German, and social studies at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York. Brian has also taught Greek and Roman history at the University of Illinois, Chicago, medieval history at the University of Maryland’s European extension division, and Latin at Binghamton University.

Jeffrey Kloha, Chief Curatorial Officer

Jeffrey Kloha joined Museum of the Bible in summer 2017. He manages the Museum of the Bible Education, Scholars Initiative, Exhibits, Curatorial, and Collections departments and is responsible for executing those departments’ strategic plans, along with managing other professionals.

Jeff previously served 18 years as professor of New Testament at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and also served Concordia as provost/chief academic officer. During that time, he oversaw two accreditation processes, transitioned the institution from quarters to semesters, steered the development of new curricula and managed strategic planning for the institution. He earned the PhD from the University of Leeds.

His areas of teaching and research include the textual and canonical history of the early Christian writings, hermeneutics, and the Pauline Epistles. Jeff is co-editor of Texts and Traditions: Essays in Honour of J. K. Elliott (Brill, 2014) and The Press of the Text: Biblical Studies in Honor of James W. Voelz (Pickwick, 2017). He has published peer-reviewed essays in the areas of New Testament textual criticism and the use of New Testament texts in early Christianity. He is a frequent conference presenter, radio guest and television documentary commentator.

Rena Opert, Director of Exhibits and Collections Specialist

Rena Opert oversees both the permanent and temporary exhibits program at Museum of the Bible. The Exhibits team works with the museum’s curatorial department as well as with outside museums, artists and lenders to create innovative and unique exhibitions.

Rena earned her BA in art history and Jewish studies from Northwestern University and her MA in museum studies from The George Washington University. She enjoys the collaborative process of working with scholars and designers to transform content and ideas into a visually engaging and educational experience for museum visitors.

Rena most recently spent 10 years at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum directing the production, strategy and placement of its traveling exhibitions. Prior to that, she worked at Spertus Museum in Chicago, where she created educational programs and then served as the Museum Operations Manager. She has conducted and published primary research for the Repatriation Office at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and has served as a professorial lecturer at The George Washington University for a course on museums and cultural property. 

Francisco Rodriguez, Conservator

Francisco Rodriguez studied fine arts and sculpting at the National University of Colombia and document conservation, restoration and chemistry at the Plastic’s Art School of Bogotá. He studied risk assessment, impact of preservation on manuscripts and paper and leather conservation at the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro in Rome, Italy, and aqueous treatments on paper conservation at the UNAM in Mexico City.

Francisco is a third-generation bookbinder who started working alongside his father in 1970. He was a consultant with the Pontifical Vatican Library and collaborated with the Istituto Superiore per la conservazione ed il Restauro in restoring hundreds of books and documents that were damaged during the 1966 flood in Florence, Italy. Francisco then moved to Washington to become head restorer at the Columbus Memorial Library of the Organization of American States. As an independent consultant, he has done work for the Library of Congress, the White House Library, Ronald Reagan’s personal library, Dunham Bible Museum and Lanier Theological Library, among others.

Francisco joined Museum of the Bible in 2013 as its first conservator. He is a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).

Anthony Schmidt, Director of Collections and Curatorial

Anthony Schmidt earned the PhD in American religion from Princeton Theological Seminary. Schmidt’s academic work focuses mainly on the cultural construction of orthodoxy in nineteenth and twentieth century Christianity and the way certain beliefs and behaviors are seen as virtues or vices over time. He has written about a range of topics in academic journals and popular outlets and is currently working on a larger project on how financial factors shaped the ways American churches dealt with the issues of slavery and race in the nineteenth century.

Anthony joined Museum of the Bible as Curator of Bible and Religion in America in 2017 and became Senior Curator in 2019. In addition to overseeing the museum’s curatorial team, he also curates post-sixteenth century Bibles and printed texts in the Museum Collections, manages collections research and documentation, and develops content for the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. Previously, he served as a doctoral assistant in the Department of Special Collections at Princeton Seminary and as an author and researcher for the American Bible Society’s Faith & Liberty Discovery Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Amy Van Dyke, Lead Curator of Exhibitions

Amy Van Dyke holds a BA in art history, with a minor in studio art, and an MEd in secondary education, with an emphasis in art education, from Northern Arizona University. She has received her certification to teach from the state of Arizona as well as training in museum studies from the Phoenix Art Museum. 

Amy has taught various courses in art, art history, and world history in courses from the third grade through college. She also developed and wrote a school-wide art curriculum for a private school in Oklahoma. Amy has given several lectures, including “Biblical Art and Theology: How Artists Influence our Understanding of the Bible” and “How to Illustrate God: The Difficulty in Depicting the Divine.” 

Since joining Museum of the Bible in 2012, Amy has coordinated, written, or assisted with over 50 exhibitions. Her exhibition Amazing Grace: How Sweet the Sound included new research and loans never before displayed in the US, and she also debuted The Wiedemann Bible and The Tapestry of Light exhibitions in the States. Her current work as lead curator of art and exhibitions involves developing content, coordinating and curating exhibitions, and researching, lecturing, and curating the art within the Museum Collections.