Faculty Research

A page of the Talmud in Hebrew

Departmental faculty represent an intellectually cohesive yet diverse scholarly community working at the forefront of their disciplines: rabbinics, medieval mysticism, medieval Jewish philosophy, modern and contemporary ethics, literary theory and political philosophy.

Central Research Questions

DEBATE

What does it mean to agree or disagree? How do we can peacefully disagree and tolerate disagreement? What is the nature of debate in a free society? Prof. Sergey Dolgopolski encourages us to look to ancient Jewish writing, the Talmud, as a model for modern pluralism.

ETHICS

How do we explain the origin of good and evil? How can we build a more just and ethical society in a world dominated by science? How does the Jewish view on morality differ from other models? Prof. Richard Cohen’s work on Emmanuel Levinas seeks to recover how the biblical and rabbinic model of ethics, as the responsibility one has to prioritize of the other’s suffering over one’s own, can save the moderns state from its dependence on capitalism.

GENDER

Are there sources of gender in religious texts that are not patriarchal and oppressive? How can the sources of the past help us think about alternative and flexible models of gender that overcome the male-female binary? Prof. Marla Segol’s scholarship on the Kabbalah asks us to reexamine the Jewish mystical tradition as constructing a subversive gender theory that is distinct from the body.

LITERATURE

What is the modern Jewish literature and how does it differ from classical Jewish writing? How is modern literature a central component of the secular revolution of modernity? Prof. Noam Pines examines why Jews are described by modern Jewish writers through the image of the “animal” and how does this characterizes the modern Jewish condition.

VIRTUE

How is central is character to ethics? Why should I cultivate certain character traits over other? Which character traits or virtues have been idealized or denigrated throughout history? Prof. Alex Green looks at the central Jewish thinkers in the medieval period who thought about Judaism as a form of virtue ethics and is attempting to recover this debate in order to rethink modern pluralism.