My classes focus on Judaism, modern Jewish history and religion in the United States. Students in my classes spend a lot of time reading and discussing different primary texts. I want them to learn about the specific topic of the class, but also to develop the sorts of analytical skills that allow them to read and think critically on their own and in connection to broader social, political and historical issues. Both Jewish studies and religion studies provide useful lenses through which students can learn to think about some of the critical dynamics of modern society and about the ways that nations, governments and communities have organized and understood themselves.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
My research focuses on American Judaism and the connection between American ideas about religion and the institutions of the American state. My first book, Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of American Religious Pluralism, looked at the provision of what were known as soldiers’ welfare services in the WWI American military. These services included everything from sports and sing-a-longs to religious observance and spiritual counseling. The U.S. War Department initially thought that the Protestant YMCA would be able to provide welfare services for all American soldiers and sailors but Jews and Catholics successfully lobbied for equal representation and the integration of their traditions into the soldiers' welfare program. The book describes the efforts of the Jewish Welfare Board in lobbying for this new policy, and working in collaboration with the YMCA, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, and Jewish servicemen. I argue that these changes to WWI military policy changed how Americans thought about religion.
My current project is focused on post-WWII initiatives to promote Jewish and Christian dialogue and interfaith understanding.