Scholars in Bible and in Gender and Women's Studies Join JTS Faculty

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

September 19, 2008, New York, NY

The Jewish Theological Seminary has announced the appointment of two distinguished scholars to its world-renowned faculty. Dr. Stefanie B. Siegmund will serve as Women’s League Chair in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies, associate professor of History, and associate chair of the Program in Jewish Women’s Studies. Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer has been named professor of Bible.

Dr. Siegmund was a professor in the Department of History and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan for ten years prior to her appointment at JTS, and also taught at the University of Florida. A specialist in the history of the Jews of the early modern Italian states and in the history of the Jewish family, her current research focuses on the subject of conversion of Jews to Catholicism in sixteenth-century Italy. Deeply informed by questions concerning gender and the history and status of Jewish women, Dr. Siegmund will be teaching a seminar on gender, conversion, and Jewish identity in pre-modern Jewish history this fall.

Dr. Siegmund is the author of The Medici State and the Ghetto of Florence: The Construction of an Early Modern Jewish Community (Stanford University Press, 2006), winner of the American Historical Association’s 2006 Herbert Baxter Adams Prize, the most prestigious prize awarded in the United States for a book on European history. She was also awarded the Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the same publication. A member of numerous professional associations, she has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and received a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. A graduate of JTS, where she received master’s and doctoral degrees, with distinction, she received a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College.

Prior to coming to JTS, Dr. Sommer was director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, where he taught since 1994.

Dr. Sommer's research focuses on the history of Israelite religion, literary analysis of the Bible, and biblical theology. An overarching concern of his scholarship is the relationship between biblical thought and later Jewish theology. He has been a visiting faculty member at various institutions, including the University of Chicago, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and JTS.

Dr. Sommer recently completed his second book, The Bodies of God in Ancient Israel and Its World (Cambridge University Press, 2009) which addresses perceptions of divine embodiment in ancient Israel, Canaan, and Mesopotamia, and how these perceptions reappear in later Jewish philosophy and mysticism.

Dr. Sommer is the editor of the Psalms volumes of the Jewish Publication Society Bible Commentary series and is writing the first volume of that five-volume set. He is also working on a book to be titled Artifact or Scripture? The Jewish Bible Between History and Theology, which will examine whether the Bible, understood as the ancient Near Eastern document it is, can be relevant for modern Jewish thought. His first book, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66 (Stanford University Press, 1998), was awarded the Salo Baron Prize by the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Dr. Sommer serves on the editorial boards of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History and the Journal of Biblical Literature, and he is the editor of the Society for Biblical Literature's Studies in Biblical Literature series. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Yad Hanadiv / Beracha Foundation. Dr. Sommer has long been active as a lecturer and scholar in residence, teaching rabbis, Jewish educators, and laypeople in a variety of settings in the United States and Israel.