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Indiana University Bloomington
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Sarah Imhoff

Assistant Professor, Jewish Studies & Religious Studies

Both my research and teaching reflect my interest in the ways that texts and representation create possibilities for constructing Jewishness in historical context. How, for instance, have categories like religion, race, and gender worked to determine who is Jewish or what constitutes the essence of Jewishness? How have particular hermeneutical strategies defined Jews or Judaism? My interests range from the ways that Midrash and Talmud use a unique interpretive style to craft Judaism to the ways contemporary American norms can create (or foreclose) possibilities of Jewish identity or belonging.
 
I am currently completing my first monograph, Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism, which argues that American Jewish men in the early twentieth century were gendered differently from American norms, and that this masculinity helped acculturated Jews argue for the value of an enlightened Judaism.
 
I also research the meaning of Jewishness in contemporary American contexts. I am especially interested in the ways that race, DNA, and medical knowledge shape what it means to be Jewish—or even who is a Jew—today.
 
My next research project considers the relationship of gender, the body, Zionism, and national identity in American Jewish literature before 1967. It takes up the question of American Zionism and its gendered and racialized differences from its European counterparts: much of European Zionism valorized the manly pioneer of Palestine and imagined the Diaspora Jew as weak and effeminate, but the negative idea of Diaspora life as emasculating held little allure for American Jews because most had no intention of immigrating to Palestine.
 
My work has appeared in the Journal of ReligionAmerican Jewish HistoryReligious Studies Review, and other academic journals and edited volumes. I am also a contributor to Sh’maOccasional Religion, and Sightings.

Education

  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago, 2010

Research Interests

  • Gender and American Jewish History
  • Race and Jewishness
  • Rabbinic Literature
  • American Religious History

Courses Recently Taught

  • Women in American Jewish History
  • Understanding the Rabbinic Mind
  • Jews and Race in the United States
  • Gender and Rabbinic Literature
  • American Jewish History
  • Introduction to Judaism