What Makes Me a Reform Jew?


Rabbi Ellenson examines the tensions of Jews as they moved from seclusion in the pre-modern Jewish world to assimilation and the evolution of Reform Judaism.

Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., is Chancellor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies (Brandeis University), as well as Visiting Professor in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis. He served as President of HUC-JIR from 2001-2013.

Ellenson is a prolific scholar of modern Jewish thought and history with a particular expertise in the emergence and development of Orthodox Judaism in 19th c. Europe. He has also written on Orthodox legal rulings on conversion in modernity, religion and state in Israel, contemporary Jewish movements, Jewish ethics, and emerging trends in Jewish life in North America. His writings include seven solo-authored or edited books and hundreds of articles and reviews, including peer-reviewed pieces and writings for the general public in many media outlets.

Among his books are Tradition in Transition: Orthodoxy, Halakhah and the Boundaries of Jewish Identity (University Press of America, 1989), Between Tradition and Culture: The Dialectics of Jewish Religion and Identity in the Modern World (Scholars Press, 1994), After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity (HUC Press, 2004 and National Jewish Book Award winner), and Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa, co-authored with Daniel Gordis (Stanford University Press, 2012, National Jewish Book Award finalist). The Jewish Publication Society has published a collection of his essays in its “Scholar of Distinction” series with the title Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice: Studies in Tradition and Modernity (2014).

Ellenson was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1977 and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981. He holds MA degrees from HUC-JIR and the University of Virginia, as well as the M.Phil. degree from Columbia. He received his B.A. from the College of William and Mary.