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Research

My research encompasses Ancient Jewish history from the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 BCE until the compilations of the Talmuds in the 5th and 6th centuries CE. My work is necessarily interdisciplinary and draws from a range of methodological perspectives, including postcolonial, feminist, and religious theory. 


Rabbis and Donors: the Logics of Giving in the Ancient Mediterranean

 5th century synagogue donor inscription in the Metropolitan Museum of NYC. (own photo, 2017).  

5th century synagogue donor inscription in the Metropolitan Museum of NYC. (own photo, 2017).  

This book project examines ancient gift practices, particularly among Jews and rabbis, in order to complicate the enduring view that “religious” giving, such as charity or tithing, is categorically separate from “secular” giving, such as commerce, barter, and reciprocal exchange. Using inscriptions and texts from the Ancient Mediterranean, my dissertation focuses on four kinds of donations: tithes, patronage, benefaction, and charity. I argue that not only did ancient Jews draw from an overlapping pool of cultural logics that blended these gift types, but rabbis used these logics to bolster the rabbinic project whilst competing with other social elites for influence. Within a landscape wrought with financial choice, donors were solicited using ideological rhetoric reflecting a profound interplay between religious, economic, and social concerns. I purposefully situate the rabbis’ solicitation of donations amongst the broader late antique competition for funds so as to demonstrate the variety of fundraising tactics at the disposal of elites in the Ancient Mediterranean.