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.
How Rabbis Became Experts: The Jewish Sages of Late Antiquity and their Social Networks
My first book project analyzes the institutionalization of the rabbis as an authoritative Jewish office through the cultivation of donor and social networks in late antiquity. I argue that the rabbinic movement came to self-consciousness through the cultivation of expertise, which required them to solicit patron support. Rabbinic expertise was not self-evident; it did not derive simply from their cognitive knowledge of texts but in the “corporate phenomenon” of Torah that empowered rabbis to speak as rabbis and commanded the attention of willing Jews. These social relationships, however, did not always follow ideal rabbinic standards. As much as donors were needed to validate rabbinic expertise, they posed threats to the autonomy of the rabbinic expert. Whether it was a woman who expected a rabbi to teach her or a man who petitioned a rabbi to rule in his favor in exchange for their tithes, the donor relationships necessary for the cultivation of expertise required a delicate social dance. This project situates the rabbis within the ancient Mediterranean landscape of experts, whose expertise was constructed through the making and remaking of donor relationships.
Synagogue donor inscription in the Metropolitan Museum of NYC, approximately 5th century C.E..
(own photo, 2017).
Review of Wealth, Poverty, and Charity in Jewish Antiquity by Gregg Gardner. Journal for the Study of Judaism, forthcoming.
Review of Charity in Rabbinic Judaism by Alyssa Gray. Journal for Jewish Studies, April 2022.
Review of Arguing with Aseneth: Gentile Access to Israel’s Living God in Jewish Antiquity by Jill Hicks-Keeton. Reading Religion, November 14, 2018.
Review of Babatha’s Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and an Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold by Philip F. Esler. Religion, Vol. 48, Iss. 3 (June 2018).
Review of The Invention of Judaism by John Collins. Ancient Jew Review, February 11, 2018.
Review of A Prophet Like Moses: Prophecy, Law, and Israelite Religion by Jeffrey Stackert. Biblical Interpretation, Vol. 25, Iss. 1 (2017): 123-125.
Review of Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity by Julia Watts Belser. Religion Vol. 47, Iss.2, (Oct 2016): 1-3.
Review of Women and Modesty in Late Antiquity by Kate Wilkinson. Ancient Jew Review, September 1, 2015.
Review of The Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History by Brennan Breed. Ancient Jew Review, April 12, 2015.
Review of How the Bible Became Holy by Michael Satlow. Religion Vol. 45, Iss. 2 (April 2015): 293-322.
Review of Abrahamic Religions by Aaron W. Hughes. Religion Vol. 44, Iss. 4 (Fall 2014): 684-686.
Review of The Aroma of Righteousness by Deborah A. Green. Religion Vol. 42, Iss. 4 (Fall 2011): 693-696.