Sam Berrin Shonkoff Appointed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies

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GTU Communications

Sam Berrin Shonkoff Appointed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies

The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Sam Berrin Shonkoff as Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in affiliation with the GTU’s Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies effective July 1, 2019. Dr. Shonkoff’s scholarship focuses on Judaism and religion in the modern world, with special interests in German-Jewish thought, Hasidic mysticism, and embodied theologies.

Dr. Shonkoff holds a PhD in History of Judaism from the University of Chicago Divinity School, an MA in Religion and Jewish Studies from the University of Toronto, and a BA from Brown University. He comes to the GTU from Oberlin College, where he has served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies since February 2018. Shonkoff is the author of more than twenty articles and book chapters for both academic and general audiences, and recently served as editor of Martin Buber: His Intellectual and Scholarly Legacy (Brill, 2018). He is currently writing a book on Martin Buber’s interpretations of Hasidic sources, while also coediting (with Ariel Mayse) Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community and Life in the Modern World (Brandeis University Press, forthcoming).

GTU Dean Uriah Kim celebrated Shonkoff’s hiring: Sam Shonkoff is an outstanding young scholar and skillful teacher, who has already shown great potential to be a leading figure in his field. We are fortunate to have him on the faculty."  Dr. Deena Aranoff, Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies, added: “We are confident Sam will become an invaluable resource to the GTU and to the broader Bay Area Jewish community. His emphasis upon theology and contemporary modalities of religious thought speaks to the interests of both spiritual seekers and traditionalists, and his impressive publication history, despite the early stage of his career, will further strengthen the academic profile of the GTU.”

Dr. Shonkoff, who grew up in Berkeley, expressed great enthusiasm about returning to the Bay Area to join the GTU faculty. “Ever since I first embarked on the academic path, I have wanted to work at a place where I could integrate scholarship and spirituality, theoretical reflections and concrete concerns, head and heart. The GTU fosters such a holistic approach to religious and Jewish studies in uniquely powerful ways. There is no doubt in my mind that this wholeness will enhance my teaching and research.”  

Shonkoff continued by celebrating the shifting landscape of religious scholarship at the GTU today:  “The spirit of innovation is palpable on Holy Hill right now, as the GTU envisions its own programmatic transformations in light of the shifting roles of religions in a rapidly changing world. I am thrilled to participate in these conversations about what it means to study religions in the twenty-first century. Also, I see the Bay Area as one of the most fascinating hotspots of Jewish cultural, spiritual, and intellectual creativity in the world right now, and I am so excited to team up with Deena Aranoff and explore how the Dinner Center for Jewish Studies might further enrich the local landscape.”

This fall, Dr. Shonkoff will teach a 2000-level course on “Modern Judaisms: Religion, Culture, or Nationality?” and a 4000-level course on “Hasidic Mysticism.” He will be offering a public lecture at the Center for Jewish Studies’s fall welcome lunch on Thursday, September 5.