Colloquia Series

Madrasa-Midrasha Colloquia Series

Each semester, the Madrasa-Midrasha Program sponsors a Colloquia Series featuring conversations between faculty at the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley. These monthly gatherings cover many topics with areas of focus including pedagogy, Jewish education and Islamic education, spiritual care, health care and chaplaincy, Antisemitism and Islamophobia, and addressing questions of diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion.

The final MM Colloquia Series gathering in Spring 2022 featured a Faculty Colloquia Public Forum that was free and open to the public.

Faculty Colloquia Participants

Naomi Seidman

Naomi Seidman is the Jackman Humanities Professor at the University of Toronto, in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Her fourth book, Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement: A Revolution in the Name of Tradition, won a National Jewish Book Award in Women's Studies in 2019. A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Seidman is presently completing a study of the Hebrew and Yiddish translations of Freud's writings during his lifetime. Her podcast on leaving the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world, Heretic in the House, was recently released by the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Rushain Abbasi

Rushain Abbasi is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities and Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He received his PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at Harvard University in 2021, where his dissertation was awarded the prestigious Alwaleed Bin Talal Prize for Best Dissertation in Islamic Studies. He formerly served as an Associate Research Scholar at the Abdullah S. Kamel Center for Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School. In general, Professor Abbasi’s scholarly work seeks to bring the premodern Islamic intellectual and cultural heritage to bear on contemporary debates in religious studies and social theory. His articles have been published in the Journal of Islamic Studies and Studia Islamica. He is also a contributing member to the Balzan Seminar based in Princeton University: a five-year research project dedicated to analyzing the nuances of premodern Islamic statehood.


Charlotte Fonrobert

Charlotte Fonrobert is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Stanford University where she specializes in Judaism: talmudic literature and culture. Her interests include gender in Jewish culture; the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity; the discourses of orthodoxy versus heresy; the connection between religion and space; and rabbinic conceptions of Judaism with respect to Greco-Roman culture. She is the author of Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender (2000), which won the Salo Baron Prize for a best first book in Jewish Studies of that year and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Scholarship. She also co-edited The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature (2007), together with Martin Jaffee (University of Washington). Dr. Fonrobert served as visiting faculty at the GTU's Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies in Fall 2021.

Oren Kroll-Zeldin

Oren Kroll-Zeldin is the assistant director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco where he is also an assistant professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. He is the author of the forthcoming book Occupation Is Not Our Judaism: Palestine Solidarity Activism and the Politics of Jewish American Identity (NYU Press, 2024) and the co-editor, with Ariella Werden-Greenfield, of the volume This Is Your Song Too: Phish and Contemporary Jewish Identity (Penn State University Press, 2023).

Aysha Hidayatullah

Aysha Hidayatullah is Associate Professor of Islamic studies and teaches undergraduate courses on Islam, gender, race, and ethics. She received her MA and PhD in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her BA in Women's Studies from Emory University. She began teaching at the University of San Francisco in 2008. Her research interests include feminist exegesis of the Qur'an; representations of women in early Islamic history; constructions of femininity and masculinity in the Islamic tradition; feminist methodologies in the study of Islam; racial imaginaries of U.S. Islam; popular discourses on Muslim women in the U.S.; and the pedagogy of Islamic studies. She is co-founder and current co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Islam, Gender, Women program unit, a setting for supporting reflection on the development of the field of gender and women in Islam. She has worked extensively on a number of projects addressing religious diversity and anti-Muslim prejudice in relationship to teaching, most recently serving on the leadership team for a pedagogical workshop on "Teaching Against Islamophobia" co-sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh is Director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program (ICP) and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He founded Ziraya Muslim Spiritual Care and extensively traveled internationally to train chaplains in primarily Arab and Muslim countries. Since 2012, he has served as a chaplain at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. He completed four clinical pastoral education units (CPE) at Stanford Hospital and a Certificate in Palliative Care Chaplaincy from California State University Institute for Palliative Care. He completed a Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union in 2019 where he examined Prophet Muhammad's dying experience as a good death model for an Islamic practical theology for end-of-life care.

Asad Ahmed

Asad Q. Ahmed is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in early Islamic social history and pre-modern Islamic intellectual history, with a special focus on the rationalist disciplines, such as philosophy, logic, legal theories, and astronomy. Although he has worked extensively on Islamic intellectual history of the so-called classical period (ca. 800-1200 CE), his current focus is the period ca. 1200-1900 CE, especially with reference to the Indian subcontinent.  He is the author of The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Hijaz (University of Oxford, 2011), Avicenna’s Deliverance:  Logic (Oxford University Press, 2011), and Palimpsests of Themselves:  Logic and Commentary in Muslim India (University of California Press, forthcoming, 2020).

Deena Aranoff

Deena Aranoff is Faculty Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. She teaches rabbinic literature, medieval patterns of Jewish thought, and the broader question of continuity and change in Jewish history. Her recent publications engage with the subject of childcare, maternity and the making of Jewish culture.

Karen Barkey

Karen Barkey is the Charles Theodore Kellogg and Bertie K. Hawver Kellogg Chair of Sociology and Religion at Bard College where her research engages the comparative and historical study of the state, with special focus on its transformation over time. Her work has explored state society relations, peasant movements, banditry, and opposition and dissent organized around the state. Her most recent work relates to issues of religious diversity and coexistence, with particular research on the question of shared sacred sites. Barkey was awarded the Germaine Tillion Chair of Mediterranean Studies, IMéRA, Marseille for 2021–2022, and has served as professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley; Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity at the Othering and Belonging Institute; director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion; and co-director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion. She also taught at Columbia University, where she was director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.

Daniel Boyarin

Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and Rhetoric at the University of California Berkeley. He has been, among other things, an NEH Fellow (twice), a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, a holder of the Berlin Prize at the American Academy in Berlin and a Ford Foundation Fellow. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2006.

Mahjabeen Dhala

Mahjabeen Dhala’s interdisciplinary research features an integration of classical theological Islamic texts as well as the kaleidoscope of modern feminist theories to confront and contribute to the rapidly developing discourse between faith and feminism. In this talk, she draws on a marginalized classical Shia text known as the Khutbat Fadakiyya (Sermon of Fatima) to interrogate the undersupply of accounts of significant female contributions to Islamic doctrine, practice, social justice, and devotional piety. Her work focusses on exploring constructive methodologies towards a collaborative dialogical interreligious space which thrives at the GTU to explore narratives and contributions of female theologians across traditions and to provide a premise for addressing current concerns of women in religious, racial, and political minorities.

Emily Gottreich

Emily Gottreich is an Adjunct Professor in Global Studies and the Department of History, and Academic Coordinator of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Between 2009-2013 she was the President of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). She is also Founding Director (along with Aomar Baum, UCLA and Susan Miller, UC Davis) of the MENA-J (MENA Jewry) Program, a UC-systemwide initiative to study, document, and preserve Jewish history in the Middle East and North Africa. Prof. Gottreich received a Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 1999, an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 1992, and a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley in 1989. Her research focuses on Moroccan Jewish history and Muslim-Jewish relations in broader Arab-Islamic contexts.

Sam S.B. Shonkoff

Sam S.B. Shonkoff is the Taube Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the GTU, where he teaches on Jewish religious thought, modern Jewish cultures, and methods in theology, ethics, and the historical-cultural study of religions. His research focuses primarily on German-Jewish thought and Hasidism, as well as appropriations of Hasidic spirituality in relatively secular spheres. Shonkoff’s current book project investigates themes of embodiment in Martin Buber’s representations of Hasidism vis-à-vis the original sources. He is co-editor with Ariel Evan Mayse of Hasidism: Writings on Devotion, Community and Life in the Modern World (Brandeis University Press, 2020) and the editor of Martin Buber: His Intellectual and Scholarly Legacy (Brill, 2018). He is also affiliated with the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics. Prior to joining the GTU in 2018, Shonkoff taught at Oberlin College and the University of Chicago.

Ronit Stahl

Ronit Y. Stahl is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and a faculty affiliate of the religious diversity cluster of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. She is a historian of modern America and her work focuses on religious pluralism in American society by examining how politics, law, and religion interact in institutions. Her first book, Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2017) demonstrates how, despite the constitutional separation of church and state, the federal government authorized and managed religion in the military. Placing Jewish chaplains in this context reveals and highlights how Judaism came to stand for a mainstream, rather than minority, American religion. Her new book project turns to religious freedom and conscience rights in health care, examining how a variety of religious hospitals — Jewish and non-Jewish — pivoted between framing themselves as secular institutions and religious spaces over the twentieth century. She holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan, a M.A. in Social Sciences in Education from Stanford University, and a B.A. in English from Williams College.

Nargis Virani

Professor Nargis Virani is a Visiting Scholar with the GTU Center for Islamic Studies and has taught a variety of courses related to Arabic language, literature, Qur’anic and Islamic Studies, Women’s Studies, and Middle Eastern Films at the University of British Columbia, Washington University in St. Louis, and The New School in New York City. She holds a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University and has studied the Qur’an extensively at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo.