Samuel J Kessler


Assistant Professor in Religion

Dr. Kessler is Assistant Professor of Religion and Åke and Kristina Bonnier Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion.

He received his BA in History from New York University and MA and PhD in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

His scholarship focuses primarily on nineteenth-century religious responses to modernity. He works on topics in Judaism, postmodern theory (Foucault), Holocaust, and twentieth-century literature (Roth, Malamud, Durrell). 

Dr. Kessler has taught widely in Jewish religion and culture, both in the classroom and community. You can find a selection of his syllabi here and his community engagement here as well as on Sepharia. Anyone in the community with questions about Judaism is encouraged to contact him. This coming fall (2019), Dr. Kessler will be teaching Introduction to Judaism (RELI 144) and World Religions (RELI 115). 

Dr. Kessler is currently at work on a book, entitled The First Modern Rabbi: The Life and Times of the Nineteenth-Century Scholar and Preacher Adolf Jellinek. It examines the history and development of the modern rabbi, the impact of Wissenschaft des Judentums on scholarship and religion, and the importance of urbanization in Jewish communal transformation in nineteenth-century Central Europe. 

Dr. Kessler's most recent publications include:

  • “Rediscovering the Study of Spanish Kabbalism in Wissenschaft des Judentums: Adolf Jellinek in Leipzig, 1842-1856.” PaRDeS: Zeitschrift der Vereinigung für Jüdische Studien e.V., "Cultures of Wissenschaft des Judentums at 200," 24 (2018): 125-144. 
  • “‘Garrulous, lamenting, whiney, but always interesting’: Heinrich Graetz’s Evolving Characterization of his Contemporaries from the Diary to the History of the Jews.” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 61, no. 1 (2018): 229-253.
  •  “Utilizing Religious Studies Theory to Access the Sacred in Counseling,” Counseling and Values 63, no. 2 (October 2018): 132-146 (with Dennis D. Gilbride and Laura Shannonhouse). 
  •  “‘A Mighty Shifty Strangeness’: Time, Memory, and Narrative in Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet.” Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell Journal NS 15 (2016-17): 19-41. 
  • “Systematization, Theology, and the Baroque Wunderkammern: Seeing Nature After Linnaeus,” Heythrop Journal 58, no. 3 (May 2017): 432-445. 
  • “Bernard Malamud in Italy: The Moral Choice of Being Jewish in ‘The Lady of the Lake’,” Studies in American Jewish Literature 36, no. 1 (2017): 40-60. 
  • “Translating Judaism for Modernity: Adolf Jellinek in Leopoldstadt, 1857-1865,” Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook 14 (2015): 393-419. 
  • “Foucault and the Holocaust: Epistemic Shift, Liminality, and the Death Camps,” Dapim – Studies on the Holocaust 28, no. 3 (Nov. 2014): 139-154. 

(Links to published papers are available here.)

With colleagues, he is currently editing the correspondence of Gershom Scholem and Abraham Joshua Heschel, as well as beginning a project that will bring to scholarly attention works of Jewish theology from the nineteenth century. 

In addition, he has authored numerous book reviews for both German Studies Review and Journal of Austrian Studies. A response to Thomas A. Lewis's Why Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion and Vice Versa appeared on Syndicate.  

Dr. Kessler is an Advisory Board member of the Center for Sermon Studies based at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, as well as an Editorial Board member of its referred journal, Sermon Studies

You can find a copy of his most recent CV here and more of his work on

[Updated April 2019]


B.A. New York University; M.A., PhD. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Areas of Expertise

Judaism, Europe, History, Literature, and Religion

Courses Taught

REL-150 (Abraham) and REL-214 (Individual & Morality)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
REL-115 World Religions 3 2020/FA, 2019/FA, and 2019/SP
REL-315 Mystics of the West 2 2021/SP and 2019/SP
REL-282 Perspectives on Evil, Sin, and Suffering 2 2020/SP
REL-144 ST:Intro to Judaism 2 2019/FA and 2018/FA
REL-125 Intro to Judaism 1 2021/SP
REL-373 Holocaust: Then & Now 1 2020/SP
REL-253 Science and Religion 1 2018/FA