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Indiana University Bloomington
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Judah Cohen

The Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor in the Study of Jewish Culture
Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Musicology
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program

Congratulations to Judah Cohen on receiving a 2011 Trustees Teaching Award.  This award is in recognition of his stellar classroom teaching as well as the efforts he has put forth for enhancing student learning outside the classroom.

My training as a musicologist and an anthropologist, and my professional activity within Jewish studies, has allowed me to explore many aspects of Jewish culture and history. As a child, I spent two years in St. Thomas, USVI; and I returned to this island in my first book (Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, USVI [Brandeis University Press, 2004]), which is both a historical narrative and a meditation on writing the history of a small community. In my doctoral work, I explored the meaning of becoming a Reform Jewish cantor at the turn of the twenty-first century, based on three years of ethnographic study with cantorial students. Subsequent projects have led me to investigate the history of Jewish music scholarship in the United States, musical theater works that address Holocaust memory, contemporary forms of Jewish musical expression, and musical representations of such cultural figures as Anne Frank and Shylock.

Throughout my research, I have focused on the idea of Jewish cultural expression as a dynamic and ever-changing process, created and recreated over time by artists, religious leaders, philosophers and activists. I have aimed to understand this idea largely through the prism of sound, and its relationship to ideas of Jewish identity.


  • B.A. Yale, 1995
  • M.A. Harvard, 1998
  • Ph. D. Harvard, 2002

Publication Highlights

Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 2004.

The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment (Forthcoming, Indiana University Press.)

"Whither Jewish Music?: Jewish Studies, Music Scholarship, and the Tilt Between Seminary and University." Forthcoming, AJS Review

"The Jewish Sound of Things." Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art & Belief. v. 3, #3 (November 2007): 336-353.

"’And the Youth Shall See Visions. . .’: Summer Camps, Songleading and Musical Identity Among American Reform Jewish Teenagers." In Susan Boynton and Roe-Min Kok, eds. Musical Childhoods and the Cultures of Youth. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006. pp. 187-207.


  • What Makes it Jewish?
  • Exploring Jewish Identity Today
  • Music in Judaism
  • Readings in Jewish Ethnography
  • Musical Reponses to HIV/AIDS