The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Jay R. Berkovitz

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Jay R. Berkovitz received his Ph.D. at Brandeis University. His research and teaching focus is on the early modern history of European Jews, with special emphasis on Jewish law, family, ritual, and communal governance.

Professor Berkovitz has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Starr Fellowship at Harvard University, the Lady Davis Professorship at the Hebrew University, the Marion and Jasper Whiting Fellowship, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the 2011-12 Inaugural National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Scholar Fellowship, sponsored by the Center for Jewish History in New York. He has held visiting appointments at Bar Ilan University, University of Connecticut at Storrs, and Yeshiva University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

A member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History and of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University, he currently serves as joint editor-in-chief of the academic journal Jewish History.


Research Areas

  • The Jews in Early Modern France and Germany
  • The French Revolution and the Jews
  • Jewish Legal Theory and Jurisprudence
  • Ritual and Religion


  • The Shaping of Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-century France (Wayne, 1989).
  • Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (Penn, 2004).
  • Tradition and Revolution in Early Modern France [Hebrew] (Mercaz Zalman Shazar, 2007).
  • Protocols of Justice: The Rabbinic Court of Metz, 1771-1789 (Brill Academic Publishers, 2014). 

Courses Recently Taught

  • JUDAIC 318 Family and Sexuality in Jewish History and Culture
  • JUDAIC 345 The Making of Modern Jewry
  • JUDAIC 350 Jewish Law and Society
  • JUDAIC 366 Modern Israel:  History, Society, and Culture
  • HONORS 391A (COMM COLLEGE) Major Issues in Contemporary Jewish Life