Beth Berkowitz headshot

Beth Berkowitz

Professor, Ingeborg Rennert Chair of Jewish Studies




218 Milbank


Beth Berkowitz is a scholar of Jewish and Religious Studies with a specialization in classical rabbinic literature. She is the author of Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures (Oxford University Press, 2006); Defining Jewish Difference: From Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Animals and Animality in the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). She is co-editor with Elizabeth Shanks Alexander of Religious Studies and Rabbinics: A Conversation (Routledge, forthcoming). Her current writing is on the experience of pleasure in animals as the Babylonian Talmud conceives it, and her next book project will be a “biblical bestiary” that profiles the reception history of various animal characters in the Hebrew Bible.

She has published articles in the Journal for the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Jewish Studies, Jewish Quarterly Review, the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, the Journal for Ancient Judaism, AJS Review, and Biblical Interpretation. She was a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America from 2004-2012 and has held post-doctoral fellowships in Yale University's Program in Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, and New York University Law School's Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization.

She has been a member of the steering committee for the History of Judaism section of the American Academy of Religion and the co-chair of the Rabbinics division and the Theorizing Jewish Difference division of the Association for Jewish Studies, as well as a member of the AJS board. She is a member of the board of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, of the AJS Paula Hyman Mentorship Program affiliated with the AJS, and of the journal Prooftexts.

She has given conference presentations at the annual meetings of the Association of Jewish Studies, the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Jewish Law Association, the American Academy of Anthropology, and the Modern Language Association. She has delivered talks at Bard College, Barnard College, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Concordia University, Harvard University Law School, Middlebury College, New York University Law School, Northwestern University, Rutgers University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, Villanova University, and Yale University.

  • PhD: Department of Religion, Columbia University, May 2001
  • MA: University of Chicago Divinity School, June 1994
  • BA: Columbia College, May 1992

  • Talmud and classical rabbinic literature
  • Jewish difference
  • Species difference / Animal Studies
  • Jewish Bible exegesis

  • Introduction to Judaism
  • Introduction to Hebrew Bible
  • Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
  • Introduction to Talmud Text Study
  • Talmudic Narrative
  • Divine Human Animal
  • Crime and Punishment in Jewish Culture
  • Theory of Religion
  • The Production of Jewish Difference

  • New York University Law School: Postdoctoral Fellow, Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization, 2009-2010
  • University of Pennsylvania: Louis and Hortense Apfelbaum Postdoctoral Fellow, Herbert Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, 2007-2008
  • Yale University: Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program of Judaic Studies; Department of Religious Studies, 2001-2003

Professional Affiliations

  • Columbia University: Co-chair, “The Past – and Future – of Jewish Storytelling,” 2013
  • University of Virginia: Co-chair, “Religious Studies and Rabbinics,” 2013
  • Association of Jewish Studies: Chair, Rabbinics Division, 2011-present; AJS Board Member, 2010-present; AJS Strategic Planning Committee, 2012-2013
  • American Academy of Religion: Steering Committee, History of Judaism, 2009-present
  • University of Toronto: Working group on Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning, 2009-2013
  • University of Michigan: Workshop for Early Career Faculty in Jewish Studies, Frankel Center, May 2007

Prooftexts, Board Member, 2008-present

Peer Reviewer: AJS ReviewJewish Quarterly ReviewHistory of ReligionsJournal for the American Academy of ReligionHarvard Theological ReviewJournal of Jewish StudiesBrown Judaic Studies, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Fordham University Press

Association of Jewish Studies Annual Meeting

2012: “Rabbinic Hermeneutics of Violence.” Session Chair.

2011: “Animals as Legal Subjects in Roman and Rabbinic Law.”

2010: “Beyond the Binary of Ethnicity and Religion:  Constructions of Jewishness in Leviticus Rabbah 23.”

American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting

2013: “Black Cats, Good Luck, and Rabbinic Hierarchies: Exploring Rabbinic Lawmaking in the Babylonian Talmud.”

University of Virginia

“Different Religions? Definitions in Rabbinics and Religious Studies.” Religious Studies and Rabbinics Conference. February 2013.

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

“Lost in Translation: Multiple Meanings, Midrash, and Making Jewish Identities.” Keynote Address. Lost Texts: A Graduate Student Conference. April 2012.

Concordia University

“A Short History of the People Israel from the Patriarchs to the Messiah: Constructions of Jewish Difference in Leviticus Rabbah 23.” Conference: History, Memory, and Jewish Identity. Montreal, May 2011.

Middlebury College

“The New Historiography of Late Antique Palestine and Its Implications for Reading Rabbinic Literature.” Ancient Judaism Seminar. October 2011.          

“Ambivalent Responses to Thanksgiving: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein on the Status of the Secular in American Jewish Orthodoxy.” Department of Religion. October 2011.

Columbia University

“Live/Stock: The Conceptual Conundrum of Animals in the Babylonian Talmud.” Religion Unwound. PhD Student Workshop. April 2013.

“American Religion Then and Now.” Interfaith Panel. April 2013.

Rabbis for Human Rights

“Jewish Criminal Law.” New York, NY. July 2012 and 2013.


Animals and Animality in the Babylonian Talmud. New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

Jewish Difference and Coherence. Co-edited with Benjamin Baader and Chaya Halberstam. Special issue of Journal of Jewish Identities, forthcoming.

Religious Studies and Rabbinics: A Conversation. Co-edited with Elizabeth Shanks Alexander. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Defining Jewish Difference: From Antiquity to the Present. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Awarded Salo Baron Prize for Outstanding First Book in Jewish Studies, 2007.

“The Slipperiness of Animal Suffering: Revisiting the Talmud’s Classic Treatment.” In Jewish Veganism and Vegetarianism. Edited by Jacob Labendz and Shmuly Yanklowitz. State University of New York Press, forthcoming.

“Different Religions? Definitions in Religious Studies and Rabbinics.” In Religious Studies and Rabbinics. Edited by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander and Beth Berkowitz. Routledge, forthcoming.

“Revisiting the Anomalous: Animals at the Intersection of Persons and Property in Bavli Sukkah 22b-23b.” In The Faces of Torah: Studies in the Texts and Contexts of Ancient Judaism in Honor of Steven Fraade. Edited by Christine E. Hayes, Tzvi Novick, and Michal Bar-Asher Siegal. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Supplements to the Journal of Ancient Judaism, Vol. 22, forthcoming.

“Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin.” Oxford Annotated Mishnah. Edited by Shaye Cohen and Hayim Lapin. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

“Approaches to Foreign Law in Biblical Israel and Classical Judaism through the Medieval Period.” In Judaism and Law: An Introduction. Edited by Christine E. Hayes. The Cambridge Companion to Religions Series. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 128-156.

“Stop Making Sense: Using Text Study Guides to Help Students Learn to Read Talmud.” In Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens. Edited by Marjorie Lehman and Jane Kanarek. Academic Studies Press, 2016, pp. 1-34.

“The Cowering Calf and the Thirsty Dog: Narrating and Legislating Kindness to Animals in Jewish and Islamic Texts.” Co-authored with Marion Katz. In Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning. Edited by Anver M. Emon. London: Oneworld Press, 2016, pp. 61-112.

“Animal.” Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History. Edited by Catherine Chin and Moulie Vidas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015, pp. 36-57.

“The Afterlives of the Hebrew Bible’s Ethnic Language: The Sifra and the Strōmateis on Lev. 18:1-5.” Poetics of Power: Jews, Christians, and The Roman Empire. Edited by Natalie Dohrmann and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013, pp. 29-42.

“A Short History of Israel from the Patriarchs to the Messiah: Constructions of Jewish Difference in Leviticus Rabbah 23.” Journal of Ancient Judaism 2/2 (2011): 179-205.

“A Conversation about Religious Studies and Rabbinic Texts.” AJS Perspectives, The Religion Issue (Fall 2011): 16-20.

“Reclaiming Halakhah: On the Recent Works of Aharon Shemesh.” Review Essay. AJS Review 35/1 (April 2011): 125-135.

In The News

The two graduating seniors were each recognized with a $5,000 prize for their high standards of scholarship in Jewish studies.

April 23, 2021

Kayla Levy ’19 was awarded the inaugural Ingeborg, Tamara, and Yonina Rennert Prize in Jewish Women’s Studies on April 16, 2019.

April 19, 2019