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Jewish Thought & History

Jonathan Sarna

Brandeis University

Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, and Director at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. In 2018, he resigned as chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program after more than a decade of leadership. He is past president of the Association for Jewish Studies and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion, and life. In 2009, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Born in Philadelphia, and raised in New York and Boston, Dr. Sarna attended Brandeis University, the Boston Hebrew College, Merkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem, and Yale University, where he obtained his doctorate in 1979. Dr. Sarna has written, edited, or co-edited more than thirty books, including Lincoln and the Jews: A History (with Benjamin Shapell) and When General Grant Expelled the Jews. He is best known for the acclaimed American Judaism: A History. Winner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award” in 2004, it has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.” 

He is married to Professor Ruth Langer, and they have two children, Aaron and Leah.