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Dr. Nehemia Polen

Nehemia Polen is Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts.  He received his talmudic education at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, earned a degree in mathematics at Johns Hopkins University (honors), and wrote his doctoral dissertation at Boston University under the direction of Elie Wiesel. A noted authority on Hasidism, his work The Holy Fire is a pioneering study of the Holocaust-era writings of Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapiro of Piaseczna.  His book, The Rebbe’s Daughter, which won a National Jewish Book Award, introduces the writings of Malka Shapiro, scion of the Maggid of Kozienice, and reveals the major leadership role of women in hasidic dynasties.  He has also published on the connection of Hasidism to the Land of Israel, co-editing a series with Aubrey Glazer on the hasidic masters who made their home in Tiberias in 1777, including Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk and Rabbi Abraham ha-Kohen of Kalisk. The series is called From Tiberias with Love: A Collection of Tiberian Hasidism.

In addition to his work on Hasidism, Dr. Polen teaches and publishes on Tanakh, especially Vayikra/Leviticus, as well as early Rabbinic literature, with a focus on Tosefta and Midrash Halakha.  He has been the recipient of a number of awards including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and the Silver Fellowship at Harvard University.  He lectures widely on the theory and practice of hasidic niggun. Together with his wife, Lauri, he lives in the Boston area and has often been invited to teach in Jerusalem.