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Elizabeth Shanks Alexander



  • PhD (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • MPhil (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • MA (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • BA (Religion), Haverford College
  • Visiting Student, Hebrew University

Research Interests

Rabbinic textuality, hermeneutics and orality; Rabbinic ethics and theology; Jewish law and legal reasoning; women and gender; theories and methods in religious studies.

My research focuses on the classic texts of rabbinic Judaism (midrash, Mishnah and Talmud). My most pressing questions have to do with how rabbinic literature functions as literature, and how it conveys meaning. Orality theory has taught me to see rabbinic texts as moments in a larger conversation and my work often tries to reconstruct the thinking that drives the conversation. I also make use of literary theory to discern patterns in the texts that point towards themes and tropes. I am particularly drawn towards theological and ethical topics in rabbinic literature. I have also written a lot about gender.


  • RELG 1500: What is Religion?
  • RELJ 2030: Judaism, Roots and Rebellion
  • RELJ 3350: Ethics and Judaism
  • RELG 4500: What is Scripture?
  • RELJ 5110: Religion and Culture of the Rabbis
  • RELG 4800/5801: Crafting a Research Project in Religious Studies

Selected Publications

  • Religious Studies and Rabbinics: A Conversation. (London: Routledge, 2018)
  • Gender and Timebound Commandments in Judaism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Finalist for the 2013 National Jewish Book Award.
  • Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006 (Paperback 2009).
  • “Shevuot,” The Oxford Annotated Mishnah: A New Translation of the Mishnah with Introduction and Notes, Volume 2. Eds. Shaye Cohen, Hayim Lapin and Robert Goldenberg. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022). 584-627.
  • Embodied Scriptural Practice,” A Companion to Late Ancient Jews and Judaism: 3rd Century BCE – 7th Century CE, eds. Gwynn Kessler and Naomi Koltun-Fromm, (Wiley- Blackwell, 2020), 323-338.
  • “Ancient Jewish Gender” Jewish Origins: New Insights and Scholarship, ed. Frederick Greenspahn (New York: New York University Press, 2018), 174-198.

Selected Awards and Grants 

  • 2022-2024: Fellow at Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures (IHGC), University of Virginia;
  • 2019, 2018, 2010: Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award;
  • 2013: Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award: Gender and Timebound Commandments in Judaism;
  • 2004-2005: Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation Fellowship;
  • 2001: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Research Stipend