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Benjamin E. Sax, Ph.D.

Head of Scholarship | Jewish Scholar

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Ben Sax serves as the Head of Scholarship and the Jewish Scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Baltimore. Ben is an experienced professor, university administrator, scholar, award-winning teacher, public speaker, and practitioner and facilitator of interreligious dialogue. Before arriving at the ICJS, Ben was director of the Malcolm and Diane Rosenberg Program in Judaic Studies and the founding faculty principal at the West Ambler Johnston Residential College at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. In addition to publishing on topics relating to Jewish philosophy, German-Jewish history and culture, Jewish-Christian relations, and interreligious dialogue, Ben has discussed his work on PBS and Baltimore’s NPR affiliate WYPR. He has been invited to lecture all around the world including Oxford, Rome, Heidelberg, Jerusalem and beyond, and, has been a speaker in United States State Department’s Speaker Program, most recently at the US Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was interviewed for Martin Dobblemeier’s film Spiritual Audacity: The Abraham Joshua Heschel Story and served as a consultant for his film The Sabbath.

 

Ben currently serves as the co-chair for the Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies Unit for American Academy of Religion (AAR). Ben’s most recent research project, a book entitled Winged Words: Benjamin, Rosenzweig, and the Life of Quotation was published in July, 2023  (Brill). He is currently at work on a new book entitled Through the Thickets of this Pathless Hour: Interreligious Dialogue for the Twenty-First Century.

 

Ben holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (B.A., Social Thought and Political Economy), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (M.A., Jewish Thought), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D., History of Judaism). He also studied at Middlebury College’s Summer Language School, where he received a Zertifikat ÖSD Mittelstufe, M.D. in German Language and Culture. For access to Ben’s publications, please visit his Academia.edu webpage.

EXPERTISE
  • Philosoph(ies) of Dialogue
  • Modern Jewish Thought
  • Jewish History and Culture
  • Jewish-Christian Relations
  • Interreligious Dialogue
  • Holocaust and Genocide Studies
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
Works in Progress 

 

Book, The Life of Quotation in Modern Jewish Thought

 

Essay, “The Work of Eva Fleischner in a Jewish Context”

 

Publications

Winged Words: Benjamin, Rosenzweig, and the Life of Quotation, part of the series,

Supplements to The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Volume: 35, Brill Publishers

 

“Judaism, Experience, and the Secularizing of Life: Revisiting Walter Benjamin’s Montage of Quotation,” in the journal Religions (Part of the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought: Volume II)

 

Dabru Emet: ‘A Danger We Embrace with Love’” (online forum) American Religion

 

Wissenschaft and Jewish Thought: Ismar Ellbogen’s Early Influence on Franz Rosenzweig“, PaRDeS, die Zeitschrift der Vereinigung für Jüdische Studien (2018)

 

Franz Rosenzweig- Kommentar, Zitat und das Schicksal der Sprache” in Nachträglich, grundlegend Der Kommentar als Denkform der jüdischen Moderne von Hermann Cohen bis Jacques Derrida, Herausgegeben von Andreas Kilcher und Liliane Weissberg (2018).

 

Toward an Interreligious City” in Interreligious/Interfaith Studies: Defining a New Faith, eds. Eboo Patel, Jennifer Howe Peace, Noah J. Silverman (2018).

 

Nietzsche and the Jewish Jesus: A Reflection on Holy Envy in Learning From Other Religious Traditions: Leaving Room for Holy Envy, ed. Hans Gustafson (2018).

 

Walter Benjamin’s Karl Kraus: Negation, Quotation, and Jewish IdentityShofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 32.3 (2014).

 

Aesthetics, Jewish Philosophy, and Post-Holocaust Theology” in The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy (2014).

 

Re-Remembering the Holocaust: A Look into “Judeo-Christian” Holocaust Denial” eds. Benjamin E. Sax and Mathew Gabriele, in Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 2 (2012).

 

SELECTED PRESENTATIONS

“Teaching Against Islamophobia in Baltimore: Asymmetries in Power in Interreligious Dialogue,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), San Antonio, TX (Nov 2021)

 

“Thinking Interreligiously on Civic Challenges: Water Justice and the Abrahamic Traditions” (online; June 22,2021) International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) annual meeting

 

“Anti-Black Racism, Antisemitism & Islamophobia Today – Interrogating the Role of Supersessionism in White Supremacy” (online; June 11, 2021) Catholic Theological Society of America Annual Meeting, Christianity & Judaism Consultation

 

“Antisemitism, Conspiracy Theories, and the Fate of Public Policy: A Brief History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the United States,” The Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM), Baltimore, MD (Aug 2021)

 

“Why Heschel, Why Now: The Political As Spiritual,” Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Pikesville, MD (Apr 2021)

 

“Issues in Interreligious Studies: An Interactive Workshop,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Boston, MA (Nov 2020)

 

“Interfaith Organizing and Water Justice,” Morgan St. University, Baltimore, MD (Jan 2020)

 

“Models of Interfaith Leadership,” Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL (Dec 2019)

 

“Imagining Justice Interreligiously,” Interfaith Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA (Oct 2019)

 

“How Islamophobia Makes Us Less Safe,” Congregation Temple Beth Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ (May 2019)

 

“The Contemporary Jewish-Catholic Moment in Interreligious Dialogue,” Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, MD (Mar 2019)

 

“On Martin Heidegger’s Poetry, Language, Thought: A Contemporary Jewish Response,” Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (Mar 2019)

 

“Judeo-Christian Islamophobia: Re-examining the Hyphen,” Council of Centers on Christian-Jewish Relations (CCJR), New York, NY (Sept 2017)

 

“Talking Jewishly about Race in Interreligious Settings,” Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA (May 2017)

 

“Mephistopheles’ Other: Franz Rosenzweig’s Midrash on the German Bildungsbürgertum,” International Congress of the Franz Rosenzweig Gesellschaft, The Pontifica Università Gregoriana and Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy (Feb 2017)

 

“Theological Aesthetics in Modern Jewish Thought,” Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (MAR-AAR), Loyola University Maryland, Columbia, MD (March 2015)

 

“Is Biblical Commentary Jewish or Christian?: Franz Rosenzweig and the Hegemony of the West,” Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (MAR-AAR), Loyola University Maryland, Columbia, MD (Mar 2015)

 

“Whose Text Is It? Medieval Judaism and the Construction of Nineteenth Century Jewish Identity,” The Middle Ages in the Modern World: A Multidisciplinary Conference On Medievalism in the Post-Middle Ages, University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom (June 2013)

 

“Awareness, Red Herrings, and the Specter of Violence: Teaching the Holocaust at Virginia Tech,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Chicago, IL (October 2012)

 

“Divine Teaching and the Way of the World: A Critique,” American Philosophical Association Meeting (APA) Pacific Division, Seattle. WA (April 2012)

 

“Franz Rosenzweig as a Post-Goethekenner,” Workshop for Early Career Faculty in Jewish Studies, American Academy of Jewish Research, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (May 2011)

Antisemitism (Un)defined

2023-10-30

Today, antisemitism is still a social and political problem. However, many disagree as to what it actually is. This course explores the various efforts in history to define antisemitism and the political factors that inform them. We examine a few contemporary definitions of antisemitism and evaluate the political worldviews of each, so that participants can consider the role these definitions play in efforts to counter antisemitism as well as how they inform broader socio-political concerns.

Martin Buber and the Life of Dialogue

2022-02-28

Martin Buber is one the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. This course explored his notion of dialogue as expressed in his corpus of writing, ranging from comparative mysticism to biblical commentary, existentialism to poetry, philosophy to cultural Zionism, and psychology to diplomacy. Buber artfully guided his readers beyond the conventional confines of east/west and religious/non-religious through the myriad sources and influences that comprise the experiences, themes, and aspirations of his 1923 magnum opus, I and Thou. In addition to his classic work, the course looked at his works on Hasidism, mysticism, and exegesis, as well as his ruminations on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Participants were invited to think about how Buber’s views on dialogue can inform not only their own perspective, but also how religious and political leaders can work together toward achieving this complicated, yet also simple dialogical orientation to the “Thou.” The course also raised the question of how the life of dialogue both disorients and enriches our lives.

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Select Publications and Presentations

Winged Words: Benjamin, Rosenzweig, and the Life of Quotation

Published by Brill in 2023, this is the first book to explore the role of quotation in modern Jewish thought.

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Video: Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”

Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” is the classic text articulating a philosophy of dialogue. In this short video, Ben Sax shares his insights into this concept that is both seemingly simple and at the same time deeply profound.

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A Jewish Perspective on Water Justice

ICJS presentation on how the Jewish tradition views water

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