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May 15, 2013

Aaron Hughes named Bernstein Professor of Jewish Studies

Aaron Hughes

Aaron Hughes, a scholar of Jewish and Islamic studies, has been appointed the Philip S. Bernstein Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion and Classics. Hughes joined the Rochester faculty last fall, and his new appointment is effective on July 1.

“Professor Hughes is a distinguished scholar whose broad interests enrich our programs in the history and philosophy of religion and strengthen the activities of the multidisciplinary Center for Jewish Studies.” says Joanna Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. “His scholarship, teaching, and service reflect the academic values and integrity for which Rabbi Bernstein was widely admired.”

Established in 1974 by friends of Rabbi Philip Bernstein, the professorship was created to recognize Bernstein’s contributions to the local community as well as his eminence as a scholar and world leader. Bernstein served as the spiritual leader of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester for nearly 50 years and played a key role in advising U.S. Army Commanders in Europe, helping to resettle European Jews after World War II.

“It is my hope to be able to perpetuate Rabbi Bernstein’s teaching and leadership,” says Hughes, the third faculty member to hold the professorship. In his new role, Hughes will work to promote research, scholarship, and education in Jewish studies through courses, publications, lectures, and by engaging with the local community. He will also support Jewish life and culture on campus through collaborations with Hillel and other student organizations.

“Aaron is a terrific colleague whose contributions are valuable to people throughout the College,” says Edward Wierenga, professor of religion and philosophy and chair of religion and classics. “He brings a wide range of expertise in areas previously absent from our curriculum, including Jewish philosophy and modern Jewish thought.”

According to Wierenga, Hughes’s appointment is one of several steps the department has taken in recent years to address student interest in Jewish studies, including the creation of both a minor and a cluster.

Hughes hopes to deliver the first Bernstein lecture in the fall of 2013, incorporating in his talk a history of Bernstein’s work and how it connects with the current and future state of Jewish studies.

Before joining the University, Hughes was the Gordon and Gretchen Gross Professor of Jewish Studies and associate director of the Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage at SUNY University of Buffalo. He is the author of 10 books, including Abrahamic Religions (2012), Situating Islam (2008), and Defining Judaism (2009). He is also the editor of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, a journal of the North American Association for the Study of Religion.

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