Jonathan Sarna

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  • Leading Commentator on Jewish History, Religion and Life
  • Chief Historian, National Museum of American Jewish History

Dr. Jonathan Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, as well as Chief Historian of the new 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. 

 
  

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Rave Reviews About Jonathan Sarna
I tried for more than five years to engage him at our synagogue!! He was one of the most 'menschy' scholars with whom I have worked over the past 15 years. We selected him because of his expertise in American Judaism and the great reviews his students gave him. He was professional in every aspect of our work together for this weekend, and he even spent a moment or two addressing the bat mitzvah girl from the bimah before giving his Shabbat Dvar Torah. He gave a very interesting and powerful last session, but it was even beyond the scope of what we expected from him. His reviews for the entire weekend were nothing but positive and we are glad we waited; he spoke about topics I don't think we would have picked five plus years ago. Did I mention that he has a great sense of humor as well? I highly recommend Jonathan Sarna as a scholar without any reservation, but make the reservation soon.

A Sample of the Groups That Have Hosted Jonathan Sarna
  • United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto
  • Congregation Beth El
  • Congregation Ohr Shalom/Summit Jewish Community Center
  • Loyola University of Maryland
  • Canadian Council of Conservative Synagogues
  • Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Park Avenue Synagogue
  • The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah
  • Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts
  • Congregation Etz Chaim
Jonathan D. Sarna on Lincoln and the Jews - Jewish Review of Books - Get Sharable Link
Jonathan D. Sarna on Lincoln and the Jews - Jewish Review of Books
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Jews and American Politics: Historical Ideals and Contemporary Realities | The Jerusalem Center
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An Old Faith in the New World: The History of American Judaism

A lively presentation on American Judaism from 1654 to the present by the acclaimed scholar who wrote the bestselling book on the subject, American Judaism: A History. Beginning in the colonial era, Sarna recounts the dynamic story of people struggling to be Americans and Jews. He shows how each gen ...

A lively presentation on American Judaism from 1654 to the present by the acclaimed scholar who wrote the bestselling book on the subject, American Judaism: A History. Beginning in the colonial era, Sarna recounts the dynamic story of people struggling to be Americans and Jews. He shows how each generation of American Jews has had to wrestle anew with the question of whether its own children and grandchildren will remain Jewish. Bringing the story down to the present, he illustrates how the past can both inform and inspire.

That Obnoxious Order: Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews

On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued a sweeping order, General Orders #11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone. It remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. The order came back to haun ...

On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued a sweeping order, General Orders #11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone. It remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. The order came back to haunt Grant in 1868 when he ran for president. Never before had Jews been so widely noticed in a presidential contest, and never before had they been confronted so publicly with the question of how to balance their “American” and “Jewish” interests. During his two terms in the White House, the memory of the “obnoxious order” shaped Grant’s relationship with the American Jewish community. In response, surprisingly, he did more for Jews than any other president to his time. How this happened, and why, sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on America itself.

Children of the Stock of Abraham: George Washington's Correspondence with the Jews of Newport

In August of 1790, President George Washington made a state visit to Rhode Island, the last colony to ratify the Constitution. Visiting Newport, he listened patiently as different groups of citizens welcomed him to their city and gave voice to their hopes and concerns. Members of Newport’s bea ...

In August of 1790, President George Washington made a state visit to Rhode Island, the last colony to ratify the Constitution. Visiting Newport, he listened patiently as different groups of citizens welcomed him to their city and gave voice to their hopes and concerns. Members of Newport’s beautiful synagogue stood among those bringing him greetings. Their letter and his remarkable reply to it stand as landmarks of American religious liberty. Many are familiar with the key words in Washington’s letter – “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” – but there is much more to the correspondence than that. Guided by acclaimed historian Jonathan D. Sarna, we will unlock the deeper secrets of this correspondence, and its meaning for Jews and Americans of every faith.

Looking Ahead: American Judaism in the 21st Century

What are the central issues facing the American Jewish community in the decades ahead? In this provocative presentation, historian Jonathan D. Sarna examines key trends affecting Jewish life, particularly lesser-known economic, demographic, and religious changes that will affect American Jewry in th ...

What are the central issues facing the American Jewish community in the decades ahead? In this provocative presentation, historian Jonathan D. Sarna examines key trends affecting Jewish life, particularly lesser-known economic, demographic, and religious changes that will affect American Jewry in the 21st century and beyond. He concludes with a call for a new mission for American Jews, and a discussion of how we can meet the challenges that lie ahead.

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Biography

Dr. Jonathan Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Chair of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, as well as Chief Historian of the new 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.

From 1979-1990, Dr. Sarna taught at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, where he rose to become Professor of American Jewish history and Director of the Center for the Study of the American Jewish Experience. He has also taught at Yale University, the University of Cincinnati, and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Dr. Sarna came back to Brandeis in 1990 to teach American Jewish history in its Department of Near Eastern & Judaic Studies. He served two terms as chair of that department and one term as director of Brandeis’ Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. He now chairs the Academic Advisory and Editorial Board of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

Dr. Sarna has written, edited, or co-edited more than thirty books, including the latest When General Grant Expelled the JewsHe is best known for the acclaimed American Judaism: A HistoryWinner of the Jewish Book Council’s “Jewish Book of the Year Award” in 2004, it has beenpraised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”