KINGSTON, R.I. — Oct. 21, 2019 — Rabbi Dan Judson will explore the past of American Judaism to examine the present Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m., as part of the University of Rhode Island’s Honors Colloquium, “Religion in America.”
The free, public lecture will be held in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, on the Kingston Campus. If you can’t make it to the lecture, you can watch it online.
Judson will address some of the crucial issues facing Judaism today: rising secularism, polarization regarding Israel, the end of Jewish denominations and high levels of intermarriage. This lecture will tell the story of American Judaism almost entirely through the prism of Rhode Island Judaism which – despite its size – has seen and continues to see all of the significant trends in Jewish life.
Judson is the dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Newton, Massachusetts, a leading institution of Jewish learning and innovation that attracts students from diverse Jewish backgrounds to study for the rabbinate. Prior to becoming the dean, Judson was the associate dean and lecturer in Jewish history. He was the rabbi for 10 years at Temple Beth David of the South Shore, a synagogue in Canton, Massachusetts.
Judson earned his doctorate in Jewish history from Brandeis University’s Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department. His research focuses on the intersection of money and religion in American history. He uses finances – how synagogues funded themselves, paid rabbis, and ran capital campaigns – as a lens to see broader issues in the development of American Judaism. Often using a comparative approach, his research sheds light on the ways in which the Jewish community was influenced by predominant Christian values and mores. His dissertation received the Nachum and Anne Glatzer Prize for outstanding dissertation.
Judson’s book, Pennies for Heaven: The History of American Synagogues (Brandeis University Press, 2018) is the only book to bring an economic lens to the study of American Jewish religious history. It was named a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish studies. The Jewish Book Council, which sponsors the award, reviewed the book, saying it was “remarkably well researched and entertaining… [reading it] one understands just how deeply our finances mirror our beliefs.”
Judson’s articles on the development of American Judaism have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals.
He also researches contemporary synagogue finances. His work specifically on synagogues that have eliminated synagogue dues has had a significant impact on synagogues nationwide. His research and ideas on this topic has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The New York Jewish Week and many other regional Jewish newspapers.
Judson was the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellow at Harvard University in 2007. He also served as a national faculty member of the Union of Reform Judaism where he consulted with hundreds of synagogues on their finances.
He is also a storyteller who has appeared on the national Moth radio hour on NPR [https://themoth.org/storytellers/daniel-judson]. He has competed in the Boston storytellers championship and is the yearly story-teller-in-residence at the Museum of Fine Arts Chanukkah event in partnership with the Boston Jewish Arts Collaborative.