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VCU announces appointment of Samuel J. Kessler, Ph.D., as Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Humanities and Sciences is pleased to announce the appointment of Samuel J. Kessler, Ph.D., as the Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies.

“The study of religion is essential to understanding the complexities of our world. Dr. Kessler will offer profound insights into human history, culture, and values, fostering a deeper appreciation for the diversity of beliefs and practices that shape societies,” said Dean Catherine Ingrassia, Ph.D. “I look forward to welcoming him to campus and supporting his scholarship and teaching initiatives, knowing this hire will benefit our students who live in an increasingly multifaceted and interconnected global community.”

Kessler will join Andrew Chesnut, Ph.D., the Bishop Walter Sullivan Chair of Catholic Studies, and Andrew Crislip, Ph.D., the Blake Chair in the History of Christianity, in the creation of the Center for the Study of Global Religions and Spiritualities. The center will focus on the academic and transdisciplinary exploration of religion, spirituality, culture, history, and identity.

The Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies

Dr. Samuel J. Kessler is the incoming Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

His work focuses on the interaction of religion and modernity in European history and literature, and he writes on topics in Jewish history, history of science, travel writing, postmodern theory, Holocaust and American literature. He is the author of The First Modern Rabbi: The Life and Times of the Nineteenth-Century Scholar and Preacher Adolf Jellinek (Brown Judaic Studies, 2022) and co-editor of Modern Jewish Theology: The First One Hundred Years, 1835-1935 (JPS/Nebraska, 2023). He is currently editing the travel diary of James George Frazer and writing a book on modern midrash.

He comes to VCU after having previously taught at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, and at Virginia Tech.

The Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies was established with gifts by Harry Lyons, DDS (DDS 1923, School of Dentistry) former dean of the VCU School of Dentistry, and supports the study of Judaism and university-sponsored programs on Judaic culture, ethics, history and tradition.