During the 1980s, I studied Classics and Hebrew and Jewish studies in Amsterdam and at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon my Ph.D. in 1995, I received a Frances Yates Fellowship at the Warburg Institute in London. Since 1997 I have held the chair in Hebrew and Jewish Studies (formally: of Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac languages and cultures from the 1st century AD) in the Hebrew department of the University of Amsterdam. Since 2008, I am also working as the director of the Institute of Culture and History, the largest of the faculty's research institutes. In my 'spare' time I serve, among others, as chairman of the Academic Committee of the Levisson rabbinical training programme, as chairman of the Menasseh ben Israel Institute (a joint venture by UvA and the Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam), and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Jewish Educational Centre 'Crescas'.
Over the years I have specialized in (early) modern Jewish
intellectual history, with the history of Hebrew literacy and
linguistics and, more recently, of 19th- and 20th-century
European Jewish scholarship and identity as my main areas of
interest. For some years now, I have been a co-editor of
Studia Rosenthaliana (Louvain: Peeters) as well as of
Zutot: Perspectives on Jewish culture , the
department's own peer-reviewed yearbook, published by Brill
Larger research projects that I am currently in the process of co-developing include:
• 'Jewish educational media between tradition and modernity', in collaboration with prof. dr. S. Laessig and dr. D. Sadowsky of the Georg-Eckert-Institut (Braunschweig)
• 'Halakhah in the Modern World', in collaboration with prof. dr. Frishman (UL), dr. L. Teugels (associate researcher UvA) and the Levisson Institute, Amsterdam.
• 'Hebrew Cultures in Europe, 1500-2000', in collaboration with dr. A. Schatz (King's College London)
Some recent publications that best reflect my research interests are:
• i ntellectual history
with S. Berger: Epigonism and the Dynamic of Jewish Culture (= Studia Rosenthaliana 40), Louvain: Peeters 2008
with R. Fontaine and A. Schatz, Sepharad in Ashkenaz. Medieval Knowledge and eighteenth-century enlightened Jewish discourse, Amsterdam: Edita (Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences) 2007
selected recent articles
'Jewish Enlightenment (almost) without Haskalah. The Dutch Example' in L. Hecht, ed., Haskalah, Aufklärung,Osvícenství: Jewish Enlightenment in the Czech Lands in a European Perspective , Jewish History and Culture 2011
'From Dialektik to Comparative Literature: Steinschneider's Orientalism' in R. Leicht and G. Freudenthal, eds, Studies on Steinschneider. Moritz Steinschneider and the Emergence of the Science of Judaism in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Leiden/Boston: Brill 2011), 137-150
'Scholarship of literature and life. Leopold Zunz and the invention of Jewish culture' in W. Otten, A. VanderJagt, Hent de Vries, eds, How the West Was Won. Essays on Literary Imagination, the Canon, and the Christian Midle Ages for Burcht Pranger , Leiden etc.: Brill 2010, 165-173
'Epigones and the formation of new literary canons: Sephardi anthologies in eighteenth-century Amsterdam', in S. Berger, I.E. Zwiep, eds, Epigonism and the Dynamic of Jewish Culture ( Studia Rosenthaliana 40), Louvain: Peeters 2008, 147-158
'Haskalah and Wissenschaft des Judentums in the earliest Dutch Jewish press (1806-1875)', in E. Lappin & M. Nagel, eds, Deutsch-jüdische Presse und jüdische Geschichte: Dokumente, Darstellungen, Wechselbeziehungen Band 1 , Presse und Geschichte - Neue Beiträge 37, Bremen: edition lumière 2008, 23-32
'A maskil reads Zunz. Samuel Mulder and the earliest Dutch reception of the Wissenschaft des Judentums', in Y. Kaplan, ed., The Dutch Intersection. The Jews and the Netherlands in Modern History , Leiden/Boston: Brill 2008, 301-317
'Jewish Enlightement reconsidered: the Dutch eighteenth century', in R. Fontaine, A. Schatz, I.E. Zwiep, eds, Sepharad in Ashkenaz. Medieval knowledge and eighteenth-century enlightened Jewish discourse , Amsterdam: Edita 2007, 281-311.
'From perush to be'ur. Authenticity and authority and eighteenth-century Jewish interpretation', in R.W. Munk, M.F.J. Baasten, eds, Studies in Hebrew Language and Jewish Culture , Dordrecht etc.: Springer 2007, 257-270.
• history of linguistic thought
'Hebrew 'sociolinguistics' in R. Leicht et al., eds , Studies in the History of Culture and Science, Presented to Gad Freudenthal on his 65th birthday , Leiden etc.: Brill 2010, 453-469
'Linguistic knowledge: grammar and literacy in early modern Ashkenaz', Simon-Dubnow-Institut Jahrbuch/Yearbook 8 (2009), 279-298
'Adding the reader's voice. Early-modern Ashkenazi grammars of Hebrew', Science in Context 20.2 (2007), 163-196
'What's in a name? Conceptions of Hebrew as reflected by the titles of Hebrew grammars', Zutot. Perspectives on Jewish culture 2004 (Dordrecht etc. 2005), 117-124
'Imagined speech communities. Western Ashkenazi multilingualism as reflected in eighteenth-century grammars of Hebrew', in Shlomo Berger et al., eds, 'Speak Jewish - Jewish speak'. Jewish multilingualism in Western Ashkenaz . Studia Rosenthaliana 36 (2002/3), 71-111
Over the years, my teaching has concentrated on pre-modern Jewish history and literature. In the department's BA programme, I am currently teaching a first-year course in Hebrew Bible, an introductory course in rabbinic history and culture and a second year theory course in Jewish poetry (open also to non-Hebraists). In the MA programme in Hebrew language and culture, I am co-teaching the Methodology course as well as the interdisciplinary module 'To be or not to be a Jew in Golden Age Amsterdam', which is likewise open to students from other programmes.