Jewish Studies Scholar Named to Endowed Chair

Michael Alexander, recipient of National Jewish Book Award, named to Maimonides Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies

Michael Alexander

Michael S. Alexander

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Michael S. Alexander, a scholar of Judaism, modern Jewish history and American religion, has been named to the Maimonides Chair in Jewish Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Alexander, currently an associate professor in the UCR Department of Religious Studies, is the first scholar named to the endowed chair.

“We are delighted to be naming Michael Alexander to the Moses Maimonides Chair,” said Paul D’Anieri, provost and executive vice chancellor. “It is specially fitting to be naming such a distinguished scholar to a professorship named after one of the foremost philosophers in Jewish history.”

The Maimonides Chair was established in 2014 with support from nearly three dozen individuals, foundations and organizations to fund research and other activities aimed at fostering better understanding of Judaism and the history and heritage of Jewish people. The chair is named for Moses Maimonides, a Spanish Sephardic Jew born in Córdoba, Spain, in 1135, who was a rabbi, scholar, philosopher, astronomer and physician in medieval Spain and Egypt.

“Creating this endowed chair was a broad-based community effort to ensure that UCR’s scholarship encompasses the depth and scope of Jewish history, culture, and traditions,” said former UCR Foundation Chair Pam Rubin, who was one of a committed group of lead donors to the chair with her husband, Mark, himself a Holocaust survivor. “We look forward to seeing the university’s research and teaching around Judaism grow in ways that respect the past, enrich the present, and inform the future.”

Alexander, who joined the UCR faculty in 2008, said he is delighted by the appointment.

“Following the footsteps of philosopher and physician Moses Maimonides, the Maimonides Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies will support all arenas of Jewish studies at UCR with talks and seminars, conferences, and student fellowships and prizes,” he said. “Following the mission of UCR to encourage our diverse student population, the chair will take special care to help foster interdenominational and interethnic dialogue and understanding.”

The chair also will support research and publication in Jewish studies, Israel studies, and related areas of religion and ethnicity, he said.

Pashaura Singh, chair of the Department of Religious Studies and holder of the Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies, said Alexander’s appointment “is richly deserved. He has already become an established scholar in the field of Jewish Studies. The establishment of the Maimonides Chair and Michael’s appointment to it add great distinction to the Department of Religious Studies.”

Alexander holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University and a B.A. in Oriental studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught previously at the University of Oklahoma and Temple University, where he also served as director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. At UCR he is affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Immigrant Religions.

He received a National Jewish Book Award for his first book, “Jazz Age Jews” (Princeton University Press, 2001). Among his other publications are “Golda and the Court Jew: Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger, and the Personas They Denied,” in “Gender and Jewish History” (Indiana University Press, 2010), “The Meaning of American Jewish History” in Jewish Quarterly Review (Summer 2006), and “Exile and Alienation in America” in American Jewish History (June 2002). He is at work on a new book, “Paths of Joy: Adventures in Religion and Therapy.”

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