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Jewish Studies


Lois C. Dubin
Professor of Religion

email Send E–mail office Office: Pierce Hall 106
W 2-4

phone Phone: 585–3676

Office hours: Tuesday 10:30 a.m or Thursday 2:00-3:00 p.m. or by appointment


Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Professor Dubin earned her B.A. from McGill University with honors in philosophy and political theory. She received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University (1980 and 1988), specializing in post–biblical Jewish history and thought in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Prior to joining the Smith religion department in 1989, she taught modern Jewish history and taught at Yale University and Hebrew College, Boston.

Professor Dubin's scholary interests include: early modern and modern Jewish history and thought; Jewish history in Central and Western Europe, especially Italy and Habsburg Monarchy; Jewish intellectual history; Jewish legal status, politics, and political theory; history of marriage and divorce; Jewish women's history, spirituality, and theology; contemporary Judaism; and the study of ritual and ritual innovation.

Her course offerings include Intro to World Religions; Approaches to the Study of Religion (Colloquium for Religion majors); Contemporary Judaism: Renewal and Invention; Hebrew Religious Texts; Insiders/Outsiders I & II (Jews and Judaism in Modern Europe, 1492 to 1791 and Jews and Judaism in Modern Europe and America, 19th -21st c.); Jews and Judaism in the Modern World, 1492 to the present; Jewish Spirituality: Philosophers and Mystics ; Judaism, Feminism, Women’s Spirituality; and seminars on topics in Jewish Religion and Culture such as Judaism, the Enlightenment and Religious Diversityand Tying and Untying the Knot: Women, Marriage and Divorce in Judaism.

Professor Dubin has served on the editorial boards of several international journals, including: Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture and Society; Jewish History (Haifa University); Jahrbuch des Simon–Dubnow–Instituts/Yearbook of the Simon Dubnow Institute (Leipzig University); and Austrian History Yearbook. Professor Dubin has lectured widely in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Austria, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, and South Africa and she is active in several professional organizations including the Association for Jewish Studies, the Society for Austrian and Habsburg History (Executive Committee), and the Hadassah–Brandeis Institute on Jewish Women.

Professor Dubin is on leave/sabbatical in the Spring of 2010.

Selected Publications
The Port Jews of Habsburg Trieste: Absolutist Politics and Enlightenment Culture, Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). This book was awarded the 2000 Barbara Jelavich Prize in Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman history by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and was a Finalist in the 1999 National Jewish Book Awards, History category.

Guest Editor, “Port Jews of the Atlantic,” Special Issue of Journal Jewish History 20: 2 (2006); “Introduction: Port Jews in the Atlantic World,” 117-127.

“Jewish Women, Marriage Law, and Emancipation: The Civil Divorce of Rachele Luzzatto Morschene in Late Eighteenth-century Trieste,” Jewish Social Studies n.s. 13:2 (Winter 2007): 65-92.

“Subjects into Citizens: Jewish Autonomy and Inclusion in Early Modern Livorno and Trieste," Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts / Simon-Dubnow-Institute Yearbook 5 (2006): 51-81.

“ ‘Wings on their feet … and wings on their head’: Reflections on the Study of  Port Jews,” Jewish Culture and History 7: 1-2 (2004), special issue on Port Jews, 14-30; reprinted in David Cesarani/ Gemma Romaine, eds., Jews and Port Cities, 1590-1990: Commerce, Community, and Cosmopolitanism (London:Vallentine Mitchell, 2006),14-30.

The first duty of nature is to preserve life”: A Jewish Woman’s Plea for Divorce in late 18th-century Trieste," Translation and introduction, Early Modern Workshop, Jewish History Resources, vol. 3 (2006): Gender, Family, and Social Structures.

“Enlightenment and Emancipation,” in Nicholas de Lange/ Miri Freud-Kandel, eds., Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 29-41.

“On the Utility of Port Jews Past and Present (Hebrew),”in Shmuel Feiner/ Israel Bartal, eds., New Perspectives on the Haskalah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2005), 79-90.

"Renew Me Like the Moon: Toward Healing after Miscarriage," at Ritualwell.org, Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Ma’yan: The Jewish Women's Project, 2003.

"Between Toleration and ‘Equalities’: Jewish Status and Community in Pre-Revolutionary Europe," Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts / Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook 1 (2002): 219-234.

"Who’s Blessing Whom? Transcendence, Agency and Gender in Jewish Prayer,"
Cross Currents 52:2 (2002): 19-30.

"Researching Port Jews and Port Jewries: Trieste and Beyond," Jewish Culture and History 4:2 (2001), special issue on Port Jews, 47-58; reprinted in David Cesarani, ed., Port Jews: Jewish Communities in Cosmopolitan Maritime Trading Centres, 1550-1950 (London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2002), 47-58.

"The Rise and Fall of the Italian Jewish Model in Germany: From Haskalah to Reform, 1780-1820," in Elisheva Carlebach/ Jon Efron/ David N. Myers, eds., Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (Hanover, N.H.: New England University Press, 1998), 271-295.

"The Social and Cultural Context: Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment," in Daniel Frank/ Oliver Leaman, eds., History of Jewish Philosophy, Routledge History of World Philosophies, vol. 2 (London: Routledge, 1997), 636-659.

"A Ceremony of Remembering, Mourning, and Healing After Miscarriage," Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism, no. 4 (5756, Winter 1995-1996), 67-79.

"Pe'er Ha-Adam of Vittorio Hayim Castiglioni: An Italian Chapter in the History of Jewish Response to Darwin", in Yakov Rabkin/ Ira Robinson, eds., The Interaction of Scientific and Jewish Cultures in Modern Times (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1995), 87-101.

"Les Liaisons dangereuses: Mariage juif et état moderne à Trieste au XVIIIe siècle," Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 49:5 (1994), 1139-1170.

"Fullness and Emptiness, Fertility and Loss: Meditations on Naomi's Tale in the Book of Ruth," in Judith A. Kates and Gail Twersky Reimer, ed., Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), 131-144, 371-373.

Recent Work:
Rachele and Her Loves: Marriage and Divorce in a Revolutionary Age (under contract with New England University Press). This book reconstructs and analyzes the efforts of one of the first Jewish women to initiate a civil divorce.  This tale of a Triestine Jewish woman's struggle for personal autonomy--which involves charges of adultery and venereal disease, two partners, and her negotiating three sets of laws, Jewish, Habsburg, and French--affords a novel way of studying the changing dynamics of individuals, religion, and the state in modern Jewish history, and specifically the relation between political emancipation and women’s personal emancipation.

Co-director of “Marriage and Divorce,” year-long interdisciplinary research seminar of faculty and students, Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, Smith College, 2006-07. 

"Feminist Rituals: A Conversation with Rabbi Nina Cardin, Professor Lois Dubin, and Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.com," episode of Motherhood Lost: Conversations, an educational television series on an innovative women's health approach to pregnancy loss co-produced by Linda Layne and Heather Bailey at George Mason University Television, Fairfax, VA, hosted by Linda Layne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (filmed in 2007).