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Naftali Cohn, PhD, he/him/his

Professor, Religions and Cultures
Chair, Religions and Cultures

Naftali Cohn, PhD, he/him/his

Naftali Cohn’s research focuses on Jewish Ritual. In his earlier work, he draws out the rhetorical force of literary choices made in the late-second century text, the Mishnah, in describing how ritual used to be performed in the Jerusalem Temple. His work on the Mishnah more widely explores the relationship between narrative, memory, ritual and gender and the self-construction of the rabbinic authors as authoritative legal figures. Currently he is preparing a book manuscript on the understanding of ritual in this ancient text as interpreted through the lenses of ritual theory, affect theory,and intersectional feminism. In addition, he is beginning a SSHRC-funded research project on the representation of Jewish ritual in recent film and television.He also continues to work on a smaller project on engaging Equity, Diversity,Inclusion, and Decolonizing insights into the pedagogy of the field of religious studies.



PhD (University of Pennsylvania)

Research interests

Ritual, Ritual Theory, Jewish Ritual in Film and Television, Intersectional Feminist Interpretation, Narrative Theory, Ancient Jewish Texts, Mishnah, Cultural History, Textual Interpretation



Field areas

Religion and Popular Culture (Film, Television)
Religions and Cultures in Late Antiquity
Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Teaching activities

Current Graduate Classes

Methods in the Religions and Cultures (Fall 2021)
Food, Sex, and Death in Judaism (Winter 2020, Fall 2022)
Introduction to the Talmud (Fall 2017)

Current Undergraduate Classes

Sex, Gender, and Jews (Winter 2022)
Moses Throughout the Ages (Rebels, Leaders, Saints) (Winter 2020)

Selected publications

“Mishnah as Utopia,” in What is Mishnah?, edited by Shaye JD Cohen, David Stern, and Noah Feldman, forthcoming.

“Ritual in the Mishnah,” in Ritual in Judaism, ed. Oliver Leaman, Routledge, forthcoming

"Bikkurim"; "Tamid"; and "Middot," translations and annotation/commentary, in The Oxford Annotated Mishnah, edited by Shaye JD Cohen, Robert Goldenberg, and Hayim Lapin, Oxford University Press, 2022

“The Complex Ritual Dynamics of Individual and Group Experience in theTemple, as Imagined in the Mishnah,” AJS Review 43,2 (November 2019):293–318

“Sacred Space in the Mishnah: From Temple to Synagogue and … City,” in Actes ducolloque La question de la «sacerdotalisation» dans le jadaïsme chrétien, lejudaïsme synagogal et le judaïsme rabbinique, ed. Simone C. Mimouni and Louis Painchaud, 85–121. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018.

“Ritual Failure,Ritual Success, and What Makes Ritual Meaningful in the Mishnah,” in Religions Studies and Rabbinics, edited by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander and Beth A. Berkowitz, 158–72. New York:Routledge, 2017.

“The Tabernacle, the Creation, and the Ideal of and Orderly World,”

“Heresiology in the Third Century Mishnah: Arguments for Rabbinic Legal Authority and the Complications of a Simple Concept.” Harvard Theological Review 108 (2015): 508–529.

History,Memory, and Jewish Identity. Co-edited with Ira Robinson and Lorenzo DiTommaso. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2015. 
“Sectarianismin the Mishnah: Memory, Modelling Society, and Rabbinic Identity.” In History, Memory, and Jewish Identity,edited by Ira Robinson, Naftali S. Cohn, and Lorenzo DiTommaso. Boston:Academic Studies Press, 2015, 31–54.     

“What to Wear: Women’s Adornment and Judean Identity in the Third Century Mishnah.”In Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity, edited by Kristi Upson-Saia, Alicia J. Batten, and Carly Daniel-Hughes, 21–36. Surrey: Ashgate, 2014.     

The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

"Domestic Women: Constructing and Deconstructing a Gender Stereotype in the Mishnah." In From Antiquity to the Postmodern World: Contemporary Jewish Studies in Canada, edited by Daniel Maoz and Andrea Gondos, 38-61. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011.

"When Women Confer with Rabbis: On Male Authority and Female Agency in the Mishnah." Journal of Textual Reasoning, 6,2 (March 2011) online journal

"Rabbis as Jurists: On the Representation of Past and Present Legal Institutions in the Mishnah." Journal of Jewish Studies, 60.2 (Fall 2009): 245-263.

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