The Gruss Scholar-in-Residence will spend a year in full-time residence at NYU School of Law while researching and writing significant and publishable scholarship in an area related to Jewish law and/or the interaction between Jewish and American law. It is expected that at least one published article will result from the Scholar's year of residence; this article will be considered for publication in a working paper series of the Law School.
In addition, the Gruss Scholar will familiarize him/herself with the Gruss Library, so as to serve as a resource on its contents for members of the Law School community. The Scholar will supervise the continual updating and enriching of the Gruss Library and will act as the resident liaison between the library, the main Law School library and the rest of the Law School community. The Scholar will become fully integrated with the intellectual community of the Law School, regularly attending events of the School of Law, including the faculty colloquia and other similar events.
2023-2024 Gruss Scholar-in-Residence
Dr. Emmanuel Bloch
I came to the field of Jewish Studies after a successful first career as an Attorney-at-Law in Europe, where I worked for top-level legal offices in Geneva (Switzerland) and appeared in front of all instances, including the Swiss Supreme Court. But my true passion was Jewish Philosophy, and especially research on modern Jewish Law. I analyze how Jewish law responds to social evolution, moral development, and technological innovation. I am especially interested to understand how halakhic (legal) reflection serves as a medium through which rabbis engage the broader issues of life, including gender dynamics and the status of women, LGBTQ issues, political science, interfaith dialogue, mental health, etc.
Much of my early work was focused on nineteenth-century German neo-Orthodoxy, in the emancipatory era, a time when Jews started enjoying full equality (in law, if not always in fact). I analyzed how a foremost German rabbinic authority, Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann, looked at the institutions and representatives of Bismarckian Germany, and how his perception of non-Jews shaped his legal writings in subtle yet discernible ways.
The issues related to the status of women in Judaism, and the entanglement of law, religion and gender dynamics that these topics encapsulate, constitute another special area of scholarly interest. My doctoral thesis has examined how and why the concept of female modesty (tsni’ut), understood as an ethical imperative in traditional Jewish sources, has recently morphed into a legal domain of its own. My work in this domain strives to analyze the various factors that contributed to this change, the legal hermeneutics employed by rabbis to accomplish it, as well as its gender, legal and sociological implications.
I have published several aspects of my work in top-level peer-reviewed academic journals, and have just finished a year as Research Fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies (University of Pennsylvania).
Tsni’ut, between Law, Gender and Ideology: The Modern Metamorphosis of an Age-Old Concept.
Female modesty (tsni’ut) is a critically significant aspect of present-day Orthodox Judaism. In many circles, tsni'ut is presented to Orthodox girls and women not only as an important realm of religious observance, but as the quintessential arena of feminine religious expression, even equal in importance to Torah study for men. As such, it is understood as a pivotal religious duty, a form of feminine achievement, a path toward self-fulfillment, and a locus of social competition.
Yet this emphasis on female tsni’ut is historically unprecedented. Although modesty is a time-hallowed Jewish value, in the past it was notably less significant as a medium of Jewish religious expression. The rapid ascent of a vague socioreligious norm to the top of the pyramid of Jewish observance should be considered as no less than a fundamental revolution of values within a society that sanctifies conservatism.
I am writing the first book-length analysis of this phenomenon. I advance the idea that an essential, though often overlooked, key to understanding the critical evolution of contemporary tsni’ut is found in its legalization. I draw on a range of disciplines and approaches—from legal philosophy and translation studies to the classical tools of Jewish philosophy—to probe the wider contours and significance of the incorporation of modest female dress into Jewish law.
My project offers a unique and timely contribution to better comprehending how Orthodox Judaism and other sequestered enclave societies negotiate weighty and contemporary topics such as gender dynamics, the place of law, and sexuality and the body while struggling to maintain a façade of uninterrupted social, political, and religious continuity.
Previous Gruss Scholars-in-Residence
- Job Y. Jindo
- Hillel Mali
- Irit Offer Stark
- Adiel Zimran
- Debra Glasberg Gail
- Tamara Morsel-Eisenberg
- Shraga Bar-On
- Shivi Greenfield
- Ruth Kaniel Kara-Ivanov
- Job Y. Jindo
- Yehuda Septimus
- Rabbi Naftali Cohn
- Rabbi David Flatto
- Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein