Richard S. Sarason - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Richard S. Sarason, Rabbi, Ph.D.

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Director of the Pines School of Graduate Studies; Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought and The Deutsch Family Professor of Rabbinics and Liturgy


Rabbinical Program, Cincinnati; School of Graduate Studies, Cincinnati
Academic Field: 
Rabbinics and Liturgy; History; Language and Literature; Religions
Research Interests: 
Judaism in Late Antiquity; Early Rabbinic Literature; Midrashic and Talmudic Literature; Jewish Liturgy; Study of Religion

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Richard S. Sarason is Director of the Pines School of Graduate Studies, Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought, and The Deutsch Family Professor of Rabbinics and Liturgy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has been a faculty member since 1979.  Prior to that time, he was Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1977.  He was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, in 1974.  He received his A.B. in Economics from Brandeis University in 1969, and was a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1970 to 1972, while attending HUC-JIR.

He is the author of two books, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai (1979), and The Talmud of the Land of Israel:  A Preliminary Translation and Explanation. Tractate Demai (1993), as well as numerous articles in the areas of classical rabbinic literature and thought (Mishnah, midrash, liturgy).  He is the English translator (from the original Hebrew) of Joseph Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud: Forms and Patterns (1977), and co-editor, with Jacob Neusner, of The Tosefta, translated from the Hebrew.  First Division: Seder Zeraim. The Order of Agriculture.  He served as Associate Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual.

Dr. Sarason has taught at many Reform congregations around the country, and many programs of the Reform movement, among them URJ Summer Kallot, CCAR regional Kallot, Hadrachah Seminar for Lay Leadership, NATA certification program, Schindler Outreach Program, and Mifgash Musicale.  He is vice-chair, for HUC-JIR, of the Reform Movement’s Joint Commission on Worship, Synagogue Music, and Religious Living.  He was a member of the Siddur Editorial Advisory Committee that worked on Mishkan T’filah, the new Reform prayer book.  He authored a popular commentary on that prayer book and on the forthcoming Reform Mahzor, Mishkan HaNefesh, which appeared between May, 2008 and February, 2014 on the URJ’s Ten Minutes of Torah email-list and website. He is also an experienced choral musician with a strong interest in Jewish liturgical music.

He is married to Anne Arenstein; they have two sons, Jonathan and Michael.

Selected Publications and Edited Works

“The Past as Paradigm: Enactments of the Exodus Motif in Jewish Liturgy,” in Pamela Barmesh and W. David Nelson, eds., Exodus in Jewish Experience: Echoes and Reverberations (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015), pp. 53-110

“The Persistence and Trajectories of Penitential Prayer in Rabbinic Judaism,” and “Afterword,” in Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney A. Werline, eds., Seeking the Favor of God. Volume 3, The Impact of Penitential Prayer beyond Second Temple Judaism. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008, pp. 1-38, 255-264

“’The Voice is the Voice of Jacob’: Contemporary Developments in US-American Jewish Preaching, Homiletics and Homiletical Education,” in Alexander Deeg, Walter Homolka, and Heinz-Günther Schöttler, eds., Preaching in Judaism and Christianity: Encounters and Developments from Biblical Times to Modernity. Studia Judaica. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008, pp. 182-201

“Midrash in Liturgy,” in Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck, eds., Encyclopaedia of Midrash: Biblical Interpretation in Formative Judaism. 2 vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2005, 1:463-492

"Communal Prayer at Qumran and Among the Rabbis: Certainties and Uncertainties," in Esther G. Chazon, ed., Liturgical Perspectives: Prayer and Poetry in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature. 19-23 January, 2000.  Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003, pp. 151-172

"The 'Intersections' of Qumran and Rabbinic Judaism: The Case of Prayer Texts and Liturgies," in Dead Sea Discoveries 8 (2001), pp. 169-181

“History of the Haggadah” and “The Haggadah and Reform Judaism,” in The New Union Haggadah: Revised Edition (New York: CCAR Press, forthcoming in 2014)

Akeidah: Historical Background,” Nitzavim: Historical Background,” “Shofar Service: Historical Background,” Eileh Ezkerah: Historical Background,” “Yizkor: Historical Background,” Hin’ni: Historical Background,” in Machzor: Challenge and Change, vol. 2 (New York: CCAR Press, forthcoming in 2014)

Machzor: The Poetry of Truly Awe-Inspiring Days,” in CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Summer, 2013, 40-44

Un’taneh Tokef: Historical Background,” in Machzor: Challenge and Change (New York: CCAR Press, 2010), 19-23

Historical background annotations in “linear services” (Service 2) for Shabbat evening and morning, Mishkan T’fillah: A Reform Siddur (New York: CCAR Press, 2007)

Historical commentary to Mishkan T’filah and Mishkan HaNefesh, “Delving Into T’filah,” Ten Minutes of Torah (URJ email and website, 2008-2014)

Current and Future Courses
Midrash 401 (Midrashic Literature and Discourse)
Liturgy 401 (The Siddur)
Homiletical Midrashim
God’s Anger and God’s Love: Lamentations Rabbah and Song of Songs Rabbah
Tannaitic Midrashim
Independent Study in Midrashic Literature
The Mahzor
Reform Prayer Books
Contemporary and Creative Liturgies
The Amidah in Talmudic Literature: Mishnah, Tosefta, Yerushalmi, Bavli
Thinking About Religion: Approaches to the Study of Religion
Public Lecture Topics
Reform Prayer Books Then and Now
Music and Worship
The Rabbis Imagine God
Midrash: How the Rabbis Read Scripture