Reuven Firestone, Ph.D.

Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam

Contact Information

school/program: Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, Rabbinical School (US)
academic field: History, Jewish Language and Literature, Rabbinics and Liturgy
campus: Los Angeles, National

Reuven Firestone received his B.A. in 1974 from Antioch College, attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, earned his M.A. in Hebrew Literature in 1980 and his rabbinical ordination in 1982 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and his Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1988 from New York University. From 1987 to 1992, he taught Hebrew literature and directed the Hebrew and Arabic language programs at Boston University. In 1992 he was awarded the Yad Hanadiv Research Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he spent the year conducting research on holy war in Islamic tradition.

In 2000, Professor Firestone was awarded a fellowship for independent research from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his research on holy war in Judaism, was chosen to be a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002, received the Fulbright CASA III Fellowship for study and research at the American University in Cairo in spring of 2006, and the D.A.A.D. (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) grant to teach at the University in Potsdam, Berlin in 2012-2013.

Firestone was resident fellow at the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California in 2016, the Sigi Feigel Visiting Professor at the University of Zürich in 2018, and is a recipient of the Alexander Von Humboldt Stiftung Advanced Research Award that funds his work on Muhammad in Jewish literatures for the years 2017-2019. Since 1993 he has served as associate and full professor, and then appointed the Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. Professor Firestone founded the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE), a joint program of HUC-JIR, the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. He served as vice president of the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) and president of the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA).

Firestone was an early member of the “Voice of Peace” radio project run by Abie Nathan on the Peace Ship in 1973-1974, including during the Yom Kippur War. The “Voice of Peace” was a news and music source in international waters of the eastern Mediterranean and the first Mid-East news service untainted by government interference in the Middle East. He has lived with his family in Israel, Egypt, and Germany, and has initiated and been involved in numerous projects and initiatives which bring together Jews and Muslims, Jews and Arabs, and Israelis and Palestinians.

Firestone has written over one hundred scholarly articles and eight books, including Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Interpretation (SUNY Press), Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam (Oxford University Press), Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims (Ktav), Jews, Christians, Muslims in Dialogue: A Practical Handbook, with Leonard Swidler and Khalid Duran (Twenty-Third Publications), Introduction to Islam for Jews (Jewish Publication Society), Who Are the Real Chosen People? The Meaning of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Skylight Paths), and Holy War in Judaism: the Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea (Oxford University Press, 2012). His books and articles have been translated into Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, Bengali, Russian, French, Serbian, Czech, Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian, German, and Indonesian.

He regularly lectures and leads workshops in churches, synagogues, and mosques throughout the US and abroad. Firestone is currently chair of the International Abrahamic Forum of the International Council of Christians and Jews, and travels regularly in Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East for public speaking and teaching.

Islam & Democracy: Compatible?

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Dialogue And Dissent: Abraham and Covenant in Three Scriptures

Abraham: The First Jew, Christian or Muslim? A Comparative Study of the Patriarch from the Perspectives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Who are the (Real) Chosen People? The Meaning of Divine Election in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Arabian Origins and the Emergence of Islam

Muhammad and the Jews of Medina: The Problematic of Emerging Religions

The Five Pillars Of Islam: An Introduction to Islam and its relationship with Judaism

Jewish-Muslim Relations: A Historical Perspective

Whose Jerusalem? The Holy City in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Divine Authority and Mass Violence: Holy War in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Jihad: Its Meaning, Historical Application, and Influence on the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Islam and Suicide Bombings: How the Forbidden Became Acceptable

Holy War in Judaism: The Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea

Antisemitism & Islamophobia: Origins, History, Relationship

What Does Islam Really Say About Jews And Judaism (or Jews & Christians and Judaism and Christianity)? A study of the classic Islamic texts

How Do We See Each Other? Classic and Contemporary Views of Jews and Muslims toward the Other

Jews under Christendom, Jews under Islam

Islam in America: Old Muslims, Black Muslims, New Muslims

Comparative Text Study in Bible & Qur’an: Adam and Eve in the Garden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, A Family Feud: Sarah & Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, The Story of Joseph, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Moses and the Burning Bush, The Exodus from Egypt, The Sinai Experience, Tzedakah, Kosher/Halal Food Laws, etc.

If There Is Only One God, Why Are There So Many Monotheisms? A Study of Monotheistic Religions.

Why Jews Don’t Proselytize

How do Jews Polemicize?

MAINstream and EXtreme in Religion

Islam and the Arab Spring. Where did it Come from and Where is it Going?

Islam and ISIS. What is the Connection?

Is The Qur’an Antisemitic?

Medieval Biblical Commentaries


Introduction to Islam

Introduction to the Qur’an

Literatures of Exclusion

Interreligious Dialogue: Theory & Practice

Reading Scripture as Skeptic & Believer: The Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Qur’an

Holy War and History

Jerusalem as Holy City

The Problematic of Prophethood

Qur’anic Narrative in its Religious/Historical Context

B.A., Antioch College, 1974

M.A. in Hebrew Literature, HUC-JIR, 1980 

Rabbinical Ordination, HUC-JIR, 1982 

Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, New York University, 1988