HUC-JIR Announces Three New Faculty Appointments

April 27, 2023

We are delighted to announce three new tenure-track appointments to the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Starting July 1, 2023, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible Kristine Henriksen Garroway will be promoted to Professor of Hebrew Bible, and Ben Ratskoff will transition from Visiting Assistant Professor to Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish History and Culture. Rachel Smith will join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish History and Culture starting July 1, 2024. All three will be based on the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, where they will teach primarily in the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at USC and the Rabbinical School, along with other programs at the College-Institute.

Kristine Henriksen GarrowayKristine Henriksen Garroway received her doctorate in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 2009 and joined our faculty as a Visiting Professor in 2011 and was appointed Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible in 2022. Her scholarship focuses on children in the ancient world, using archaeology and texts from the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern sources. Her books include Children in the Ancient Near Eastern Household (Eisenbrauns, 2014), the award-winning Growing Up in Ancient Israel: Children in Material Culture and Biblical Texts (Society of Biblical Literature, 2018), and numerous other publications, including a recent festschrift for her former teacher and colleague, HUC-JIR Professor Emerita Dr. Nili Fox (The Body: Lived, Cultured, Adorned, HUC Press, 2022).

“Dr. Garroway has distinguished herself as a pioneering and prolific scholar and a dedicated teacher,” said Provost Andrea Weiss. “A proud graduate of the Pines School of Graduate Studies, she has earned a stellar reputation as a leader in the field of childist biblical interpretation who well deserves the title of Full Professor.”

Benjamin Ratskoff, Ph.D.Ben Ratskoff completed his doctorate at UCLA in Comparative Literature in 2021. His work sits at the intersection of multiple fields, including history, Black studies, Jewish studies, and comparative ethnic and racial studies. He teaches on memory, memorialization, antisemitism, and the Holocaust and has produced significant scholarship, including “James Baldwin’s Black Critique of Jewish Whiteness” for Jewish Studies Quarterly (2020) and “Improbable Spectacles: White Supremacy, Christian Hegemony, and the Dark Side of the Judenfrage” for Studies in American Jewish Literature (2020).

“Dr. Ratskoff represents three important trends in contemporary scholarship: interdisciplinarity, rewriting narratives, and engaging with contemporary issues,” notes Vice Provost Sarah Bunin Benor. “He asks new questions, offers new approaches to old questions, and finds answers that run counter to long-held assumptions. While his work focuses on the past, it speaks to issues central in the contemporary political discourse.”

Rachel SmithRachel Smith will receive her doctorate in History from UCLA in June 2023, after earning an MA in Jewish History and Education from The Jewish Theological Seminary in 2017. Her interdisciplinary scholarship explores the history and politics of Jewish ethnography in the late Ottoman world. Against the backdrop of expanding empires, the rise of anthropology, and shifting notions of race, she examines how Sephardic writers and thinkers produced, circulated, and mobilized ethnographic knowledge in the service of various reformist ideologies. She will turn her dissertation, “‘The Jews of Yesteryear’: Ethnography and the Politics of Representation in the Late Ottoman World,” into a book-length monograph as a 2023-24 Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University.

“By bringing together the texts of everyday life, Rachel Smith explores the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and brings to life a rich tradition with acumen and curiosity,” remarks Leah Hochman, Director of the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies and Chair of the search committee. “It is already clear that her work will make a significant impact on our understanding of the diaspora experience of Jews throughout North Africa and the Middle East.”

“I am thrilled to appoint these three remarkable scholars to these positions – especially at this critical time in our history as an academic institution,” said President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. “Each of them – through their scholarship, teaching, and professional leadership – represents the best of what HUC-JIR brings to Reform Judaism and the broader Jewish community, the contemporary higher education landscape, and the wider world. Collectively, and in collaboration with the rest of our stellar faculty, they will further the mission the College-Institute and positively impact the formation of students across HUC-JIR’s campuses and programs.”

Please join us in extending them our most enthusiastic congratulations!