James Loeffler

Associate Professor

(434) 924-6408
236 Nau Hall
Office Hours: W 10:30-12:00 & by appt.

Field & Specialties

Jewish history
European history
International history
Human rights history


B.A. Harvard University, 1996
M.A. Columbia University, 2000
Ph.D. Columbia University, 2006




The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010; paperback edition, 2013).

  • Association for Jewish Studies Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in Cultural Studies and Media Studies, Honorable MentionŸ
  • Foundation for Jewish Culture Sidney and Hadassah Musher Publication Award for Outstanding First Book in  Field of Jewish Studies
  • Association for Jewish Studies Cahnmann Publication Award for Outstanding First Book in the Field of Jewish Studies
  • American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) Deems Taylor-Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology Book
  • Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies for outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies
  • Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature of the Jewish Book Council, Finalist
  • Historia Nova Prize for the Best Book on Russian Intellectual History, Long List


Rooted Cosmopolitans: Human Rights and Jewish Politics in the Twentieth Century, in preparation.


The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, ed. with Moria Paz, in preparation.



Journal Articles

"The Particularist Pursuit of American Universalism: The American Jewish Committee’s 1944 Declaration on Human Rights," Journal of Contemporary History (October 2014).


“‘In Memory of Our Murdered (Jewish) Children’: Hearing the Holocaust in Soviet Jewish Culture,” Slavic Review 73:3 (Fall 2014).


 "Nationalism without a Nation? On the Invisibility of American Jewish Politics," Jewish Quarterly Review, forthcoming.


"Promising Harmonies: The Aural Politics of Polish-Jewish Relations in the Russian Empire,” Jewish Social Studies (Summer 2015).


"The Lust Machine: Commerce, Sound and Nationhood in Jewish Eastern Europe," draft manuscript.


"How Zionism Became Racism: International Law, Antisemitism, and Jewish Lawyering at the United Nations, 1945-1975," draft manuscript.


"Did Zionism Destroy Diaspora Nationalism?" draft manuscript.


"'The Conscience of America': Human Rights, Jewish Politics, and American Foreign Policy at the United Nations San Francisco Conference, 1945," Journal of American History, 100 (September 2013): 401-28.


“‘A Special Kind of Antisemitism’: On Russian Nationalism and Jewish Music,” Yuval Online. Studies of the Jewish Music Research Center (2013).


"The Holocaust and Human Rights: A New Perspective," in preparation.


"The Missing Decade: The Forgotten Roots of  Raphael Lemkin's "Genocide" in 1920s Polish Zionism," in preparation.


“Between Zionism and Liberalism: Oscar Janowsky and Diaspora Nationalism in America,” Association for Jewish Studies Review 34:2 (November 2010), 289-308.


“Do Zionists Read Music from Right to Left? Avraham Zvi Idelsohn and the Invention of Israeli Music,” Jewish Quarterly Review 100:3 (Summer 2010), 385-416.


“Israeli Music at 60: New Perspectives,” Introduction and Guest Editorship of Special Issue of Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 7:2 (2008-2009).


“Richard Wagner’s Jewish Music: Antisemitism and Aesthetics in Modern Jewish Culture,”Jewish Social Studies 15:2 (Winter 2009 [New Series]), 2-36.


Book Chapters

"Hersch Lauterpacht and the Zionist Rights of Man: Rethinking Jewish Legal Internationalism," to appear in The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, under review.


"The Features on My Face: Vladimir Stasov, Dmitrii Shostakovich, and Russian Philosemitism Reconsidered," Jewish Music in Eastern and Central Europe. Conference Proceedings, 2011 (in preparation).


“‘A Special Kind of Antisemitism’: On Russian Nationalism and Jewish Music” and “Three Jews, Two Opinions: Revisiting the Great Yiddish Folk Song Debate of 1901” On the History of Jewish Music in Russia, Volume 3 [Russian], eds. G. Kopytova and A. Frenkel (St. Petersburg: Russian Institute for the History of the Arts), forthcoming.


“Music,” Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture, ed. Dan Diner, in association with the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, Leipzig. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler Verlag, 2014.


“International Law,” Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture, ed. Dan Diner, in association with the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, Leipzig. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler Verlag, forthcoming.


“Joel Engel and the Development of Jewish Musical Nationalism [Russian],” On the History of Jewish Music in Russia. Volume 2. [Russian], eds. G. Kopytova and A. Frenkel (St. Petersburg: Russian Institute for the History of the Arts, 2006).


English Translation of Vassily Grossman story, “Stary Uchitel’,” in Maxim Shrayer, ed., An Anthology of Russian-Jewish Literature, 1800-2000 (M. E. Sharpe, 2006).


Di Rusishe Progresiv Muzikal Yunyon No. 1 af Amerike: The First Klezmer Union in the United States” in American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots, ed. Mark Slobin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).


“Neither the King’s English nor the Rebbetzin’s Yiddish: Yinglish Literature in America,” in American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni, ed. Marc Shell. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).


Current Research

I work broadly on the intersection of Jewish culture, politics, and identity in modern Eastern Europe, Israel, and the United States. My current book project, The Vanishing Minority: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, looks at the Jewish role in building and critiquing the modern human rights movement after World War II, focusing on  American, European, and Israeli Jewish political activity in international legal circles and at the United Nations over the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. I aim through this work to rethink Jewish internationalism and the history of modern Jewish politics across the twentieth century, as well as relations between the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. A sample of this new work can be found here. Connected to this work, I am currently co-editing an anthology devoted to Jewish lawyering and international legal thought in the twentieth century.


In a related project, I reexamine the history of Zionism, offering a new theory of the relationship between Zionism and Diaspora Nationalism in modern Jewish politics. By rereading the political writings of interwar American and East European Zionist leaders, and retrieving forgotten moments in global Jewish political organization (including the 1918 American Jewish Congress, the 1927 European Congress of Minorities, the 1943 American Jewish Conference, the 1945 San Francisco UN Conference, and the 1960 Paris Conference on Soviet Jewry), I argue for a reconceptualization of nationalism, liberalism, and minority rights in twentieth-century Jewish political history. My goal is to demonstrate how Zionist internationalism shaped European, American, and Israeli Jewish attitudes towards modern statehood and global nationhood before and after 1948. I have written a number of articles on this topic, two of which can be found here and here. Eventually I intend to write a new intepretitive history of Zionism based on this work. 


My first bookThe Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2010), examines the role of music in the formation of modern Jewish national identity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Russia. Related articles include studies of antisemitism's impact on modern Jewish  culture and the place of music in Zionist and Israeli culture.


I also have published extensively in the field of Jewish musical studies, with a specialization in the history of Jewish folk and art music traditions in Eastern Europe. Much of this research has informed my current non-academic writing about contemporary Holocaust memory and Jewish cultural identity in American society, including recent articles on "The Death of Jewish Culture" in Mosaic Magazine and "Richard Wagner's Antisemitism," in The New Republic. The artistic fruits of this academic research can be seen in my work with the Pro Musica Hebraica concert series at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Awards & Honors

Robert A. Savitt Fellow, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Spring 2015.

Kluge Fellow, John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, Fall 2014.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Faculty Fellow, 2013-2014.

Association for Jewish Studies, Board Member, 2013-2016

Association for Jewish Studies, C0-Chair, Conference Division on Modern Jewish History in Europe, Asia, Israel and Other Communities, 2014-2015

Academic Advisory Council, Center for Jewish History, 2011-2014

Scholar-in-Residence, Pro Musica Hebraica Foundation, Washington, DC

Non-Resident Research Fellow, Jewish Music Research Centre, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Academic Vice-Chair, The Jewish Music Forum, American Society for Jewish Music, 2006-present

University of Virginia Buckner W. Clay Endowment Faculty Award, 2011-2012

American Council for Learned Societies/National Endowment for the Humanities/Social Science Research Council Combined Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research on Eastern Europe and Eurasia, 2009-2010

University of Virginia Mead Honored Professors Teaching Award, 2009-2010

Irene Fromer Fellow in Jewish Studies, Columbia University, 2005-2006

Hays-Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Research Award to Russia and Ukraine, 2003-2004

National Foundation for Jewish Culture Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-2004

Center for Jewish History Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2002-2003

Wexner Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1998-2002