Associate Professor (2006)
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 3:30-5:00 and by appt.
Office: 236 Nau Hall
Phone: (434) 924-6408
Email: james.loeffler (at) virginia.edu
Fields & SpecialtiesJewish 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 Mention
- 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, forthcoming from Yale University Press.
The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, ed. with Moria Paz, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
“The Particularist Pursuit of American Universalism: The American Jewish Committee’s 1944 “Declaration on Human Rights,” Journal of Contemporary History 50:2 (October 2014): 274-95. DOI: 10.1177/0022009414546508.
"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.
"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.
“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).
"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, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
“When Hermann Cohen Cried: Zionism, Music, Emotion,” in Zionism as a Cultural Movement, eds. Israel Bartal and Rachel Rojanski, forthcoming from Brill Publishers.
“The Famous Trinity of 1917: Zionism and Internationalism in Interwar Jewish Political Thought,” Yearbook of the Simon Dubnow Institute, Special Conference volume (in preparation).
“The Holocaust and Human Rights: A Reconsideration,” in Shirli Gilbert and Avril Alba, eds., Holocaust Memory, Race and Racism in the Postwar World (in preparation).
"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.
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).
Awards and Activities
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
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, Rooted Cosmoplitans: Human Rights and Jewish Politics in the Twentieth Century, looks at the Jewish role in building and critiquing the modern human rights movement during and 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 1920s 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. I pursue this story through the intersecting lives of five key figures: Peter Benenson, the British Jewish-Catholic founder of Amnesty International; Jacob Blaustein, the American Jewish philanthropist, communal leader, and human rights advocate in mid-century U.S. foreign policy; Jacob Robinson, the Lithuanian Jewish lawyer and Zionist politician who helped design the Nuremberg Trials, the Eichmann Trial, and the UN Commission on Human Rights; Hirsch Zvi Lauterpacht, the Polish-born Zionist leader and international lawyer who wrote important drafts of both the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Israeli Declaration of Independence; and Rabbi Maurice Perlzweig, the World Jewish Congress representative at the UN who helped invent the modern NGO (non-governmental organization). Samples of this new work can be found here and here. Connected to this work, I am currently co-editing an anthology devoted to Jewish lawyering and international legal thought in the twentieth century, briefly described here.
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 book, The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2010), examines the role of music and nationalism in the formation of modern Jewish identity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Russia. I have expanded on the politics of music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union by looking more closely at nineteenth-century Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust theme in the World War II-era Soviet Union.
Other related articles on Jewish cultural nationalism include studies of antisemitism's impact on modern Jewish culture and the place of music in Zionist and Israeli culture. The latter topic forms the basis for an ongoing study in collaboration with ethnomusicologist Edwin Seroussi: a transnational biography of Avraham Zvi Idelsohn and Hebrew music across Imperial Germany, late Ottoman Palestine and British Mandatory Palestine, the United States, South Africa, and Israel.
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.