Kenneth Moss
Kenneth Moss Office: The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, Mailbox 36
Chicago, IL 60637

William Rainey Harper Memorial Library,
West Tower, room 601 – Office
Office hours: Tuesday, 3:15-5:15pm Phone: (773) 834-9430 – Office telephone (773) 702-7550 – Fax Email Interests:

Modern Jewish history; Russian and Polish Jewry, East European Jewry; history of Jewish nationalism, Zionism, and Diasporism; modern Hebrew and Yiddish culture and literature; Jewish secularism and post-secularism; Palestine, Yishuv, Israel; history of the Holocaust and post-Holocaust Jewish culture, politics, and futurity; comparative history and sociology of nationalism; sociology of culture as an institution; history of social theory.

Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professor of Jewish History and the College

Stanford University, PhD '05


I am a historian of Jewish politics, culture, literature and thought in the modern era and in our own day. Trained in global Jewish history since the 18th century, I teach and lecture on many aspects of the modern Jewish experience, but my scholarship focuses particularly on Jewish political thought and struggle in Eastern Europe in the era of nationalism, on the unfinished history of secular Yiddish and Hebrew literary and cultural creativity, and – currently – on the forces that have shaped the deep conflicts that wrack Jewish life today in Israel and the United States.

Much of my work to date has asked how Jewish visions of cultural and political self-determination were realized, frustrated, unmade, or recast across the 20th century from Russia, Ukraine, and Poland to Palestine and Israel and what happened to Jews in the process.

In 2023, Yale University Press published a volume I co-edited with Israel Bartal, Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Volume 7 of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, National Renaissance and International Horizons, 1880–1918, offers an annotated collection of over 900 primary sources selected to try to encompass every major trend and genre in Jewish cultural production around the globe during the 1880-1918 period. These sources, drawn from nearly twenty languages, are to accompanied by a substantial scholarly apparatus: biographies and bibliographies of each of the authors/artists and a monograph-length introduction which comprises the first attempt I know of to offer a full synthetic account of the global and regional forces, ideological, philosophical, and aesthetic commitments, and political, economic, and cultural conditions that shaped Jewish creative life in this stormy era.

My 2021 book, An Unchosen People: Jewish Political Reckoning in Interwar Poland (Harvard University Press), traces how pre-Holocaust Europe’s largest Jewish community reckoned with nationalism’s pathologies, diaspora’s fragility, Zionism’s promises, and the problem of choice under conditions of powerlessness and danger. An Unchosen People combines intellectual and social history, examining the works of Polish Jewry’s most searching Zionist and Diasporist thinkers as they confronted political irrationality, state crisis, the crisis of culture, and the limits of resistance while also recovering a lost grassroots history of critical thought and political searching among ordinary Jews as they struggled to find a viable future for themselves—in Palestine if not in Poland, individually if not communally. Supported by a Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, An Unchosen People has received the 2022 National Jewish Book Award for History from the Jewish Book Council, the 2022 Oskar Halecki Award for Polish and East Central European History from the Polish Institute for Arts and Sciences in America (PIASA), and honorable mention for the 2022 Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).

My 2009 Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) examines the triumph and tragedy of bids for Yiddish and Hebrew cultural renaissance amidst total war and revolution. Recovering bold artistic creativity and nation-building undone by violence and repression, Jewish Renaissance demonstrates the intensity of Jewish engagement with the liberal ethos of culture and art as vehicles of freedom, and the surprisingly deep impact of that ethos on Jewish nationalism. Jewish Renaissance received the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and has now appeared in revised Hebrew translation as Yemei ha-ma’asim: tehiyat ha-tarbut ha-yehudit be-tkufat ha-mahpekhah ha-rusit (Jerusalem: Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 2023).

Thus, where the first arc of my research asks how Jews participated in a modern dream of freedom and self-determination through art, this second arc investigates how the East European Jewish experience speaks to two other, grimmer global histories: the history of progressive social thought’s ongoing struggle to make sense of the unexpected powers of the politics of hate and fear, and the history of minority confrontations with majority pathologies they cannot change and with the imperatives of communal triage under conditions of powerlessness and danger.

Lookin ahead, I am now turning my attention to the post-Holocaust and postwar Jewish world and to the conflicted Jewish life of our own time, with equal interest in the US, Israel and Palestine, and global Jewish itineraries. I am embarked on a study of the American Yiddish poet Arn Glanz-Leyeles, Jewish Americanism, and the fate of Jewish humanism after the Holocaust. I am pursuing research on East European Jewish refugee thought about fascism, religion, and reactionary politics, starting with the writings of Jewish refugees given shelter in wartime Japan.  A project provisionally entitled Israel’s Future: A History will investigate how state and military planners, intellectuals both establishment and anti-establishment, business circles, and now-dominant illiberal nationalist and ethnoreligious parties and thinktanks have approached Israel’s future (as well as the future of the occupied territories and the future – or interminable present – of the Palestinians under occupation) as an object of planning, debate, intervention, power, and critique in ethnopolitical, economic, security, political-theological, environmental, and global-catastrophic idioms.

Finally, I am embarking on a history of the Jewish present – a Jewish history for the 21st century organized not by the horizons and hopes of the 18th and 19th century (above all Enlightenment and Emancipation) but as an effort to better understand the phenomena that are recasting Jewish life today, many of them unexpectedly and in unanticipated ways. These include illiberal ethnonationalist political projects in Israel which are transforming that polity even as we speak; intense forms of religiosity that are not only centered in Israel but also now have a global reach; a multi-faceted gender revolution that now finds women at the center of organized Judaism and the question of gender equality at the heart of some of its fiercest debates; unprecedented forms of ‘post-Jewish’ hybridity in the US and Europe which suggest that much of what Jewish creativity will be and mean in coming decades will fall in an ever-widening space between complete disappearance on the one hand and all forms of organized and committed Judaism on the other; and Jewish participation in – and also new and disturbing roles and representations in – debates about global precarity, inequality, and disaster. An essay on the relations between religion and nationalism both in Judaism and in a comparative vein, written with Roger Friedland, captures some of my lines of thought about the first and second of these dimensions, as does an expanded version of the conclusion to my first book Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution, written in 2022 for the Hebrew translation thereof. 

From 2014 to 2020, I coedited the journal Jewish Social Studies with Tony Michels and Sarah Stein.

In 2021, I co-edited with Benjamin Nathans and Taro Tsurumi From Europe’s East to the Middle East: Israel’s Russian and Polish Lineages (University of Pennsylvania). 

I have also written comprehensive encyclopedia articles on the biography of Y. L. Peretz and the history of Jewish printing and publishing 

And, of course, I’ve written on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the construction of Irish American identity.

My work has appeared in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, German, and Portuguese. Between 2003 and 2021, I taught Jewish history in the city where Shaul Tshernikhovski's poetry first appeared in print.


Teaching Interests

In addition to introductory courses on modern Jewish history from the 18th century to the present, I have taught specialized seminars on East European Jewry, the history of Palestine and Israel from the Mandate period to the present, Jewish religion and secularity in Eastern Europe and Israel, 20th century Jewish politics and political thought, the history of the Holocaust, Jews and the city, and the history of the idea of Jewish culture. I teach in the Jewish Civ track at the University of Chicago. I have also taught undergraduate courses on 20th century social theory; the history and sociology of nationalism; and the transatlantic history of racial and national minorityhood 1880-1939 (with Michael Hanchard). At the graduate level, I teach modern Jewish historiography and have taught specialized seminars on modern Jewish politics; Mandate Palestine; histories of nationalism; the institution of culture; and theories and histories of secularism and religion in modernity and the present.

Recent Research / Recent Publications

Edited Volumes
  • Co-edited with Israel Bartal, Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization: Anthology of Primary Sources, Documents, Texts, and Artifacts in 10 Volumes, v. 7: National Renaissance and International Horizons, 1880–1918; editor in chief Deborah Dash Moore (Yale University Press, in process). On the Posen Library project:

  • Co-edited with Benjamin Nathans and Taro Tsurumi, From Europe’s East to the Middle East: Israel’s Russian and Polish Lineages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

  • Guest editor, The Journal of Israeli History, v. 27, 2 (September 2008), special section on “East European Jewry, Nationalism and the Zionist Project.”

Selected Articles and Chapters
  • “From Zionism as Ideology to the Yishuv as Fact: Polish Jewish Relations to Palestine on the Cusp of the 1930s,” in From Europe’s East to the Middle East: Israel’s Russian and Polish Lineages, ed. Moss, Benjamin Nathans, and Taro Tsurumi (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming).

  • [Co-authored with Roger Friedland], “Thinking through Religious Nationalism,” in Words: Religious Language Matters, eds. Asja Szafraniec and Ernst van den Hemel (Fordham University Press, 2016), 419-462.

  • “Negotiating Jewish Nationalism in Interwar Warsaw,” in Warsaw. The Jewish Metropolis, ed. Glenn Dynner and Francois Guesnet (Brill 2015), 390-434.

  • “Thinking with Restriction: Immigration Restriction and Polish Jewish Accounts of the Post-Liberal State, Empire, Race, and Political Reason 1926-1939,” East European Jewish Affairs 44:2-3 (December 2014): 205-224.

  • “At Home in Late Imperial Russian Modernity – Except When They Weren’t: New Histories of Russian and East European Jews, 1881-1914,” in Journal of Modern History, v. 84, 2 (June 2012): 401-452.

  • "Tsienizm in dem goles-natsyonalistishn gedank: Maks Vaynraykh in Palestine," in Afn shvel: gezelshaftlekh-literarisher zhurnal, n. 356-357 (Zumer-harbst 2012): 21-27.

  • “Arnold in Eishyshok, Schiller in Shnipishok: Imperatives of ‘Culture’ in East European Jewish Nationalism and Socialism” in Journal of Modern History, v. 81, 3 (September 2009): 537-578.

  • “Bringing Culture to the Nation: Hebraism, Yiddishism, and the Dilemmas of Jewish Cultural Formation in Russia and Ukraine, 1917-1919” in Jewish History 22 (2008): 263-294.

  • “1905 as a Jewish cultural revolution? Revolutionary and evolutionary dynamics in the East European Jewish cultural sphere, 1900-1914” in The Revolution of 1905 and Russia’s Jews: a Turning Point?, eds. Stefani Hoffman and Ezra Mendelsohn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 186-198.

  • "Not The Dybbuk but Don Quixote: Translation, Deparochialization, and Nationalism in Jewish Culture” in Culture Front: Representing Jews in Eastern Europe, ed. Benjamin Nathans and Gabriella Safran (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 196-240.

  • “Printing and Publishing: Printing and Publishing after 1800” in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, ed. Gershon Hundert (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).

  • “Yitshok Leybush Peretz,” in Dictionary of Yiddish Writers, ed. Joseph Sherman (Columbia, SC: Bruccoli, Clark, Layman, 2007).

  • Between Renaissance and Decadence: Literarishe Monatsshriften and its Critical Reception” in Jewish Social Studies, v. 8, 1 (Fall 2001): 153-198.

  • “St. Patrick's Day Celebrations and the Formation of Irish-American Identity, 1845-1875” in Journal of Social History, v. 29, 1 (Fall 1995): 125-148.