Shaul Kelner is Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. His research addresses the intersection of culture and politics, and focuses on how cultural practices are mobilized to shape contemporary Jewish political identities.
Prof. Kelner is currently writing a book on the Cold War-era American mobilization to free Soviet Jews, analyzing how social movements serve as agents of cultural change. His first book, Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism (NYU Press, 2010), examined how modern mass tourism has been used to engage diaspora Jews with the State of Israel. Tours That Bind received the Association for Jewish Studies’ 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Social Sciences, Anthropology and Folklore, and an honorable mention for the American Sociological Association Culture Section’s 2011 Mary Douglas Book Prize.
Prof. Kelner received his Ph.D in Sociology in 2002 from the City University of New York, which he attended as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. Before arriving to Vanderbilt in 2005, he was Senior Research Associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, where his research focused on issues of identity, education, leadership and gender equity in the American Jewish community.
He has been a Fellow of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute for Advanced Studies (2004), and a visiting scholar in Tel Aviv University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology (2008-9). From 2012 to 2015, he directed Vanderbilt’s Program in Jewish Studies. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Jewish Studies, and currently serves as chair of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Selection Committee.
Prof. Kelner lectures nationally and internationally on the sociology of contemporary Jewish life.