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Shaul Kelner is Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. From 2012 to 2015, he served as director of Vanderbilt’s Program in Jewish Studies. His research addresses the intersection of culture and politics, and focuses particularly on how cultural practices are mobilized to shape contemporary Jewish political identities.
His award-winning book, Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism (NYU Press, 2010), examines how modern mass tourism is being developed as a means of engaging diaspora Jews with the State of Israel. With the support of Vanderbilt, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Michigan’s Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies, he is currently writing his second book, a study of social movements as agents of cultural change, focusing on the American mobilization to free Soviet Jews (1964-1991). Other work has focused on the environmental movement in Israel and shifting power dynamics in American Jewish philanthropy.
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 at 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). He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Association for Jewish Studies, and as chair of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Selection Committee.
For his book, Tours That Bind, Prof. Kelner is the recipient of 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 lectures nationally and internationally on the sociology of contemporary Jewish life.