Jeffrey Hoffman


 Jeffrey Hoffman

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, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Jeffrey Hoffman is an assistant professor in the Department of Jewish Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary. His expertise is in Jewish liturgy. Dr. Hoffman teaches courses in all areas of Jewish liturgy and is especially interested in how the commandments to pray specified texts at specified times (keva) affect the ability of the worshiper to pray with heartfelt meaning (kavanah). That issue informs his ongoing work on his book-length commentary on the prayer book tentatively titled A Literary and Spiritual Commentary on the Siddur. He is also interested in the image of the Other (especially the non-Jew) in Jewish liturgy. That issue motivated his article on Aqdamut in the Spring 2009 issue of the Jewish Quarterly Review. He is currently preparing two more articles related to this topic: “The Image of the Other in Jewish Interpretations of Alenu,” and “Dating Alenu: A Review Essay.”

Jeffrey Hoffman holds a doctorate in Jewish Liturgy from The Jewish Theological Seminary. He also received rabbinic ordination, a master’s degree in Rabbinics, and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from JTS.

At the conclusion of the spring 2008 semester, Dr. Hoffman was named “List College Professor of the Year” by the students in the undergraduate division of JTS (Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies) for outstanding teaching. The following comments by students were presented as part of the award:

“Dr. Hoffman understands undergraduates and the unique position of List College students. He teaches with great integrity while maintaining a respect for the sheer quantity of work that every List student faces daily.”

“His insight into the prayers, combined with a fun-loving attitude, made Weekday Prayer Book one of the best classes I have had at List College, and Dr. Hoffman an inspiration in my Jewish intellectual and even spiritual journey.”

“He jumps at any opportunity to serve his students as a mentor, helping guide them through their winding academic and spiritual paths. Dr. Hoffman also goes the extra mile to engage with students about their own interests and is always eager to provide students with recommendations for internships, employment, and graduate school. Simply put, Professor Hoffman is personally invested in his students’ intellectual and spiritual growth both within his classroom and in years beyond.”

Publications

“Aqdamut: History, Folklore, and Meaning.” Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 99, no. 2, Spring 2009. An analysis of the 90-line, eleventh century, Aramaic piyyut recited on the first day of Shavu’ot, including a new translation of Aqdamut with its midrashic allusions fully annotated. The paper posits that a well-known medieval Yiddish tale provides the key to this prayer’s outliving, by many centuries, its original purpose of introducing the Targum for the first day of Shavu’ot. The conclusion is that a series of confluences contributed to the perception of the piyyut as offering consolation to Ashkenazic Jewry over the losses sustained during the First Crusade in the Rhineland.

Siddur Tisha B’Av (2003, 2008). In 2003, he served as editor of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Siddur Tisha B’Av. His responsibilities included planning the structure and content of the Siddur, coordinating the contributions of other colleagues to the volume, and preparing the book for publication. His own contributions included the translations, annotations, and introductions for all of the Kinot (medieval dirges). By 2007, the first printing of the Siddur was sold out. In 2008, he revised the Siddur for the second edition, correcting mistakes and adding several new features.

Review of The High Holidays: A Commentary on the Prayerbook of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Hayyim Herman Kieval, Conservative Judaism, Fall 2006.

Karov L’Chol Korav, For All Who Call: A Manual for Enhancing the Teaching of Prayer (2000).
He was commissioned by the Melton Research Center of The Jewish Theological Seminary to co-author, with Andrea Kiener-Cohen, a new manual for the teaching of prayer from an experiential perspective.

Review of Beyond the Text: A Holistic Approach to Liturgy by Lawrence A. Hoffman, Conservative Judaism, Spring 1994.

“The Ancient Torah Service in Light of the Realia of the Talmudic Era,” Conservative Judaism, Winter 1989-90.

“The Surprising History of the Musaf Amidah,” Conservative Judaism, Fall 1989.

Course List

Introduction to Liturgy (The Weekday Prayer Book). Dr. Hoffman teaches this course on the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has taught the graduate version for many years both as a regular in-class course and as an Internet-based, distance learning course (using the Internet program Blackboard).
Issues in the Development of the Weekday Prayer Book. An advanced course, taught in Hebrew, on the primary sources that underlie the texts of the Weekday Prayer Book. This course was conceived, developed, and taught by Dr. Hoffman. He introduced it at JTS in the spring of 2007.
The Liturgy of Shabbat and the Three Festivals.
The Liturgy of the High Holidays.
The Early Development of the Liturgy. An advanced course on the primary sources that underlie the texts of Shabbat and festival prayers. This course was conceived, developed, and taught by Dr. Hoffman. He introduced it at JTS in the fall of 2007.
Living Liturgy: Music, Meditation, and Matbea. An exploration of the interplay between the texts of the prayer book and the actual experience of worship. Dr. Hoffman was asked to develop and teach this course by the dean of the JTS Rabbinical School. He introduced it for the first time at JTS in fall, 2008.
Commentaries on the Prayer Book.
Integrated Seminar. A course designed to help rabbinical students integrate the academic study of Judaism with the development of a personal theology and pattern of religious observance.

Dr. Hoffman served as an assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, British Columbia, for three years (1981–84), and as rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel in Nyack, New York, for twenty years (1984–2004).

Dr. Hoffman has played electric guitar in bands ranging from Havurat HaZemer of the Hebrew University in 1975 to his current band, “Shake, Rabbis, and Roll” (www.shakerabbisandroll.com).

Lecture Topics

Dr. Hoffman enjoys speaking to groups within the academic community and beyond, at synagogues, Jewish community centers, and in interfaith settings. He has recently spoken at several synagogues and a number of conferences on Jewish Education. He also recently appeared as one of a series of speakers from different traditions at the Tibet Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Lecture Topics On Prayer

To Whom Do We Pray? A Discussion Of This Word God
Why Do We Pray? Set Prayer Versus Spontaneous Prayer
How Do We Pray? Meditation and Jewish Prayer: An Experiential Workshop
The Connection Between Prayer and Healing
The Image of the Non-Jew in Jewish Liturgy
Lecture Topics on Jewish Spirituality

The Erotic Experience of God
The Experience of God in Nature as Reflected in Jewish Holy Texts
The Human Being as a Reflection of God
Anger at God as Part of Jewish Spirituality
The Experience of God and the Human Body
“Normal Mysticism” The Experience of God in the Variety of Jewish Blessings

Areas of Interest



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