Associate Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Associate Professor of Jewish Studies
Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor of Jewish Culture
Office: 506 N. Fess 103
Phone: (812) 855-0141
E-mail: cohenjm indiana.edu
- Ph.D. Harvard University, 2002
- Music in Jewish life; American music; musical theater; popular culture; Caribbean Jewish history; diaspora; medical ethnomusicology
Courses Recently Taught
- Exploring Jewish Identity Today
- Music in Judaism
- What Makes it Jewish?
- American Jewish Popular Music
- Readings in Jewish Ethnography
- Musical Reponses to HIV/AIDS
- Ethnic Representation in American Musical Theater
Awards and Distinctions
- Trustees Teaching Award (2011)
- Greater Hudson Heritage Network 2011 Award for Excellence for his book Sounding Jewish Tradition: The Music of Central Synagogue
- The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.
- Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 2004.
- "Music Institutions and the Transmission of Tradition." Ethnomusicology 53, #2 (Spring/Summer 2009): 308-325.
- "Hip-Hop Judaica: The Politics of Representin' Heebster Heritage." Popular Music 28, #1 (Winter 2009): 1-18.
- "Musical Tradition and the Crisis of Place: Reform Jewish Songleading, Shabbat Shirah, and the New Dining Hall." Western Folklore 67, #4 (February 2009): 321-349.
- "Whither Jewish Music?: Jewish Studies, Music Scholarship, and the Tilt Between Seminary and University." AJS Review 32
- "The Jewish Sound of Things." Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art & Belief. 3(3) (2007): 336-353.
"'And the Youth Shall See Visions...': Summer Camps, Songleading and Musical Identity Among American Reform Jewish Teenagers." In Susan Boynton and Roe-Min Kok, eds. Musical Childhoods and the Cultures of Youth. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006. pp. 187-207
My training as a musicologist and an anthropologist, and my professional activity within Jewish studies, has allowed me to explore many aspects of Jewish culture and history. As a child, I spent two years in St. Thomas, USVI; and I returned to this island in my first book (Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, USVI), which is both a historical narrative and a meditation on writing the history of a small community. In my doctoral work, I explored the meaning of becoming a Reform Jewish cantor at the turn of the twenty-first century, based on three years of ethnographic study with cantorial students. Subsequent projects have led me to investigate the history of Jewish music scholarship in the United States, musical theater works that address Holocaust memory, contemporary forms of Jewish musical expression, and musical representations of such cultural figures as Anne Frank and Shylock.
Throughout my research, I have focused on the idea of Jewish cultural expression as a dynamic and ever-changing process, created and recreated over time by artists, religious leaders, philosophers and activists. I have aimed to understand this idea largely through the prism of sound, and its relationship to ideas of Jewish identity.