Elliot Ratzman

Elliot Ratzman, Ph.D.

Visiting assistant professor; Chair in Jewish studies

Email:[email protected]

Department: Religion

Location: Landrum Bolling Center, Room 215
801 National Road
Richmond, Indiana 47374

Why do you teach at Earlham?

Earlham’s mission and values reflect the noble traditions of Jewish peacemaking and principled non-violence. I teach here to offer challenging courses, to nurture students’ desire to transform our world and to network students with regional and national organizations and projects.

About me

I am a social ethicist who teaches courses in Jewish Studies—addressing topics from the Bible, the Holocaust, the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as Judaism’s encounters with Christianity, science and modernity. In all my courses we explore questions of race, ethics, philosophy and social justice.

Before coming to Earlham, I was visiting professor at Swarthmore, Grinnell, Lawrence and the first Posen Fellow in Secular Jewish Culture at Temple University. My first book, “Zipporah’s Knife: A Jewish Reckoning with Race” (in progress) addresses Jews and antiracism in the U.S., Israel/Palestine and Europe since 1967. Alongside teaching, I have been involved with movements for global health equity, Middle East peace and economic justice. I am also part of the leadership team for Bend the Arc-Jewish Action (Ohio), the interim director of the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and serve as the Chair of the Dayton Jewish Film Festival (2023-2024).


  • Ph.D., Princeton University
  • M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School
  • B.A., Ohio University

Professional memberships

Research projects

“Engaging Amalek: Jewish Pacifism 1917-2000” — I am researching the origins and development of organized Jewish pacifism in the US. During the 20th century, Jewish pacifists wrestled with issues such as Nazism, anti-colonial violence, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. My project entails examining central figures, such as Rabbi Abraham Cronbach, Jane Evans, Arthur Lelyveld, and others. I am curious how their engagements and exchanges with Quakers and other Christians helped shape strategy, theology, and political discourses around questions of violence and identity.

“Becoming the Other: The Politics and Piety of Downpassing” — I have been working on a project that examines undercover ‘passing’ experiments in the mold of John Howard Griffin’s “Black Like Me.” I examine the trend of socialists, reformers, and journalists investigating the conditions of “the Other” by “becoming” the Other for a temporary period of time–a phenomenon I have called “downpassing.” I see these practices as echoing religious themes, ethical disciplines, and forms of political solidarity. I consider these practices in the lights of Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Foucault, and Gillian Rose.

Scholarly interest

  • Modern Jewish Thought, Ethics, and Politics
  • Race and Religion in the Americas and the Middle East
  • The Holocaust and Comparative Genocides: Ethical, Religious, Political Aspects
  • Interreligious Encounters – Theology, History, Politics
  • Comparative Ethical Practices: Virtue Disciplines, Political Passing, Saintliness
  • Religion and Social Justice Movements
  • Religion and Existentialism

Published works

“Messianism as a Conversation Stopper? Ironic Utopianism and Pragmatic Jewish Politics.” Rorty and the Prophetic: Jewish Engagements with a Secular Philosopher, edited by Jacob L. Goodson and Brad Elliott Stone, Lexington Books, 2021.

“The Virtues of Keeping Kosher: Beyond Left Adaptions and Right Traditionalism.” Food and Judaism: A Companion, edited by Aaron Gross, Jody Myers, Jordan Rosenblum, NYU Press, 2019.

“The Tree of Life and the Roots of White Supremacy.” The Lawrentian, Fall 2018.

“Between Communism and Kabbalah: The Theological-Political Prince.” The Theology of Prince, Journal of Theology and Culture, United Theological Seminary, 2018-2019.

“The Good Life in a Time of Refugees: A Response to Michael Walzer.” Religious Socialism, January 2016.

“In Defense of Cornel West.” Good Magazine, April 2015.

“10 Commandments for the Classroom.” Inside Higher Education, February 2015.

“Why Niebuhr Now? In Defense of Political Messianism.” Political Theology Network, September 2011.

Review of Edith Bruder, The Black Jews of Africa, Journal of Jewish Identities. 4.2, 2011

Secular Faith, co-edited with Vincent Lloyd Secular Faith, Cascade Books, October 2010.

“Exodus and Agitation: Moses the Organizer.” Secular Culture and Ideas, Jbooks.com, Spring 2008.

“I Say Yo, You Say Oy: Blacks, Jews, and Love.” Debating Race with Michael Eric Dyson, Basic Books, 2007.

“Purity and Danger.” A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them, edited by Rabbi Jeff Salkin, Jewish Lights Publications, 2007.

“The Chosen Issue? Home Demolitions and the House of Israel.” Koinonia, Spring 2005.

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.