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Dr. Fine

Meet Our Director: Steven Fine

Steven Fine, the Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History, is a cultural historian, specializing in Jewish history in the Greco-Roman period. His work focuses mainly upon the literature of ancient Judaism, art and archaeology-- and the ways that modern scholars have interpreted Jewish antiquity.

Dr. Fine’s blend of history, rabbinic literature, archaeology and art, together with deep engagement with historiography and contemporary culture, is expressed in a broad range of publications.  The author of academic monographs, museum catalogs, more than 60 articles and even a book for children,  Professor Fine’s most recent monograph, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology (Cambridge, 2005, revised edition 2010) received the 2009 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award of the Association for Jewish Studies. He is an editor of IMAGES: A Journal for the Study of Jewish Art and Visual Culture and section editor for Judaica of the Cambridge World History of Religious Architecture (forthcoming). Dr. Fine's Art, Archaeology and the History of Judaism in Roman Antiquity appeared with E. J. Brill in 2013,and a collection of his essays will be published by HaKibbutz Hameuchad Publishers in their prestigious Hillel Ben Hayyim series in Hebrew.

Dr. Fine was curator of  Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World, an exhibition organized by Yeshiva University Museum and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (1996-7).  The catalog, published jointly by YU Museum and Oxford University Press, received the Philip Johnson Award for Excellence in Published Exhibition Catalogues of the Society of Architectural Historians. His 1999 edited volume, Jews, Christians and Polytheists: Cultural Interaction During the Greco-Roman Period (Routledge) was the finalist for the Charles H. Revson Foundation Award in Jewish-Christian Relations of the National Jewish Book Council.

Fine's current projects include Samaritan-Jewish relations during late antiquity and  polychromy in ancient Jewish art. The Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project is central to Dr. Fine's interests. This project included the scanning of the Arch of Titus bas reliefs for signs of polychromy in June, 2012 by an internationally known team of scholars, under the auspices of the YU Center for Israel Studies.

His The Menorah: A Biography is currently in advanced stages of preparation, and will be published by Harvard University Press.

Steven Fine has lectured to both popular and academic audiences throughout the United States, Israel and Europe, in both English and Hebrew.  In recent years, he has given academic presentations at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, the University of Basle, Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University, University of Haifa, Oxford University, the Hebrew University, American Jewish University, Union Theological Seminary, Yale University, the Hebrew Union College, UC Davis, Duke University and the Brooklyn Museum. Dr. Fine delivered the first Cecil Roth Memorial Lecture at the Jewish Museum in London.

Visit Professor Fine's academic site, which includes a broad selection of Professor Fine's articles at

 Download a YU Today profile of Dr. Fine (PDF)
 Promoting the Academic Study of Israel: A Conversation with Professor Fine (PDF)


Dr. Olson

Jess Olson, Associate Director

Jess Olson, associate professor of Jewish History, is a cultural and intellectual historian, specializing in the history of Central and East European Jewry in the modern period. His work has dealt with a variety of subjects, including the history of Jewish nationalism and Zionism, the evolution of the Zionist yishuv in pre-state Israel, the history of Orthodoxy, Jews and urban culture in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, material culture and architecture.

Dr. Olson's first book "Nathan Birnbaum and Jewish Modernity: Architect of Zionism, Yiddishism and Orthodoxy," the first extensive intellectual biography of Viennese journalist and political theorist Nathan Birnbaum, appeared November 2012 with Stanford University Press. Along with coining the term "Zionism,' Birnbaum was a dynamic leader of early Jewish nationalism in both its Zionist and Diaspora nationalist forms, as well as an organizer and the president of the First Conference of the Yiddish Language in 1908. Completing his intellectual trajectory, Birnbaum turned to religious belief, becoming a leading figure in the young Agudath Israel in the interwar period. Although largely forgotten today, his stature among Jewish nationalist and intellectual circles in Europe, America and the ZIonist yishuv in Israel was such that he was lauded by Franz Rosenzweig as the "living exponent of modern Jewish history."

Currently, Dr. Olson is at work on a large study of Jewish culture in fin de siecle Vienna. This work will significantly revise the popular and academic understanding of this complex community through the study of architecture, communal dynamics, material culture and other aspects of Jewish life in Vienna in the 1890-1914 period.

As the Associate Director of the CIS, Dr. Olson has helped to enrich the study of modern Israel and Zionist culture and history through bringing a number of different faculty to speak on our campus, including Derek Penslar of Oxford University and Ronald Zweig of New York University. In 2010, Dr. Olson helped organize a major conference on Zionist culture, art and urban geography, "Zionism on the Jewish Street," which included an international panel of scholars including Steven Zipperstein (Stanford University), Marsha Rozenblit (University of Maryland), Barbara Mann (JTS), Jenna Weismann Joselit (George Washington University), Michael Berkowitz (University College, London) and many others.

In the 2010-11 academic year, Dr. Olson was on leave from his position at Yeshiva University as the recipient of the Yad Hanadiv/Bracha Foundation fellowship in Israel, where he mined the archives of the Vienna religious community at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2006), his graduate diploma in Jewish studies from Oxford University (1999), and his BA in History and the Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington in Seattle (1998).