Vanessa L. Ochs

Vanessa OchsVirginia Seminar Project: The Passover Haggadah: A Biography

Vanessa Ochs is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in Judaism, the anthropology of religion, and spiritual writing. She is working on two projects now, which are linked not only to each other, but to her previous work in the study of religion and material culture and the study of Jewish ritual innovation. The first project is a “biography” of the Passover Haggadah, which will be part of a series of “biographies” of canonical texts to be published by Princeton University Press. The second is a multi-year, multi-site ethnography of Jewish homes in America that answers a question she has long been pondering, “What—from the perspective of material culture—makes a Jewish home Jewish?” To find more information about Vanessa’s work, click here.

To read Vanessa’s Huffington Post blog, click here

Vanessa L. Ochs is the author of Inventing Jewish Ritual (JPS), winner of a 2007 National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include Sarah LaughedThe Jewish Dream Book (with Elizabeth Ochs), The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices (edited with Irwin Kula), Words on Fire: One Woman’s Journey into the Sacred, and Safe and Sound. For her writing, she was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently writing a “biography” of the Passover Haggadah for Princeton University Press.

Vanessa is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in Judaism, the anthropology of religion, and spiritual writing. She has been a visiting fellow at Newnham College of Cambridge University, the Frankel Institute of the University of Michigan, and a Distinguished NEH Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Colgate University.

Vanessa earned her B.A. in drama and French from Tufts University, an M.F.A. in theater from Sarah Lawrence College, and Ph.D. in anthropology of religion from Drew University.

Favorite classes to teach:
Passover Haggadah
Majors’ Seminar in Pilgrimage
Feasting, Fasting, Faith : Food in Jewish and Christian Traditions
Jewish Feminism
Spiritual Writing
Jewish Weddings

Admired authors:
Barbara Myerhoff
MFK Fisher