Office Hours: W 9:30-10:30 am & by appointment
Field & Specialties
Human rights history
B.A. Harvard University, 1996
M.A. Columbia University, 2000
Ph.D. Columbia University, 2006
James Loeffler is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at the University of Virginia. Between 2013 and 2015 he was a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellow in International Law and Dean’s Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University Law School. At UVA he teaches courses in Jewish and European history, legal history, and the history of human rights.
His most recent publications include two books: Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, 2018), and a co-edited volume, The Law of Strangers: Jewish Lawyering and International Law in Historical Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2019). His first book, The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2010), won eight awards and honors. Currents works in progress include a new biography of Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin and the forgotten political origins of the genocide convention, a co-authored study of early twentieth-century musician Avraham Zvi Idelsohn and the birth of cultural Zionism; and an edited collection of essays on new historiography of Zionism.
His other research interests include international legal history, American Jewish politics, the past and present of Zionism, contemporary Jewish culture and its East European roots, and the history and future of Jewish music. For ten years he served as scholar-in-residence at Pro Musica Hebraica in Washington, DC, where he curated historically-informed concerts at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has also served as a consultant to the Center for Jewish History, Carnegie Hall, National Public Radio, and the Moscow Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, among other institutions.
Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, 2018).
The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, ed. with Moria Paz (Cambridge Univ. Press, forthcoming).
The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010; paperback edition, 2013).
- Association for Jewish Studies Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in Cultural Studies and Media Studies, Honorable Mention
- Foundation for Jewish Culture Sidney and Hadassah Musher Publication Award for Outstanding First Book in Field of Jewish Studies
- Association for Jewish Studies Cahnmann Publication Award for Outstanding First Book in the Field of Jewish Studies
- American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) Deems Taylor-Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology Book
- Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies for outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies
- Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature of the Jewish Book Council, Finalist
- Historia Nova Prize for the Best Book on Russian Intellectual History, Long List
"How Zionism Became Racism: International Law, Antisemitism, and Jewish Lawyering at the United Nations, 1945-1975," draft manuscript.
"Did Zionism Destroy Diaspora Nationalism?" draft manuscript.
"'The Conscience of America': Human Rights, Jewish Politics, and American Foreign Policy at the United Nations San Francisco Conference, 1945," Journal of American History, 100 (September 2013): 401-28.
"The Holocaust and Human Rights: A New Perspective," in preparation.
"The Missing Decade: The Forgotten Roots of Raphael Lemkin's "Genocide" in 1920s Polish Zionism," in preparation.
“Israeli Music at 60: New Perspectives,” Introduction and Guest Editorship of Special Issue of Min-Ad: Israel Studies in Musicology Online 7:2 (2008-2009).
"Hersch Lauterpacht and the Zionist Rights of Man: Rethinking Jewish Legal Internationalism," to appear in The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought, under review.
“The Unfinished Hebrew Revolution: The Future of Jewish Nationhood in Israel and Beyond,” Imagining Israel in 2040 –Different Visions, eds. Michael Brenner and Pamela Nadell. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2017.
“When Hermann Cohen Cried: Zionism, Music, Emotion,” in Zionism as a Cultural Movement, eds. Israel Bartal and Rachel Rojanski, forthcoming from Brill Publishers.
"The Features on My Face: Vladimir Stasov, Dmitrii Shostakovich, and Russian Philosemitism Reconsidered," Jewish Music in Eastern and Central Europe. Conference Proceedings, 2011 (in preparation).
“‘A Special Kind of Antisemitism’: On Russian Nationalism and Jewish Music” and “Three Jews, Two Opinions: Revisiting the Great Yiddish Folk Song Debate of 1901” On the History of Jewish Music in Russia, Volume 3 [Russian], eds. G. Kopytova and A. Frenkel (St. Petersburg: Russian Institute for the History of the Arts), forthcoming.
“Music,” Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture, ed. Dan Diner, in association with the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, Leipzig. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler Verlag, 2014.
“International Law,” Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture, ed. Dan Diner, in association with the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture, Leipzig. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler Verlag, forthcoming.
English Translation of Vassily Grossman story, “Stary Uchitel’,” in Maxim Shrayer, ed., An Anthology of Russian-Jewish Literature, 1800-2000 (M. E. Sharpe, 2006).
“Di Rusishe Progresiv Muzikal Yunyon No. 1 af Amerike: The First Klezmer Union in the United States” in American Klezmer: Its Roots and Offshoots, ed. Mark Slobin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).
“Neither the King’s English nor the Rebbetzin’s Yiddish: Yinglish Literature in America,” in American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni, ed. Marc Shell. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).
I work broadly on the intersection of Jewish culture, politics, and identity in modern Eastern Europe, Israel, and the United States, as well as the history of international law, nationalism, and internationalism in the twentieth century. My new book, Rooted Cosmpolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century, looks at the Jewish role in building and critiquing the modern human rights movement after World War II, focusing on American, European, and Israeli Jewish political activity in international legal circles and at the United Nations over the period from the 1930s to the 1980s. I aim through this work to rethink Jewish internationalism and the history of modern Jewish politics across the twentieth century, as well as relations between the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. Connected to this work, I have just completed a co-edited anthology devoted to Jewish lawyering and international legal thought in the twentieth century.
In a related project, I reexamine the history of Zionism, offering a new theory of the relationship between Zionism and Diaspora Nationalism in modern Jewish politics. By rereading the political writings of interwar American and East European Zionist leaders, and retrieving forgotten moments in global Jewish political organization (including the 1918 American Jewish Congress, the 1927 European Congress of Minorities, the 1943 American Jewish Conference, the 1945 San Francisco UN Conference, and the 1960 Paris Conference on Soviet Jewry), I argue for a reconceptualization of nationalism, liberalism, and minority rights in twentieth-century Jewish political history. My goal is to demonstrate how Zionist internationalism shaped European, American, and Israeli Jewish attitudes towards modern statehood and global nationhood before and after 1948. I have written a number of articles on this topic, two of which can be found here and here. Eventually I intend to write a new intepretitive history of Zionism based on this work.
My first book, The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2010), examines the role of music in the formation of modern Jewish national identity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Russia. Related articles include studies of antisemitism's impact on modern Jewish culture and the place of music in Zionist and Israeli culture.
I also have published extensively in the field of Jewish musical studies, with a specialization in the history of Jewish folk and art music traditions in Eastern Europe. Much of this research has informed my current non-academic writing about contemporary Holocaust memory and Jewish cultural identity in American society, including recent articles on "The Death of Jewish Culture" in Mosaic Magazine and "Richard Wagner's Antisemitism," in The New Republic.
Awards & Honors
Robert A. Savitt Fellow, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Spring 2015.
Kluge Fellow, John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, Fall 2014.
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Faculty Fellow, 2013-2014.
Association for Jewish Studies, Board Member, 2013-2016
Association for Jewish Studies, C0-Chair, Conference Division on Modern Jewish History in Europe, Asia, Israel and Other Communities, 2014-2015
Academic Advisory Council, Center for Jewish History, 2011-2014
Scholar-in-Residence, Pro Musica Hebraica Foundation, Washington, DC
Non-Resident Research Fellow, Jewish Music Research Centre, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Academic Vice-Chair, The Jewish Music Forum, American Society for Jewish Music, 2006-present
University of Virginia Buckner W. Clay Endowment Faculty Award, 2011-2012
American Council for Learned Societies/National Endowment for the Humanities/Social Science Research Council Combined Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research on Eastern Europe and Eurasia, 2009-2010
University of Virginia Mead Honored Professors Teaching Award, 2009-2010
Irene Fromer Fellow in Jewish Studies, Columbia University, 2005-2006
Hays-Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Research Award to Russia and Ukraine, 2003-2004
National Foundation for Jewish Culture Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-2004
Center for Jewish History Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2002-2003
Wexner Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1998-2002