Evyatar Marienberg

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Evyatar Marienberg

Associate Professor

Director of the Minor in Christianity and Culture

Education

  • Ph.D., Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, 1999-2002
  • D.E.A., Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes en Sorbonne, Paris, 1998-1999
  • Licence de Théologie, Institut Catholique de Paris, 1994-1998
  • Rabbinics, Yeshivat ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati, Ein Tzurim, 1990-1993

Research Interests

  • Rabbinics
  • Contemporary Catholicism
  • Social History of Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe

PERSO-Professional Biography

I am a historian of religions, having a particular focus on the study of beliefs and practices of lay Jews and Christians from various periods. I am, correctly or not, a strong believer in the many intellectual and scholarly benefits of studying more than one religious culture, whether a comparison is intended or not. No one is perfect, but I am, apparently, Jewish. I was raised in a rather strict Jewish Modern Orthodox community, but, as it happens, lost my faith in its beliefs and the justifications of its cherished practices a long time ago (to be precise, in my very late 20s, which might be a relatively old age for that). Since I remember myself, around the age of 7 or 8, I did not share its ideological or political aims; it probably helped losing faith in much else dear to this community, decades later. For several decades already, and I doubt this will ever change (“We do not give up, yet!”, some religious friends tell me), I do not believe in any of the transcendental claims of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or any other religion, including those originally from Asia. Not even in the claims of Latter Day Saints! True, in some rare moments I wonder, sometimes maybe hope, whether there is something out there, but these moments are few, very short, and in between. So not a combative Atheist in any way (a dogmatic stand), but also not a believer by any reasonable definition. I am not religious, nor “spiritual”. A lost case, kind of. This does not mean I do not appreciate, like, and even at times keep various religious ideas and practices. In my case, this means mostly the Jewish practices I was raised on, and many Jewish notions: they are not better than other religious practices, but these are the ones I very intimately know. Still there are huge differences between my past and my present. I raise my children in a Judaism which is secular, not the Orthodox type I grew up in, yet honors some old traditions: I am not unique in that. Most Jews today do more or less the same. If my children would want a Christmas tree, for example, I will get it for them ($60 max, though!), but it will have a Star of David (made of ice-cream sticks painted in blue) on the top, and Hanukkah objects will be in a much more prominent place in the house. If they want Easter chocolate bunnies I am all for it (as long as they share some with me), but the real holiday of that season will be Passover. I also go occasionally to services in synagogues on Shabbat and holidays. Most often, the synagogues I go to happen to be more-or-less Orthodox (I like Chabad’s style of doing things. They are, how to say it, unique), but this changes at times. When they deserve it, I respect many religious traditions and people, but I am not one of those who say “people can believe and support whatever they want, and that’s fine”: there are religions and religious traditions and practices and beliefs and concepts (including obviously some Jewish ones) I have clear negative opinions about, based on, among other things, secular, human-rights considerations, or just what I think to be common sense. I do not respect them, I do not say about them “they are not worse than the others”, because often, they are. I respect, obviously, also those who are not related to any religion. I appreciate the existence of religions, mostly because studying them helps me pay my bills, but also because, well, they sometimes have an actually useful and beneficial roles in this challenging experience we all call life.

Born in Israel, in the beautiful port city of Haifa, I studied for several years at Yeshivat (a.k.a., “Talmudic Institute”, but really, a place where Jewish sources are studied seriously from a believing perspective) Ha-Kibbutz ha-Dati of Ein-Tzurim. Did also three years of compulsory military service. I was a tank commander (go figure…), and hated it. Later, during a five-year stay in Paris (oh….), I studied Catholic theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris, and religious studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes en Sorbonne. For some mysterious reason I was then appointed a visiting fellow at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University in New York, and, a year-and-a-half later, an assistant professor (special category!) in the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University in Montreal.

Before coming (by car, from New York) to UNC in 2009, I spent a year teaching at Paideia Institute in Stockholm, and three years of teaching and research at Tel Aviv University. I spent also a year as a Carey postdoctoral fellow at the Erasmus Institute at the University of Notre Dame, two years at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and one semester at Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies. During my time at UNC, I was a fellow for one semester at the Frankel Institute at the University of Michigan, and had a research leave in Israel.

My doctoral dissertation (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 2002), written in French, was devoted to the conceptualization of menstruation, of all things, in Jewish and Christian cultures, with a particular interest in the Medieval and Early Modern periods. Its two parts were published as two separate books: Niddah, Lorsque les juifs conceptualisent la menstruation (Les Belles Lettres, 2003), and La Baraita de-Niddah: Un texte juif pseudo-talmudique sur les lois religieuses relatives à la menstruation (Brepols, 2012). Please don’t ask me what brought a (relatively) nice Jewish boy to spend years on studying menstruation. I do not know. Or prefer not to.

Another book of mine, Catholicism Today: An Introduction to the Contemporary Catholic Church, was published in March 2010 by Carmel Press in Israel, being the first-ever (and still only) book on the matter in Hebrew. A thoroughly revised and adapted English version was published by Routledge in 2014, and it serves as a textbook for courses on the matter in various places.

My most recent book, Sting and Religion: The Catholic-Shaped Imagination of a Rock Icon (Cascade Books / Wipf & Stock, 2021), is a study of a Catholic parish, Our Lady and St Columba, in Wallsend, a small town in North East England, in the 1950s-1970s, and how growing up in that parish possibly shaped the imagination and creativity of the most famous person hailing from that community, the rock star Sting, who became kind of my buddy. Finally, I worked on something of importance! I must humbly (but with I think some justified satisfaction after the significant work that went to it) admit that it seems many people really like it. Here I tried to describe how and why I came to this project. Shortly after that book’s publication, I released a smaller, independently published, related volume. It explores some elements in the history of Religion in England that I find of importance when trying to understand contemporary England (and Sting’s community of origin), but which did not find their place in the main book. If you are interested in that kind of stuff, I think it is not too bad, after all.

Another book of mine, on traditional Jewish guides to marital sexuality (yes; too often, sadly, as we know by now, academics spend their precious life on exploring weird things), will be completed and published, I hope (or am afraid), in the near future, by Brill.

For a complete CV, if you really need that, click here.

MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENT (BY FAR)

Father of the best two kids ever!!!!!

LEAST IMPORTANT RECENT ACHIEVEMENT (BUT FUN NEVERTHELESS)

Certified Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver!

Awards (A.K.A. LOW IMPORTANCE ACHIEVEMENTS)

  • Fellow, Frankel Institute for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, Winter 2014
  • Starr Fellow, Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University, Spring 2008
  • Carey Postdoctoral Fellow, Erasmus Institute, University of Notre Dame, 2006-2007
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Tel Aviv University, 2004-2006

Courses I HAPPEN TO TEACH

  • FREN 308       Religion in France and in the Francophone World (in French, syllabus)
  • RELI 088        Religion and Society in Historical Novels (introductory video)
  • RELI 108        Traditional Jewish Literature (poster from 2020)
  • RELI 162        Catholicism Today: An Introduction to the Contemporary Catholic Church (+ Online version) (introductory video)
  • RELI 270        Religion In Western Europe (cross-listing: EURO 270) (poster from 2020)
  • RELI 450        Sexuality & Marriage in Jewish Tradition & History
  • RELI 525        Medieval Jewish Bible Interpretation
  • RELI 566        Jewish Legal Literature
  • RELI 566x      Islamic and Jewish Legal Literature (with Ahmed El Shamsy, poster)
  • RELI 662        Advanced Seminar in Contemporary Catholicism
  • RELI 697        Religion and Law (poster from 2019)

SOME PublicationS

Sting and Religion: The Catholic-Shaped Imagination of a Rock Icon, Cascade Books / Wipf & Stock, Oregon 2021

La Baraita de-Niddah : Un texte juif pseudo-talmudique sur les lois religieuses relatives à la menstruation (The Baraita de-Niddah: a Pseudo-Talmudic Jewish Text about the Religious Laws Concerning Menstruation), Brepols, Turnhout 2012

Niddah. Lorsque les juifs conceptualisent la menstruation (Niddah: When Jews Conceptualise Menstruation), Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2003

Selected Articles

Menstruation – Post-Biblical (Rabbanite) Judaism“, in: Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Vol. 18, De Gruyter, Berlin – Boston 2020, pp. 665-672

O My God: Religion in Sting’s Early Lyrics“, The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 31.3 (2019), pp. 223-235 (with an introductory blog here).

Bible, Religion, and Catholicism in Sting’s album and musical The Last Ship, Studies in Musical Theatre 12.3 (2018), pp. 319-335

Death, Resurrection, Sacraments, and Myths: Religion Around Sting“, in: Cultural Icons and Cultural Leadership, Edited by Peter Iver Kaufman and Kristin M. S. Bezio, Edward Elgar Publishing, UK and Northampton MA, 2017, pp. 167-185

Jews, Jesus, and Menstrual Blood“, Transversal: Journal for Jewish Studies 14 (2016), pp. 1-10

Female Fertility in Talmudic Literature” (Hebrew), Hebrew Union College Annual 86-87 (2015-2016), pp. 47-94

La Halakhah. Observée ou ignorée ? Unificatrice ou séparatrice ?” (The Halakhah : Observed, or Ignored? Unifying, or Separating?), Tsafon 65 (2013), pp. 63-71

Aufklärung als innerjüdische Herausforderung: Rabbi Moses Schreiber, ‘häretische jüdische Doktoren’, und Ritualbäder” (Enlightenment as Inner-Jewish Challenge: Rabbi Moses Schreiber, ‘Heretic Jewish Physicians‘, and Ritual Bathing), DAVID – Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift 94 (Fall 2012), pp. 68-71

Qui coierit cum muliere in fluxu menstruo… interficientur ambo (Lev. 20:18) – The Biblical Prohibition of Sexual Relations with a Menstruant in the Eyes of Some Medieval Christian Theologians“, in: Shoshannat Yaakov: Jewish and Iranian Studies in Honor of Yaakov Elman, Edited by Shai Secunda and Steven Fine, Brill, Leiden 2012, pp. 271-284

The Stealing of the ‘Apple of Eve’ from the 13th century Synagogue of Winchester”, in: Henri III Fine Rolls Project, Fine of the Month: December 2011 (With David Carpenter)

The Second Council of the Vatican: Current Debates” (Hebrew), Zmanim 101 (2008), pp. 28-41

EXAMPLES OF TALKS OR INTERVIEWS THAT WERE UNFORTUNATELY RECORDED

What is Niddah? Menstruation in Judaism”, Polin: Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, November 23, 2017