Third Time’s the Charm

Prof. Steve Jacobs seated at the University Club in 2017

Prof. Steve Jacobs, above, in April of 2017 at the annual Arts & Science reception at the University Club, for newly promoted faculty — celebrating his promotion that year to Full Professor.

Since starting full-time at UA in 2001 (my “start date” is easy to remember: 1/1/01), past A&S Dean Robert Olin and current Dean Joseph Messina have accorded me three one-semester sabbatical research leaves to pursue avenues of research in my areas of academic specialization: the Holocaust of World War II, historical and contemporary genocides, and Judaic Studies. This work and the sustained opportunity to do so without teaching and/or committee responsibilities during my time away has resulted thus far in books, articles, and conference presentations and lectures. The third of these research sabbaticals is this Fall. Continue reading

Épater les Bourgeoise…?

I do no speak or read French. Many years ago, however, in undergraduate school, I had a professor of English literature who was inordinately fond of the French phrase épater les bourgeoise—as he would translate it on a regular basis, “to shock the ordinary human being out of his [or her] lethargy.”  That is, there are those works, persons, events to which ordinary human beings, most of us, can only react in shock, sometimes in dismay; other times in paralysis.  One such event historically is the Holocaust (Hebrew, Shoah), the systematic, organized and planned murders of more than six million Jews—children, women, and men—and others: Sinti/Roma; homosexuals, primarily males; the physically and mentally challenged; and, lastly, so-called “asocials”, those whom the Nazis deemed unworthy of place in their present and future society. Even today, more than seventy-five years after the end of World War II, its power to shock, dismay, frighten, disorient shows no signs of abating.  Concomitantly, those most associated with this “crime of crimes”, this paradigmatic genocide—Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Rudolf Hoess, Alfred Rosenberg, and others in the upper echelons of the Nazi hierarchy—still retain their power to amaze and disgust us as the very embodiments of evil personified.

Closely associated with them and their murderous agendas are the words which also retain their power: Auschwitz death camp (symbolic of the entire system of death); the Warsaw Ghetto, symbolic of Jewish incarceration and Jewish resistance and other unsuccessful efforts at extermination; Six Million, symbolic of the Jews murdered; and the like. Continue reading

Summer Plans: Prof. Jacobs

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Prof. Jacobs is working on a variety of projects this summer. The first on his list is completing a manuscript entitled: Life Must Go On! Sol Lurie, the Kovno Ghetto, and the Murder of Lithuanian Jewry. He’ll also be drafting an article (“The Nexus Between Religion and Human Rights”), editing a chapter (“Judaism and Violence”) for the book, Religious Violence Today: Faith and Conflict in the Modern World, and working on a conference proposal entitled “The Antisemite as Litterateur: The Novels and Other Writings of Harold Covington.”


Dr. Jacobs’s Outstanding Award Winning Work


Congratulations to Dr. Steven Jacobs! His co-edited volume, Modern Genocide: The Definitive Resource and Document Collection has won two major publishing awards. First, it was named a 2015 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice, a national review of academic publications. What makes a book “outstanding?” According to Choice:

The list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 7,000 works reviewed in Choice each year. Choice editors base their selections on the reviewer’s evaluation of the work, the editor’s knowledge of the field, and the reviewer’s record.

In awarding Outstanding Academic Titles, the editors apply several criteria to reviewed titles:

  • overall excellence in presentation and scholarship
  • importance relative to other literature in the field
  • distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form
  • originality or uniqueness of treatment
  • value to undergraduate students
  • importance in building undergraduate library collections

The book was also a named to the 2016 list of Outstanding References Sources List by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

“[The list recommends] the most outstanding reference publications published the previous year for small- and medium-sized public and academic libraries. The selected titles are valuable reference resources and are highly recommended for inclusion in any library’s reference collections.”

Congratulations on your OUTSTANDING work, Dr. Jacobs!


A Good Book with Prof. Jacobs


The latest episode in our A Good Book series has just been uploaded to Vimeo! This video features Prof. Steve Jacobs and his discussion of a particular Torah scroll that was recovered from Nazi collections and has now been brought to Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El. You can read more about the story in this Tuscaloosa News article.

A Good Book with Prof. Jacobs from UA Religious Studies.

Second Sabbatical: First Thoughts


For those other than academic colleagues—primarily our students and our non-academic supporters—a sabbatical is a special benefit every seven years, upon application and approval, awarded to those of us who teach, for “time off” to purse sustained research and sustained writing without the additional responsibilities of teaching, grading, committee meetings and the like.   In my case, spring, 2015, is my second opportunity to take full advantage of this award to pursue two special projects, the first on my mind for a long time, and the second which recently came about:

  • I had previously published two articles in the Journal of Hate Studies out of Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA, addressing the question of the relationship between the socio-cultural construct we call “religion” and the mega-murder we call “genocide” “The Last Uncomfortable Religious Question”, 3[1]: 2003/04—133-143 ; and “Genocidal Religion”, 9[1]: 2011/11—221-235). (My argument in both pieces is that “religion” is a “participating factor” [my term; positively and negatively] in all genocides, past and present.) Upon re-reading these two pieces, and using them in my class REL 410 “Religion and Genocide”, it has regularly occurred to me that, together, they are, in truth, the nucleus of a book-length manuscript—with the now-important addition of looking at the scientific literature whether to not we human beings, as biological creatures, are thus prone to collective group violence. Hence, Project #1.
  • Quite recently, I agreed to be one of four authors, by invitation, for a new—and different—introductory textbook, already under contract (Cognella Press, CA), for courses in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. What makes this project unique, and why I agreed to participate, is its orientation: To introduce students and beginning instructors in a comparative manner to the other historic literatures, civilizations, cultures, civilizatons, and empires of the ancient Middle/Near East. To the best of our collective knowledge, there is no other such textbook available. This international team are all colleagues who already teach such introductory courses, and have agreed to “field test” the manuscript in our courses once it becomes available. (Publication date is the end of 2016, and has been tentatively entitled The Scriptures of Ancient Judaism.) Hence Project #2

I will also be revising at least one article already accepted for publication.

BTW, I have also accepted two other invitations: (1) To serve as the External Reviewer for the MA Program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ, in April, 2015; and (2) To present a paper tentatively entitled “The State and Fate of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and the Early Republic during World War I: A Necessary Part of the Conversation” at a conference in New York City in May, 2015, entitled “World War I and the Non-Turkish Minorities in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks”. (2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the second Armenian Genocide; the first took place under the Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the last Caliph of the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I; and the second under the so-called secular Republic under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk.)

So my advice to myself now that 2015 has begun and my sabbatical has started: Time to get busy! And I promise to keep you updated as I proceed.

Grad Tales Part IV

gradtales4On March 31, 2014, the Department hosted its fourth (and final for 2013-14) “There and Back Again: A Grad’s Tale” event. For this event, Prof. Russell McCutcheon talked with REL grad John Lyles about what he’s been up to since he left Manly Hall in 2010 after earning his B.A. in Religious Studies, with a minor in Biology. Continue reading

Backstory: Prof. Steve Jacobs


Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

From where do you hail?

I was born in Baltimore, MD., grew up in Silver Spring, MD, just outside of Washington, DC, and lived ~ 7 minutes from the University of Maryland, which is why I went to undergrad in Pennsylvania! Continue reading