Reed CollegeLaura Leibman

Laura Leibman is a professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Her book Messianism, Secrecy, and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (2012) won a National Jewish Book Award, a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award, and was selected as one of Choice journal’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013. She has written numerous articles on early American life and material culture. In addition to her print work, she curates the Jewish Atlantic World database and served as the academic director for multimedia television series American Passages: A Literary Survey (2002). She is currently completing two books: Once We Were Slaves, about a family that began their lives as slaves in Barbados and ended up some of the wealthiest Jews in New York, and The Art of the Jewish Family, on five objects owned by early Jewish women.


  • The History of Multiracial Jews in the Americas
    Multiracial Jews make up 12% of U.S. Jewry, with nearly 87,000 nonwhite, Hispanic, or multiracial Jewish households in the New York Area alone. Although many Americans think of Jewish diversity as a recent phenomenon, this lecture reveals the early history of multiracial Jews and their important contributions to Jewish American life.
  • Jewish Houses of the Caribbean
    Prior to 1825 most American Jews lived in the Caribbean. This lecture looks at exquisite examples of colonial architecture that survive today and explores how Jews adapted their domestic spaces to Caribbean life.
  • Jewish Women in Colonial America
    With the rare exception of the letters of Abigail Franks and female members of the Gratz family, most records about Jewish women from this era come in disconnected fragments. In this talk I rethink the early history of Jewish American women by looking past texts to objects of everyday life.
  • Using Digital Humanities to Energize Students, Enrich Research, and Engage the Public
    This multimedia presentation looks at how Jewish studies scholars and programs have used digital humanities to share and deepen their work. Can be paired with a hands-on workshop that teaches how to use specific software or platforms.