Duke UniversityLaura Lieber

Laura S. Lieber is Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, as well as Smart Family Director of the Duke Center for Jewish Studies and Director of the Duke-UNC Center for Late Ancient Studies.

Ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, she received her doctorate from the University of Chicago in the field History of Judaism.  Her research focuses on Jewish life in the period from the Christianization of the Roman Empire until the rise of Islam, roughly the fourth through seventh centuries CE, known as Late Antiquity.   Her work focuses on liturgical poetry in the context of religious life (and popular culture) in this period from a broad perspective; her writings thus often refer to major developments in non-Jewish (“pagan,” Christian, and Samaritan) literature and culture as well as the breadth of Jewish writings on liturgy, poetry, and performance.  Although primarily a scholar of written texts, she draws on material culture—particularly the excavated synagogues of this golden architectural age—in her work.

She is the author of two volumes, including Yannai on Genesis: An Invitation to Piyyut (HUC Press, 2010) and A Vocabulary of Desire: The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue (Brill, 2014).  A translation of Jewish Aramaic Poetry from the Cairo Genizah is forthcoming, and her current project, on theater and theatricality in Late Ancient Judaism, has received support from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Humanities Center.


  • The Song of Songs:  From the Bible to Today
  • The Poetics of Jewish Prayer
  • Jewish Theater in the Ancient World
  • Jewish Mothers: From the Beginning