Boston College

Ruth Langer

Ruth Langer is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Boston College and Associate Director of its Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. She is also chair of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations. She received her Ph.D. in Jewish Liturgy in 1994 and her rabbinic ordination in 1986 from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

She writes and speaks in two major areas: the development of Jewish liturgy and ritual; and Christian-Jewish relations.  Her book, Cursing the Christians?: A History of the Birkat HaMinim (Oxford University Press, 2012), combines these two interests, tracing the transformations of a Jewish prayer that was, until modernity, a curse of Christians. Drawing on all available evidence, its chapters present the history of the text and the polemics around it from its putative origins in the early rabbinic period, through its censorship by the church, to its modern emergence into an inoffensive prayer that asks God to rid the world of evil.

She is also author of To Worship God Properly: Tensions between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism, published in 1998 (Hebrew Union College Press). This book examines the interplay between liturgical law and custom in the medieval world, investigating the tensions between rabbinic dictates and the actual practices and understandings of the community. Most recently, she published Jewish Liturgy: A Guide to Research (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), an annotated bibliography of over 1000 entries of English-language studies of Jewish liturgy accessible to those from outside the Jewish Studies world. She also co-edited Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue (Eisenbrauns, 2005) and has published a long list of articles.

Lectures:

  • Constructing Memory in Jewish Liturgy
  • From Cursing the Christians to Eliminating Evil: The Censorship and Transformation of the Birkat HaMinim
  • The Bible in Jewish Life
  • The Non-Jew in Jewish Prayer
  • The Origins and Meanings of the Birkat HaMinim
  • Christian-Jewish Relations Fifty Years After Nostra Aetate
  • The Bible in Jewish Prayer
  • Challenges and Parameters of Interreligious Prayer