Vanderbilt University

Shaul KelnerShaul Kelner is Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies and he served as the Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University from 2012-2015. He specializes in the sociology of contemporary Jewish experience. His research analyzes how culture and politics intersect to shape Jewish life. His book, Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism (NYU Press, 2010), examines how modern mass travel is being drafted into the service of Jewish nationalism and transnationalism. Other work focuses on social movements as agents of change, and includes studies of the American mobilization to free Soviet Jews (1964-1991) and of the present-day environmental movement in Israel. With a grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation, he has also studied how shifting power dynamics in American Jewish philanthropy are reshaping the landscape of Jewish cultural production. Prof. Kelner received his Ph.D in 2002 from the City University of New York, which he attended as a Wexner Graduate Fellow.

Professor Kelner has been a Fellow of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute for Advanced Studies, and a visiting scholar in Tel Aviv University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. For his book, Tours That Bind he is the recipient of the Association for Jewish Studies’ 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Social Science, Anthropology and Folklore. He currently serves on the board of the Association for Jewish Studies, and as the chair of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship selection committee.


  • Diaspora Pilgrimage: Birthright Israel and American Jewish Identity
  • Freedom Seders and the Matzo of Hope: American Jewish Activism to Free Soviet Jews
  • Trends and Controversies in the Sociology of American Jewry
  • Sociology and Judaism: Theory and Theology
  • American Jews & Israel: A Changing Relationship
  • American Jews: A Changing Community