Rabbi Jeffrey Woolf

Bar Ilan University, Department of Talmud

Jan 31, 2011

Jeffrey R. Woolf, a native of Boston, is a Senior Lecturer in the Talmud Department at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, specializing in the History of Halakhah and the inter-action between Judaism and other cultures and religions. For the past four years, he has directed the University’s Institute for the Study of Post-Talmudic Halakhah.

Dr. Woolf studied for nine and a half years under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt"l, first in Boston and then at Yeshiva University, where he received semikhah in 1982. While at Yeshiva, he learned for four years in the Kollel, directed by R. Hershel Schachter. During the period 2001-2003, he began studies toward Dayyanut at Kollel Eretz Hemdah in Jerusalem. In addition, Rabbi Woolf received semikhah from Rabbi Gedaliah Felder zt"l, the late Av Bet Din of Toronto.

Dr. Woolf received his BA in History (summa cum laude with distinction) from Boston University in 1976. In addition, he earned a BHL (cum laude) in Talmud and Midrash from Boston Hebrew College. He completed his AM (1981) and PhD (1991) in Medieval Jewish History at Harvard University, under the guidance of the late Professor Isadore Twersky. While at Harvard, he spent a year at the Hebrew University as a Lady Davis Graduate Fellow (1983-1984). Upon receiving his doctorate, he spent two years at Yale University, as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Religion. Woolf has served as a visiting professor at Yale University, Yeshiva University, and New York University.

Rabbi Dr. Woolf is active in the public arena. He has been a leading advocate and spokesman for the development of Modern Orthodoxy, in both the United States and Israel. While still located in the United States, he was the founder of the Orthodox Roundtable, a modern Orthodox Halakhic Think tank which set the stage for every major issue addressed by the Orthodox community in the past two decades. In addition, he was the founding Executive Chairman of YU’s Orthodox Caucus, and a moving force behind the RCA Pre-Nuptial Agreement. He has also been deeply involved in Religious-Secular dialogue within the State of Israel, and is frequently sought out to mediate Jewish issues for the broader public. His weblog, My Obiter Dicta, is a well known forum for the discussion of religious and political issues facing Judaism and the Jewish People, in Israel and abroad.

Rabbi Woolf is the author of close to forty scholarly monographs. He has edited three books, among them the most recent translation of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s, Kol Dodi Dofeq. His most recent book, Sacred Community in Medieval Franco-Germany: The Ashkenazic Qehillah Qedoshah, will be published in the Spring of 2012 by E. J. Brill, as part of its distinguished Études sur la Judaïsme Mediévale. He is presently working on a book on Modern Orthodox Thought and Law. It will be the first of its kind to appear in Hebrew. In addition, he is the author of dozens of articles that have appeared in popular publications.

Rabbi Dr. Woolf is a much sought after lecturer, addressing a broad swath of issues and topics, of both historical and contemporary interest. He has lectured throughout Israel, the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition, he frequently appears in the media, both in Israel and abroad. In just the past few months, he has been interviewed by France Soir, ADR-TV (Germany), the Jewish Chronicle (London), Zukunft, the Jerusalem Post, the Forward, Yedi’ot Aharonot and has appeared on WABC-TV (New York), Israel Radio (Reshet Bet, Radio Moreshet, Israel National Network News, Radio Kol Hai, Radio le-lo Hafsaqah, Radio 99, Galei Tzahal) and Israel television (Arutz 10).

Rabbi Woolf is married to Toby (née Bergstein). Together with their five children, they make their home in Efrat.