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Jonathan Karp

Associate Professor
Ph.D., Columbia University
Jewish cultural and economic history; Jewish-Christian relations
Office:  LT 1411
Phone: (607) 777-3263

My scholarly interests center on the roles that Jews have played as both economic and cultural middlemen, that is to say, as transmitters, translators, interpreters and entrepreneurs in the realms of commerce and culture. I address the basic question of how, in recent centuries, Jews have adapted to the modernizing circumstances of capitalism and how they perceived themselves and were perceived by others as economic actors.

Along these lines, my monograph, The Politics of Jewish Commerce (Cambridge University Press, 2008), examines shifting ideological constructions of the Jews as commercial agents in the literature of European political economy from the middle of the seventeenth to the middle of the nineteenth centuries. My next book, entitled Chosen Surrogates: A Class and Cultural Analysis of Black-Jewish Relations, analyzes the ethnic and cultural dimensions of Jewish middleman functionality in twentieth-century urban America and focuses on, inter alia, the place of Jews and African Americans in the business and art of twentieth-century popular music.

Recent undergraduate and graduate courses:

  • Capitalism and the Jews
  • Jews and Crime
  • Blacks and Jews in American Cultural History
  • Religion and the Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment
  • Zionism and its Jewish Critics
  • Christianity and Judaism in Historical Conflict


Books and Book Manuscripts:

  • The Politics of Jewish Commerce: Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe, 1638-1848 (Cambridge, 2008; paperback 2013).
  • Philosemitism in History , coedited with Adam Sutcliffe (Cambridge, 2011)
  • The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times: Essays on Jews and Aestehtic Culture, coedited with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (UPenn; 2007).
  • The Cambridge History of Judaism in the Early Modern Period, coedited with Adam Sutcliffe (forthcoming from Cambridge, 2015)
  • Jews in Early Modern Europe: Classic Essays, coedited with Francesca Trivellato (forthcoming from Ashgate, 2015)
  • Chosen Surrogates: A Class and Cultural Analysis of Black-Jewish Relations (book manuscript in progress)
  • Passages through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War, Senior Editor, Exhibition Catalogue (American Jewish Historical Society, 2013).

Selected Articles, Book Chapters, and Reviews Essays:

(a number of the articles below can be viewed at
  • "Brokering a Rock 'n' Roll International: Jewish Record Men in the US and UK," in Purchasing Power: The Economics of Jewish History, edited by Rebecca Kobrin and Adam Teller (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming in 2014).
  • "Jews, Nobility and Usury in Luther's Germany," in Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David Ruderman, edited by Richard Cohen, Natalie Dohrmann, Elhanan Reiner and Adam Shear (Hebrew Union College Press, 2014): 181-92
  • "Juden und Handel: Von der frühen Neuzeit bis zum Beginn der Emanzipation," in Juden. Geld. Eine Vorstellung, edited by Fritz Backhaus, Raphael Gross and Liliane Weissberg (Campus Verlag, 2013): 186-203.
  • "Can Economic History Date the Inception of Jewish Modernity?," in The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship between Ethnicity and Economic Life, edited by Gideon Reuveni and Sarah Wobick-Segev (Berghahn, 2011): 23-42.
  • "Ethnic Role Models and Chosen Peoples: Philosemitism in African American Culture," in Philosemitism in History, edited by Jonathan Karp and Adam Sutcliffe (Cambridge University Press, 2011): 211-34
  • "Antisemitism in the Age of Mercantilism," in The Oxford History of Antisemitism, edited by Richard S. Levy and Albert Lindemann (Oxford University Press, 2010): 94-106.
  • "Kopf ohne Körper? Wirtschaftsgeschichte jüdischer Lebenswelten," in Dan Diner and Nicolas Berg, eds., Zur Semantik des Jüdischen - Kapitalismusdebatten um 1900 (Leipzig, 2010): 7-27.
  • "Jews, Hebraism, and the Reformation World," Review Essay in Reformation, Vol. 12 (2007), pp. 177-190.
  • "The Mosaic Republic in Augustan Politics: John Toland's Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews," Hebraic Political Studies, vol. 1, no. 4 (Summer, 2006), pp. 462-92.
  • "Of Maestros and Minstrels: American Jewish Composers between Black Vernacular and European Art Music", in Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Karp, eds., Modern Jewry and the Arts (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).
  • "Performing Black-Jewish Symbiosis: The 'Hassidic Chant' of Paul Robeson," in American Jewish History, vol. 91 (2003), pp. 53-81.
  • "The Aesthetic Difference: Moses Mendelssohn's Kohelet Musar and the Origins of the Berlin Haskalah," in Ross Brann and Adam Sutcliffe, eds., Renewing the Past, Reconfiguring Jewish Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), pp. 93-120.

Selected Articles in Magazines and Newspapers

  • Jews as "Culture Brokers," in Jewish Week, March 23, 2012.
  • Revisiting the American Soviet Jewry Movement," Jewish Week, May 3, 2011.
  • "An Economic Turn in Jewish Studies?," Association of Jewish Studies Perspectives (Winter, 2009): 8-14.
  • "Jews, Commerce, and Controversy," History News Network, February 11, 2009 (
  • "Killing Tin Pan Alley: Bob Dylan and the (Jewish) American Songbook," Guilt and Pleasure, n. 6 (Winter 2007), pp. 51-55.
  • "A ética do belo e o judaísmo de Moses Mendelssohn" in Revista 18, 6 (December 2003-February 2004), pp. 37-39.

In the Media:

Selected Interviews, Profiles, and Public Programs

Related Professional Experience:

Executive Director, American Jewish Historical Society, 2010-2013
Interim President, United University Professions, 2010
Interim Vice President for Academics, United University Professions, 2009-10

Fellowships and Awards

  • Fellowships and Awards
  • Martin Gruss Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2008-2009
  • Brownstone Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College, Fall 2006
  • Harpur College Dean's Research Award, Spring 2004
  • Fellow, Center for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2001
  • Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2001
  • Nominated 12/99, Salo and Jeanette Baron Award, Best Dissertation in Judaic Studies at Columbia University
  • Faculty Research Grant, Franklin & Marshall College, 1998

Last Updated: 12/13/17