Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious & Social Studies

Named for the visionary JTS leader and pioneer of interfaith dialogue, the Finkelstein Institute brings together great thinkers from diverse academic, social, political, and religious spheres to wrestle with the most urgent challenges of the day. Topics range widely—from the economics of environmental sustainability to the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies.

Since its founding by Rabbi Finkelstein in 1938, the Institute has been an innovator in bringing the insights of Judaism and other religions to a broad range of national and world issues. In the last few years, the Institute has gained renown for its cutting-edge discussions of public policy and biomedical ethics. Its pioneering work in interfaith cooperation helped lead to the creation of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, also located at JTS.

Recent events of the Finkelstein Institute have included welcoming World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to speak on the “Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty,” as well as programs on the environment, feminism, and other issues of social justice.


Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Nathan and Janet Appleman Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Interreligious Studies

Burton L. Visotzky joined the faculty upon his ordination as rabbi in 1977. Rabbi Visotzky was a dean of Gershon Kekst Graduate School and founding rabbi of the egalitarian worship service of the Seminary Synagogue. He now serves as the Louis Stein Director of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at JTS, charged with programs on public policy. Rabbi Visotzky also directs the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at JTS. He has been visiting faculty at Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton Universities; the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow; and served as the Master Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (where he met Pope Benedict in 2007). He recently served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, where he met Pope Francis.

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, Associate Dean, The Rabbinical School

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay is associate dean of The Rabbinical School, associate director of the Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies, and executive director of the JTS Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice. She has made her career in the Jewish social justice sector, having served in leadership positions at American Jewish World Service, Auburn Theological Seminary, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, and JOIN for Justice. Rabbi Ruskay is an alumna of JTS’s Joint Program, The William Davidson School, and The Rabbinical School. She directs field education and entrepreneurial endeavors and is focused on raising the scope and profile of social justice work and community organizing skills in the role of the contemporary rabbi. Rabbi Ruskay is a member of the social justice commission of the Rabbinical Assembly and of its Joint Placement Commission.