Jack Wertheimer

Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History

Department: Jewish History, Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism

Phone: (212) 678-8869

Email: jawertheimer@jtsa.edu

Building Room: Unterberg 604

Office Hours: By Appointment


BA and MA, Queens College, CUNY; PhD, Columbia University

Dr. Jack Wertheimer is the Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary. His area of specialization is modern Jewish history, with a focus on trends in the religious, educational, and organizational sectors of American Jewish life since World War II.

Dr. Wertheimer is the author or editor of more than a dozen volumes, including Unwelcome Strangers: East European Jews in Imperial Germany (Oxford University Press, 1987); The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed (Cambridge University Press, 1987); The Uses of Tradition: Jewish Continuity in the Modern Era (JTS/Harvard, 1992); and The Modern Jewish Experience: A Readers Guide (NYU Press). He also wrote A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (Basic Books, 1993), which won a National Jewish Book Award for best study on contemporary Jewish life. A People Divided was reissued by the University Press of New England in September 1997.

Dr. Wertheimer edited a two-volume history of JTS titled Tradition Renewed (JTS Press, 1997). This richly illustrated history contains freshly commissioned essays by 40 scholars from the United States, Canada, and Israel. Dr. Wertheimer also coordinated a major sociological study of Conservative synagogues, under a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. A volume of essays on the project, titled Jews in the Center: Conservative Synagogues and Their Members, was published in the summer of 2000 (Rutgers University Press). A two-volume edited collection of essays, titled Jewish Religious LeadershipImage and Reality (JTS Press), appeared in late 2004 and was based on two conferences Dr. Wertheimer organized at JTS. With Eli Lederhendler, he co-edited a Festschrift in honor of Ismar Schorsch titled, Text and Context: Essays in Modern Jewish History and Historiography (JTS Press, 2005).

In 2007, two additional volumes edited by Dr. Wertheimer were released by Brandeis University Press. Family Matters: Jewish Education in an Age of Choice is about the interplay between families and Jewish education, and Imagining the American Jewish Community consists of essays on the ways in which Jews have conceived of Jewish communal life in the United States.

Dr. Wertheimer also has written a number of studies about the rapidly evolving field of Jewish education: Learning and Community: Jewish Supplementary Schools in the Twenty-first Century (Brandeis University Press), an edited volume published in June 2009, contains portraits of 10 Jewish supplementary schools that work. The New Jewish Leaders: Reshaping the American Jewish Landscape (Brandeis University Press, 2011) examines the backgrounds, educational experiences, and outlook of younger Jewish leaders. A case study project he directed  on how 20 Jewish day schools address various educational challenges is available in How Schools Enact Their Jewish Missions: 20 Case Studies of Jewish Day Schools March 2015. And with Alex Pomson, he co-authored two studies of how Israel and Hebrew are taught in Jewish day schools. (Hearts and Minds: Israel in North American Jewish Day Schools. AVI CHAI Foundation, 2014 and Hebrew for What? Hebrew at the Heart of Jewish Day Schools. AVI CHAI Foundation, 2017.) In 2022, he co-authored a book with Alex Pomson titled, Inside Jewish Day Schools: Leadership, Learning and Community.

His report Giving Jewish: How Big Givers Have Transformed American Jewish Philanthropy appeared in March 2018. And in August of that year, his book The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today was published by Princeton University Press. It was awarded a National Jewish Book Award for the best book in American Jewish Studies.

From 1997 to 2007, Dr. Wertheimer served as provost—the chief academic officer—of JTS. He also served as the founding director of JTS’s Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism from 1987 to 2008.


Research Reports


Electronic Media

  • Radio: Dr. Wertheimer was interviewed for “No Dogs or Jews Allowed: The Story of Antisemitism in America,” an installment of the public radio series Only in America: 150 Years of the American Jewish Experience. Host: Larry Josephson. 2006.
  • Video: Dr. Wertheimer spoke about “Continuity and Discontinuity” at the opening plenary session of the annual conference of the Jewish Funders Network; he also spoke at the closing plenary session.


Dr. Wertheimer is currently completing a book on the history and current state of American Jewish philanthropy.