TU Faculty Affiliated with JDST

Deborah Barer 

Deborah Barer received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2016, with a concentration in rabbinic literature and thought. Her research explores models of rabbinic decision-making, with an emphasis on the intersection of ethical and legal reasoning in Talmudic legal narratives. She is currently developing a manuscript based on her Ph.D. dissertation “A Judge With No Courtroom: Law, Ethics and the Rabbinic Idea of Lifnim Mi-Shurat Ha-Din.”
Dr. Barer teaches a range of courses at Towson in Jewish studies and comparative religion, including: RLST 210: Introduction to Judaism; RLST 206: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; and RLST 310: Jewish Law and Ethics. She is also a faculty member of the Graduate Program in Judaic Studies, where she teaches courses on rabbinic history, literature and thought.

Jennifer Caplan 

Jennifer Caplan grew up in Safety Harbor, FL but as a child of an itinerant actor and circus clown (really) she has lived all over the country. Professor Caplan joined the faculty of Towson University in 2017 after spending the previous two years at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is currently working on an essay about post-war American Jewish masculinity in the humor of Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, and Woody Allen for a forthcoming volume on Holocaust humor, and an essay about nostalgia for a volume on Jewish women’s graphic novels. Professor Caplan is working on a manuscript tentatively titled Funny, You Don’t Look Funny: Humor and American Judaism. She teaches courses at Towson including RLST 206: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, RLST 210: Introduction to Judaism, and new courses on Jewish graphic novels, American Jewish humor, Jewish literature, and race, gender, sexuality and Judaism. Professor Caplan is an avid sports fan, largely of the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, as well as a devoted gamer who enjoys both board games and video games on several platforms. Selected publications can be found in The Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Shofar, The Bulletin for the Study of Religion, and AJS Review.


Ben Fisher

Dr. Benjamin Fisher
Dr. Benjamin Fisher

Benjamin Fisher joined the History Department and Graduate Programs in Judaic Studies in 2011. He earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania for his 2011 dissertation, “The Centering of the Bible in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam: Jewish Religion, Culture, and Scholarship.”

Dr. Fisher studies the social, intellectual, and cultural history of Jewish society in medieval and early modern Europe. His research focuses on the history of the ways in which Jews in diverse settings have studied and taught the Bible, the origins of modern critical approaches to biblical scholarship in Jewish and Christian communities, and the impact of the Protestant Reformation on Jewish religious culture.

Dr. Fisher is currently working to expand his dissertation into a book that describes the emergence of the Bible, rather than Talmud and rabbinic literature, as the central focus of education, culture, and rabbinic scholarship in the Jewish community of seventeenth-century Amsterdam. This project provides valuable context for understanding the emergence of Benedict Spinoza from within this milieu, one of Europe's most impactful early modern philosophers and readers of the Bible, and for understanding the primacy of the Bible as a cultural resource in many modern Jewish communities.

Barry M. Gittlen

Dr. Barry M. Gittlen
Dr. Barry M. Gittlen

Dr. Barry M. Gittlen has spent the better part of his life in the pursuit of the past. He has scoured the earth in search of ancient Israel at Tell Gezer, the Jenin-Megiddo Survey, Tell Jemmeh, Tel Ser’a, and Be’er Resisim. As Field Archaeologist and Archaeological Coordinator for the Tel Miqne/Ekron Excavations in Israel (1982-1996), he helped recover the fascinating history of this Philistine industrial city. Combining the disciplines of Archaeology and Biblical Studies, Dr. Gittlen strives to bring Israel's past to life and to reach new understandings of the Israelite populace which produced Biblical Literature.

Dr. Gittlen received his PhD from the Department of Oriental Studies of the University of Pennsylvania (1977) and has authored many scholarly articles as well as edited the volume Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Eisenbrauns 2002), Dr. Gittlen is currently preparing Tel Miqne-Ekron: Report of the 1984-1996 Excavations in Field III, the final report on his excavations at Philistine Ekron. In work related to his research and teaching, Dr Gittlen was flown to Egypt by the BBC (in May 2003) to be filmed for the BBC/Discovery Channel program on Joseph in Egypt which aired in October 2003.

Formerly Interim President of Baltimore Hebrew University, Dr. Gittlen is Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Dr. Gittlen is listed in the Who’s Who in Cypriote Archaeology and Who’s Who in Biblical Studies and Archaeology and has served as consultant to documentary film makers. Named Baltimore Hebrew University’s “Most Popular Professor” by Baltimore Magazine (January 1997) and the 1993 recipient of the President's Award for “The Professor Who Most Exemplifies the High Ideals of the Baltimore Hebrew University,” Dr. Gittlen’s students constitute a critical legacy. 

Shimon Shokek

Dr. Shimon Shokek earned his BA Cum Laude, MA Cum Laude, and PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Department of Jewish Thought, where he also taught Jewish Ethics, Kabbalah, and Jewish Philosophy for seven years. Dr. Shokek has taught at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD and has taught for many years at the Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of the following books and articles:


  • Mavoh Le-Machashevet Israel.   (Introduction to Jewish Thought), Selected Articles in Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism, edited by S. Regev and S. Shokek, Published by the Academon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1984 and 1985. (Hebrew).
  • Early Jewish Mysticism:  Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, Volume VI (1-2), co-editor of a collection of articles with Prof. Joseph Dan, Published by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1987. (Hebrew)
  • Jewish Ethics and Jewish Mysticism in Sefer Ha-Yashar, Published byThe Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York, 1991. (English).
  • Ha-Teshuvah Be-Siffrut Ha-Mussar Ha-Ivrit, Ba-Philosophia Ha-Yehudit U-Va Kabbalah (Repentance in Jewish Ethics, Philosophy, and Mysticism ),Published by The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York, 1995. (Hebrew).
  • Kabbalah and the Art of Being:  The Smithsonian Lectures, Published by Routledge, London & New York, 2001. (English).
  • Ke-Etz Shatul, (Like A Planted Tree), A Novel in Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah, Published by Yediot Sefarim, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2008. (Hebrew).
  • The Language of Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah , to be published in 2009 -- manuscript has already been accepted for publication by Yediot Sefarim, Tel Aviv, Israel. (Hebrew). 

Selected Articles

  • “The Affinity of Sefer Ha-Yashar to the Circle of Geronese Kabbalists.” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, Volume VI (3-4), Published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1987, pp. 337-366 (Hebrew).
  • In a Place where a Penitent Stands. Yovel Orot,Rav Kook Volume, edited by B. Ish Shalom and S. Rosenberg, Published by Ha-Histadrut Ha-Ziyonit Ha-Olamit, Tel Aviv, 1987, pp. 245-256 (Hebrew).
  • Le Sefer Ha-Yashar et la Litterature Morale du 13' Siecle. Archives Juives, 1987, pp. 54-57 (French).
  • Rationale and Mystical Elements in Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Heart. The World Jewish Congress, Published by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993/94 (Hebrew).