|Dr. Steven Fine|
Courtesy of Yeshiva University
|Title||Professor of Jewish History|
Steven Fine (born 1958), historian of Judaism in the Greco-Roman World, is professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University in New York, director of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration project and of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, and a founding editor of Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture.
Ph.D, Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1993), under the direction of Lee I. Levine and Lawrence H. Schiffman; MA, Art History and Museum Studies, University of Southern California, under the direction of Stephen S. Kayser and Selma Holo (1984); BA in Religious Studies (Jewish Studies emphasis), University of California, Santa Barbara (1979), which included a year at the Hebrew University under the tutelage of Dov Noy and Bezalel Narkiss.
Thought and approaches
A cultural historian, Fine's research focuses on relationships between the literature of ancient Judaism, art and archaeology. Fine’s blend of history, rabbinic literature, archaeology and art, together with deep engagement with historiography and contemporary culture, is expressed in a broad range of publications. He is the author of academic monographs, museum catalogs, over seventy academic articles and even a book for children.
Trained in both Talmudic philology and Art History, Fine's scholarship emphasizes the close reading of primary sources—visual and textual, as a first step toward bridging between these sources and the "thick description" of the culture that both represent. His work is informed by what has been called the “Anthropological turn” and the “Cultural turn” of history that is most closely associated with the work of historians Robert Darnton and Peter Brown and with the French Annales School. The history of interpretation—both scholarly and popular is a major concern for Fine, for whom historiography serves as a significant tool for renewed interpretation. He writes that "My explicit, if unrealistic, goal is to project flesh-and-blood into three dimensional spaces and in so doing to imagine the lost world in which those people thrived (-Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity-, 2013, 8).
Fine's earliest studies focused upon the history of the synagogue in late antiquity, examining the development of the synagogue as a "holy place"—an interest drawn from both concern with sanctity of place in the writings of Mircea Eliade and Rudolf Otto and from Brown's focus on sanctity and the "holy man" in late antiquity. There he attempted to tease out from a wide variety of sources from across the Mediterranean world the ways that Jews constructed holiness after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. This work was unique at that time in its focus upon shared Jewish identity, eschewing what he sees as over emphasis upon the ancient rabbis as a sectarian group separated from other Jewish communities (an approach promulgated most prominently by Columbia historian Morton Smith and his students)-- which he argues is a projection of denominational politics of the later twentieth century. For Steven Fine, the rabbis were the literati of Jewish society in late antique Palestine and Sasanian Babylonia, "holy men" whose writings intersect broadly with the lived life of Judaism during this period. In this he is closer to Brown's focus upon a "Christian koine" or E. P. Sanders' "Common Judaism" during the Second Temple Period.
in response to these culture wars, Fine developed a keen interest in a late antique people that had not been previously integrated either into the study of Late Antiquity or the study of Judaism during this period—the Samaritans. This has resulted in his integration of Samaritan culture throughout his oeuvre, providing a point of comparison between Judaism and Samaritan culture. As a contributor to Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transitions, an exhibition mounted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012., into which he ushered the intersection between Jewish, Samaritan and Christian cultures in late antiquity. For this work, he was awarded the Professor Fine 2013 Samaritan Medal for Peace, Humanitarian and Academic Achievement for his scholarship on Samaritan-Jewish relations during late antiquity.
Fine's Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology (Cambridge, 2005, revised version 2010), awarded the Joshua Schnitzer Book Award by the Association for Jewish Studies (2009), is a programmatic presentation and application of his approach. Opening with a broad archive-based history and evaluation of previous research, Fine here develops tools to bridge between textual and visual sources, in order to interpret the ways that Judaism was lived in antiquity. As a control on interpretation, Fine emphasized the value of liturgical poetry (piyyut), a genre with none of the complex issues of authorship common to classical rabbinic literature. The liturgical interpretation of religious architecture (also closely related to the "anthropological turn," and pioneered by art historian Thomas Mathews in regard to late antique churches, was of particular use to Fine in his open-ended "holistic" approach to synagogues as liturgical spaces.
Fine cautiously applies insights from the post-modern toolbox in this work, particularly using post-Colonial models to explicate the ways that scholars have interpreted the art and history of ancient Judaism. The developing field of Visual Culture Studies has been particularly significant for Fine, who sees this model as relieving Jewish culture of the nationalist burdens imposed by traditional Art Historical method. This approach that is given communal underpinnings in IMAGES: A Journal for the Study of Jewish Art and Visual Culture , of which he was a founding editor (together with Margaret Olin and Vivian Mann, now joined by Maya Katz, and Rachel Neis as book review editor) and his work as section editor for Judaism of the forthcoming' --Cambridge History of World Religious Architecture--.
Museum exhibition is an important venue for Fine's work. Here he brings together the actual artifacts of his study—archaeological and manuscript—in an environment designed for their interpretation and exploration by students, scholars and the public. Fine curated the exhibition, 'Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World' at Yeshiva University Museum in 1996, and edited the accompanying catalog (published by Oxford University Press. In this exhibition he built a Torah shrine using spolia from ancient synagogues to create an environment conducive of bringing literary and visual sources into dialogue (see Holland Cotter's review in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/23/arts/art-review-history-of-the-synagogue-archeology-included.html.
Fine's current project focuses upon the Arch of Titus. In July, 2012 the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project, which Fine directs, discovered the original yellow ochre paint of the Arch of Titus menorah. His interest in polychromy in Jewish art is part of Fine's long standing concern to understand the history of Judaism through the eyes of ancient Jews, and participates in the current scholarly interest in determining the extent of ancient polychromy and interpreting these discoveries within the broadest context of ancient art and literature. A part of this project, Steven Fine is currently writing -The Menorah: A Biography- to be published by Harvard University Press, a study that interprets the menorah from Biblical times to the present through the prism of the Arch of Titus menorah, focusing upon the ways that Romans, Jews and Christians have related to the Arch and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the significance of this "place of memory" in contemporary Israeli Jewish culture.
Fine's most formative early experiences were as an intern in the Departments of Jewish Art and Jewish Folklore at the Israel Museum (1977-8, 1980–81), in the Department of Indian Art of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1982-3, under the tutelage of Pratapaditya Pal), and then as curator of the USC Archaeological Research Collection (1983-87 under the tutelage of Bruce Zuckerman).
After completing his doctorate in Jerusalem, Fine served as assistant and associate professor at Baltimore Hebrew College (1994-2000), and then as Jewish Foundation Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati 2000-2005).
Steven Fine joined the faculty of Yeshiva University in 2005 as Professor of Jewish History,and served as chair of the Department of Jewish History at Yeshiva College during a period of astonishing growth. He is the Founding Director of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies (yu.edu/cis) and the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project (http://yu.edu/cis/activities/arch-of-titus/).
Fine has been a visiting professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Goucher College the American Jewish University and New York University, and in 2015 will be the Sigi-Feigel-Visiting-Professor at the University of Zurich.
Steven Fine has lectured in academic and popular venues throughout the United States, Israel and in Europe. His academic presentations include lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Southern Methodist University, Emory University, the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, University of Basle, University of Haifa, Oxford University, Union Theological Seminary, the Hebrew University, Yale University, the Hebrew Union College, UC Davis, Duke University, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. Fine delivered the first Cecil Roth Memorial Lecture at the Jewish Museum in London and the Jerome Nemer Lecture at his alma mater, the University of Southern California.
Fine's approach to pedagogy, which focuses upon bringing students at every level into the scholarly process, was highlighted by the New York Times in 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/nyregion/chasing-5th-century-clues-from-a-womans-tombstone.html
- This Holy Place: On the Sanctity of the Synagogue During the Greco-Roman Period, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity Series, Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997.
- Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New “Jewish Archaeology, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Second revised edition, 2010, Joshua Schnitzer Book Award by the Association for Jewish Studies (2009)
- Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World, editor and author of the major essay. New York: Oxford University Press and Yeshiva University Museum, 1996, best book in its category, Society of Architectural Historians.
- Jews, Christians and Polytheists in the Ancient Synagogue: Cultural Interaction During the Greco-Roman Period, Proceedings of a conference organized by Baltimore Hebrew University, May, 1997, edited by S. Fine, London: Routledge Press, 1999. Finalist, 1999 National Jewish Book Award, Charles H. Revson Foundation Award in Jewish-Christian Relations.
- A Crown for a King: Studies in Memory of Prof. Stephen S. Kayser, edited by S. Fine, W. Kramer, S. Sabar, Berkeley: Magnes Museum Press and Jerusalem: Gefen, 2000.
- Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue: Studies in the History of Jewish Public Prayer, edited by Steven Fine and Ruth Langer. Duke Judaic Studies Series. Series editor, E. M. Meyers. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2005.
- The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah: In Honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman.' Boston: Brill, 2011.
- Puzzling Out the Past: Studies in Near Eastern Epigraphy and Archaeology in Honor of Bruce Zuckerman. Eds. S. Fine, M. Lundberg, D. Pardee, Boston: Brill Academic Press, 2012.
- Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity. Boston: Brill Academic Press, 2012.
- "cv". academia.edu. Retrieved 2012-015-04.
- "Byzantium and Islam". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2012-015-04.
- "Steven Fine's Book Wins Jordan Schnitzer Book Award". Yeshiva University. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
- "IMAGES". Brill Publishing. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- "Arch of Titus". YUCIS. Retrieved 2012-015-04.
- "Philip Johnson Exhibition Catalogue Award Winner History". SAH.org. Retrieved 2012-015-04.
- Steven Fine's website contains his full curriculum vitae, articles, links and videos http://yeshiva.academia.edu/StevenFine/About/
- Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies: http://www.yu.edu/cis/