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“Europe no longer dominates the world, but it has been an engine of modernity. Without understanding Europe's past, we cannot understand the world's present.”

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Derek J. Penslar

Resident Faculty & Seminar Co-chair

Derek J. Penslar

Resident Faculty & Seminar Co-chair


Derek J. Penslar

Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University and Resident Faculty at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES). His research explores Jewish political and economic life in modern Europe as well as the relationship between modern Israel and diaspora Jewish societies, global nationalist movements, European colonialism, and post-colonial states.

Penslar has taught at Indiana University, Bloomington, the University of Toronto, and the University of Oxford, where he served as the inaugural Stanley Lewis Professor of Modern Israel Studies. He is president of the American Academy for Jewish Research and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Penslar's books include Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870-1918 (1991); In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria, 1918-1933 (1998, co-edited with Michael Brenner), Shylock’s Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe (2001); Orientalism and the Jews (co-edited with Ivan Kalmar, 2004), Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (2006); The Origins of the State of Israel 1882-1948: A Documentary History (with Eran Kaplan, 2011), Jews and the Military: A History (2013), and Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (2020). He is completing a book titled Zionism: An Emotional State for Rutgers University Press’ series on “Keywords in Jewish Studies.”

At CES, Penslar chairs the Jews in Modern Europe Seminar.


  • William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History, Harvard University
  • Resident Faculty & Seminar Chair, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University

Recent Publications

  • “Declarations of (In)Dependence: Tensions Within Zionist Statecraft, 1896-1948,” The Journal of Levantine Studies 8, 1 (2018), 13-34.
  • “Between Honor and Authenticity: Zionism as Theodor Herzl’s Life Project,” in On the Word of a Jew: Religion, Reliability, and the Dynamics of Trust. Nina Caputo and Mitchell Hart, eds., Indiana University Press, 2019, 276-96.
  • Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader, Yale University Press, 2020. (2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for History)
  • “What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Emotional Language of Early Zionism,” The Journal of Israeli History 38, No. 1 (2020), 25-52.
  • “Towards a Field of Israel/Palestine Studies,” Between the "Jewish Question" and the "Arab Question": Contemporary Entanglements and Juxtapositions, eds Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsekh (Columbia University Press, 2020), 173-97
  • “Solidarity As an Emotion: American Jewry and the 1948 War,” Modern American History, forthcoming in March 2022.

Featured Lectures

The Passions of Solidarity: American Jews and Israel During the 1948 War

A lecture at American University (2020)

Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader

A webinar at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University (April 17, 2020)

Zionism and Antisemitism: Ideologies or Emotions

A lecture at University of Texas at Austin (2019)

Declarations of (In)dependence: Dialectics of Zionist Statecraft, 1896-1948

A lecture at Brown University (2018)

Is There a Link Between Judaism and Economics?

An interview at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania (July 7, 2016)

News Articles

Other Affiliations

  • President, American Academy for Jewish Research