Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Ellie and Herbert D. Katz Distinguished Fellowship

Research Topic

Maimonidean Dynasty: Law and Leadership in the Jewish Communities of the East


Menahem Ben-Sasson is Chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He researches the social and intellectual history of medieval Jewry in Muslim lands from the seventh to the fourteenth centuries, including both the Golden Era of Jewish culture in Islamic lands and the era of the decline of Judaic culture from the twelfth century onwards.

Ben-Sasson completed his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has since taught at Ben-Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University, and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and has been a fellow at Cambridge University and several times at the Katz Center.

Selected publications

  • The  Emergence  of  the  Local  Jewish  Community  in  the  Muslim  World: Qayrawan 800–1057 (Magness Press, 1996)
  • The Jews of Sicily 825–1068: Documents and Sources (The Ben-Zvi Institute, 1991)



Focusing on the broad contexts in which Jewish (and Israelite) law was developed by and for Jews, and in which it operated, treating law as a necessary component for understanding the broader dynamics of culture, history, governance, and economics of each place and period. 


Challenging the methodological divide between history and anthropology in the study of Jews and Judaism.


Encouraging a broad view of Islamic societies and fostering new approaches to their religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity.


Examining the multivalent relationship between law and spirituality in Ancient Near Eastern, biblical, and Jewish contexts.