Biography

James Loeffler is Jay Berkowitz Professor of Jewish History at the University of Virginia.​

A graduate of Harvard and Columbia Universities, he pursued postgraduate studies in Israel at the Pardes Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He went on to serve as Sound Archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. His scholarly work has been supported by fellowships from the Dorot Foundation, the Wexner Foundation, the Fulbright Fellowship, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon Foundation. He has served as Dean’s Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University Law Center, Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress, and Robert A. Savitt Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

His first book, The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale, 2010), won eight major awards and honors, including from the Association for Jewish Studies, the Sami Rohr Prize, and the ASCAP foundation. His other writings include essays on East European Jewish history, the antisemitism of Richard Wagner and Frederic Chopin, the history of klezmer music, American Jewish politics, the origins of Israeli popular song, the memory of the Holocaust in Soviet Jewish culture, and the history of international law. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Tablet, Mosaic, Haaretz, The New Republic, the Hedgehog Review, Time Magazine, and Slate.​

His other books include Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Yale, 2018) and a co-edited volume, The Law of Strangers: Jewish Lawyers and International Law in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2019). He is currently at work on two books: a short biography of the remarkable life and many afterlives of Raphael Lemkin, the father of the Genocide Convention, and a history of the forgotten, century-long American Jewish struggle against antisemitism.

A trained pianist and musicologist, he has consulted to National Public Radio, the Center for Jewish History, Carnegie Hall, and numerous other cultural institutions. For ten years he served as scholar-in-residence for the Pro Musica Hebraica concert series at the Kennedy Center. Before that he directed the Former Soviet Jewish Community Cultural Initiative at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York City and worked at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Jewish Music Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also contributed the liner notes to the Grammy-nominated album The Zemiros Project (Traditional Crossroads, 2000).​

At the University of Virginia, he teaches courses in ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish history, and modern European and international history. In 2009 he was awarded the college’s Mead Distinguished Faculty Award for outstanding undergraduate teaching. Currently he serves as co-chair of the University’s Page-Barbour and James A. Richard Lectures. For the 2019-2020 year, he is a Lab Partner of the Race, Religion, and Democracy Lab.

He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and children.