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Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman

Chair of Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Law

Associate Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Affiliated Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and History



215 Cohen Memorial Hall


B.A. (University of Washington 1990)
M.Sc. (London School of Economics 1991)
M.A. in Near Eastern Studies (Princeton University 2004)
M.A. in Rabbinics and Rabbinic Ordination (Jewish Theological Seminary of America 2002)
Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies (Princeton University 2007)

Phil Lieberman is Vanderbilt’s specialist in rabbinic literature. He is also an historian of medieval Jewry, particularly Jews in Muslim lands. His research focuses on the social, economic and legal history of the Jewish community of North Africa and the Levant, particularly as documented in manuscript materials from the Cairo Geniza. He serves on the advisory board of the Cairo Geniza Project at Princeton University and is an editor and contributor to The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (edited by Norman Stillman). He also edited The Cambridge History of Judaism, volume 5: Jews in the Medieval Islamic World (2021). He joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2009 from the faculty of New York University, where he taught classes in Jewish Studies and in Islamic and Middle East Studies. His book, The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt, published in 2014 by Stanford University Press, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His The Fate of the Jews in the Early Islamic Near East: Tracing the Demographic Shift from East to West is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in 2022; this book examines Jewish urbanization in Iraq under the early Abbasids (750-1258 CE) and the migration of these Jews to the Islamic Mediterranean. He is currently completing a new translation of Moses Maimonides’ 12th century philosophical classic The Guide to the Perplexed with Lenn Goodman of Vanderbilt’s Philosophy Department. He has also begun a new project on commercial manuals in the medieval Islamic world.

Area(s) of Expertise:
Rabbinic literature, Jewish law and Islamic law

Islamic Law: from Mecca to Modernity (7323)
Jewish Law (7340)


Representative Publications:

  • “One Jurist, Two Answers: Law, Advocacy, and Social Reality in the Jewish Community of the Medieval Islamicate World”. Jewish Quarterly Review 111.2 (Spring 2021): 211-235
  • “Criminal Law and Punishment in Guide to the Perplexed III:41—Maimonides’ Precedents and His Intentions”, Daimon:Quaderni di diritto e politica ecclesiastica  Special Volume (2019): 79-95.
  • “Partnership, Equity, and Traditional Jewish Marriage”. Jewish Law Association Studies 28 (2019): 73-93.
  • “One Question, Two Answers: Rabbinic Responsa as Legal Advocacy in the Medieval Islamic  World”. Jewish History 31 (2017): 47-65.
  • “Chinese Porcelain and the Material Taxonomies of Medieval Rabbinic Law: Encounters with Disruptive Substances in Twelfth-Century Yemen”. Medieval Globe 2.2 (2016): 199-238.
  • “As a Father Shows Compassion for His Children: Ancient and Contemporary Perspectives on Judicial Empathy,” 3 Journal of Law, Religion and State 239 (2014) (with Terry Maroney)
  • “What Historians Can Yield from Medieval Jewish Commercial Contracts,” Jewish History (2015)
  • “Jewish Occupational Choice and Urbanization in Iraq under the Early Abbasids,” 29 Jewish History 113 (2015)
  • “Legal Pluralism Among the Court Records of Medieval Egypt,” 63 Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales 79 (2014)
  • The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt, Stanford University Press (2014)
  • A Jew’s Best Friend?: The Image of the Dog Throughout Jewish History, Sussex Academic Press, 2013 (with Rakefet Zalashik)
  • “Commercial Forms and Legal Norms in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt,” 30(4) Law & History Review 1007 (2012)
  • “Contractual Partnerships in the Geniza and the Relation between Islamic Law and Practice,” 54(5) Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 646 (2011)
  • “Legal Writing in Medieval Jewish Cairo,” in Sacred Source: Genizah Studies in Honour of Professor Stefan C. Reif, Siam Bhayro and Benjamin Outhwaite (eds.) (Leiden: Brill, 2010)
  • “The Women’s Right to Choose: An Unsigned Responsum from Ottoman Safed,” 17(2) Jewish Studies Quarterly 99 (2010)

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