Elias Sacks
Associate Professor
Religious Studies

Office: HUMN 286

Ph.D., Princeton University, 2012

Research Interests: 

Judaism, religious thought, religion and politics, theories and methods, religious ethics

Primary Teaching Areas and Opportunities for Student Supervision

  • Jewish thought, history, and exegesis
  • Jewish-Christian relations
  • modern philosophy and theology
  • religion, ethics, and politics
  • theories and methods


Elias Sacks joined the University of Colorado faculty in 2012, and works on the Jewish tradition, religious thought, and theories and methods in the study of religion.  After receiving his A.B. from Harvard University and studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he earned an M.A. in Religion from Columbia University (2007) and a Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University (2012).  His research focuses on the modern period, with particular areas of interest including Jewish thought, Jewish-Christian relations, philosophy of religion, religion and politics, hermeneutics, and religious ethics. His first book, Moses Mendelssohn’s Living Script: Philosophy, Practice, History, Judaism (Indiana University Press, 2017), explores the account of Jewish practice developed by Moses Mendelssohn, the eighteenth-century philosopher generally seen as the founder of modern Jewish thought.  Reading Mendelssohn’s well-known German works alongside his neglected Hebrew writings, the book calls for a far-reaching reassessment of this influential figure, recovering previously unrecognized arguments by Mendelssohn about philosophy, citizenship, and religious authority, and showing that his thought has much to offer broader conversations about modernity and religion.  Sacks is currently working on a second book, Nachman Krochmal and the Struggle for Modern Jewish Politics, on Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840), one of modernity’s first Eastern European Jewish philosophers.  His recent and forthcoming articles explore Mendelssohn, Krochmal, and other figures in medieval and modern Jewish thought, including Moses Maimonides, Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Jacob Taubes.  Sacks also serves as a translator for a new English edition of Mendelssohn’s writings (Brandeis University Press, 2011, finalist for the National Jewish Book Award), along with a new collection of Cohen’s works and an anthology of responses to Spinoza (Brandeis University Press).

Recent and Forthcoming Publications

  • "The Promise and Perils of Perplexity: Jewish Philosophy and Public Culture, Yesterday and Today," in The Future of Jewish Philosophy, volume 21 of The Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers, eds. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson and Aaron Hughes (Brill, forthcoming 2018)
  • "Poetry, Music, and the Limits of Harmony: Mendelssohn’s Aesthetic Critique of Christianity,” in Sara Levy’s World: Bach, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin, eds. Nancy Sinkoff and Rebecca Cypess, Eastman Studies in Music (University of Rochester Press), 122-146
  • “Worlds to Come Between East and West: Immortality and the Rise of Modern Jewish Thought,” in Olam Ha-zeh v’Olam Ha-ba: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice, ed. Leonard Greenspoon, Studies in Jewish Civilization (Purdue University Press), 171-195
  • “Is God Eternal? Revisiting Mendelssohn and Rosenzweig on Reason, Revelation, and the Name of God,” Modern Theology 33.1 (2017): 69-91
  • Moses Mendelssohn’s Living Script: Philosophy, Practice, History, Judaism (Indiana University Press, 2017)
  • "Law, Ethics, and the Needs of History: Mendelssohn, Krochmal, and Moral Philosophy,” Journal of Religious Ethics 44.2 (2016): 352-377
  • "Civic Freedom out of the Sources of Judaism: Mendelssohn, Maimonides, and Law’s Promise,” Journal of Jewish Ethics 2.1 (2016): 86-111
  • "Anarchy and Law: Mendelssohn on Philosophy and Judaism,” in Moses Mendelssohn: Enlightenment, Religion, Politics, Nationalism, eds. Charles Manekin and Michah Gottlieb (University Press of Maryland, 2015), 237-273
  • “Spinoza, Maimonides and the Politics of Prophecy,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 21.1 (2014): 67-98
  • ‘Finden Sie mich sehr amerikanisch?’: Jacob Taubes, Hermann Cohen, and the Return to German-Jewish Liberalism,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 57 (2012): 187-210
  • “Moses Mendelssohn,”  Oxford Bibliographies in Jewish Studies, ed. David Biale (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Selections from the writings of Moses Mendelssohn (Hebrew), in Moses Mendelssohn: Writings on Judaism, Christianity, and the Bible, ed. Michah Gottlieb, trans. Allan Arkush, Curtis Bowman, and Elias Sacks, Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought (Brandeis University Press, 2011); Finalist for 2011 National Jewish Book Award

Selected Conference Papers and Invited Presentations

  • "Imperialism, Liberalism, and Jewish Studies: Jacob Taubes and the Jewish Paul," American Academy of Religion, Denver, November 2018
  • "Medieval Exegesis and Modern Judaism: Mendelssohn and Krochmal on Ecclesiastes," Eleventh Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies, Krakow, July 2018
  • "Critical Theory out of the Sources of Judaism: Horkheimer, Cohen, and Jewish Thought,” American Academy of Religion, Boston, November 2017
  • “Can Jews Be Citizens? Jewish Politics from the Enlightenment to Today,” Leni Sassower Lecture, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, September 2017
  • “Language or Politics? Moses Mendelssohn and Nachman Krochmal on Biblical Exegesis,” Seventeenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, August 2017
  • “The Sounds of Thought Between East and West: Mendelssohn and Krochmal on Music as Philosophy,” Association for Jewish Studies, San Diego, December 2016
  • “Discovery or Disclosure? Medieval Exegesis and Modern Judaism Between East and West,” American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, November 2016
  • “Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Culture, Yesterday and Today” (for session on “Jewish Philosophy in Contemporary Culture”), The Future of Jewish Philosophy, Arizona State University, September 2016
  • “Hebrew Philosophy Between East and West: Mendelssohn, Krochmal, and Jewish Modernity,” Borns Jewish Studies Program, Indiana University, February 2016
  • “Why Think with Rabbinic Texts?” Thinking with Rabbinic Texts: An Exploratory Workshop, Boston University, December 2015
  • “The Business of Philosophy: Mendelssohn and Krochmal on Economics and Judaism,” American Academy of Religion, Atlanta, November 2015
  • “Worlds to Come Between East and West: Immortality and the Rise of Modern Jewish Thought,” This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice, Creighton University – University of Nebraska Lincoln – University of Nebraska Omaha, October 2015
  • "From Moses to Moses: Mendelssohn, Maimonides, and Law’s Promise," Society of Jewish Ethics, Chicago, January 2015
  • "Exegesis Contested: Moses Mendelssohn, Nachman Krochmal, and the Reception of German-Jewish Hermeneutics," Association for Jewish Studies, Baltimore, December 2014
  • "Ritual Theory and Jewish Enlightenment: Mendelssohn and Contemporary Debates," American Academy of Religion, San Diego, November 2014
  • "The Perils and Promise of Philosophical Naming: Moses Mendelssohn on Philosophy, History, and Language," The Meaning of Names: Naming Diversity in the 21st Century, Museum of Natural History - University of Colorado at Boulder, October 2014
  • "Religion Contested: Mendelssohn's Aesthetic Critique of Christianity," Sara Levy's World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin, Rutgers University, September 2014
  • "Biblical Exegesis as Philosophical Methodology," Center for Judaic Studies, University of Denver, May 2014
  • “Hebrew Philosophy Between East and West: Law and Ethics in Modern Jewish Thought,” Center for Humanities and the Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder, March 2014
  • “Jewish Thought Between Past and Present: The Case of Nachman Krochmal” (for group on Christian Ethics in Historical Context), Society of Christian Ethics, Seattle, January 2014
  • “Hebrew Politics Between East and West: Krochmal’s Covert Critique of Mendelssohn,” Revealers of Secrets – 200 Years of Galician Haskalah: The Fifth International Conference for the Study of the Haskalah Movement, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, December 2013
  • Invited Participant in Roundtable on “Attracting Students to the Jewish Studies Classroom: Reports from the Field,” Association for Jewish Studies, Boston, December 2013
  • “Aesthetic Politics: Poetry, Music, and Citizenship in Mendelssohn’s Hebrew Writings,” American Academy of Religion, Baltimore, November 2013
  • "The Limits of Ethics: Mendelssohn and Krochmal on Judaism and the Good,” Association for Jewish Studies, Chicago, December 2012
  • “Rescuing the Law: Practical Discretion and Historical Change in Mendelssohn’s Hebrew Writings,” American Academy of Religion, Chicago, November 2012
  • "From Mysticism to Humanism: Moses Mendelssohn, Sexual Desire, and the History of Jewish Thought,” Jewish Studies Colloquium, University of Colorado at Boulder, October 2012


  • Jewish Studies (Associate Director, Director of Graduate Studies)
  • Center for Asian Studies


  • FYSM 1000 (first-year seminar): God
  • RLST 2400: Religion and Contemporary Society
  • RLST/JWST 3100: Judaism
  • RLST/JWST 4170-5170: God and Politics
  • RLST/JWST 4180-5180: Is God Dead?
  • RLST/JWST 4190-5190: Love & Desire
  • RLST/JWST 4260-5260: Topics in Judaism: Bible in Judaism and Christianity
  • RLST 6830: Introduction to the Academic Study of Religion
  • RLST 4840 / JWST 4900: Undergraduate Independent Study
  • RLST 5840 / RLST 6840: Graduate Independent Study