Steve Zipperstein

Steve Zipperstein

Faculty Webpage

(650) 725-5660

Department of History
Building 200
Stanford, CA 94305-2024

The Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History

Department of History


Steven J. Zipperstein is currently completing a cultural history of the Jews of Russia at the turn of the 20th century.  For sixteen years, beginning in 1991, Zipperstein was Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. In fall 2007-8, he was the Weinstock Visiting Professor in Jewish History at Harvard University, where he held the Schyler Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2008-9. He has held a research appointment for several years at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard.

Zipperstein's most recent book, Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing, was published in 2009 by Yale University Press was shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award in biography, autobiography, and memoir.  In it, he uses a cache of mostly previously unknown letters, manuscripts, and journals to examine the life and work of writer Isaac Rosenfeld, who, before he died relatively young and obscure, was considered more promising than Saul Bellow, his closest friend.

Zipperstein has taught at Oxford (for six years), and at universities in France, Russia, and Poland. His first book, The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, 1794-1881 (Stanford University Press, 1985) won the Smilen Prize and was named the outstanding book on Jewish history published that year. It has been translated into Russian. His second book, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism (University of California Press, 1993) won the National Jewish Book Award. In 1998, it appeared in Israel in a Hebrew translation published by the Ofakim series of Am Oved.  His third book, Imagining Russian Jewry: Memory, History, Identity (University of Washington Press, 1999), was based on the Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies that he delivered at the University of Washington, Seattle.   His articles are reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Dissent, Partisan Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Jewish Review of Books, and elsewhere. 

Zipperstein is an editor of the journal Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society with his Stanford colleague Aron Rodrigue and Derek Penslar from the University of Toronto Together with Tel Aviv University's Anita Shapira, is series editors of the "Jewish Lives" biography series at the trade division of Yale University Press.  It is anticipated that some 100 books will be published under its aegis in a project funded by the Leon Black Foundation; a dozen books in the series have already appeared.

Professor Zipperstein has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, at Wolfson College, Oxford, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew Studies, the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, and the Stanford Humanities Center. He is President of the Conference on Jewish Social Studies, he was Vice President of the Association for Jewish Studies, and he served for seven years as Chair of the Koret Book Awards.  He is the recipient of the Judah L. Magnes Gold Medal from the American Friends of the Hebrew University, and the Koret Prize for outstanding contributions to Jewish life. He has been the J. B. Shapiro Senior Scholar in Residence at the United Memorial Holocaust Museum, in Washington D.C, has given the Weizmann Memorial Lecture in the Humanities at the Weizmann Institute, and endowed lectures at dozens of universities including Harvard, Princeton, and Wesleyan.  He sits on the academic advisory boards of journals and institutions in the United States as well as in Israel, Germany, and Russia, and is the Chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History, in New York.    

He was awarded as a series editor of the Jewish Lives volumes published by Yale University Press the 2015 book of the year award by the National Jewish Book Council, the first time a book series has ever won this prize. Recent essays of his have appeared in the New York Times book review, the Jewish Review of Books, and elsewhere.

  • Jews in the Modern World
  • Zionism, and its Critics
  • Biography and History
  • Russian Jewish History
  • Graduate Seminar in Modern Jewish History
  • Core Colloquium in Modern Jewish History: 20th Century Historiography
  • Modern Jewish History
  • History of Zionism
  • Russian and East European Jewish History
  • Biography

Selected Publications:

Upcoming: "Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History" was accepted for publication by Liveright/W.W. Norton for fall 2017

"Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing" (2008)

The Worlds of S. Ansky, edited by Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein (2006)

"On the Secrets of Isaac Babel," Dissent, Summer 2003

"Isaac Rosenfeld and Literary Biography," Partisan Review, Winter 2002

"Goodbye to All That? Elegies for the Book," Dissent, Summer 2000

Imagining Russian Jewry: Memory, History, Identity (1999)

Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha'am and the Origins of Zionism (1993)

Assimilation and Community in Nineteenth-Century Europe, edited by Jonathan Frankel and Steven J. Zipperstein (1992)

The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History (1985)


Other- Professor Zipperstein in the News

Isaac, with Love and Squalor (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives) Commentary Magazine, July/August 2009

The Friend who Failed (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Standpoint Magazine, July/August 2009

Dynamic Days of a Literary Hero (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)The Independent, July 13, 2009

Review: Rosenfeld's LivesLondon Jewish Chronicle, July 2, 2009 

The Binding of Isaac (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)The New Republic, July 1, 2009

TPM Café: This Summer's Best Serious Book (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)TPM Magazine, June 16, 2009 

Literary Promises Unfulfilled (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)The Washington Post, June 11, 2009

​Charm and Death (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Literary Review, June 9, 2009

Rosenfeld's Lives (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Times Literary Supplement (TLS), May 22, 2009

Examining the legacy of writer Isaac RosenfeldBuffalo News, May 10, 2009

The hunger artist (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Haaretz, May 2009

Immersed in, and Suspicious of, BooksChronicle of Higher Education, May 8, 2009

Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Jewish Book World, May, 2009

The Incomplete Rosenfeld (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives), April 27, 2009

Writers Read: Steven ZippersteinWriters Read Blog, April 20, 2009

The Curse of Promise Unfulfilled (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2009 

Speaking Across Generations (Review of Rosenfeld's Lives)The New Leader, March/April 2009

Honors in YiddishForward, December 19, 2009

An Intellectual Exercise: The first faculty director of advising plans to set a new toneStanford Magazine, March/April 2004

Koret Foundation helps Stanford University to acquire the historic Hebrew Library of Copenhagen's Jewish communityKoret Foundation, February 12, 2003

Steven Zipperstein connects the drama of Saul Bellow’s life to his literatureStanford Report, May 30, 2001