Judah M. Cohen is the Lou and Sybil Mervis Professor of Jewish Culture in the Indiana University Borns Jewish Studies Program and an associate professor of musicology at the Jacobs School of Music.
His research interests include music in Jewish life, American music, musical theater, popular culture, Caribbean Jewish history, diaspora, and medical ethnomusicology.
His training as a musicologist and an anthropologist, and his professional activity within Jewish studies, has allowed him to explore many aspects of Jewish culture and history.
As a child, he spent two years in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., and he returned to this island in his first book (Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.), which is both a historical narrative and a meditation on writing the history of a small community.
In his doctoral work, he explored the meaning of becoming a Reform Jewish cantor at the turn of the twenty-first century, based on three years of ethnographic study with cantorial students.
Subsequent projects have led him to investigate the history of Jewish music scholarship in the United States, musical theater works that address Holocaust memory, contemporary forms of Jewish musical expression and musical representations of such cultural figures as Anne Frank and Shylock.
Throughout his research, he has focused on the idea of Jewish cultural expression as a dynamic and ever-changing process, created and recreated over time by artists, religious leaders, philosophers and activists. He has aimed to understand this idea largely through the prism of sound and its relationship to ideas of Jewish identity.
He received the IU Trustees Teaching Award in both 2008 and 2011, and the Greater Hudson Heritage Network Award for Excellence in 2011 for his book Sounding Jewish Tradition: The Music of Central Synagogue.