Principal investigator: Hillel Gray

Hillel Gray is a scholar of religion and ethics with primary interests in Jewish legal discourse and in the study of oppositional religious groups. He is an assistant teaching professor in the department of comparative religion at Miami University of Ohio affiliated with the Middle East, Jewish, and Islamic Studies (MEJIS) program.

In the Fall 2019 semester, he introduced an innovative course, Empathy and the Religious “Enemy.” The course comes out of Gray’s decade-long ethnographic-style study, through in-person, recorded interviews, of controversial religious groups – namely the Westboro Baptist Church and the Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish, anti-Zionist group opposed to the existence of the state of Israel and in favor of Palestinian claims to sovereignty. Through his approach, Gray pursues a non-biased, empathic discipline to interview and engage with an oppositional “Other.” Gray is training others, including students and scholars, to employ this research approach as a means to encourage meaningful conversations with polarizing communities – without validating or condoning their actions and beliefs.

Gray has served as the coordinator of Miami University’s Jewish Studies program and an academic advisor. Some of the courses he has taught include Religious “Fundamentalism,” Global Jewish Civilization, Religions of the Hebrew Bible, Judaism and Sex/Gender, Religion and Jewish Nationalisms in Israel, Religion and Law, Religious Roots of anti-Semitism, and Medicine, Morality and Religion.

Gray holds a B.A. from Yale, a Master in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Religion on the history of Judaism from the University of Chicago.