Vanessa L. Ochs  is the author of Inventing Jewish Ritual (JPS), winner of a 2007 National Jewish Book Award.  Her other books include Sarah Laughed, The Jewish Dream Book (with Elizabeth Ochs) , The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices (edited with Irwin Kula), Words on Fire: One Woman’s Journey into the Sacred, and  Safe and Sound: Protecting Your Child In An Unpredictable World.  For her writing, she was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dr. Ochs is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies Program at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in Judaism, anthropology of religion and spiritual writing.

Ochs earned her B.A. in Drama and French from Tufts University, an M.F.A. in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College, and Ph.D. in Anthropology of Religion from Drew University. She was ordained as a rabbi in 2012.


Current work: I am working on two projects now, linked to my previous work in the study of religion and material culture and the study of Jewish ritual innovation. The first project is a “biography” of the Passover Haggadah, which will be part of a series of “biographies” of canonical texts to be published by Princeton University Press. The second is a multi-year, multi-site ethnography of Jewish homes in America that answers a question I have long been pondering: “What—from the perspective of material culture—makes a Jewish home Jewish.