Sam Strickberger, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majors in intellectual history and minors in survey research and data analytics. His history honors thesis, “Encountering Modernity: The Jewish Orthodox Debates on Enslavement, 1848-1861,” examines the interplay between religious authority, morality, and politics during a critical historical moment. It explores the antebellum Jewish Orthodox debates over race-based slavery by analyzing rabbinical sermons, responsa, and newspaper articles. He serves as ‘22 Class Board President and co-executive director of InLight Magazine. He enjoys playing ping pong, reading Jewish philosophy, and hiking with PennQuest.
Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow
2021—2022 Forum on Migration
History; Minors in Survey Research and Data Analytics
The Jewish Orthodox Race-Based Slavery Debates, 1848-1861
Race-based chattel slavery was the most contentious moral and political issue in the antebellum United States. The debates, and their stakes, confronted the tens of thousands of 1840-1850s Jewish immigrants almost upon their arrival. This history honors thesis will study antebellum Jewish Orthodox Biblical interpretations regarding race-based slavery in the United States. It will situate the Orthodox debates within a broader set of disputes, including those of leading Protestant theologians. The project will also contextualize the Orthodox debates within recent and long-term Jewish history, such as European persecution, American assimilation, and the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment, circa 1770-1880s). This paper will highlight a key, but under-examined, moment in the development of American and post-Enlightenment Jewish thought.