Derek Penslar

Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History Emeritus, University of Toronto
Affiliated Faculty, Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
Derek Penslar

Areas of interest

  • Cultural history
  • Jewish political and economic life in modern Europe
  • Israel/Palestine Studies



Derek Penslar is the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University and the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History Emeritus at the University of Toronto. He also taught at Oxford University, where he was the inaugural holder of the Stanley Lewis Chair in Modern Israel Studies. Penslar’s books include Shylock’s Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe (2001),  Jews and the Military: A History (2013), Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader; (2020), and Zionism: An Emotional State (2023).  He is currently writing a global history of the 1948 Palestine War. Penslar is a Fellow of the American Society for Jewish Research and the Royal Society of Canada.  He is also an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford. 


Select publications

  • Penslar, Derek. “Declarations of (In)Dependence: Tensions within Zionist Statecraft, 1896–1948.” The Journal of Levantine Studies 8, no. 1 (2018): 13–34.
  • Penslar, Derek. “Between Honor and Authenticity: Zionism as Theodor Herzl’s Life Project.” On the Word of a Jew: Religion, Reliability, and the Dynamics of Trust, 2019, 276–96.
  • Penslar, Derek. Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020.
  • Penslar, Derek. “What’s Love Got to Do with It? the Emotional Language of Early Zionism.” Journal of Israeli History 38, no. 1 (2020): 25–52.
  • Penslar, Derek. “Toward a Field of Israel/Palestine Studies.” In The Arab and Jewish Questions: Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond, edited by Bashir Bashir and Leila Farsakh, 173–98. Columbia University Press, 2020.
  • Penslar, Derek. “Solidarity as an Emotion: American Jews and Israel in 1948.” Modern American History, 2022, 1–25.