Matt Berkman is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Oberlin College. He completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. His dissertation, Coercive Consensus: Jewish Federations, Ethnic Representation, and the Roots of American Jewish Politics, won the 2020 Walter Dean Burnham Award for Best Dissertation in History and Politics from the American Political Science Association.

His in-process book manuscript, based on that dissertation, explores the political economy of Jewish public affairs agencies and locates the roots of the contemporary pro-Israel politics in the evolutionary dynamics of the Jewish philanthropic sector over an eighty-year period. It contributes to broader debates about race and ethnicity in the U.S. by tracing the institutional processes that shaped American Jewish politics and identity-formation in the twentieth century.

Matt’s other research and teaching interests include social movements, race and American political development, Zionism, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.


Ph.D., Political Science

University of Pennsylvania, 2018

Dissertation: Coercive Consensus: Jewish Federations, Ethnic Representation, and the Roots of American Pro-Israel Politics

Committee: Professors Ian Lustick, Rogers Smith, Adolph Reed, and Beth Wenger (History)

M.A., Near Eastern Studies

New York University, 2009

B.A., Religious Studies and Philosophy

New York University, 2007



“The Conflict on Campus,” in The Routledge Companion to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 2nd ed. (forthcoming, 2021)

“Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the American Racial Order: Revisiting the American Council for Judaism in the Twenty-First Century,” American Jewish History (forthcoming July 2021).

“The West Bank ‘Alternative Peace Movement’ and Its Transnational Infrastructure: A Case Study in ‘Primordialist Universalism,’” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, vol. 17, no. 3 (2018): 304-325.

“Transforming Philanthropy: Finance and Institutional Evolution at the Jewish Federation of New York, 1917–86,” Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society, vol. 22, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 146–195.

“Zionist Theories of Peace in the Pre-state Era: Legacies of Dissimulation and Israel’s Arab Minority,” with Ian Lustick, in Israel and Its Palestinian Citizens: Ethnic Privilege and Equal Citizenship, Nadim N. Rouhana and Sahar S. Huneidi, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2017): 38-72.

Selected Presentations

“Engagement and Dissent in American Jewish Encounters with Israel,” roundtable participant, December 17, 2020, Association for Jewish Studies Conference, over Zoom.

“J-Zombie.org: The Afterlives of Undead Jewish Organizations,” October 28, 2020, Jewish Zombies Conference, Pennsylvania State University, over Zoom.

“Between Lawfare and Warfare: Jewish Communal Strategy and the Fight Against Antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s,” December 15, 2019, Association for Jewish Studies Conference, San Diego, CA.

“Jewish Federations and the Making of Political Centralization,” September 19, 2019, Jewish Philanthropy Research Workshop, Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

“Jewish Philanthropy and the Institutional Origins of the U.S. Pro-Israel Lobby,” April 19, 2019, Western Political Science Association Conference, San Diego, CA.

“Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, and the American Racial Imagination,” for roundtable “It Can’t Happen Here? Rethinking Antisemitism and Americanism,” December 17, 2018, Association for Jewish Studies Conference, Boston, MA.

“Identities and Institutions in American Jewish Politics,” June 19, 2018, American Jewish Historical Society Biennial Scholars’ Conference, Philadelphia, PA.

“The Shifting Bases of U.S. Support for Israel: The Decentering of Jewish Advocacy and the Rise of Christian Zionism,” December 18, 2017, Association for Jewish Studies Conference, Washington, DC.

“Generating Jews, Generating Resistance: The Internal Contradictions of the Federation Identity Apparatus,” August 9, 2017, Leffell Seminar on the Impact of Israel on American Jewry, West Harrison, NY.

“Indigeneity and the ‘Decolonization’ of Jewish Peoplehood: The Anatomy of an Emerging Movement,”, December 20, 2016, Association for Jewish Studies Conference, San Diego, CA.

“Indigeneity and the ‘Decolonization’ of Jewish Peoplehood: The Anatomy of an Emerging Movement,”, April 11, 2016, Wrestling with Jewish Peoplehood Conference, National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, PA.