Campus News

Scholar joins UGA as first Covenant Foundation Prof

Baruch Halpern

An internationally recognized scholar whose work combines ancient history, archeology and religious studies has joined UGA as the inaugural holder of the Covenant Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies.

Baruch Halpern, who comes to UGA from Penn State University, has authored four books, including The First Historians and the landmark David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. The latter, which is being translated into Hebrew and Italian, used historical and archaeological evidence to examine the life of King David of Israel. Halpern also co-directed archeological excavations of the ancient city Megiddo in Israel, edited two scholarly book series and has appeared in several documentaries on biblical history. He is currently writing a history of Israel and a biography of the prophet Jeremiah.

“Dr. Halpern is a first-rate scholar whose addition to our faculty highlights the importance of Jewish studies to an intellectually vibrant department of religion that also boasts expertise in Christianity, Islam, Asian studies and Native American religious traditions,” said Franklin College Dean Alan T. Dorsey. 

Halpern is the former director of the Jewish Studies Program at Penn State, where he held the Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies. He has held visiting professorships at the University of Heidlberg in Germany, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of California, San Diego. He has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation and was president of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Canada. He earned his doctoral, master’s and undergraduate degrees from Harvard and also taught at York University in Toronto.

“Getting Halpern, the foremost historian of the Bible and its world, was a coup for UGA,” said Richard Elliott Friedman, the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at UGA. “We’ve been receiving enormously congratulatory messages from scholars around the world on this appointment. And our students are already starting to discover what a brilliant and generous teacher he is.”

The Covenant Foundation was established by Ann and Jay Davis. One of its most important aspects is to strengthen educational endeavors that perpetuate and enhance the identity, continuity and heritage of the Jewish people. In 2003, they established the Ann and Jay Davis Professorship in Jewish Studies. 

“It is our hope that the establishment of these two professorships will create an interest by others to enhance this learning experience at the university and eventually will make UGA a foremost center of Jewish learning,” said Jay Davis.