Ezra Tzfadya

Senior Fellow

  • etzfadya@iu.edu

Full Biography

Ezra Tzfadya is both a foreign policy practitioner dealing with the Middle East and a scholar on Shia Islamic and Jewish political and legal thought. He leads CSME's program "Shia Islamic and Jewish Legal Reasoning in Dialogue." Ezra comes to CSME following a term as Iran Policy Fellow at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (Fall 2021) and as Visiting Faculty in the IU Borns Jewish Studies program (2020-2021). He has recently defended his dissertation "Theocracy in Shia Islam and Judaism: Studies in Legal Theology " at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. In foreign policy, he has worked as European Director of the Catholic University of America's Program on Justice, Ethics and the Rule of Law (2015-2018), New York Field Director at J Street (2014-2015) and Schonfeld Fellow at the American Jewish Committee's Berlin office (2008-2009).

Ezra's dissertation addresses the ideational and historical underpinnings of theocratic thought in both Shia Islam and Judaism, and attempts by modern thinkers to theologically problematize and unwind theocratic syntheses that meld mysticism, law, philosophy and politics for the sake of human autonomy. He examines key thinkers in the Jewish tradition such as Judah Halevi, Rav Kook, Leo Strauss, Franz Rosenzweig and Menachem Lorberbaum, along with figures in the Islamic tradition that include Mohamed Shabestari, Abdolkarim Soroush, Ayatollah Khomeini, Henri Corbin and Fazlur Rahman. The medieval theology of Judah Halevi’s Kuzari, which appropriates concepts from Shiism to form the core elements of its political theology, provides a philological basis for the endeavor. His next research project attempts to hermeneutically and dialogically understand the Iranian-Israeli conflict as an epistemic clash between modern Israeli-Jewish and Iranian-Shia postcolonial constitutional identities. His research has been supported by both a Fulbright fellowship and the German Academic Exchange (DAAD) doctoral fellowship.