Aaron Gross

Aaron Gross
Fax: (619) 260-2260
Office: Maher Hall 285

Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies

  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara Department of Religious Studies
  • M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School
  • B.A.,  Grinnell College; Philosophy

Aaron S. Gross is a historian of religions who focuses on modern and contemporary Jewish thought and ethics. He has a sub-specialty in South Asian religious traditions. Thematically Gross’s work centers on the study of animals and religion, and food and religion. He is active in the leadership of the Society for Jewish Ethics and the American Academy of Religion’s Animals and Religion Group, and founded and serves as CEO of the nonprofit advocacy organization, Farm Forward. His new book, The Question of the Animal and Religion: Theoretical Stakes, Practical Implications (Columbia University Press 2015), makes a case for elevating the category of the animal in the study of religion through an investigation into recent, high-profile scandals involving one of the largest kosher slaughterhouses in the world, located unexpectedly in Postville, Iowa.

Areas of Expertise

Theology and Religious Studies

Areas of Interest

Gross views the study of religion as inherently interdisciplinary and his teaching draws especially on anthropology, critical theory, philosophy, sociology, and theology. Gross teaches survey courses on world religions and upper division courses on Jewish traditions. In addition to expanding the offering of upper level courses on Jewish traditions, he teaches thematic courses on animals and religion, and food and religion. While Gross teaches about Jewish traditions in all periods, he puts a special emphasis on modern and contemporary Jewish thought and practice, especially in North and South America. As a specialist in Judaism committed to the ideals of a liberal arts education, Gross emphasizes that understanding Jewish traditions provides essential information for a critical understanding of such important modern Western concepts as race, ethnicity, multiculturalism, nation, law, spirituality, ritual, religion, and religious freedom.
Gross’s classes emphasize religion in the everyday, religion as “meaning making”, the theoretical basis for the academic study of religion, ethical traditions, and critical attention to race, sex, and gender. He also focuses on building core skills including thesis-driven writing, close reading skills, sympathetic understanding, ethical reasoning, and critical and comparative thinking. In classroom presentations Gross utilizes a variety of media including material culture, images, video, and a wide range of websites. Pedagogical approaches Gross favors include interactive lecturing, discussion, small group work, guest speakers, and site visits.