Aaron Gross

Aaron Gross
Phone: (619) 260-7412
Fax: (619) 260-2260
Office: Maher Hall 285

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 with a specialization in contemporary Jewish thought and ethics and a sub-specialization in contemporary Jain and Buddhist traditions. Gross puts special value on socially engaged scholarship that provides a space for deep and sustained analysis of contemporary structures of oppression and resistance. 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.

Gross’s 2014 monograph, The Question of the Animal and Religion: Theoretical Stakes, Practical Implications (Columbia University Press), has become a foundational text in the subfield of animals and religion. He brought some of the insights from that book to the big screen while serving as co-writer for the award-winning 2018 documentary, Eating Animals, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2009 internationally bestselling book of the same name. His recent work, such as his 2020 essay, “Race and the Story of American Judaism: A Critique of Whiteness” marks a deepening engagement with critical race theory and Black and Womanist theology. His most recent book, Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food (New York University Press, 2019), models the fruitful cross-pollination possible between the study of food and the study of religion. In addition to his scholarly publications, Gross’s critical analyses of the American food system has been featured in numerous popular venues including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. Starting in Fall 2020, Gross is co-leading with Drs. Christopher Carter (THRS) and Nick Riggle (Philosophy) USD’s Food Studies Initiative with support from a USD Strategic Initiatives Grant.

Areas of Expertise

Religious Studies, Jewish Studies, Animal Studies, Food Studies

Areas of Interest

Thematically Gross’s work centers on the study of animals and religion, and food and religion, and his theoretical approach emphasizes insights from animal studies, ecofeminism, and race theory. His current writing projects include efforts to combine insights from contemporary Jewish thought, especially Abraham Joshua Heschel and Jacques Derrida; race theory; and animal studies to theorize the nature of oppression and resistance to it in the contemporary moment.

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, religion and food, and religion and animals and upper division courses on Jewish traditions. 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 teaching also focuses on building core skills including thesis-driven writing, close reading skills, sympathetic understanding, ethical reasoning, and comparative thinking.

Office Hours

Section 01R
1/26 - 5/12 T TH 10:00 am - 11:15 amTBD - TBD
T TH 5:30 pm - 6:45 pmTBD - TBD