Dr. Assaf Shelleg

Modern Jewish art music; Israeli art music; musicological historiography; twentieth- and twenty-first century music; Theological tropes in Israeli culture.

Assaf Shelleg (Hebrewאסף שלג‎), an Israeli musicologist and pianist, a senior lecturer of musicology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was previously the Schusterman Visiting Assistant Professor of Musicology and Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia (2011–14), and had taught prior to that as the visiting Efroymson Scholar in the Jewish, Islamic & Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department at Washington University in St. Louis (2009–11).

Shelleg specializes in twentieth-century Jewish and Israeli art musics and has published in some of the leading journals in both musicology and Israel Studies on topics ranging from the historiography of modern Jewish art music to the theological networks of Israeli art music. Shelleg’s book, Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History, appeared in November 2014 with Oxford University Press. The book studies the emergence of modern Jewish art music in central and Western Europe (1910s-1930s) and its translocation to Palestine/Israel (1930s-1970s), exposing the legacies of European antisemitism and religious Judaism in the making of Israeli art music. Moving to consider the dislocation of modern Jewish art music the book examines the paradoxes embedded in a Zionist national culture whose rhetoric negated its pasts, only to mask process of hybridizations enchained by older legacies. Jewish Contiguities has recently won the 2015 Engle Prize for the study of Hebrew Music. Shelleg is also a regular musical contributor to Haaretz newspaper.

Selected Publications


2014 Jewish Contiguities and the Soundtrack of Israeli History. New York: Oxford University Press

In preparationTheological Stains: Art Music in Israel


2013 “The Dilution of National Onomatopoeias in Post-Statehood Israeli Art Music: Precursors, Contiguities, Shifts”, Journal of Musicological Research, 32.4: 314-45

2012 “Israeli Art Music: A Reintroduction,” Israel Studies, 17.3: 119-49

Book reviews

2014 “Behind the Politics of Exoticism in Israeli Music: A Review of ‘Music in Israel,’ eds. Tuvia Friling, Gideon Katz, and Michael Wolpe (Sede Boker: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 2014),” Ha’aretz (November 21, 2014)

2012 Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic by Amy Horowitz, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, 26: 313-17.

2010 The Organ and Its Music in German-Jewish Culture by Tina Frühauf, Musica Judaica, 19: 293-99.