Dr. Noam Sienna

Noam speaking at the Association for Jewish Studies

I am a scholar of Jewish culture and history, focusing especially on the medieval and early modern periods, and with a particular interest in Jewish communities in the Islamic world. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Toronto (2023-2025), contributing to the Mellon-funded interdisciplinary project Hidden Stories: New Approaches to the Local and Global History of the Book, which aims to rethink our understanding of the global past through interdisciplinary study of the materiality of the book. My current research with Hidden Stories examines medieval and early modern Jewish book culture in the Islamic world through a global and cross-cultural lens.

I completed my PhD in Jewish History and Museum Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2020. I also have an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, and a BA in Anthropology, Classics, and Religion from Brandeis University (summa cum laude).

My academic interests include Jewish art and material culture, inter-religious contact and interfaith relations, manuscript illumination and early modern printing, magic and demonology, the Sephardi diaspora, and representing religion in museums. Learn more about my published research ›.

I have taught courses on Jewish life, art, and literature; Jewish-Muslim relations; and global and Middle Eastern history in a variety of settings, and I have lectured widely to academic and community audiences around the world.

I am currently working on three major academic projects:

  • a monograph, based on my dissertation, of Jewish book culture in early modern North Africa. Examining the lifecycle of the book, from production (whether in manuscript or print) to distribution and circulation in reading communities, I highlight how studying the Jewish book as both a material and social object illuminates the encounter between the world of a text and the world of its readers. Hopefully forthcoming in 2025!
  • a descriptive/social bibliography of the Ibn Nahmias press in Ottoman Constantinople, 1493-1520. The books printed at this press, both in their content and also in their physical and material forms, are windows into the peregrinations of the Sephardim between the Iberian peninsula, Italy, Germany, North Africa, and the Ottoman Empire, as well as testaments to the deep intellectual and communal questions that were facing Jewish communities around the Mediterranean at a global moment of trauma and transformation.
  • a interdisciplinary study of the movement of Torah scrolls between Jewish and Christian communities. Bridging the fields of History, Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Museum Studies, I explore how the Torah scroll as a material object acts as a stage for articulating ideas about Jews and Judaism, from the earliest debates between Jews and Christians in late antiquity to evangelical collectors in contemporary America.
Title page of Sefer Hatashbetz

About My Art

I am also a Hebrew calligrapher, letterpress printer, and book artist.

To see examples of my work, visit https://siennajewisharts.com.