Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi

Vice President for Academic Affairs
Amanda Beckenstein Mbuvi, Ph.D., is a scholar of Hebrew Bible, author and teacher with a wellspring of academic, administrative and nonprofit leadership experience. As vice president for academic affairs, Mbuvi oversees the academic program and a curriculum that combines rigorous academic learning with intensive community-building and field training. Mbuvi subscribes to a holistic approach to rabbinic education — one that equips students to bring about new possibilities for the world. In this key leadership role, Mbuvi supervises all faculty and represents the academic program within Reconstructing Judaism while advancing the vision and mission of the larger organization. Mbuvi serves as an ambassador of the college and larger organization to the wider world. Mbuvi is the first Jew of Color to lead an American rabbinical school. She is dedicated to further increasing diversity within the rabbinate, ensuring that the profession more accurately reflects the full human diversity of Jewish communities that students and graduates serve. “What has guided me is a desire to change how we think about and live with diversity” in ways that lean into “our fundamental interdependence.” Mbuvi thinks about diversity in ways that are flexible rather than rigid, and that celebrate connection across difference. She is passionate about dynamic, inclusive Jewish communities that cultivate what she likes to call “blessed interdependence.” Mbuvi was drawn to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College by her belief that the Reconstructionist movement is doing the most vital work in American Judaism today. Mbuvi is also inspired by the college’s intentional Jewish community rooted in authenticity and justice — one that continues to serve as a model for co-creating community in the world. From her own experience, she easily connects with students whose places in Jewish communities have been questioned, who thought of themselves as outsiders and who may have had to break down real barriers. As a scholar and teacher of the Hebrew Bible, she recalls being drawn to its vivid stories, rich language and the ways ancient texts connected with various streams of her identity. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, Mbuvi is author of the 2016 book, Belonging in Genesis: Biblical Israel and the Politics of Identity Formation, published by Baylor University Press. In the work, she demonstrated how acts of storytelling and transmission define community. Mbuvi takes an interdisciplinary approach to biblical studies, engaging questions of identity and community that are as present in the biblical text as they are in contemporary society. She introduces students to interpretive voices from a wide variety of perspectives, expanding the students’ horizons as they develop their own points of view. She believes that the greatest value in the classroom comes between exchanges between teachers and students, creating moments of learning and meaning for both. Most recently, Mbuvi served as assistant professor of religion at High Point University in North Carolina. She has taught courses in the Hebrew prophets; the Five Books of Moses; Global Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation; Women in the Bible; Storytelling and the Sacred; and Introduction to Judaism. She has also taught at Elon University, Guilford College, Duke University Divinity School and Renk Theological College in South Sudan. In addition to her academic work, Mbuvi has coordinated an adult literacy program in North Carolina; served on the board of Beth David Synagogue and the B’nai Shalom Day School in Greensboro, N.C.; and is a former member of the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Greensboro Jewish Federation. She also spearheaded the creation of High Point University’s first minor in Jewish studies. She serves on the board of the Society for Jewish Ethics and was a program co-chair for its annual meeting from 2019-21. Mbuvi earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and literary theory from Bryn Mawr College, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Palmer Theological Seminary, and both a Ph.D. in religion and a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

Selected Courses

“Global Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Bible” through varied social locations, including the role of colonialism and how people think about their own identity in reading biblical text.

Selected Book Chapters and Scholarly Publications

“Avadim Hayinu: An Intersectional Jewish Perspective on the Global Ethic of Solidarity,” in Multi-Religious Perspectives on a Global Ethic: In Search of a Common Morality. Myriam Renaud and William Schweiker eds. London and New York: Routledge, 2021. “Singing the Songs of Zion in Babylon” in Breaking the Master’s S.H.I.T. Holes: Doing Theology in the Context of Global Migration. Musa Dube and Paul Leshota eds. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2020. Seeing Ourselves in Books: A Children’s Book about Transracial Adoption and the Common Sense of Jewish Family and Identity in the United States. Journal of Jewish Ethics, 6(1), 46-73. doi:10.5325/jjewiethi.6.1.0046 “Samson’s Body Politic,” Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches, 20 pp. 389-406: Brill, 2012 “Black Jews Matter: Solidarity Begins Beyond the Limits of Whiteness,” Policing Analogies Series, Contending Modernities: Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame, 2020

Podcast Appearances

The Bible for Normal People: “Finding Ourselves in the Stories of the Bible” Great Bible Teachers: “Genesis and Identity Formation” (2020) First Reading: The Old Testament Lectionary Podcast: “Exodus 24:12–18” (2020) A Better Story: “Race and Identity in Genesis”

Selected Webinars and Public Lectures

Seeing Ourselves in Books,” Teaching and Learning Technologies Program for Elon University (2018) American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Chicago, Nov. 17-20, 2012, “Beyond ‘the stranger in all of us’: Jewishness as Otherness in James Joyce’s Ulysses” presented to the Study of Judaism unit Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, November 2021 Panelist, “Why and How I Teach Differently” Racism, Pedagogy and Biblical Studies Program Unit In 2020, Mbuvi appeared as a panelist at the joint annual meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, the Society of Jewish Ethics and the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics. She served as a respondent to Amy-Jill Levine’s presentation “Pedagogy and Christian Students: Anti-Judaism, Christian Privilege, Christian.”

Quoted in the Media

The Forward: In a first, Jew of color to lead major rabbinical school (June 16, 2021) JTA: A Black and Jewish Bible scholar will lead Reconstructionist rabbinical school, in a first for American Jewish movements (June 18, 2021) Jewish Exponent: RRC Names First Jew of Color to Lead College (July 1, 2021) High Point University: Faculty Profile: Community in the Classroom (Feb. 16, 2017)

The Reconstructionist Network