​​​​​​The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters (CSoC)

Ben-Gurion University of t​he Negev


Religion has been and remains a predominant aspect of human experience and social practice, nation formation and factionalism, international relations, global security, spirituality, and artistic expression. Ignorance of the religious belief and history of others is a major cause of strife and violence in our world. Understanding the role of religion in changing historical, cultural, and material contexts is an intellectual challenge that demands collaborative interdisciplinary research.


CSoC creates the opportunity for such research by bringing together faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students into a vibrant and devoted community of scholars. It promotes creative academic scholarship and public discussion about the three Abrahamic religions and relations between them at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and impacts the field worldwide. It is the only forum dedicated to the study of religion at BGU, and the only center of its kind in Israeli academia.


CSoC was founded by Prof. Chaim Hames in 2012 as an inter-university I-CORE (Israeli Centers of Research Excellence) project. In 2018, CSoC became a BGU center in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Each academic year highlights a particular theme within the study of religion. The Center supports a cohort of promising younger fellows – outstanding postdoc and PhD candidates – whose research relates to this theme. The center holds weekly seminars and reading groups, multiple book events, international workshops, and field trips. It has invited guest lecturers and research fellows from leading universities worldwide. Within BGU, the center's seminars and conferences serve as a hub for the many scholars and graduate students who are interested in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and continues to draw in former-fellows, scholars from other institutions and guests. The center is proud to have nurtured a few dozen postdoctoral Israeli and international fellows and one dozen PhD candidates, not only with stipends, but also with an intellectually stimulating atmosphere and opportunities for academic entrepreneurship and international collaborations. Some of our fellows have already achieved tenure track positions (Hebrew U, BGU), fellowships in prestigious post-doctoral programs (Harvard, Yale and Penn.), nominations for prestigious awards and the publication of articles and monographs in leading academic presses.


In 2020-2021, CSoC's seminars were devoted to Materiality in the Three Abrahamic Religions. Due to Covid constraints, most meetings were held on zoom, an arrangement that enabled the invitation of world-renowned scholars from afar and the participation of wider audiences. The Center hosted successful international virtual conferences, in collaboration with the Department of Middle East Studies at BGU and with the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University, and over a handful of international book launches.


The theme of 2021-2022 was Rethinking Center and Periphery. We have had a wonderful group of postdocs and PhD candidates with whom we met each week for lively seminars and discussions. The year's program was mainly in-person, with a few zoom and hybrid meetings with international scholars. That year's program also included a conference on Gerim and Giyyur (conversion to Judaism) with the CNRS (in Beer Sheva and Jerusalem), a workshop with the Abrahamic Seminar at Oxford University (in Lady Margaret Hall), the hosting of the annual conference of the Israeli Society for the Study of Religions, and a few book launches. We have contributed to our program outreach to the community via a series of podcasts in Hebrew on Radio BGU, an exchange of zoom lectures with Doshisha University in Kyoto, and an exchange of visits of faculty and PhD candidates with Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

Religion and the Natural Environment is our theme for 2022-2023. We are exploring it with a new cohort of Post-Doctoral fellows and a PhD candidate, in our weekly seminars and discussions. This year's program includes an international conference (January 9-11, 2023) with exciting speak​​ers and m​ultiple perspectives, an exchange of zoom lectures with colleagues from Fordham University in NYC, another exchange program with Johannes Gutenberg University of Maintz, a field trip to excavations of Nitzana, a new Podcast series in English, a public event for Tu bi-Shvat and more.


For all CSoC ongoing activities, stay updated by following us here: https://www.facebook.com/BGU.CSOC