David Novak, FRSC

Professor Emeritus; J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies Emeritus


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Jewish law, ethics, and political theory
  • Ethics (including biomedical ethics)
  • Political theory (with special emphasis on natural law theory)
  • Jewish-Christian relations


David Novak was born in Chicago, Illinois on 19 August 1941. He received his AB from the University of Chicago in 1961, and from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America he received his MHL (Master of Hebrew Literature) in 1964 and his rabbinical diploma in1966. He received his PhD in philosophy from Georgetown University in 1971. 

Since 1997 Dr. Novak holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of Religion and Philosophy in the University of Toronto, where he is a Fellow of St. Michael’s College and a member of University College. During 1989-96 he was the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. He has also been on the faculties of Oklahoma City University, Old Dominion University, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Baruch College of the City University of New York. During 1966-69 he was the Jewish Chaplain to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C; and during 1966-89 he served as the rabbi of several U.S. congregations. He has been a consultant to the governments of Canada, the United States, Israel, and Poland, and to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

David Novak is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), and a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research. In 1983 he was a founder of the Union for Traditional Judaism, where he is now President and Coordinator of the Panel of Inquiry on Jewish Law. He is a founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the publisher of the monthly journal First Things. He is a Consulting Scholar and a member of the Board of Advisors of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions of Princeton University. In 1992-93 he was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. In 1995 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Business Ethics at Drew University. In February 1996 he delivered the Lancaster/Yarnton Lectures in Judaism and Other Religions in Oxford University and then in Lancaster University. In 2004 he was the Charles E. Test, M.D. Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, and in 2006 he was Visiting Professor of Religion at Princeton. In 2011 he was a Project Scholar in the Religious Freedom Project of the Berkley Center of Georgetown University. In 2017 he delivered the Gifford Lectures in the University of Aberdeen.

David Novak is to date the author of nineteen books. His book Covenantal Rights (Princeton University Press) won the American Academy of Religion Award for “best book in constructive religious thought in 2000.” He has edited four books and authored over three hundred articles and reviews in numerous scholarly and intellectual journals. He is one of the four co-authors of Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity, first published in The New York Times in September 2000, and now translated into over eight languages. He is to date the subject of six books. 

David Novak married Melva Ziman in 1963. They have two married children and four living grandchildren.


PhD, Georgetown University
MHL, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Rabbinical diploma, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
AB, University of Chicago