Ellen Smith

Ellen Smith

Emerita Professor of the Practice


  • Boston University, MA

  • Oberlin College, BA


Ellen Smith is longtime former (now retired) director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, emerita professor at Brandeis, and an affiliate faculty member at the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She also co-directs advanced training programs at Brandeis for Jewish professionals and organizations (including the Gralla Fellows Program for Religion Journalists that ran from 1998-2009). Ellen is principal of Museumsmith, a firm specializing in museum exhibitions and historic site interpretations throughout the nation.

Jews of Boston by Ellen Smith and Jonathan SarnaTrained as both an academic historian and a museum curator, Ellen has published more than three dozen books, articles and catalogs including "The Jews of Boston," co-edited with Jonathan D. Sarna.

At Brandeis, she has developed a series of new courses in visual and material culture, and museum studies. Among her recent works are publications and exhibitions including "The Jews of Rhode Island," Seattle Jewish Women (Museum of History and Industry, Seattle); Jewish New Year Postcards; American Yiddish Theater (Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York City); Colonial American Jewish Portraits (Jewish Museum, New York City); historic immigrant synagogues; and three exhibitions on the Jews of Boston.

Ellen was also the chief historical consultant to the Emmy Award-winning WGBH "The Jews of Boston" television production. She was one of 12 nationally-selected scholars participating in "The Visual Culture of American Religions" project (1996-2000) funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.

Ellen is the former curator of the American Jewish Historical Society and the National Museum of American Jewish History, and has taught courses in American Jewish Women's History, American Jewish Material Culture, Jewish Museum Studies and American Jewish History at Brandeis, Boston and Northeastern Universities. In 2005 she toured the country as one of the United Jewish Community's key speakers during the 350-year anniversary celebration of Jews in America.

A popular speaker locally and throughout the country, Ellen sits on numerous academic and civic advisory boards, and is past president of Boston's Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center. She has won numerous honors and awards for her leadership in the Jewish community as both a volunteer and a professional.

Ellen and her husband have a grown daughter and son, and live in Newton with Ellen's father and probably too many pets.