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Samira K. Mehta

Samira K. Mehta

Best-Selling Author, Professor; Expert on Interfaith, Interracial & Multicultural Experiences


Samira K. Mehta is the Director of Jewish Studies and an Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections religion, culture, and gender, including the politics of family life and reproduction in the United States. Read More >

Her first book, Beyond Chrismukkah: The Christian-Jewish Interfaith Family in the United States (University of North Carolina Press, 2018) was a National Jewish book award finalist. Her newly released book of personal essays called The Racism of People Who Love You (Beacon Press, 2023) appeared on Oprah’s “Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2023,” where it was called “the epitome of a book meeting a moment.” Mehta’s current academic book project, God Bless the Pill: Sexuality and Contraception in Tri-Faith America examines the role of Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant voices in competing moral logics of contraception, population control, and eugenics from the mid-twentieth century to the present and is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press.

She is also beginning a project for Princeton University Press called A Mixed Multitude: Jews of Color in the United States. Mehta is the primary investigator for a Henry Luce Foundation funded project called Jews of Color: Histories and Futures.

She is a member of the board of Feminist Studies in Religion, where she serves as the co-editor of the blog; co-chairs the steering committee of the North American Religions Program Unit at the American Academy of Religion; and is a Creative Editor at the journal American Religion.

She holds degrees from Swarthmore College. Harvard University, and Emory University. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Striking New Anti-Semitism

Believing the American Dream

Appropriation v. Appreciation

Hard Conversations with Allies

White Saturated Yoga

White Parents of Non-White Children

The Authenticity Test

Where Are You Really From

Speech Topics

The Racism of People Who Love You

What does it mean to have multiple heritages? For Samira K. Mehta, whose mother is a White American and father a South Asian immigrant, it was always feeling a bit off-kilter. She didn’t sufficiently feel Indian enough in Indian spaces. And although she was culturally comfortable in her mom’s family, the world saw her as a person of color. Based on her newest book, The Racism of People Who Love You, and drawing on her academic background, this powerful and intellectually provocative talk shines a light on race and the challenges and misunderstandings mixed-race people face in family spaces and intimate relationships across their varying cultural backgrounds. Read More >

She shares her own experiences and tackles questions around: Read Less ^

  • Authenticity and belonging.
  • Conscious and unconscious cultural inheritance.
  • Appropriate mentorship.
  • The racism of people who love you.
  • How to mentor and create spaces for young people with multiple heritages.

Antisemitism in America

In the face of growing antisemitism in contemporary life, Samira Mehta, a professor of Jewish Studies, traces the complicated history of antisemitism in the United States. She explores its European origins while focusing on how the United States in some ways imported those ideas and in other ways re-shaped them. Jews had, in many cases, more opportunities in the U.S. than they did in Europe. But that did not mean that antisemitism did not exist here—just that it looked different. This talk leaves audiences with a clearer understanding of where antisemitism comes from, how to identify it and some ideas on what to do about it. Read More >

You will learn: Read Less ^

  • The key moments of antisemitism in U.S. history.
  • How we think about the relationship between antisemitism and racism in the United States.
  • The ways antisemitism in the United States draws from older antisemitic tropes in Europe.
  • How antisemitism in the United States is similar or distinct from contemporary antisemitism in other parts of the world.

God Bless the Pill: Religion & Reproductive Rights in the United States

In this fascinating and informative talk, Samira K. Mehta, a scholar of religion, gender and sexuality and the Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, discusses how Jews, Catholics and Protestants have responded to innovations in contraceptive technology. She explores the debates between the religious groups and discussions within the individual groups as they adapted to changing forms of contraception and expectations around both sexuality and parenthood. Especially relevant for these times, this talk also covers the history of religious activism to increase access to contraception, abortion, religious freedom and the culture wars around them. Read More >

For example, did you know: Read Less ^

  • There was once a time when Protestant and Jewish religious leaders were more or less unanimous in working to expand contraceptive access?
  • People once thought that the Catholic Church would support the use of the birth control pill?
  • Many early advocates for contraception were concerned about creating a particular kind of family, but were not interested in the feminist potential of birth control?
  • How did birth control move from being widely accepted to being a casualty, if not a direct target, of the culture wars?

Attitudes Towards Abortion Across Religious Traditions

We tend to think of religious organizations as opposing abortion. In this highly informative and fascinating talk, Samira K. Mehta, a scholar of religion, gender and sexuality and the Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, discusses the broad array of attitudes towards abortion in the official teachings of a range of religions—including Protestant and Catholic forms of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism—as well as the diverse views held by members of those traditions. For instance, while some religions forbid abortion in all cases, others argue that there are times when it is not only allowed and appropriate but also even religiously obligated if it saves the life of the mother. Mehta then explores the implications of this diversity for debates about abortion and religious freedom. Read More >

You will learn: Read Less ^

  • What the different religions say about abortion.
  • Why this diversity exists between different traditions.
  • If religious people, who are committed to their faith traditions, agree with or depart from the official teachings of their religions.
  • How different religious traditions react to changing scientific knowledge and medical technology.
  • What does diversity in religious attitudes mean for debates about abortion and religious freedom.

Judaism & Reproductive Justice

In this fascinating and informative talk, Samira K. Mehta, a scholar of religion, gender and sexuality and the Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, discusses the history of Jewish involvement in contraception, from the mid-twentieth century to the present and the battle to expand contraceptive access. Especially relevant for these times, this talk also covers reproductive justice and contemporary Jewish ethics, as well as abortion and Jewish law. Read More >

You will learn: Read Less ^

  • What Jewish law says about contraception and abortion.
  • What Jewish law does NOT say.
  • What Jewish ethics say about contraception and abortion.
  • What the official positions of the various Jewish movements on contraception and abortion are and how these official positions reflect or not reflect the attitudes of most American Jews—including clergy.

Beyond Chrismukkah: Interfaith Marriages/Families

The rate of interfaith marriage in the United States has risen so radically since the 1960s that it is difficult to recall how taboo the practice once was. How is this development understood and regarded by Americans generally, and what does it tell us about the nation's religious life? Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, Samira K. Mehta provides a fascinating analysis of wives, husbands, children and their extended families in interfaith homes, how they navigate interfaith family life across generations and the social and cultural milieu surrounding mixed marriages among Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Read More >

She can tailor this talk to think historically or to help you brainstorm how your community might address issues of interfaith family life including: Read Less ^

  • Choosing one religion versus “doing both.”
  • The December dilemma of Christmas versus Hanukkah.
  • Working with extended families around interfaith family issues.
  • Other kinds of interfaith families (beyond Christian and Jewish).
  • Interfaith Families and Feminism (Which parent is being asked to give up their traditions and which parent is being asked to do the work?).