Elliot Dorff

Visiting Professor

  • A.B., Columbia College, 1965
  • M.A. (1968), Rabbi (1970), Jewish Theological Seminary of America
  • Ph.D., Columbia University, 1971

Elliot Dorff is a Visiting Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism). At UCLA he teaches a course in Religious Legal Systems: Jewish Law. At the Jewish Theological Seminary he was part of an intensive program in Talmud, and he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1971 with a dissertation in moral theory. Since then he has directed the rabbinical and master's degree programs at the American Jewish University, where he currently is Rector and Sol and Anne Dorff Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.

Rabbi Dorff has been a member of the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards since 1984 and its Chair since 2007, and he served on the editorial committee of Etz Hayim, the new Torah commentary for the Conservative Movement. His papers have formulated the validated stance of the Conservative Movement on infertility treatments and on end-of-life issues, and his Rabbinic Letters on human sexuality and on poverty have become the voice of the Conservative Movement on those topics. He has chaired four scholarly organizations: the Academy of Jewish Philosophy, the Jewish Law Association, the Academy of Judaic, Christian, and Islamic Studies, and the Society of Jewish Ethics. He has served on the Carnegie Foundation’s Project on Professional Education entitled “Life of the Mind for Practice Seminar.” He has served on three federal commissions -- on health care, on diminishing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,  and on research on human subjects -- and for the last eight years he has been, and continues to be, a member of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural  History's Broader Social Impacts Committee and the State of California's committee setting the ethical guideline for stem cell research. Since 1985 he has also been a member of the Ethics Committee of UCLA Medical Center.

Rabbi Dorff holds four honorary doctorates, including Doctor of Hebrew Letters, honoris causa, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996; Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, Hebrew Union College, 2003; Doctor of Hebrew Literature, honoris causa, Gratz College, 2004; and, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, American Jewish University, 2011.

Rabbi Dorff has published thirteen books and over 200 articles on Jewish thought, law, and ethics, and he has edited or co-edited another fourteen books on those topics. His books relevant to Jewish law include: A Living Tree: The Roots and Growth of Jewish Law (with Arthur Rosett); The Unfolding Tradition: Philosophies of Jewish Law (2005; second edition, 2011); and For the Love of God and People: A Philosophy of Jewish Law (2007).  In addition he has written about 20 rabbinic rulings for the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards on such subjects as "Donations of Ill-Gotten Gain," "Violent and Defamatory Video Games," and “Providing References for Schools or Jobs,” as well as many topics in medical ethics.