Ari is the inaugural holder of the Jim Joseph Professorship in Education and Jewish Studies in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where he also directs the Concentration in Education and Jewish Studies. He holds a courtesy appointment in Religious Studies and is a faculty-affiliate of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the American Studies Program, and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. He is the author of a few books about American Jewish life and culture, including Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio and Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary. His research revolves around the ongoing exploration of how people learn to develop religious sensibilities, and it has taken him to church, to Krakow, Poland, to many b’nai mitzvah and deep into the archives of religious music of the early 1970s.
If you believe the legends, American popular music was born at a crossroads. Robert Johnson, a blues singer whose few recordings have shaped popular music, told his version of this story in his 1936 song “Cross Road Blues.”