Since she was in sixth grade, Beth Kissileff has wanted to get paid to read. She has more or less succeeded at that.
When she was a sophomore in college, she took a Bible in Literature class and realized that she was probably the least knowledgeable person in the room because her Hebrew was limited. She understood that to know more about Judaism and Jewish texts, she needed the language and the best way to learn a language is immersion. So, despite being an English major in New York at Columbia(or because of that), she spent a year studying in Jerusalem. The origins of her first two books date to that year and the subsequent year she spent there after college graduation.
After her return to the States, she earned a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania. As a newly minted PhD, she taught at the historically black college Shaw University in Raleigh, NC and then moved North to teach at Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges in Massachusetts. That was not quite far enough north. She moved next to Minneapolis where she taught at the University of Minnesota, Carleton College, and St Catherine University and attempted to stay warm until May when summer comes there.
With all her teaching experience, Beth Kissileff loves to get up in front of a group to teach and speak and will accept invitations either in person or by Zoom to book groups of any size as well as larger programs. Click here for a list of speaking engagements and topics.
She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her family. Her husband Rabbi Jonathan Perlman is rabbi at New Light Congregation; he hid himself and others during the attack on Tree of Life on October 27, 2018. Kissileff co-edited, along with Eric Lidji, a volume of Pittsburgh writers reflecting on the shooting from their local perspective. Bound in the Bond of Life was published on October 27, 2020.
She works as a journalist and writes regularly in Tablet, the Forward, the New York Jewish Week, the New York Times, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the Jerusalem Report and others. She has had writer’s residencies at the Corporation of Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and highly recommends the residency experience as one of the few material perks writing brings. Her time at Yaddo has been the only time in her life someone made lunch for her so she could write!