Rabbi Jeffrey A. Summit is the Executive Director of the Hillel Foundation at Tufts University, where he also serves as Associate Chaplain and Associate Professor in the Department of Music. He holds a B.A. from Brandeis University, an M.A.H.L. and Rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Rabbi Summit also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Tufts University where he studied ethnomusicology in Tufts interdisciplinary doctoral program. His Rabbinic thesis focused on the traditions of Biblical cantillation of the Yemenite community in Israel, where he spent a year doing fieldwork studying with Yemenite teachers and recording their musical/liturgical traditions. His Master's thesis, The Role and Function of the Part-Time Cantor, contributed research to the first major study of the American Cantorate, conducted under the direction of Professor Mark Slobin of Wesleyan University. Rabbi Summit's Ph.D. dissertation examined issues of identity and melody choice in Jewish liturgical music and was published by Oxford University Press under the title The Lord's Song in a Strange Land: Music and Identity in Contemporary Jewish Worship. He is presently conducting research on the music and liturgy of the Abayudaya (Jewish people) of Uganda and together with photojournalist Richard Sobol is the author of Abayudaya: The Jews of Uganda (Abbeville Press). Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has issued an annotated compact disk of his field recordings entitled Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda. He has been invited to lecture at many universities and has recently spoken at Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Yale University, Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago.
Rabbi Summit has special interest in the field of oral history and for four summers has conducted an oral history project with the Jewish community of Annecy, France, for American students, under the auspices of Tufts European Center. He also directed an oral history project, Generation to Generation, in which Tufts students interviewed the elderly Jewish population of Somerville, Massachusetts. Both of these projects were awarded International Hillel's Haber Award for excellence in Jewish programming on campus.
An accomplished musician, he has performed Jewish and traditional American music throughout the United States, as well as in England and Israel. During the Yom Kippur War, he performed for Israeli soldiers in the Sinai and Golan Heights. His songs examining those experiences were recorded on his record album, Shepherd of the Highways.
In January 2004, Rabbi Summit was the recepient of the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award from Hillel International. He has been awarded B'nai B'rith's Jacob Burns Prize for the Promotion of Ethics on Campus. The programs he has initiated at Tufts examining ethical perspectives on the role of the university, sexual ethics and the parent/child relationship have received national grants and awards. As a graduate student, he received both the James T. Koetting Memorial Prize for the outstanding graduate student paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Ethnomusicology and the Society for Ethnomusicology's Jaap Kunst Prize for the outstanding paper published by a student in the Journal of Ethnomusicology. Rabbi Summit is past-president of the National Hillel Professional Association. He has forthcoming articles on "Nusah and Identity" in a volume examining religion and music in America edited by Philip Bohlman (Oxford University Press) and "Melody Choice in Contemporary American Jewish Worship" in the proceedings of the Second International Conference on Jewish Music edited by Alexander Knapp (City University, London).