Manhoff began studying at UCSB after he "happened" into a class taught by Walter Capps, religious studies professor who went on to serve in Congress before he died in 1997. "We became close friends," he said.
Manhoff, whose dissertation topic is "Semitic Idiom in the Synoptic Gospels and Related Jewish Literature," became interested in Christian origins while co-teaching an extension class with a Christian minister at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
"I thought that he would teach the Jesus part and I would teach the ´Jewish-teachings-of-his-time' part," said Manhoff. "We soon realized that we had completely different definitions for the same words. Thus began my fascination with the New Testament."
Manhoff worked on his Ph.D. for eight years while a full-time rabbi, first serving a congregation in San Luis Obispo, and then one in San Leandro, where he currently lives. Among his many interests is the promotion of Jewish-Palestinian dialogue in the Bay Area.
"I believe that people from different cultures, different backgrounds, and different beliefs can get together and listen and learn from one another," Manhoff said.
The chair of the rabbi's dissertation committee, Birger Pearson, professor emeritus of religious studies, said that Manhoff "will be the last student to be hooded by me at a UCSB commencement." Pearson retired in 1994. "I count him as one of my best students, and a good friend, one from whom I have learned much," Pearson said.
Manhoff said that he was fortunate to study at UCSB: "The department is great one of the finest in the country with fabulous and caring faculty ."
It is the only Department of Religious Studies in the UC system that offers advanced degrees.