Her doctoral dissertation was a study of the process by which the Hasidic movement, beginning in mid 18th century Poland as a small, informal group of spiritually inspired individuals, became, by the early decades of the 19th century, a mass movement of spiritual revival in Judaism, which had swept through much of Central and Eastern Europe and was being governed by a fully institutionalized charismatic leadership. Since then Prof. Rapoport-Albert has published many studies of Hasidism, focusing on particular institutions (e.g. confession before the Rebbe, hereditary succession in the leadership) or schools of thought (Braslav, Habad), as well as on particular topics (e.g. the perception of history and history writing within the movement, the position of women in Hasidism).
In addition to her work on Hasidism, Prof. Rapoport-Albert’s interests include gender issues in the history of Judaism, especially the gendered perception of the ascetic life and its implications for the virtual exclusion of women from the Jewish mystical tradition. She is currently completing a book entitled Female Bodies – Male Souls: Asceticism and Gender in the Jewish Mystical Tradition, to be published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, and has published a monograph in Hebrew on the position of women in the 17th-19th century messianic heresy of Sabbatai Zevi and his successors, including the Polish false messiah Jacob Frank and his daughter Eva. An English version of this, Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816, is in press and due out with the Litttman Library of Jewish Civilization in early 2010.
Prof. Rapoport-Albert teaches courses and supervises postgraduate research on the history and literature of Hasidism, on the Kabbalah and other schools of Jewish esoteric spirituality, and on various aspects of medieval and early modern Jewish history.