Jewish Studies

Committee Chairman: Michael Fishbane, S 205, 702-8234
B.A. Adviser: Ariela Finkelstein, C 219, 702-1380,

Program of Studies

The Bachelor of Arts concentration in Jewish Studies provides a context in which College students may examine the texts, cultures, languages, and histories of Jews and Judaism over three millennia. The perspective is contextual, comparative, and interdisciplinary. The long and diverse history of Jews and Judaism affords unique opportunities to study modes of continuity and change, interpretation and innovation, and isolation and integration of a world historical civilization. Students are encouraged to develop appropriate skills (in texts, languages, history, and culture) for independent work.

Program Requirements

The concentration requires twelve courses distributed according to the guidelines that follow.

Language. Normally a student is expected to take three courses of Hebrew beyond the College language requirement. If the student's research project requires knowledge of a language other than Hebrew, the student may petition the committee to substitute that language for Hebrew, but not for the College language requirement.

Judaic Civilization. The concentration requires three courses in the Judaic Civilization sequence. This program includes ancient, medieval, and modern components. The temporal limits of these "periods" are determined by the faculty members assuming responsibility for the sequence. The first step of the sequence, covering the history of ancient Israel to the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, could be replaced by a one-quarter introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Students who meet the civilization studies requirement in general education with another civilization sequence must also complete the Judaic Civilization sequence as part of their concentration requirements. Students who meet the civilization requirement in general education with Judaic Civilization are required to take one quarter of another civilization sequence pertinent to the area and period of their major interest in Jewish Studies. This choice is made in consultation with the committee chair.

Other Requirements. Students who take Judaic Civilization as a concentration requirement separate from the general education requirement take six elective courses in Jewish Studies; students who fulfill the general education requirement with Judaic Civilization take eight electives. These courses would, in part, constitute the specific area of concentration for each student. The specific nature of these courses is decided upon by the student in consultation with the concentration adviser. A balance between content and method is the goal. Students are encouraged to take at least one method or theory course in the College in the area pertaining to their area of special interest.

It is expected that the general education requirements in the humanities or social sciences be completed before a student enters the program, normally at the end of the second year. A student who has not completed the general education requirements before admission to the program should do so during the first year of the program.

Each student in the program has an adviser who is a member of the program faculty, which is listed in the section that follows. A concentration worksheet is distributed to guide students in organizing their programs.

Summary of Requirements

College demonstrated competence in Hebrew

Language or other approved language equivalent to

Requirement one year of college-level study

Concentration 3 HEBR 20100-20200-20300
(second-year Hebrew
or other approved language)†

3 JWSC 20000-20100-20200 (if not used to
fulfill general education requirement);
or one related civilization course
plus two additional courses in
Jewish Studies

6 courses related to Judaic Studies*


Credit may be granted by examination.

* to be chosen in consultation with the student's adviser in Jewish Studies

Optional B.A. Paper. Students who choose this option are to meet with their advisers by May 15 of their third year to determine the focus of the research project, and are expected to begin reading and research for the B.A. paper during the summer before their senior year. After further consultation, students are to do guided readings and participate in a (formal or informal) tutorial during the autumn quarter of the senior year. Concentration credit is received only for the winter quarter tutorial during which the B.A. paper is finally written and revised. The B.A. paper must be received by the primary reader by the end of the fifth week of the spring quarter. A B.A. paper is a requirement for consideration for honors.

Honors. Honors are awarded to students who show excellence in their course work, as well as on the B.A. paper. To qualify for honors, students must register for Jewish Studies 29900 in addition to the twelve courses required in the general program of study, bringing the total number of courses required to thirteen. To receive general honors in Jewish Studies the student must have a grade point average of at least 3.25 in the concentration. High honors are awarded to students who earn a grade point average of 3.5 or better in the concentration. An oral defense of the B.A. paper must also be given to three members of the Jewish Studies faculty.

Grading. Students are expected to take all required courses for the concentration for credit. However, those who qualify for academic honors, may take one special study course related to the honors thesis P/F, during the second quarter of the senior year. This P/F course requires a special request from the student to the undergraduate faculty adviser during the prior quarter. Requirements for this P/F course will be agreed upon by the student and the course adviser.


Howard I. Aronson, Professor, Departments of Slavic Languages & Literatures and Linguistics

Ralph A. Austen, Professor, Department of History and the College

Philip V. Bohlman, Associate Professor, Department of Music and the College

Menachem Brinker, Henry Crown Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

Ariela Finkelstein, Senior Lecturer, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor, the Divinity School and the College; Chairman, Committee on Jewish Studies; Lecturer, the Law School

Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Professor, the Divinity School

Samuel P. Jaffe, Professor, Department of Germanic Studies and the College

Joel Kraemer, Professor, the Divinity School and the Committee on Social Thought

Mark Krupnick, Professor, Department of English Language & Literature and the Divinity School

Howard Moltz, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology and the College

Dennis G. Pardee, Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Oriental Institute, and the College

MOISHE POSTONE, Professor, Department of History and the College

Martha T. Roth, Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Oriental Institute, and Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World

ERIC SANTNER, Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professor of Modern European Jewish History, Department of Germanic Studies and the College

Josef Stern, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and the College


Courses numbered 10000-19000 are general education and introductory courses. Courses numbered 20000-29900 are intermediate, advanced, or upper-level courses and are intended for undergraduates. Courses numbered 30000 and above are graduate courses and are available to undergraduate students only with the consent of the instructor. Undergraduates registered for 30000-level courses will be held to the graduate-level requirements. To register for courses that are cross listed as both undergraduate and graduate (20000/30000), undergraduates must use the undergraduate number (20000).

Consult the quarterly Time Schedules for up-to-date information and additional course listings in Hebrew Bible, Hebrew literature, history, and Jewish thought.

20000-20100-20200/31000-31100-31200. Judaic Civilization I, II, III. This sequence fulfills the general education requirement in civilization studies. This is a sequential study of periods and communities selected from the history of Judaic civilization, viewed from multiple perspectives (historical, literary, philosophical, religious, and social) and examined in light of the varied ways that civilization is and is not the product of interactions between the Jewish people and surrounding civilizations, nations, and religions. The primary focus is on a close reading of original sources in translation. Specific periods and communities studied may vary from year to year.

20000/31000. Judaic Civilization I: Introduction to Biblical Civilization (=HUMA 20000, JWSC 20000/31000). This course provides an overall introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), with specific attention to its literary, religious, and ideological contents. The diversity of thought and theology in ancient Israel is explored, along with its notions of text, teaching, and tradition. Revision and reinterpretation is found within the Bible itself. Portions of the earliest post-biblical interpretation (in Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and selected Pseudepigrapha) are also considered. T. Frymer-Kensky. Autumn.

20100/31100. Judaic Civilization II: Rabbinic Judaism from the Mishnah to Maimonides (=HUMA 20100, JWSC 20100/31100). This course is a study of the primary texts in the development of classical and medieval rabbinic Judaism from roughly 70 C.E. to the twelfth century. The course centers on selections (in translation) from the Mishnah and tannaitic Midrash, the Babylonian Talmud, Geonic and Karaite writing, the Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew literature of Andalusia, and Maimonides' legal and philosophical compositions. Topics include different conceptions of the Hebrew Bible and its interpretation, the origins and development of the Oral Law, relations between Judaism and both Christianity and Islam, sectarianism, rationalist and antirationalist trends in rabbinic thought, and the emergence of secular pursuits in the rabbinic tradition. Staff. Winter.

20200/31200. Judaic Civilization III (=HUMA 20200, JWSC 20200/31200). The third quarter of the sequence focuses on Jewish life and creative achievement in America, the Holocaust and testimonies by survivors, and a brief look at modern Jewish theology. Staff. Spring.

21700/34900. East European Language and Culture (=JWSC 21700/34900, LGLN 21700/24000). This course is an introduction to Yiddish language and to the culture of East European Jews through the reading of a collection of short literary works: the Khumesh lider of Itsik Manger. Students completing the course should be able to read Yiddish texts with the aid of a dictionary. Texts in the original Yiddish. H. Aronson. Autumn.

22000-22100-22200/30200. Elementary Classical Hebrew I, II, III (=HEBR 25000-25100-25200, JWSC 22000-22100-22200). The purpose of this three-quarter sequence is to enable the student to read biblical Hebrew prose with a high degree of comprehension. The course is divided into two segments: (1) the first two quarters are devoted to acquiring the essentials of descriptive and historical grammar (including translation to and from Hebrew, oral exercises, and grammatical analysis); and (2) the third quarter is spent examining prose passages from the Hebrew Bible and includes a review of grammar. The class meets five times a week. S. Creason. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

22300-22400-22500/30500. Intermediate Classical Hebrew I, II, III (=HEBR 25300-25400-25500, JWSC 22300-22400-22500/30500). PQ: HEBR 25200 or equivalent. A continuation of Elementary Classical Hebrew. The first quarter consists of reviewing grammar, and of reading and analyzing further prose texts. The last two quarters are devoted to an introduction to Hebrew poetry with readings from Psalms, Proverbs, and the prophets. D. Pardee. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

23000-23100-23200/38100-38200-38300. Medieval Jewish History I, II, III (=HUMA 23000-23100-23200, JWSC 23000-23100-23200/38100-38200-38300, MDJS 28000-28100-28200). PQ: Consent of instructor. This three-quarter sequence deals with the history of the Jews over a wide geographical and historical range. First-quarter work is concerned with the rise of early rabbinic Judaism and development of the Jewish communities in Palestine and the Eastern and Western diasporas during the first several centuries C.E. Topics include the legal status of the Jews in the Roman world, the rise of rabbinic Judaism, the rabbinic literature of Palestine in that context, the spread of rabbinic Judaism, the rise and decline of competing centers of Jewish hegemony, the introduction of Hebrew language and culture beyond the confines of their original home, and the impact of the birth of Islam on the political and cultural status of the Jews. An attempt is made to evaluate the main characteristics of Jewish belief and social concepts in the formative periods of Judaism as it developed beyond its original geographical boundaries. Second-quarter work is concerned with the Jews under Islam, both in Eastern and Western Caliphates. Third-quarter work is concerned with the Jews of Western Europe from the eleventh through the fifteenth century. N. Golb. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

23400/33400. World of Biblical Prophets (=HUMA 28000, JWSC 23400/33400, NCDV 28000). This course offers an in-depth analysis of the biblical prophets. Each prophet is set in historical time and within a particular societal context. Against this background, a profile of the man is drawn. What was he like as social reformer and religious thinker? What did he say "no" to in society and "no" to in organized worship? And to what did he say "yes?" How was his message received and what influence did it have in its day? And finally, is the individual prophet merely a historical figure or a curiosity of antiquity, or does he speak to us in our age? H. Moltz. Autumn.

23500. The Radicalism of Job and Ecclesiastes (=FNDL 24600, HUMA 23500, JWSC 23500). Both Job and Ecclesiastes dispute a central doctrine of the Hebrew Bible, namely, the doctrine of retributive justice. Each book argues that a person's fate is not a consequence of his or her religious-moral acts and thus the piety, whatever else it is, must be disinterested. In brief, the authors of Job and Ecclesiates, each in his own way, not only "de-mythologize" but "de-moralize" the world. Theological and philosophical implications are discussed. Texts in English. H. Moltz. Spring.

23700-23800-23900/36500-36600-36700. First Year Yiddish through Literature I, II, III (=EEUR 24000-24100-24200, HUMA 21700-21800-21900, JWSC 23700-23800-23900/36500-36600-36700, LGLN 24000-24100-24200/34000-34100-34200). The first quarter is devoted to an overview of Yiddish grammar through the reading of a series of short poems in the original. The second and third quarters are devoted to developing active knowledge of Yiddish through continued reading, grammar drill, and conversational practice. H. Aronson. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

25000-25100-25200/35000-35100-25200. Introductory Modern Hebrew I, II, III (=HEBR 20100-20200-20300, JWSC 25000-25100-25200/35000-35100-35200, LGLN 20100-20200-20300/30100-30200-30300). This course introduces students to reading, writing, and speaking modern Hebrew. All four language skills are emphasized: comprehension of written and oral materials; reading of nondiacritical text; writing of directed sentences, paragraphs, and compositions; and speaking. Students learn the Hebrew root pattern system and the seven basic verb conjugations in both the past and present tenses, as well as simple future. At the end of the year, students can conduct short conversations in Hebrew, read materials designed to their level, and write short essays. A. Finkelstein. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

25300-25400-25500/35300-35400-35500. Intermediate Modern Hebrew I, II, III (=HEBR 20400-20500-20600, JWSC 25300-25400-25500/35300-35400-35500, LGLN 20400-20500-20600/30400-30500-30600). PQ: HEBR 252 or equivalent. This course is devised for students who had previously taken either modern or biblical Hebrew courses. The main objective is to provide students with the skills necessary to approach modern Hebrew prose, both fiction and nonfiction. To achieve this formidable task, students are provided with a systematic examination of the complete verb structure. Many syntactic structures are introduced, including simple clauses, and coordinate and compound sentences. At this level, students not only write and speak extensively, but are also required to analyze grammatically and contextually all of the materials assigned. A. Finkelstein. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

25600-25700-25800/35600-35700-35800. Advanced Modern Hebrew I, II, III (=HEBR 23000-23100-23200, JWSC 25600-25700-25800/35600-35700-35800, LGLN 22900-23000-23100/32900-33000-33100). PQ: HEBR 255 or equivalent. This course assumes that students have full mastery of the grammatical and lexical content at the intermediate level. However, there is a shift from a reliance on the cognitive approach to an emphasis on the expansion of various grammatical and vocabulary-related subjects. Students are introduced to sophisticated and more complex syntactic constructions, and instructed on how to transform simple sentences into more complicated ones. The exercises address the creative effort on the part of the student, and the reading segments are longer and more challenging in both style and content. The language of the texts reflects the literary written medium rather than the more informal spoken style, which often dominates the introductory and intermediate texts. A. Finkelstein. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

26000. Agnon's Only Yesterday: A Novel (=FNDL 22900, JWSC 26000, RLST 26600). S. Y. Agnon, the greatest of modern Israeli writers, was a laureate in literature. He was born in Galicia, which was then part of Poland and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Only Yesterday he wrote (in Hebrew) of a young man who, like the author himself, emigrated to the Land of Israel during the period (early years of the twentieth century) of the Second Aliyah, "aliyah" referring to the ingathering or ascension of diasporic Jews to Palestine. This superb novel, perhaps Agnon's best, treats the complicated religious, nationalist-patriotic, social, and other dilemmas of the early emigrants to Zion. In telling his tale, Agnon draws on a multiplicity of Jewish religious-literary traditions (e.g., the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Midrash, Yiddish writing, and folktales). The text is Barbara Harshav's recent English translation. M. Krupnick. Spring.

26200/36200. Jewish Life in France and Germany (=HIST 22700/32700, JWSC 26200/36200). This lecture/discussion course provides an introduction to the experience of French and German Jewry from emancipation to the present. We focus on the concepts of "acculturation" and "assimilation" in two contrasting (but interacting) national contexts. Topics include arguments for and against emancipation, transformations in religious practice in the nineteenth century, patterns of social and geographic mobility, Zionism, the Holocaust, and post-war Jewish life including after-effects of the Algerian war in France and the rebuilding of a Jewish community in Germany. Readings include historiography, novels, memoirs, political and philosophical sources, and material culture. L. Auslander. Autumn.

28000-28100. Poetry in Israel: 1948-1950 (=JWSC 28000-28100, NELC 28000-28100). PQ: Reading knowledge of Hebrew highly recommended. This course is a survey of Israeli poetry from the late forties (and the establishment of the state) to the present. Analysis of poetic thematic and ideological changes is introduced into the tradition of Hebrew poetry in earlier times. We focus on the work of several Israeli major poets, including Gilboa, Kovner, Amichai, Zach, Pagis, and Rabikovitch. M. Brinker. Autumn, Winter.

29700. Reading and Research Course. PQ: Consent of instructor and committee chairman. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

29900. B.A. Paper Preparation Course. PQ: Consent of instructor and committee chairman. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Required of honors candidates. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

33600. Franz Rosenzweig's Concept of Revelation (=GRMN 24500/34500, HIJD 34000, JWSC 33600, RLST 20900). PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. We consider the epistemological and theological significance of Rosenzweig's concept of revelation. The readings focus on pertinent essays, letters, and, above all, on the second book of this magnum opus, The Star of Redemption. E. Santner, P. Mendes-Flohr. Winter.