Judaic Studies

451 College Street, 203.432.0843


Chair and Director of Graduate Studies
Steven Fraade

Professors Joel Baden (Divinity), John J. Collins (Divinity; Religious Studies), Joseph (Yossi) David (Visiting), Steven Fraade (Religious Studies), Paul Franks (Philosophy), Warren Zev Harvey (Visiting), Christine Hayes (Religious Studies), Hannan Hever (Comparative Literature), Ivan Marcus (History; Religious Studies), Paul North (German), Maurice Samuels (French), David Sorkin (History), Laura Wexler (Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies; American Studies), Robert Wilson (Divinity; Religious Studies)

Associate Professor Eliyahu Stern (Religious Studies; History)

Senior Research Scholar Margaret Olin (Divinity; History of Art; Religious Studies)

Senior Lecturer Peter Cole (Comparative Literature)

Lecturers Asaf Angermann (Philosophy), Yair Assulin (Visiting), Micha Perry (Visiting)

Senior Lector II Shiri Goren (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)

Senior Lector I Dina Roginsky (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)

Lectors Josh Price, Orit Yeret (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations)

Judaic Studies offers an interdisciplinary approach to the critical study of the culture, history, languages, literature, religion, and thought of the Jews. Jewish institutions, philosophies, societies, and texts are studied critically and in comparative historical perspective in relation to the surrounding societies and cultures.

Graduate-level programs are available through the following departments: Comparative Literature (Hebrew and Comparative Literature), History (Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Jewish History), Religious Studies (History and Literature of Ancient Judaism, Medieval and Modern Jewish History, Philosophy of Religion), Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Northwest Semitic, Hebrew Language and Literature), and Philosophy. Applications are made to a specific department, and programs of study are governed by the degree requirements of that department.

Other resources include the Judaica collection of Sterling Memorial Library and its Judaica bibliographer, the Fortunoff Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, the biweekly faculty/graduate student Judaic Studies Seminar, several lecture series, postdoctoral fellowships, and graduate fellowships in Judaic Studies.

Additional information is available on request to the director of graduate studies of the department of intended specialization, or to the Chair, Program of Judaic Studies, Yale University, PO Box 208282, New Haven CT 06520-8282, and at http://judaicstudies.yale.edu.


For course offerings in the Hebrew language and in Israeli society and culture, see Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

JDST 653b / ANTH 531b / ARCG 531b / CLSS 815b / EALL 773b / HIST 502b / HSAR 564b / NELC 533b / RLST 803b, Sensory Experiences in Ancient RitualCarolyn Laferriere and Andrew Turner

A comparative exploration of the role the senses played in the performance of ancient and premodern ritual, drawing from a range of ancient traditions including those of Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and from cultural traditions of the Near East, India, China, and the New World. Placing particular emphasis on the relationship between art and ritual, we discuss the methods available for reconstructing ancient sensory experience, how the ancient cultures conceived of the senses and perception, and how worshipers’ sensory experiences, whether visual, sonic, olfactory, gustatory, or haptic, were integral aspects in their engagement with the divine within religious ritual. This seminar incorporates material in the Yale Art Gallery.
Th 9:25am-11:15am

JDST 654a / RLST 782a, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient JudaismJohn Collins

This course explores various forms of early biblical interpretation in the Second Temple period, including Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and implicit interpretations in biblical paraphrases. Prerequisites: Hebrew and Greek.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 656b, Jewish and Islamic Law: Comprative JurisprudenceJoseph David

Even inside a secular democracy, the appeal of religious law to believers positions it as equivalent, or even alternative, to the law of the land. The existence of religious laws and their institutions is often accommodated and tolerated by the laws of the state, even as they challenge the ideal of the rule of secular law, with its notion of the superiority of that law. For this reason, in various fields whose practitioners are faced with the tension between the law of the modern state and traditional religious law, familiarity with the content and character of religious law can be a crucial asset. There are many ways to approach the study of foreign legal systems. This course employs a comparative perspective and a focus on legal theories to introduce not only the positive law of Judaism and Islam, but also their associated infrastructure, mechanisms, and social realities, with particular attention to the nature of religious law, the comparative perspective, and legal theory.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

JDST 686b / CPLT 679b, Major Modern Jewish PoetsPeter Cole

This course introduces students to a diverse group of modern Jewish poets, from Gertrude Stein, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, and Adrienne Rich to Muriel Rukeyser, Yehuda Amichai, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabès, Leonard Cohen, and others. Writing in English, Yiddish, German, Hebrew, and French, these poets gave seminal expression to Jewish life in a variety of modes and permutations, and in the process produced poems of lasting and universal value. The class explores work as art and considers pressing questions of cultural, historical, and political context. All readings are in English. Permission of the instructor required.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 689b, Reading Academic Texts in Modern HebrewDina Roginsky

The course addresses the linguistic needs of English-speaking students who would like to be able to read with ease and accuracy contemporary Hebrew-language scholarship in the fields of Judaic studies, religious studies, history, political science, sociology, Near Eastern studies, and other related fields. Particularly, this course confronts reading comprehension problems through straightforward exposition of the grammar supported by examples from scholarly texts. Conducted in Hebrew. Prerequisite: two years of modern or biblical Hebrew, or permission of the instructor.
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

JDST 701a / RLST 763a, The BibleChristine Hayes

This course introduces students to the writings common to both Jewish and Christian scripture (the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh found in all Bibles) and examines these writings as diverse and often conflicting expressions of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel as well as a foundational element of Western civilization. Special emphasis on the writings’ cultural and historical setting in the ancient Near East; close reading of selected passages; the interpretive history of selected passages influential in Western culture. Students are also introduced to a wide range of critical and literary approaches to biblical studies, including source criticism, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and contemporary literary criticism. Students view course lectures, which survey the entire Bible, online; class time focuses on comparative materials, close readings, and the interpretation of specific biblical passages in Jewish and Christian culture.
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

JDST 721b / NELC 703b, Introduction to Judaism in the Ancient World: From Temple to TalmudSteven Fraade

The emergence of classical Judaism in its historical setting. Jews and Hellenization; varieties of early Judaism; apocalyptic and postapocalyptic responses to suffering and catastrophe; worship and atonement without sacrificial cult; interpretations of scriptures; law and life; the rabbi; the synagogue; faith in reason; Sabbath and festivals; history and its redemption.
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

JDST 727a / NELC 702a / RLST 752a, Mishnah Seminar: Tractate SanhedrinSteven Fraade

Close study of a section of the Mishnah, the earliest digest of Jewish law, treating religious courts and their jurisprudential practice. Dual attention to the historical significance of the institutions of law represented and to the cultural significance of the rhetoric of that representation. Consideration of the textual practices of rabbinic legal discourse in relation to its social function, as well as to the interplay of law and narrative. Prerequisite: reading fluency in ancient Hebrew.
W 9:25am-11:15am

JDST 736a / NELC 701a / RLST 746a, Midrash Seminar: The Exodus from EgyptSteven Fraade

The Exodus from Egypt as seen through rabbinic eyes. Close readings of the early rabbinic commentary (midrash), Mekhilta, to the narrative of Exodus 13:17ff (the lection Beshallah). Particular attention to the methods and language of rabbinic exegesis and to the rhetorical interplay of tradition and scriptural commentary. Interpretations and interpretive strategies compared and contrasted with those of other ancient biblical exegetes (Jewish and non-Jewish) where available. Prerequisite: reading fluency in ancient Hebrew.
Th 9:25am-11:15am

JDST 756b / RLST 756b, Ancient Judaism Seminar: Modalities of History in Ancient JudaismSteven Fraade and John Collins

This seminar, required of all doctoral students in the fields of New Testament, Ancient Christianity, and Ancient Judaism, examines a wide range of approaches to the writing and interpretation of history in the form of Jewish texts and images from Greco-Roman times. Possible topics for oral presentations and written papers include the books of Maccabees, Hellenistic Jewish historians, the Letter of Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, early Christian writers, early rabbinic chronologies and midrash, and synagogue art. Among the questions to be asked of each: To what extent do the historical perspectives of these texts allow or impede their employment for the critical writing of history? To what extent are they products or shapers of social memory? How might we understand them as historically performative, rhetorical enactments? Prerequisite: reading competence in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 781b, History of Jewish Culture, 1500 to the PresentDavid Sorkin

A broad introduction to the history of Jewish culture from the late Middle Ages until the present. Emphasis on the changing interaction of Jews with the larger society as well as the transformation of Judaism in its encounter with modernity.
MW 2:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 790a / HIST 601a / RLST 776a, Jewish History, Thought, and Narratives in Medieval SocietiesIvan Marcus

Research seminar that focuses on the two medieval Jewish subcultures of Ashkenaz (northern Christian Europe) and Sefarad (mainly Muslim and Christian Spain).
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 793b / HIST 587b / RLST 799b, Introduction to Modern Jewish ThoughtEliyahu Stern

An overview of Jewish philosophical trends, movements, and thinkers from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. Topics include enlightenment, historicism, socialism, secularism, religious radicalism, and Zionism.
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

JDST 801a, Medieval Jewish History: 800–1500 CEMicha Perry

This course is an introduction to some of the major themes in the history of the Jewish people from late antiquity to 1500. We trace the development of Jewish communities in Muslim and Christian lands, focusing on the complex relationship that Jews had with their host societies. Other topics include Jewish self-government and communal organization and major currents in Jewish intellectual culture. The course follows a thematic line, moving from demographics to economics, from legal issues to intellectual and social questions.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

JDST 802b / HIST 600b / MDVL 670b, Jewish Everyday Life in the Middle AgesMicha Perry

Medieval Jewish history has been based primarily on written sources and hence has tended to concentrate on the intellectual male elite, institutions, and events. In recent years, historians are increasingly interested in everyday, or quotidian, history, looking beyond the intellectual elite to society as a whole and using, alongside texts, archaeology and the material world. Following the “material turn,” this seminar focuses on Jewish material culture, using archaeology and art history in the service of cultural history. Among the subjects considered are the Jewish quarter and street; the synagogue; the ritual bath (mikve); the cemetery and gravestone; book culture; charters; jewelry; fashion; and food.
T 9:25am-11:15am

JDST 835a, Israel in Ideology & PracticeDina Roginsky

TTh 1pm-2:15pm

JDST 842a / CPLT 688a / RLST 775a, Political TheologyHannan Hever

This course investigates the theological aspects of modern political ideologies. Subjects include sovereignty, universalism, law, election, commandment, and messianism. Primary readings include Carl Schmitt, Martin Buber, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Daniel Boyarin, and Giorgio Agamben.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

JDST 860a / PHIL 603a / RLST 880a, Spinoza and the God of the BibleNancy Levene

This course considers Spinoza’s metaphysics and social and political thought in light of a family of problems named religion: the concept of God; the relations among politics, divine law, and their institutions; the value of Judaism and Christianity; and the interpretation of the Bible. We read from Spinoza’s principal works as well as from the Bible and a few other thinkers, medieval and modern, in conceptual proximity to Spinoza.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

JDST 861a / HIST 597a / RLST 797a, Twentieth-Century Jewish Politics: Holocaust, Israel, and American HistoryDavid Sorkin

This course explores the changing nature of Jewish politics in relationship to three of the twentieth century’s major events. First we examine Jewish political behavior during the Holocaust, especially the notion of “resistance” vis-à-vis the so-called Jewish councils and the controversy surrounding Hannah Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Second, we probe the continuities and discontinuities in the establishment of the State of Israel, focusing on the politics of the “Yishuv” (Jewish settlement in Mandatory Palestine) and its relationship to British imperialism. Third, we analyze shifts in the domestic and foreign policies of the organized American Jewish community during the era of the civil rights movement (1946–64).
M 1:30pm-3:20pm