Judaic Studies

Directors of undergraduate studies: Elli Stern; eliyahu.stern@yale.edu; 451 College St., Rm. 403, 432-0841; judaicstudies.yale.edu


Professors Joel Baden (Divinity School), Edward Breuer (Religious Studies) (Visiting), Leslie Brisman (English), Marc Caplan (German) (Visiting), Steven Fraade (Chair) (Religious Studies), Paul Franks (Philosophy), Christine Hayes (Religious Studies), Hannan Hever (Literature), Jeffrey Macy (Humanities) (Visiting), Ivan Marcus (History, Religious Studies), Steven Smith (Political Science, Philosophy), David Sorkin (History), Laura Wexler (Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, American Studies), Robert Wilson (Religious Studies)

Associate Professors Marci Shore (History), Eliyahu Stern (Religious Studies, History)

Senior Lecturer Peter Cole (Comparative Literature)

Lecturers Asaf Angermann (Philosophy), Noah Bickart (Religious Studies), Shaun Halper (History), Margaret Olin (Divinity School, History of Art, Religious Studies), Liran Yadgar (History)

Senior Lector II Shiri Goren

Senior Lectors Dina Roginsky, Orit Yeret

Judaic Studies enables students to develop a broad knowledge of the history, religion, literature, philosophy, languages, and politics of the Jews. Jewish societies, texts, ideologies, material cultures, and institutions are studied from a comparative perspective in the context of histories, cultures, and intellectual traditions among which Jews have lived throughout the ages. As an interdisciplinary program, Judaic Studies employs historical, literary, political, social, and philosophical methods of analysis.

The Judaic Studies major—especially as a second major with Economics, Political Science, Literature, English, Philosophy, or History—offers a broad and interdisciplinary liberal arts background combined with intensive preparation in the historical and religious experience of Jewish culture in its various civilizational contexts, from antiquity to contemporary times. The major epochs of Jewish history include: the Persian and Hellenistic period, including biblical and para-biblical Jewish writings; the classical period, including the literature, history, and thought of rabbinic Judaism and its antecedents; the medieval period, including Jewish history, literature, and thought in both Christian and Islamic lands; the early modern period, including Jewish history from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries; the modern period which includes the history, literature, and thought of Jews and Judaism from the late eighteenth to the twenty-first century, with attention to the impact of modernization.

Students considering the major in Judaic Studies should contact the director of undergraduate studies as soon as possible.

Requirements of the major for the Class of 2017 and previous classes Students in the Class of 2017 and previous classes may fulfill the requirements of the major in Judaic Studies that were in place when they entered the major, as described in previous editions of this bulletin. Alternatively, they may fulfill the requirements of the major as described below for the Class of 2018 and subsequent classes.

Requirements of the major for the Class of 2018 and subsequent classes The major in Judaic Studies requires thirteen term courses, including three courses selected from a set of core requirements, three courses in each of two areas of concentration, a language requirement, a one-or two-term senior essay, and electives as needed.

Core Requirements Each student must elect at least three from the following courses: (1) one term course in Hebrew Bible, such as JDST 110; (2) one term course in rabbinic literature or ancient Judaism, such as JDST 253; (3) JDST 200; (4) JDST 201; (5) one term course in Jewish thought, such as JDST 293 or JDST 281; (6) a term survey course in Hebrew and/or Jewish literature.

Language or literature requirements Students must complete either HEBR 110 and 120 or two courses in Hebrew literature in translation. Up to three Hebrew language courses may be counted toward the requirements of the major.

Areas of Concentration The standard areas of concentration are: ancient Israel/Hebrew Bible; Jewish history and civilization in Second Temple and Talmudic times; Jewish history and civilization of medieval and Renaissance times; modern Jewish history and civilization; Jewish/Hebrew literature (which requires the study of literature in Hebrew); and Jewish thought. With the approval of the director of undergraduate studies, students may construct areas of concentration of their own design.

Students choose three courses in each of two areas of concentration in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies: one introductory course; one seminar taken in the junior year requiring a final research paper; and one course in an area outside of Judaic Studies relevant to the area of concentration, such as a course relating to the larger historical, literary or philosophical context if the concentration is in a historical period, or a course in the theory or practice of literature if the concentration is in Jewish or Hebrew literature.

Senior Requirement Students are required to write a one- or two-term senior essay (JDST 491, JDST 492). If the student elects to write a one-term senior essay in one area of concentration, the student is required to use one elective to enroll in a seminar appropriate to the other concentration area. The senior essay, whether one- or two-terms, may build upon research conducted for any junior seminar papers written by the student.

Study Abroad Students majoring in Judaic Studies should be aware of the numerous opportunities for study abroad. Those interested in the various possibilities for research and language study in the Middle East, Europe, and South America should consult the director of undergraduate studies.


Prerequisites None

Number of courses 13 term courses (incl senior req)

Distribution of courses 3 courses from (1) Hebrew Bible, (2) rabbinic lit or ancient Judaism, (3) JDST 200, (4) JDST 201, (5) Jewish thought, (6) survey of Hebrew and Jewish literature; HEBR 110 and 120, or 2 courses in Hebrew literature in translation; 2 areas of concentration, with 3 courses in each for a total of 6 courses.

Senior requirement Two-term senior essay (JDST 491 and 492), or one-term senior essay (JDST 491 or 492) and additional seminar

Core Course

JDST 200a / ER&M 219a / HIST 219a / MMES 149a / RLST 148a, Jewish History and Thought to Early Modern Times Ivan Marcus

A broad introduction to the history of the Jews from biblical beginnings until the European Reformation and the Ottoman Empire. Focus on the formative period of classical rabbinic Judaism and on the symbiotic relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Jewish society and culture in its biblical, rabbinic, and medieval settings. Counts toward either European or non-Western distributional credit within the History major, upon application to the director of undergraduate studies.  HURP

Special Project and Senior Essay Courses

* JDST 471a or b, Individual Tutorial Staff

For students who wish, under faculty supervision, to investigate an area in Judaic Studies not covered by regular course offerings. May be used for research or for directed reading, but in either case a long essay or several short ones are required. To apply for admission, a student should present a prospectus with bibliography and a letter of support from the faculty member who will direct the work to the director of undergraduate studies.

* JDST 491a and JDST 492b, The Senior Essay Staff

The essay, written under the supervision of a faculty member, should be a substantial paper between 6,500 and 8,000 words for one term and between 12,500 and 15,000 words for two terms.

Electives within the Major

Biblical Period

JDST 110a / RLST 145a, The Bible Christine Hayes

The writings common to both Jewish and Christian scripture examined as diverse and often conflicting expressions of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel. The works' cultural and historical setting in the ancient Near East; the interpretive history of selected passages influential in Western culture. Introduction to a wide range of critical and literary approaches to biblical studies. Students view course lectures, which survey the entire Bible, on line; class time focuses on specific biblical passages and their subsequent interpretation in Jewish and Christian culture.  HU

Classical Period

* JDST 235b / MMES 235b / NELC 231b / RLST 147b, Introduction to Judaism in the Ancient World Steven 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. No prior background in Jewish history assumed.  HU

* JDST 256b / MMES 236b / NELC 232b / RLST 400b, The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Damascus Document Steven Fraade

Study of the Damascus Document, one of the most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Attention to the document's place in the history of biblical interpretation and ancient Jewish law; the nature and rhetorical function of its textual practices, both narrative and legal; and its relation to the central sectarian writings of the Qumran community. Prerequisite: reading proficiency in ancient Hebrew.  L5, HU

* JDST 392a / NELC 382a / RLST 405a, Mishnah Seminar: Tractate Ta'anit on Fasting Steven Fraade

Close study of a section of the Mishnah, the earliest digest of Jewish law, treating procedures for public fasts in response to drought and other forms of collective adversity. Particular attention to the textual practices of rabbinic legal discourse in relation to its social function, and to the interplay of law and narrative. Prerequisite: reading fluency in ancient Hebrew.  L5, HU

Medieval and Early Modern Periods

* JDST 260a / RLST 216a, Medieval and Modern Jewish Biblical Commentaries Edward Breuer

Survey of classic medieval and modern Jewish Biblical commentaries, from the eleventh to the nineteenth centuries. Exploration of diverging approaches to the Pentateuch in light of the different intellectual and cultural contexts in which Jewish scholarship thrived. Topics include the impact of Arabic learning, attitudes towards rabbinic tradition, the rise of rationalism and mysticism, and the multiple challenges of modernity. reading knowledge of Hebrew.  HU

* JDST 261a / MMES 273a / RLST 200a, Jews at the Origins of Islam Liran Yadgar

Investigation of the role of Jews in the formative period of Islam, from the beginning of Muhammad’s call to prophethood around 610 C.E. to the early Abbasid Period (ca. 850 C.E.) in light of contemporary scholarship on the origins of Islam.  HU

JDST 265b / HIST 345b / MMES 148b / RLST 202b, Jews in Muslim Lands from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Centuries Ivan Marcus

Jewish culture and society in Muslim lands from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to that of Suleiman the Magnificent. Topics include Islam and Judaism; Jerusalem as a holy site; rabbinic leadership and literature in Baghdad; Jewish courtiers, poets, and philosophers in Muslim Spain; and the Jews in the Ottoman Empire.  HURP

* JDST 270a / HIST 232Ja / HUMS 443a / MMES 342a / RLST 201a, Medieval Jews, Christians, and Muslims In Conversation Ivan Marcus

How members of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities thought of and interacted with members of the other two cultures during the Middle Ages. Cultural grids and expectations each imposed on the other; the rhetoric of otherness—humans or devils, purity or impurity, and animal imagery; and models of religious community and power in dealing with the other when confronted with cultural differences. Counts toward either European or Middle Eastern distributional credit within the History major, upon application to the director of undergraduate studies.  WR, HURP

Modern Period

JDST 201b / HIST 220b / RLST 149b, Introduction to Modern Jewish History David 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.  HU

* JDST 216a / PHIL 322a, Intersubjectivity and Dialogue Asaf Angermann

Study of the multiple philosophical perspectives on the problem of intersubjectivity in twentieth century philosophy, including the phenomenological method in continental philosophy, the problem of other minds in analytic philosophy, and the dialogical principle in modern Jewish thought. Permission of the instructor is required.  HU

* JDST 230a / RLST 326a, Law and Narrative, Gender and Sexuality in the Talmud Noah Bickart

Exploration of both legal and narrative sections of the Kiddushin tractate from the Babylonian Talmud. Close reading and literary criticism of the laws of Kiddushin, as well feminist and queer theory. Investigation into the development of Rabbinic attitudes toward marriage, as well as gender and sexuality. Readings in translation. Additional readings in Hebrew available.  HU

JDST 293b / HIST 248b / RLST 214b, Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought Eliyahu Stern

An overview of Jewish philosophical trends, movements, and thinkers from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first. Topics include enlightenment, historicism, socialism, secularism, religious radicalism, and Zionism.  HU

* JDST 319b / HEBR 162b / MMES 161b, Israel in Ideology and Practice Dina Roginsky

An advanced Hebrew class focusing on changing ideology and politics in Israel. Topics include right and left wing political discourse, elections, State-Religion dynamics, the Jewish-Arab divide, and demographic changes. Materials include newspapers, publications, on-line resources, speeches of different political and religious groups, and contemporary and archival footage. Comparisons to American political and ideological discourse. Prerequisite: HEBR 140 or permission of instructor.  L5RP

JDST 323b / MMES 160b / NELC 155b / SOCY 155b, State and Society in Israel Dina Roginsky

The interplay between the state and society in Israel. Current Israeli discourse on controversial issues such as civil rights in a Jewish-democratic state, Jewish-Arab relations, and right and left politics. Issues of orthodoxy, military service, globalization, and multiculturalism in Israel. Sociopolitical changes that have taken place in Israel since the establishment of the state in 1948 and that have led to the reshaping of Israeli Zionist ideology. Hebrew knowledge is not required.  HU

JDST 332a / HIST 216a / MMES 197a / RLST 193a, Zionism Eliyahu Stern

Introduction to the core ideas of the Zionist movement from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. Focus on internal Jewish debates and criticism of the movement by European and Middle Eastern intellectuals. Social, political, cultural, and messianic ideological strands within the movement and their interpretations of various historical experiences and ideas located in the Jewish tradition.  HU

* JDST 335a / GMAN 254a / PHIL 274a / RLST 249a, Jewish Philosophy Paul Franks

Introduction to Jewish philosophy, including classical rationalism of Maimonides, classical kabbalah, and Franz Rosenzweig's inheritance of both traditions. Critical examination of concepts arising in and from Jewish life and experience, in a way that illuminates universal problems of leading a meaningful human life in a multicultural and increasingly globalized world. No previous knowledge of Judaism is required.  WR, HU

* JDST 336a / HIST 278Ja, The Culture of Acculturation David Sorkin

Noninstitutional forms of Jewish expression and identity in modern Europe explored through the works of intellectuals, writers, and artists. The emergence of a bourgeois Jewish culture from 1648 to 1870, including self-representation in systematic thought, history, fiction, and painting; innovative ways in which such representations were revised by intellectuals and artists of succeeding generations; the influence of political trends and cultural developments in European society.  HU

JDST 340a / HIST 252a, Political History of European Jewry, 1589–1897 David Sorkin

The reshaping of political principles that governed Jewish life in the European diaspora during the modern period. The Jews' internal traditions of political self-understanding and behavior; the changing political status of Jews in Europe; Jewish political participation in European society.  HU

* JDST 349a / ER&M 218a / LITR 435a / RLST 228a, Ethnicity, Religion, and Nationality in Modern Jewish Culture Hannan Hever and Eliyahu Stern

Conception and development of cultural identity through the category of “the Jew” in modernity. Investigation of identity politics in modern Europe, the Middle East, and America with consideration of how discourses of colonialism, science, theology, and multiculturalism have determined the perception of self and relation to others.  HU

* JDST 352b / HIST 283Jb, Anti-Judaism, Antisemitism, and Anti-Zionism Shaun Halper

Investigation to further understanding of the origins, causes, motives, and long history of antisemitism. Antisemitic topics include: its relationship to pre-modern anti-Judaism and contemporary anti-Zionism; its connection to religion and modern secular ideologies like nationalism, fascism, and socialism; how it differs from other forms of racism, hatred, and bigotry; and how its resurgence relates to anti-Zionist political activism.  HU

* JDST 357b / ER&M 301b / PORT 301b / RLST 372b, Diaspora and Jewish Identity in the Transatlantic Igor De Souza

Study of the formation of a Jewish diaspora which established communities from Amsterdam to West Africa, from Brazil to the Caribbean and New York against the framework of the transatlantic—Europe, Africa, and the Americas—from the sixteenth century to the present. Focus on descendants of Portuguese Jews, who sought to uphold aspects of both their Portuguese and Jewish identities, forming thereby a new hybrid, transatlantic Portuguese-Jewish identity.  HU

Language and Literature

* JDST 213a / HEBR 150a / MMES 150a, Advanced Modern Hebrew: Daily Life in Israel Orit Yeret

An examination of major controversies in Israeli society. Readings include newspaper editorials and academic articles as well as documentary and historical material. Advanced grammatical structures are introduced and practiced. Conducted in Hebrew. Prerequisite: HEBR 140 or equivalent.  L5RP

* JDST 217b / GMAN 382b / PHIL 424b, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit Paul Franks

A close reading of sections of one of the major works in post-Kantian philosophy. Themes include varieties of scepticism and responses to scepticism; the relationship of epistemology to questions concerning structures of social practices of reasoning; the historical character of reason; the relationship between natural processes and social developments; the intersubjectivity of consciousness; and the possibility of a philosophical critique of culture. Attention paid both to commentaries that focus on historical development and to approaches that view historical narratives as allegories whose deeper meaning may be formulated as a logical or semantic theory. Two previous philosophy courses, including some exposure to Kant and German Idealism, through either DRST 004 or PHIL 126 or PHIL 214 or PHIL 261. Students are particularly encouraged but not required to take PHIL 261 before taking this course.  HU

* JDST 305b / HEBR 158b / MMES 168b, Contemporary Israeli Society in Film Shiri Goren

Examination of major themes in Israeli society through film, with emphasis on language study. Topics include migration, gender and sexuality, Jewish/Israeli identity, and private and collective memory. Readings in Hebrew and English provide a sociohistorical background and bases for class discussion. HEBR 140 or permission of instructor.  L5, HURP

* JDST 316b / ENGL 456b / HUMS 427b / LITR 348b, The Practice of Literary Translation Peter Cole

Intensive readings in the history and theory of translation paired with practice in translating. Case studies from ancient languages (the Bible, Greek and Latin classics), medieval languages (classical Arabic literature), and modern languages (poetic texts).  HU

* JDST 325b / AFAM 343b / AFST 326b / ENGL 231b / LITR 343b, Literatures of Blacks and Jews from the Twentieth Century Andrew Caplan

Comparative study of representative writings by African, Caribbean, and African American authors of the past one hundred years, together with European, American, and South African Jewish authors writing in Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and English. Examination of the paradoxically central role played by minority, or marginal groups, in the creation of modern literature and the articulation of the modern experience.  HU

* JDST 339a / LITR 418a / MMES 418a / RLST 203a, Politics of Modern Hebrew Literature Hannan Hever

Overview of the Poetics, Culture, History and Political dynamics of Modern Hebrew Literature as a national literature over the last 300 years. The course will trace the literary development of its diasporic condition in Europe through the Hebrew Literature that is created in the Israeli Jewish sovereignty. Readings in translation. No background in Jewish literature, Hebrew literature, or Jewish culture is required.  HU

* JDST 341b / ENGL 253b / LITR 322b, Jewish American Poetry Peter Cole

Consideration of American poetry written by Jews and Jewish poetry written by Americans and the relation these poems bear to other American poetry and to the poetry written by Jews elsewhere in the world. Key figures include Emma Lazarus, Gertrude Stein, Moshe Leyb-Halpern, Charles Reznikoff, Louis Zukofsky, Allen Ginsberg, Anthony Hecht, Adrienne Rich, and Harold Bloom. All readings in English.  HU

* JDST 353b / ER&M 306b / LITR 308b / MMES 308, Literature at the Limit from Palestine and Israel Hannan Hever and Robyn Creswell

Readings and films from post-1948 Palestine and Israel, with special attention given to historical and political contexts. Consideration of the limit, in the geographical sense of borders and checkpoints, as well as in the existential sense of extremity and trauma.  HU

* JDST 356b / LITR 342b, Jewish Literary Masterpieces Hannan Hever

Exploration of the nature of Jewish identity through a literary prism, focusing on novels, stories, poetry, and homilies. Study of texts written over a three thousand year period by Jews living in the Middle East, Europe, and America, from biblical writings through modern works composed by Franz Kafka, Philip Roth, as well as Israeli Literature. Special attention given to the role of gender, minority identities, and the idea of nationalism. Taught in translation, readings in English.  HURP

* JDST 360a / HEBR 160a / MMES 155a, Hebrew in a Changing World Dina Roginsky

Focus on how Hebrew language is used in Israel for constructing social norms, expectations, and day-to-day experiences. Topics include gendered language, political and PC language, military language, slang, humor, dialects, accents, name-giving practices, language in a sacred and in a secular context, and Americanization of the Hebrew language. Materials include advertisements, internet forums, movie clips, skits, maps, political stickers, and newspapers. Prerequisite: HEBR 140 or permission of instructor.  L5

* JDST 391a / NELC 381a / RLST 407a, Midrash Seminar: The Revelation at Sinai Steven Fraade

The giving of the Torah to Israel as seen through rabbinic eyes. Close readings of midrashic texts. Views of revelation, tradition, interpretation, law, and commandment in their literary and historical contexts. Interpretations and interpretive strategies compared and contrasted with those of other ancient biblical exegetes (Jewish and non-Jewish). Reading fluency in ancient Hebrew.  L5, HU

* JDST 416a / GMAN 158a, Reading Yiddish Joshua Price

This course is designed to build literacy in Yiddish, the vernacular of Ashkenazi Jewry. With focus on the accelerated treatment of Yiddish grammar, regularly supplemented with simple primary texts (poems, songs, folktales), and followed by close readings of (modern) Yiddish literature, students will be able to navigate most Yiddish texts with the aid of a dictionary. May not be taken concurrently with elementary or intermediate German.

* JDST 418b / GMAN 159b, Reading Yiddish II Joshua Price

Intermediate study of Yiddish literary language with annotated readings from classic authors including: Mendele, Sholem Aleichem, Peretz, Bergelson, Der Nister, Bashevis, as well as American and Soviet Yiddish poetry. Secondary readings in English will offer a broader introduction to the modern Yiddish canon.  Continuation of GMAN 158/JDST 416. Previous knowledge of German or Hebrew-Aramaic recommended but not required.