Jewish Studies

Humanities Quadrangle, Rm. 423, 203.432.0843

Elli Stern

Director of Graduate Studies
Elli Stern [F]
David Sorkin [Sp]

Professors Joel Baden (Divinity), Steven Fraade (Emeritus, Religious Studies), Paul Franks (Philosophy), Christine Hayes (EmeritusReligious Studies), Hannan Hever (Comparative Literature), Nancy Levene (Religious Studies), Ivan Marcus (History; Religious Studies), Samuel Moyn (Law), Paul North (German), Maurice Samuels (French), David Sorkin (History), Elli Stern (Religious Studies; History), Katie Trumpener (Comparative Literature; English), Laura Wexler (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; American Studies)

Associate Professors Marci Shore (History), Jacqueline Vayntrub (Divinity)

Senior Lecturer Peter Cole (Comparative Literature)

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

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

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

Jewish 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 Jewish Studies Seminar, several lecture series, postdoctoral fellowships, and graduate fellowships in Jewish 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 Jewish Studies, Yale University, PO Box 208282, New Haven CT 06520-8282, and at


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

JDST 670a / NELC 805a / PERS 505a, Middle PersianKevin van Bladel

This one-term course covers the grammar of Middle Persian, focusing on royal and private inscriptions and the Zoroastrian priestly book tradition. Permission of the instructor required.
MW 1pm-2:15pm

JDST 671a / HEBR 524a, Creative Writing in HebrewOrit Yeret

An advanced language course with focus on creative writing and self-expression. Students develop knowledge of modern Hebrew, while elevating writing skills based on special interests, and in various genres, including short prose, poetry, dramatic writing, and journalism. Students engage with diverse authentic materials, with emphasis on Israeli literature, culture, and society.
MW 9am-10:15am

JDST 674a / HEBR 578a, Languages in Dialogue: Hebrew and ArabicDina Roginsky

Hebrew and Arabic are closely related as sister Semitic languages. They have a great degree of grammatical, morphological, and lexical similarity. Historically, Arabic and Hebrew have been in cultural contact in various places and in different aspects. This advanced Hebrew language class explores linguistic similarities between the two languages as well as cultural comparisons of the communities, built on mutual respect. Students benefit from a section in which they gain a basic exposure to Arabic, based on its linguistic similarity to Hebrew. Conducted in Hebrew. Prerequisite: HEBR 503, or placement test, or permission of the instructor.
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

JDST 694b / CPLT 575b / GMAN 558b, Georg Lukács: Literature and PoliticsHannan Hever

Lukács is presented through his complex and multifaceted development as a crucial and enigmatic figure, at once a leading Jewish intellectual and perhaps the most important of all twentieth-century Marxist theorists. Following the Second World War, while he was still alive, his legacy had already become polarized in terms of "young Lukács" vs. "old Lukács," East vs. West, romantic vs. realist vs. modernist, revolutionary vs. reactionary. Though Lukács's influence rose and fell in conjunction with the Cold War, key critical terms and methods (such as "reification") survived and are very much a part of current political problems and contemporary critical approaches (e.g., Jameson, Moretti, Honneth).

JDST 761a / HIST 596a / MDVL 596a / RLST 773a, Jews and the World: From the Bible through Early Modern TimesIvan 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.
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

JDST 764b / HIST 590b / MDVL 590b / RLST 777b, Jews in Muslim Lands from the Seventh through the Sixteenth CenturyIvan Marcus

Introduction to Jewish culture and society in Muslim lands from the Prophet Muhammad to 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.
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

JDST 806b / HIST 603b / MDVL 603b / RLST 616b, How the West Became Antisemitic: Jews and the Formation of Europe, 800–1500Ivan Marcus

This seminar explores how medieval Jews and Christians interacted as religious societies between 800 and 1500.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 808b, The Cairo Genizot and their LiteraturesMiriam Goldstein

Ancient and medieval Jews did not throw away Hebrew texts they considered sacred, but rather, they deposited and/or buried them in dedicated rooms known as Genizot. The most famous of these depositories was in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, which contained perhaps the single most important trove ever discovered of Jewish literary and documentary sources from around the Mediterranean basin, sources dating as early as the ninth century and extending into the early modern period. This course introduces students to the Jewish manuscript remains of the medieval Cairo Genizah as well as other important Cairo manuscript caches. Students study the wide variety of types of literary and documentary genres in these collections and gain familiarity with the history of the Genizah’s discovery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as well as the acquisition of these manuscripts by institutions outside the Middle East (including Harvard). Readings, including primary Genizah sources, are in English translation, but students with knowledge of Arabic are offered an additional weekly session providing instruction in reading Judeo-Arabic and centered on readings of sources in the Judeo-Arabic original.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 809a, Interreligious Encounters: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Medieval PeriodMiriam Goldstein

The development and spread of Islam and the accompanying diffusion of the Arabic language brought religions in the Near East into contact in unprecedented ways. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity were shaped and in turn shaped each other on the basis of the Arabic language, which was the shared medium of written scholarship as well as being the lingua franca of daily life. In this course we examine various aspects of this interreligious exchange, focusing on major topics in the dialogue between these three religions against the backdrop of a shared Islamicate culture, representing the pre-Islamic period through the early Ottoman period. Class sessions focus on the close reading of primary sources in translation. Depending on enrollment and student interest, some primary sources may also be read in the original Hebrew, Arabic, and Judeo-Arabic. Students with backgrounds in Arabic are introduced to the Hebrew alphabet for this purpose.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

JDST 861b / HIST 597b / RLST 797b, Twentieth-Century Jewish PoliticsDavid Sorkin

This seminar explores major aspects of twentieth-century Jewish politics with an emphasis on new forms of political practice.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

JDST 862a / CPLT 644a, The Betrayal of the IntellectualsHannan Hever

The target of the seminar is to clarify the concept of the intellectual and its political and literary uses during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The point of departure is Julien Benda’s influential book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (1927). Benda defines two kinds of intellectuals: the particularists, who are specifically committed to country, party, and economic issues—later thought of as the arena of “identity politics”—and the universalists, committed to more general humanist values. What makes one an intellectual? Does becoming an intellectual depend on specific historical, social, cultural, literary, and political conditions? Is being an intellectual a matter of “talking truth to power” in accordance with universalist values? The course looks at a variety of definitions of what constitutes an intellectual, based on approaches such as Benda’s notion of the betrayal of the particularist intellectual, or postcolonial intellectualism. The course then looks at the specificity of intellectualism as it appears in certain contexts through readings from Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Orwell, Naguib Mahfouz, Frantz Fanon, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Martin Buber, Edward Said, Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse, and Toni Morrison. Open to undergraduates with permission of the instructor.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm