What Are Jewish Studies?
The first thing you should know about Jewish Studies is that it's not an inherently religious major. Most programs focus more on the history and culture of Judaism, not on religious dogma. And you can find this program of study at institutions as diverse as Yale University, Indiana University and the University of California - Santa Cruz.
Judaic Studies majors read religious and philosophical texts, as well as important Jewish scholars, to piece together a picture of this ancient culture. Topics may include Jewish philosophy, Jewish laws and Hebrew and Yiddish languages and culture. Many programs also explore modern and historical Jewish life both in and outside of Israel, as well as social and political relations between Jews and gentiles.
Sample undergraduate courses in a Judaic Studies program include:
History of Jews to the Reformation
This survey course introduces students to the history of the Jewish peoples, focusing on the formative period of classical rabbinical Judaism.
Folklore and History in the Jewish Middle Ages
Jewish myths, legends, fairy tales and other works of folklore from the 9th through the 16th centuries are analyzed in this course.
Intro to Modern Jewish Thought
Students in this course explore Jewish philosophical trends from the 17th through the 21st centuries.
Israeli Identity and Culture, 1948 to the Present
This course examines the representations of Jewish society in contemporary culture, and how national and personal identities are formed.
Thinking about double majoring? The Jewish Studies major pairs well with history, economics or political science.
What Can You Do with a Judaic Studies Degree?
The Judaic Studies major is an excellent choice for students considering graduate school, particularly for those who double major in one of the above fields. It offers rigorous, interdisciplinary academic study with a broad liberal arts background.
But there are also many career paths that benefit from a Jewish Studies degree. The most obvious, of course, is rabbinical studies. Those who aren't religious could also use their degrees to pursue careers in foreign service, international relations, publishing, journalism, politics, international law and even social work.
Of course, the best reason to choose Judaic Studies is interest in the subject. With that in mind - Happy Hanukkah!
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