Program in Judaic Studies

Faculty

  • Director

    • Martha Himmelfarb
  • Executive Committee

    • Leora F. Batnitzky
    • Gabriel Citron
    • Yaacob Dweck
    • Eric S. Gregory
    • Jonathan M. Gribetz
    • Martha Himmelfarb
    • William C. Jordan
    • Lital Levy
    • Esther H. Schor
  • Associated Faculty

    • David M. Bellos
    • Jill S. Dolan
    • Anthony T. Grafton
    • Wendy Heller
    • Daniel Heller-Roazen
    • Thomas Y. Levin
    • AnneMarie Luijendijk
    • Deborah E. Nord
    • Moulie Vidas
    • Stacy E. Wolf
  • Sits with Committee

    • Daniel C. Kurtzer

Program Information

The Program in Judaic Studies provides students the opportunity to explore more than three millennia of Jewish culture, history, religion, thought, politics, and literature from the Bible to contemporary Jewish thought and society from an interdisciplinary perspective. A wide variety of courses, lectures, conferences, film series, and exhibitions taking advantage of Princeton's rich resources in Judaic studies are offered. There is no "typical" certificate student; we serve students with a wide range of interests and welcome all who are motivated to deepen their knowledge of Judaic studies.

Program Requirements

In order to receive the certificate, students may choose from the following two options: (1) take a minimum of five courses in Judaic studies, which must include JDS 202 Great Books of the Jewish Tradition and at least one course from the premodern period or (2) take three courses to include JDS 202 Great Books of the Jewish Tradition and one course from the premodern period plus write a senior thesis that draws significantly on some aspect of Judaic studies.

A sound program of study will involve both historical range (courses in premodern and modern periods) and disciplinary breadth. While a junior paper in the field is not required, students are encouraged to explore the field of Judaic studies in their junior-year independent work. A freshman seminar may count as one of the required courses. Depending on other course work, Hebrew language courses may count toward the requirements with the approval of the program director.

Each student's course of study must be approved by the program director as well as by the departmental representative in the student's department of concentration. The certificate requirements are compatible with a concentration in any humanities or social sciences department.

Languages

Judaic studies has no specific language requirement apart from what is normally required by the University. However, when appropriate, students are expected to use foreign language skills in their senior thesis research. Students also are strongly urged to develop a competency in Hebrew and may use one advanced (300-level) Hebrew course, if they wish, to fulfill the general course requirements for the certificate.

Study Abroad

The program encourages students to consider studying in Israel, either for a semester or for a summer. Study in Israel provides an excellent opportunity to improve one's knowledge of Hebrew as well as to pursue other topics of interest. There are a number of intensive summer language programs in Hebrew and Yiddish in Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. Courses taken abroad, other than elementary language, may count for up to two of the program's required courses.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate of proficiency in Judaic studies upon graduation.

Courses

JDS 201 Introduction to Judaism: Religion, History, Ethics (also
REL 223
) Not offered this year HA

Starting with ancient Israel's radically new conceptions of the divine, morality, and history, this course explores the complex nature of Judaism and its development as a religion and culture over millennia--a development marked by internal debates and external challenges to continuity and survival. Emphasis is on the traditional bases of Judaism, such as religious beliefs and practices, interpretations of sacred texts, and shared communal values. Attention also to the variety of Jewish encounters with modernity, philosophy, secularism, and non-Jewish cultures. Two classes, one preceptorial. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 202 Great Books of the Jewish Tradition (also
REL 202
) Fall HA

Introduces students to the classical Jewish tradition through a close reading of portions of some of its great books, including the Bible, rabbinic midrash, the Talmud, Rashi's commentary on the Torah (probably the most influential Bible commentary among Jews ever), the Zohar (the central work of Kabbalah), and the Guide for the Perplexed (Maimonides's great philosophical work). Students will consider what these works say about the relationship between revelation and interpretation in Jewish tradition and how they come to define that tradition. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: M. Himmelfarb

JDS 203 Introduction to Jewish Cultures (See COM 202)

JDS 204 Jewish Mysticism, Magic, and Kabbalah from Antiquity to Middle Ages Spring HA

This course traces the history of Jewish mysticism and magic from the Hebrew Bible to the flourishing of the Kabbalah in medieval Europe. We will consider such historical problems as: the roots of the Jewish mystical tradition in Israelite prophecy; rabbinic attitudes toward secret knowledge and ecstatic practice; and the emergence of the Kabbalah against the background of Jewish rationalist philosophy. The course also considers such thematic questions as: the relationship between literary expression and mystical experience; the power of speech and language in Jewish magic; and gender, sexuality, and the body in Jewish mysticism. Instructed by: R. Boustan

JDS 213 Israeli Literature and Film, 1948-Present LA

Through fiction and film, the course explores the key topics in Israeli society and culture: the construction of the sabra, kibbutz and collectivist ideology, the impact of the Holocaust, military service and traumatic memory, gender and women's writing, Sephardim and Mizrahim, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and the religion nationalism and ultra-Orthodoxy. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 214 Masterworks of Hebrew Literature in Translation (See NES 214)

JDS 216 Love and Death from the Bible to Contemporary Israeli Fiction (See NES 216)

JDS 220 Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Middle Ages (See NES 220)

JDS 223 Jerusalem Contested: A City's History from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives (See NES 221)

JDS 230 Who Wrote the Bible (See REL 230)

JDS 233 Jews, Christians, and Conversion in the Early Islamic World (See NES 231)

JDS 242 Jewish Thought and Modern Society (See REL 242)

JDS 246 Ancient Judaism from Alexander to the Rise of Islam (See REL 246)

JDS 248 Kabbalah: Concepts and History Spring HA

This course surveys the major concepts and historical developments of Jewish mystical traditions in the last thousand years. We will explore both theosophical (contemplative) and ecstatic (experiential) Kabbalah, including the ideas and practices of major figures, groups, and movements. Instructed by: D. Sclar

JDS 300 Israeli History through Film (also
NES 314
) HA

An introduction to modern Israeli history and culture through the medium of film. The course examines the transitions and changes in Israeli society over the past 60 years and presents students with some of the major themes of the Israeli experience. The history of Israel is the tale of the conflict between East and West, Arabs and Jews, and between the Jewish past and the Zionist ethos. It is the story of a transformation from a highly mobilized nation to a modern, self-doubting and pluralistic society that openly questions its past and constituting myths. Israeli cinema is a reflection of this history and culture. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 301 Topics in Judaic Studies (also
GSS 309
) LA

The seminar, normally taken in the junior year, explores in depth a theme, issue, or problem in Jewish studies, often from a comparative perspective. Possible topics include gender and the family, comparative diasporas, messianic ideas and movements, Jewish history, anti-Semitism, authority, leadership, and conflict in Judaism, Jewish literature, Jewish popular culture. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 302 Elementary Biblical Hebrew I (also
NES 302
/
REL 302
/
HEB 322
) Fall

Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its original language. During the semester, students will learn the script and grammar, develop a working vocabulary, and master the standard dictionaries while reading passages from the Bible itself. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: N. Meshel

JDS 303 The Wise Guys: Readings in Biblical Wisdom Literature (also
NES 311
/
REL 303
) Spring

A continuation of 302. Students will develop their ability to read the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its original language. During the semester, students will deepen their knowledge of the grammar, expand their working vocabulary, and practice reading larger passages from the Bible. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: J. Kraut

JDS 304 The Ghetto and the Holocaust (See GLS 303)

JDS 305 Martyrdom and Religious Violence in the Ancient Mediterranean World Spring HA

This course explores the relationship between religion and violence in the ancient Mediterranean world. We will investigate how the shifting discourses and practices of religiously-motivated violence directed both at the self and the other shaped the social, cultural and political histories of specific groups within ancient Mediterranean society. Of special interest will be the emergence of Jewish and Christian traditions of martyrdom against their biblical and Graeco-Roman backgrounds and the impact of the Christianization of the Roman Empire on the relationship between political power, religiously-motivated violence, and communal identity. Instructed by: R. Boustan

JDS 306 Elementary Biblical Hebrew (also
REL 316
/
HEB 306
)

Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible/Old Testamtent in its original language. During the semester, students will study the grammar and develop their vocabulary. Upon completing the grammar textbook, students will read large passages from the Bible from all genres. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 308 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics (See COM 302)

JDS 309 Jewish Messianic Movements in the Early Modern Period

Traditionally, Judaism has included an inherently redemptive quality. The Biblical Exodus serves as the supreme example of national redemption, while the Torah and later rabbinic literature speak of both national and individual redemptions. Messianism became a basic tenet of Jewish belief in the medieval period and served as a significant motivator during the early modern period. This course will explore Jewish messianism between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Themes to be discussed include: Jewish unity across political and ethnic boundaries, power dynamics of rabbis and lay leaders, and individual religious expression. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 311 Bible Now: The Bible in Contemporary Israel (See HEB 310)

JDS 312 The Politics of American Jewish Power and Powerlessness (also
AMS 308
) Spring HA

How much power do American Jews have? Instead of trying to answer the question directly, this course will excavate the histories, ideologies, and conflicts embedded in it. We will start with an exploration of what we mean when we talk about politics and power by reading some classic (and, in some cases, antisemitic) theories about the relationship between Jews and state rulers, and Jews and economic modes. As we focus our analysis on American Jews, we will consider how American political, economic, and cultural forms offered Jews opportunities to access various kinds of power and, also, excluded them from other forms. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 314 Harlots and Heroines: Readings in the Books of Esther and Ruth (See REL 304)

JDS 315 The Family in Jewish Tradition (also
GSS 310
) SA

This seminar will examine the historic flexibility and variability of the Jewish family in the context of selected times and places: Biblical period, early Common Era Diaspora, 20th-century Europe, contemporary United States and Israel. The major emphasis in this course will be on the different protocols and forms that may collectively be called the "Jewish Family." One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 316 Muslims, Jews and Christians in North Africa: Interactions, Conflicts and Memory (See NES 316)

JDS 317 Recent Jewish and Christian Thought (See REL 317)

JDS 318 Image of the Jew in Russian Visual Culture and Literature (See SLA 318)

JDS 321 History of the Jewish Book (also
REL 384
) Fall HA

This course explores the composition and publication of books, manuscripts, and other written material for and by Jews during the medieval and early modern periods (ca. 1000-1800). The course touches on: orality and literacy; scroll and codex; authors, readers, publishers, and scribes; manuscript and print; Jewish-Christian interaction in scriptoriums, artist workshops, and printing houses; censorship; illustration, illumination, and deluxe printing; and major printing centers. Students will consider how these objects drove Jewish societies and reflected larger cultural trends. They will also address the definition of a "Jewish" book. Instructed by: D. Sclar

JDS 327 Black, Queer, Jewish Italy (See ITA 322)

JDS 330 Ancient Near Eastern History: From City-State to Empire (See NES 330)

JDS 331 Migration, Religion, and Literature: From Genesis to Toni Morrison (See REL 330)

JDS 335 The Jews of the Islamic World: From Muhammad to Modernity (also
NES 335
) Spring

The current state of Jewish-Islamic relations is fraught with mutual suspicion and competing historical narratives that are manifest as much in the religious as in the political arena. In the midst of this debate, it is sometimes forgotten that Jews have for centuries been a vital presence in the Islamic world and have contributed to Islamic civilization right up to modern times. This course explores the complex historical relationship of the Jews of the Islamic world from the rise of Islam in the seventh century to the mass exodus of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry from their ancestral communities in modern times. Instructed by: E. Russ-Fishbane

JDS 338 The Arab-Israeli Conflict (See NES 338)

JDS 339 Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (See REL 343)

JDS 340 Ancient Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls (See REL 340)

JDS 341 The Jews in Ancient Egypt (See REL 341)

JDS 343 Apocalypse: The End of the World and the Secrets of Heaven in Ancient Judaism and Christianity (See REL 342)

JDS 344 Sex in Ancient Judaism and Christianity (See REL 344)

JDS 346 Reason and Revelation in Jewish Thought (See REL 346)

JDS 347 Religion and Law (See REL 347)

JDS 348 Genesis and Cosmogony in Antiquity (See REL 348)

JDS 349 Texts and Images of the Holocaust (See COM 349)

JDS 351 The World of the Cairo Geniza (See NES 369)

JDS 355 Between Swords and Stones: Jerusalem, a History (also
NES 355
/
HIS 356
) HA

For 3,000 years the city that is holy to all three monotheistic religions has known little peace and tranquility and has been the site of wars, conquests, and division. By drawing on historical, literary, religious, and cinematic sources, this course will explore the history of Jerusalem from antiquity to the modern period. It will examine its place in the religious imagination of Jews, Muslims, and Christians and trace the political history of a city that continues to be one of the most inflammable places on Earth. It will look at the conditions in today's "united" Jerusalem and explore the different contingencies to bring peace to it. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 359 Modern Jewish History: 1750-Present (See HIS 359)

JDS 373 Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood (See NES 373)

JDS 378 Marriage and Monotheism: Men, Women, and God in Near Eastern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (See NES 379)

JDS 393 Spinoza: Philosophy, Religion, and Politics (See PHI 393)

JDS 399 Modern Israel (also
NES 399
) HA

This course examines the formation and development of modern Israel, following the transition in Israel from a conformist society dominated by Zionist ideology to a society seriously questioning its values, ideals, and norms. It will focus on these changes in a wide range of sources: political and diplomatic, cultural, literary, cinematic, and more. The course will focus on the role of: the ideological origins of Zionist ideology; the Holocaust; the Arab-Jewish conflict; the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi; and the secular-religious divide on the development of contemporary Israeli society. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: Staff

JDS 400 Israel's Enslavement and Exodus from Egypt: Exodus 1-15 (also
REL 400
) Spring HA

Intensive study of the account of Israel's enslavement and Exodus from Egypt as contained in the Biblical Book of Exodus. A detailed examination of the text, language, literary form, content, theology and stages of composition, with the aim of identifying the questions posed by the Biblical text and evaluating the methods employed and the solutions proposed by commentators and critics in their attempts to answer them. Instructed by: B. Schwartz

JDS 410 Jewish Identity and Performance in the US (See ENG 410)

JDS 411 Talmudic Research (See REL 410)

JDS 427 Modern Hebrew Literature: A Historical Introduction (See COM 427)

JDS 458 Zionism: From Ideology to Practice (also
HIS 458
/
NES 458
) HA

Examines the history of Zionism as a diverse political, social and cultural, movement. The course traces the origins of the Jewish national idea in Europe at the period of Jewish emancipation and the rise of modern anti-Semitism and examines the transformation of Zionism into a political and social movement in Palestine, the emergence of the Jewish-Arab conflict, and the 1948 War. Explores the impact of Zionist ideology on the early years of Israeli independence, and, lastly, the course surveys the post-Zionist debates and the relevance of the Zionist idea today. Two 90-minute seminars. Instructed by: Staff