Judaism is a religious and cultural tradition with a history that spans more than three thousand years. Since the Jews’ exile from their homeland in the 6th century BCE, Jewish life and culture has thrived in a variety of geographical settings and historical periods in both western and non-western societies.
Judaic studies explores the many varieties of Jewish experience, viewing Judaism not just as a religion but also as a living civilization. To pursue Judaic studies is to open a window onto a world that has influenced our own in many important ways: Judaism’s pivotal role in the development of major world religions (Christianity and Islam), its importance for understanding the politics of the modern Middle East, and its relevance as a paradigm for understanding the complexity of cultural Diaspora are among a number of important examples.
Judaic studies is an interdisciplinary major. Coursework drawn from a variety of academic departments allows students to appreciate the diversity of Jewish life and culture. A major in Judaic studies is founded on the study of Hebrew language and classical Jewish texts, including the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic commentaries. Students contextualize their work with primary sources through additional coursework focusing on Jewish culture and history. Majors are expected to pursue coursework that spans a variety of historical time periods. Students investigate such diverse topics as Holocaust in the Italian Cinema, Judaism and the Environment, Ethnography of Jewish Experience, American Jewish Literature, Judaism in the Time of Jesus, Women, Gender & Judaism, and Arab-Israeli Conflict. All courses, unless otherwise noted, are suitable for First-Year students.
Courses appropriate for prospective majors
Potential majors are urged to begin the study of Hebrew as early as possible. New students who present evidence of successful Hebrew studies may begin at levels beyond HEBR 101 (previously HEBR 103).
RELG 103, Hebrew Scriptures in Context and JDST 104, Judaism should also be elected early on.
For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Judaic Studies.
Courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Successful completion of HEBR 201 (previously HEBR 116) fulfills the college’s language requirement
JDST 206, Jews and Judaism in the US
JDST 316, Middle Eastern Cinema
Humanities (Division I A):
Any of the religion courses required for the major
Humanities (Division I B):
JDST 216, Love, Sex and Hebrew Texts
Also, for those interested in Sustainability: JDST 215, Jewish Environmental Ethics
Suggested curricular flow through the major
The major in Judaic Studies may be completed in a variety of ways. While there are several core courses that develop foundational knowledge in key areas, the flexible curriculum gives you the freedom to emphasize the area of study within the field you find most compelling.
HEBR 101; 102 (previously HEBR 103; 104)
JDST 206; 240; 243
HEBR 201 (prev HEBR 116); 202 (previously HEBR 200)
JDST 247; 250; 262
HEBR 231; 232
JDST 264; 316; 550
HEBR 235; 331
For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact a JDST faculty member.
Judaic studies majors write an independent thesis during the senior year in consultation with a faculty member. A research proposal is due during the first two weeks of the fall semester.
- Majors in Judaic studies have the option of pursuing departmental honors in their senior year by writing an honors thesis of between 60 and 100 pages demonstrating their ability to engage in sustained advanced research and scholarly endeavor. The thesis project will extend over two semesters. Only the best projects will be granted honors, but any student who completes the project will receive the credit for two semesters of work, i.e., two credits. Students will work with one advisor but may receive guidance from other members of the department.
- Those wishing to write an honors thesis should register for JDST 550 for the fall semester, and find a research advisor. No later than the third Monday of the semester, the student must submit a formal proposal, outlining the project. Within a week, the department faculty will meet to discuss the proposal and assess its feasibility. Once the proposal is approved, the student and their advisor will decide on a schedule of research and writing. The student is expected to adhere to all deadlines set by the advisor.
- In the spring semester the student once again must register for JDST 550. The first draft of the thesis must be submitted by spring break. Copies will be given to all department faculty plus a designated outside reader. Within two weeks after spring break, members of the department will meet with the student to make comments on the draft. The final draft must be submitted before the end of spring semester classes. A defense date will be set for sometime during the exam period.
Independent study and independent research
Examples of recent Independent Studies are: Maimonides' Medical Ethics, Jews of India, The Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Rabbis in the U.S., Women and Midrash. Contact Prof. Lieber for more information. Independent studies may be approved to substitute for certain requirements for the major.
Opportunities for off-campus study
As of 2004, Dickinson Programs in Israel have been indefinitely suspended due to an ongoing U.S. State Department travel warning. However, there are other opportunities for Judaic Studies majors to pursue off-campus study. In a unique partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Dickinson students can spend the spring semester of their Junior year in New York City at List College, the Undergraduate College at JTSA. Please see the program coordinator for details and other study abroad options.
Related activities: The Asbell Center for Jewish Life supplements the Judaic studies curriculum with engaging lectures and cultural programs by visiting scholars and artists. In addition, Dickinson's Hillel is a student organization that also plans programming related to Judaic studies. Hillel is open to interested students of all religious and cultural backgrounds.
Career directions: Judaic studies majors develop strong critical skills with an emphasis on communication, analytic thinking, reading and interpretation. Majors are well-prepared for careers in social services, business, education, non-profit organizations, government agencies and the religious vocations. Many students interested in careers in Jewish education pursue internships at a local Jewish day school or at one of five synagogue religious schools in the area. A major in Judaic Studies is distinctive among the scores of English and business majors competing in similar job areas.