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Judaic Studies Curriculum


11 courses

HEBR 202, 231 or equivalent
JDST/RELG 204: Judaism
JDST/RELG 203: Hebrew Scriptures in Context

One course focused on Late Antiquity or the Medieval period (Kabbalah; Jews in the Medieval World; Crusades; Love, Sex & Hebrew Texts)

JDST 250/RELG 260: Beyond Belief

One course focusing on the American Jewish Experience (Judaism in the US; American Jewish Literature; Jews & Hollywood)

One course focusing on Israel (Arab Israeli Conflict; Israeli Politics; Mid East Cinema)

Two Electives (Women, Gender & Judaism; Jewish Environmental Ethics; Holocaust in Italian Cinema; Ethnography of Jewish Experience; The Holocaust)

RELG 410 (or methods course in an appropriate discipline)
JDST 490 or JDST 550: Senior Thesis


Six courses
JDST/RELG 204: Judaism
JDST/RELG 203: Hebrew Scriptures in Context
JDST 250/RELG 260: Beyond Belief

Three electives

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. 

First Year
RELG 103
JDST 104
HEBR 101; 102 (previously HEBR 103; 104)

Sophomore Year
JDST 206; 240; 243
HEBR 201 (prev HEBR 116); 202 (previously HEBR 200)

Junior Year
JDST 247; 250; 262
HEBR 231; 232

Senior Year
JDST 264; 316; 550
RELG 390
HEBR 235; 331

For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact a JDST faculty member. 

Senior Thesis
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.

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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.



316 Topics in Judaic Studies
(e.g., Twentieth Century Jewish Thought; Principles and Topics in Jewish Law)
This course is cross-listed as JDST 316. Prerequisite dependent upon topic.
Attributes: Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions


101 Elementary Modern Hebrew
Introduction to the modern Hebrew language. Alphabet, phonics and grammatical structures. Emphasizes development of reading comprehension, composition and conversational skills.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year

102 Elementary Modern Hebrew
Introduction to the modern Hebrew language. Alphabet, phonics and grammatical structures. Emphasizes development of reading comprehension, composition and conversational skills.
Prerequisite: 101 or the equivalent.

201 Intermediate Modern Hebrew
Formal study of Hebrew language with emphasis on oral practice and writing skills.
Prerequisite: 102 or the equivalent. This course fulfills the language graduation requirement.

202 Advanced Modern Hebrew
Expansion of language proficiency through intensified study of cultural and literary texts, including poetry, prose, essays, newspapers, films, and songs. Extensive discussion of issues related to contemporary Israel. Emphasis on the development of reading, writing and conversation skills.
Prerequisite: 201 or the equivalent.

231 Hebrew Conversation & Comp
Advanced practice in conversation, reading and writing. Careful attention to grammar and style.
Prerequisite: 201.

232 Topics in Hebrew Literature
Thematic study of Hebrew literature, with an emphasis on close reading, comprehension and interpretation.
Prerequisite: 201.

235 Topics in Biblical Hebrew
Fundamentals of Hebrew morphology, including readings from Biblical narrative texts.
Attributes: Taught in English

331 Topics in Hebrew Literature/Israeli Culture
Intensive study of a particular author, genre, or period. Introduction to the use of critical theory in literary analysis.
Prerequisite: 231.

Judaic Studies

107 Jews, Christians and Pagans in the Time of Jesus
A critical examination and attempt to understand the New Testament as the written traditions which articulated the faith, expectations, and actions of the early Christians as they responded within Jewish and Greek culture to the historical events of their day, and especially as they responded to the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 107.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions

203 Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament in Context
A critical examination and attempt to understand the literature and the antecedent traditions remembered and formulated by the ancient Israelites in terms of their own views of God. This literature is interpreted in the context of events and cultures of the ancient Near East.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 203.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions

204 Judaism
A basic course in the history, basic beliefs and practices, and modern manifestations of Judaism as a religion. The course concerns itself with the interactions of Judaism and other world religions, notably Christianity.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 204.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Religion - Western Traditions

206 Jews and Judaism in the United States
See course description with RELG 206 listing.
Attributes: AMST Representation Elective, AMST Struct & Instit Elective, Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions

215 Jewish Environmental Ethics
Since the 1960's many writers on environmental issues have blamed our contemporary environmental crises in part on a so-called "Judeo-Christian" worldview, rooted in the Hebrew Bible. Such writers assert that the biblical heritage shared by these two religious traditions, advocates an unhealthy relationship between humanity and nature, one in which human beings are destined to conquer the earth and master it. In this course we will explore Jewish perspectives on nature and the natural world through close readings of biblical and other classical Jewish theology, history and ritual practice, we will also examine the ways in which this motif is re-conceptualized in modern secular contexts (ie, Zionism, and the kibbutz movement). We will conclude by studying contemporary varieties of Jewish environmental advocacy. In addition to texts focused specifically on Judeo-Christian traditions, the syllabus will include other classic works of Environmental ethics foundational to the field of Environmental studies.
Offered every three years in rotation with the offering of ENST 111. This course is cross-listed as RELG 215.
Attributes: ENST Humanities/Arts (ESHA), Humanities, LAWP Ethics Elective, Service Learning

216 Topics in Judaic Studies
Exploration of a focused topic in the area of Jewish religion and/or culture. Examples of topics offered: Jews in Hollywood Film; Jews and Food; Love, Sex and Hebrew Texts.
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities

220 Ethnography of Jewish Experience
Drawing upon ethnographies of Jewish communities around the world, this course focuses on such questions as: What is Jewish culture? What is common to Jewish cultural experiences across time and place? How might we understand the variability and local adaptations of Jewish life? These are the guiding questions and issues for this course, all to be considered within multiple contexts-- from pastoral and agricultural roots to modern urban experience, from Middle Eastern origins to a Diaspora experience stretching across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
Offered every two years. This course is cross-listed as RELG 260 and SOCI 260.
Attributes: AMST Struct & Instit Elective, Humanities, Social Sciences

223 Eating the Text: Tasting Jewish and Israeli Food Through Literature, Film, and …the Mouth
All human beings are connected to food; some are growing it, others preparing or cooking it, and all are eating it. Food is essential for life, but it is also a source of pleasure, a celebration of the senses and the spirit. Food is also knowledge. The biblical story of Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, tells us “knowledge might begin with the mouth, with the discovery of the taste of something, knowledge, and taste go together” (Hélène Cixous). Food is also a culture. It represents the diverse traditions of societies, communities, and families. In this course, we will “taste” food through Jewish and Israeli literature, films, and theoretical texts. We will explore the diverse cultural traits and traditions of the Jewish and Israeli cuisines by reading and writing about them, as well as tasting them. We will visit the Dickinson Farm and will prepare and cook meals together. We will share traditional family recipes and explore their historical backgrounds. “To write about food is to write about the self,” claims Anne Goldman. Students will have the opportunity to write about food and to discover new aspects about themselves. Our course will be like a community of diverse cultures that mirrors the Dickinson community and the world.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 223.
Attributes: Food Studies Elective, Humanities

224 Kabbalah: Healing the Soul, Repairing the Cosmos
Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical doctrine, is a rich tradition of esoteric teaching and practices that have been a vital part of Judaism since late antiquity. The Kabbalistic term “Tikkun Olam, “i.e., repairing/mending the world/universe, became popular for its environmental, social and cultural implications. The Kabbalists believe that by healing one’s soul and by doing good deeds in the world, one has a significant influence and impact on the divine. The microcosm and the macrocosm are mirroring each other and linked in the bond of creation. The course traces the history of Jewish mysticism in four continents, Asia, Africa, Europe, and America, and introduces major trends in Jewish mysticism. We will focus on Kabbalistic meditation and its practice, food and sustainability, interpretation of dreams and white magic, spiritual music, death and reincarnation, feminism and gender issues. We also explore Hasidic tales that attribute the power to reveal and to heal, alongside contemporary expressions of Kabbalistic topics in literature and movies. The course includes guest lectures and other activities and special events, including a visit to a synagogue.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 224.
Attributes: Global Diversity, Humanities

233 Israeli Cinema
Israeli cinema has become increasingly diverse, critical, and multicultural and is often at the cutting edge of the Israeli cultural scene. Films provide an interesting lens to explore questions about Israeli life and identity: What was the experience of growing up in post-independence Israel? How were Holocaust survivors and new immigrants from Arab countries received during that period? What made kibbutz life distinct and how has it changed overtime? How is the impact of war and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict depicted in film? What is the role of gender in the construction of Israeli identity and how has the portrayal of Israeli men, women, and LGBT identities changed overtime? What are the distinct issues facing Orthodox and Ultraorthodox Israelis? How are marginalized groups (Israeli Arabs, Middle Eastern Jews, Russian Jews and Ethiopian Jews) portrayed in film?
The course discusses trends and processes in Israeli cultural history and in current Israeli society, as represented in Israeli films from the 1960s to present day Israel. Screenings of Israeli films are a central part of the course. Films from present day Israel, including the most recent, as well as from earlier decades, create the ideological and cultural universe that the course illuminates.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 233.
Attributes: FMST Mid East Cultural Persp, Humanities, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Middle East Humanities

234 Love, Sex and Hebrew Texts (in Translation)
This course is a comprehensive study of masterpieces of Hebrew literature in translation, especially about love from different periods, origins, and genres. The literary survey includes Biblical love stories and love poetry, love and sexuality in Jewish mysticism, love and desire poems of the Middle Ages, and various fiction and poetry of modern Hebrew literature from the early 20th century to the present. The students will read translated short novels, short stories, poetry, academic books and articles, and other research materials about Hebrew literature. Students will watch some Israeli films about primary Hebrew authors and their cultural world. Sessions will be divided into discussions of assigned readings, and presentations on the historical background of each period, and literary and biographical background of the various authors.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 234.
Attributes: Humanities, INST Middle East/N Africa Crse, Middle East Humanities

240 Women, Gender and Judaism
This course examines issues of gender in Jewish religion and culture. Starting with the representation of women in the Bible and other classical Jewish texts, we study the highly differentiated gender roles maintained by traditional Jewish culture, and examine the role American feminism has played in challenging those traditional roles. We will also study gender issues in contemporary Israeli society, such as the politics of marriage and divorce, public prayer and gender in the military. Some knowledge of Judaism and Jewish history is helpful, but not required as a prerequisite for this course.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 240.
Attributes: AMST Struct & Instit Elective, Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, WGSS Intersect/Instit/Power

243 Dead Sea Scrolls
The discovery of a cache of ancient scrolls in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea led to a revolution in the study of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins. This course will focus on these texts, situating them in the context of the history of Judaism from the Hellenistic period through the first century C.E. What do they reveal about beliefs and institutions of the Essenes, the enigmatic community which produced them? What was life like at Qumran, the Essene community's center? How did the sect start, how did it differ from mainstream Judaism, and what was its vision of the future? What possible connections existed between the Essene community and the emergence of Christianity? How have the Dead Sea scrolls contributed to the study of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament?
This course is cross-listed as RELG 243.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities

245 Hidden Scriptures
Besides the books included in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament, a number of texts were excluded for various reasons. Their circulation and reading were discouraged, but they survived nonetheless. This course examines these texts, placing them in their historical context and using them as a "lens" through which we can better understand Judaism in the Hellenistic and Roman period and Christianity in some of its primitive (often "heretical") expressions.
This course is cross-listed as RELG 245.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities, Religion - Western Traditions

250 Beyond Belief: Jewish Secular Culture from Spinoza to Seinfeld
Many Jews nowadays define themselves in secular or cultural terms rather than religious ones. But how did the tradition of secular Judaism come to be? This course will survey the development of secular Jewish identity through an examination of key thinkers over the last three and a half centuries, including Spinoza, Freud, Marx and Einstein. The course will conclude with an examination of secular Judaism in American culture - the drama of Clifford Odets and Arthur Miller, the films of Mel Brooks and Sidney Lumet, and the television shows Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Offered every year. This course is cross-listed as RELG 260.

Attributes: Humanities

262 Zionism: Ideology, Institutions, Cultures & Contestations
This course aims to provide students with a multi-dimensional understanding of Zionism as a political ideology that found its expression in the creation of a state, the establishment of a particular set of economic and cultural institutions as well as in the creation of new conceptions of land, space, and group interaction. At once a future-oriented revolutionary ideology and revivalist movement based on the idea of returning to an ancient homeland, the significance of Zionism in 20th and 21st centuries cannot be understated. Zionism (or rather, Zionists), produced a state Israel whose foundation has roiled politics in the Middle East until today. This course will look at the particular historical circumstances that gave rise to Zionism in the late 19th century, Zionist institutions, political culture and dominant historical narratives. The course will conclude with a detailed examination of more contemporary critics of Zionism both from within Israel and outside of it.
This course is cross-listed as MEST 262 and POSC 290.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Global Diversity, Humanities, Political Science Elective, Social Sciences

264 Politics, Society & Culture in Israel
This course provides an overview of the major political, social, and cultural forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, modern Israel. It covers the origins of the Zionist movement, political leadership, foreign relations, parties, the electoral system and the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict more broadly. In society, it focuses on the major cleavages in Israeli society, civil society, consumerism, as well as the impact of the Holocaust and the role of the Israel Defense Forces. The cultural component centers largely on poetry, short stories and changes in popular music. The course is intended to add nuance and depth to the often one-dimensional portrayal of Israel in the media and provide students with the analytical tools to better understand events in the Middle East.
This course is cross-listed as MEST 264 and POSC 264.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Comparative Poli Sci Course, Global Diversity, Humanities, Social Sciences

316 Topics in Judaic Studies
See course description with RELG 316 listing.
Prerequisite dependent upon topic.
Attributes: Religion - Western Traditions

490 Senior Thesis
An independent project supervised by the Judaic Studies coordinator and an advisor from the appropriate department. The product of this course will be a written term paper that is also defended orally before a panel of three professors.
Open to senior Judaic Studies majors only.