Skip over navigation

Program in Judaic Studies


Peter Schäfer

Acting Director

Martha Himmelfarb (spring)

Executive Committee

Leora F. Batnitzky, Religion

David M. Bellos, French and Italian, Comparative Literature

Mark R. Cohen, Near Eastern Studies

Anthony T. Grafton, History

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Wendy Heller, Music

Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature

Martha Himmelfarb, Religion

William C. Jordan, History

Stanley N. Katz, Woodrow Wilson School

AnneMarie Luijendijk, Religion

Naphtali Meshel, Religion

Deborah E. Nord, English

Anson G. Rabinbach, History

Esther Robbins, Near Eastern Studies

Gideon A. Rosen, Philosophy, ex officio

Lawrence Rosen, Anthropology

Peter Schäfer, Religion

Esther H. Schor, English

Sits with Committee

Eran Kaplan, History

Yaacob Dweck, History

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 is 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 take a minimum of five courses in Judaic studies and write a senior thesis that draws significantly on some aspect of Judaic studies. Students are required to take JDS 202 Great Books of the Jewish Tradition, one course in Jewish religion, one course in Jewish history, and two other courses (see "Courses" below). A sound program of study will involve both historical range (courses in pre-modern 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. Occasionally, after consultation with the program director, a student with a strong grounding in classical Jewish texts may be permitted to substitute another course for JDS 202.

Students must write a senior thesis in their department of concentration that draws significantly on some aspect of Judaic studies. Each student's course of study and thesis topic 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 science department. Students in departments where there is no possibility of Judaic studies content in the senior thesis may substitute a separate, shorter piece of independent work with the permission of the program director.


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.


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. 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. E. Russ-Fishbane

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

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

JDS 230 Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel (see REL 230)

JDS 231 Hebrew Bible and Earliest Judaism (see REL 231)

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

JDS 244 Rabbinic Judaism: Literature, History, and Beliefs (see REL 244)

JDS 245 Jewish Mysticism: From the Bible to Kabbala (see REL 245)

JDS 300 Israeli History through Film (also NES 300)   Spring 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. E. Kaplan

JDS 301 Topics in Judaic Studies (also WOM 309)   Fall 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. F. Zeitlin

JDS 315 The Family in Jewish Tradition (also WOM 310)   Spring 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. R. Westheimer

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

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

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

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

JDS 347 Religion and Law (see REL 347)

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

JDS 351 Golem: The Creation of an Artificial Man (see REL 351)

JDS 355 Between Swords and Stones: Jerusalem, a History (also NES 355/HIS 356)   Spring 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. E. Kaplan

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

JDS 367 Jewish Identities in France since 1945 (see FRE 347)

JDS 399 Modern Israel (also NES 399)   Fall 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. E. Kaplan

JDS 458 Zionism: From Ideology to Practice (also HIS 458/NES 458)   Spring 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. E. Kaplan

JDS 482 Special Topics in Public Affairs (see WWS 482)