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Jewish Studies B.A.

The Jewish studies major is designed for students who want an in-depth exposure to Jewish culture, literature, history and texts.

The Jewish studies major provides students with a broad understanding of the full range of Jewish experience over the past four millennia as well as in-depth understanding of aspects of that history and culture.

Like all majors in the arts and humanities, a Jewish studies major not only trains students in a field, it also teaches them how to analyze texts and weigh evidence, read in a discriminating manner and argue persuasively in speech and in writing. Majors pursue a variety of careers in law, medicine, finance, journalism, government service, education, social work, Jewish communal service and the rabbinate.

Requirements for the Major

From Fall 2020

The major in Jewish studies has been revised to include two tracks: a General Jewish Studies track without language requirements, and a Language Enhanced track. Current majors may decide to be grandparented into the old major requirements or request to switch to these revised major requirements.

The General Jewish Studies track requires a total of 36 credits. The Language Enhanced track requires 39 credits, including six upper-level credits of either Hebrew, Yiddish or other relevant languages by petition.

All Jewish studies majors must complete the following requirements:

  • One of the following I-series courses:
    • JWST187: “God, Land, Power, and the People: Moral Issues in the Jewish Historical Experience”
    • JWST171: “Is Judaism a Religion?"
  • Three of the following from at least two areas:
    • History
      • JWST231: “Jewish Texts and Cultures of the Second Temple Period”
      • JWST233: “Why the Jews? Historical and Cultural Investigations”
      • JWST275: “The Jew and the City through the Centuries”
      • ISRL289: “New Explorations in Israel Studies: (ISRL289I: “The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: Fundamental Questions”)
    • Literature and/or Film
      • JWST272: “Introduction to Jewish Literature”
      • ISRL282: “Introduction to Israeli Cinema”
    • Thought, Culture and/or Religion
      • JWST250: “Fundamental Concepts of Judaism”
      • JWST262: “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament”
      • ISRL249: “Selected Topics in Israel Studies”
    • Capstone: One of the following:
      • JWST409: “Research Seminar in Jewish Studies”
      • ISRL448: “Seminar in Israel Studies” 
  1. General Jewish Studies Track:
    • Area of Emphasis: Four courses (12 credits) at the 300-400 level in one of the core Jewish studies areas
    • In-Major Electives (9 credits)
  2.  Language Enhanced Track
    • Six credits at the 300-400 level in Hebrew, Yiddish or other relevant language with written permission of the Jewish studies advisor
    • Nine credits at the 300-400 level in one of the core Jewish studies areas
    • In-Major Electives (9 credits)

Before Fall 2020

Prerequisite: Hebrew language skills corresponding to the second level (HEBR211: “Intermediate Hebrew I” or equivalent. Students can declare the major at any time and take other Jewish studies courses while they are working to satisfy this prerequisite.

  1. HEBR 212 (or HEBR 313) or equivalent.
  2. JWST 233 (historical and cultural investigations in Jews and Judaism) 
  3. JWST 272 (survey of Jewish literature)
  4. Course in Jewish thought, religion or culture
  5. JWST 409 (senior research seminar, preferably related to area of specialization)
  6. Upper-level course on Hebrew (or other non-English) text (taught in English, preferably related to area of specialization)
  7. 5 courses related to area of specialization (at least 3 must be upper-level)
  8. 2 Jewish studies electives (at least 1 must be upper-level)
  9. 3 supporting courses (non-Jewish studies, at least 2 must be upper-level)


Making an Appointment

Students enrolled in the Jewish studies major are advised on two tracks. The must meet with their College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) advisor:

  • before or during their first semester
  • when they declare a major in ARHU
  • when they complete 45-55 credits
  • when they complete 90-100 credits

In addition, Jewish studies majors have mandatory advising every semester. (Students with an additional major will have additional advising requirements depending on the major and/or college of the additional major.) You can reach the Jewish studies advisor by calling 301-405-7640, or at

What to expect from advising

Students who wish to major in Jewish studies should expect to meet with the Jewish studies advisor each and every semester. During these meetings, the advisor will chart a student’s progress through the major. The kinds of questions the advisor will ask include: “What courses are you taking,” “What courses do you intend to take?,” “Are you interested in studying abroad?,” and “How are you doing in your classes?”

The advisor will make notes and go through the Major Advising Form to ensure that the student understands the major’s requirements, what courses to take and when to take them. Every student will get a copy of his or her Major Advising Form at the end of each meeting for his or her own records.

Note that students who have not yet declared Jewish studies as their major must meet with the Jewish studies advisor and then meet with an ARHU advisor. During this first meeting with the Jewish studies advisor, the student will learn about the Four-Year Plan, which is a schedule of classes developed by ARHU and Jewish studies for the typical Jewish studies major to follow. It outlines which courses should be taken during which semesters.

Students who wish to minor in Jewish studies must meet with the advisor to be established as a minor. During this meeting, the advisor will go over the requirements of the major and chart which courses, if any, the student has already taken. At the end of the meeting, the student will receive a copy of the Minor Advising Form for his or her records. Jewish studies minors do not need to meet with the Jewish studies advisor at any time other than this first meeting.

What to bring to an advising meeting

When students come to a meeting with the Jewish studies advisor, they should bring a list of courses they are thinking about taking as well as any other requirements they need to fulfill for another major or minor.

Other documents, such as the requirements for another major or minor, descriptions of courses taken abroad, and previous Major or Minor Advising Forms, are also helpful to bring.


Honors in Jewish Studies

The Honors Program in Jewish Studies is designed to encourage Jewish studies majors with excellent grades and strong academic interests to pursue an individual research project of their own design, in consultation with and under the direction of an advisor. The program consists of 12 credits taken in a student's junior and senior years culminating in the writing of an honors thesis. Students who complete the honors program are deemed to have completed the research seminar requirement for the major, typically completed through JWST 309.

Junior Year: Students apply for admission to the honors program in the fall of their junior year, and, upon admission, enroll in the Honors Seminar (JWST 408) (3 credits) in the spring of their junior year. During this time students are expected to develop a general research plan to be approved by the prospective thesis advisor. Thesis advisors will generally belong to the regular or affiliate Jewish studies faculty. Other faculty may serve as thesis advisor with the written permission of the director of undergraduate studies.

Senior Year: In the fall of their senior year students select an upper-level course (3 credits) closely related to their research agenda in consultation with the advisor. This may include a regularly offered undergraduate course or independent study, in which case students are encouraged to apply for an honors option for that particular course. In addition, students may request permission to enroll in a graduate-level course to complete this part of their requirement. Students who enter the honors program with a clearly defined research interest may complete this requirement in their junior year.

In addition, students take 6 credits of JWST 418: “Honors Thesis Research,” under the direction of their thesis advisor. Typically these will be divided between the fall and spring semesters. Students are expected to work out with their advisors clear goals that contribute to the thesis as a whole for each semester of thesis research, and will be graded each semester on the basis of having met those goals. In the second semester, the principal goal will be the completed thesis.