Chair, Professor STEVEN GERRARD

Advisory Faculty: Professors: CHRISTENSEN***, GERRARD. Assistant Professors: DEKEL, S. FOX, GARBARINI, HAMMERSCHLAG**.


Jewish Studies describes the academic field concerned with the experience and culture of the Jewish people. Covering a wide temporal and geographical range, Jewish Studies embraces both the waters of Babylon and the tenements of the Lower East Side. The subject cuts across numerous fields including Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Religion, Classics, History, Anthropology, Sociology, Art History, English, Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew, Women's and Gender Studies, American Studies, Comparative Literature, Romance Languages and Literature, German and Russian Studies, and Political Science. Jewish Studies as a subject and object of scholarly inquiry is more than 100 years old, emerging, as did the study of religion in general, in the context of nineteenth century efforts to make religious texts open to scientific and especially historical forms of investigation.

Williams offers a variety of courses specifically directed to students interested in Jewish Studies. In addition, many other courses incorporate topics relevant to the study of Judaism. Students are encouraged to integrate courses from diverse disciplines with a focus in Jewish history, religion, literature, language, and thought. Thus, rather than emphasizing a particular method of inquiry, Jewish Studies courses bring together students from different departments who share an interest in a common topic. As a result, Jewish subjects are analyzed from a multitude of perspectives (religious, philosophical, political, historical, psychological, literary, etc.). Williams offers two types of courses related to Jewish Studies: Courses directly focusing on Jewish topics and courses partially devoted to some aspect of Judaism. Most courses in Jewish Studies are open to all students without prerequisites. The specific catalogue entry for each course should be checked for details. The concentration in Jewish Studies is recommended for students interested in a sustained intellectual experience in the field.


The concentration in Jewish Studies serves two primary functions. First, it provides a formal structure enabling students to develop knowledge of the history, thought, texts, and practices of the Jewish people. Second, students will learn to apply this competency to the analysis of issues related to Jewish Studies emerging from disciplinary perspectives. Through the Jewish Studies concentration, students will be able to examine topics according to the methods particular to majors as well as in comparison with other disciplinary approaches. Thus, Jewish Studies enhances one's specific knowledge of Judaica and the general capacity to think interdisciplinarily.

Students wishing to concentrate in Jewish Studies must take 5 courses with at least 2 different prefixes: 1 core course, 2 required courses, 1 elective, and 1 capstone course.

Core Course

  1. Jewish Studies 101/Religion 203 Introduction to Judaism (required of all concentrators)

Required Courses

Students must take two required courses, one from Group I and one from Group II. There will be offerings from the visiting Croghan Professor and other visiting professors. These may fulfill the core requirements with approval from the Jewish Studies Advisory Committee. Only one Winter Study course may be used to satisfy this requirement.

Group I

CRHE 201-202 Hebrew

Religion/Comparative Literature 201 Reading the Hebrew Bible

Jewish Studies 013 In the Beginning: Fundamentals of Hebrew

Group II

[ArtH 363 The Holocaust Visualized]

History 230 Modern European Jewish History, 1789-1948

[History 338 The History of the Holocaust]


Students may meet the elective requirement with one of the courses partially related to Jewish Studies or another course from Group I or II. Since the elective requirement enables students to situate issues in Jewish Studies within a broader disciplinary context, the elective must be taken after REL/CLAS 203 and simultaneously with or after at least one core course. In a course partially related to Jewish Studies, a student will normally focus at least one of the major writing assignments on a topic relevant to Jewish Studies or approximately one-third of the course will be devoted to Jewish subjects. The list of relevant electives changes constantly so the course catalogue should be checked for details. Listed below are examples of courses partially related to Jewish Studies. Students may meet the elective requirement with a course not listed here, subject to the approval of the Chair of Jewish Studies.

Comparative Literature 232 European Modernism

English 236 Witnessing: Slavery and Its Aftermath

[German 303 German Studies 1900-1938]

History 225/Religion 216 The Middle Ages

History 228 (formerly 209) Europe in the Twentieth Century

[History 331 The French and Haitian Revolutions]

[History 425/Religion 215 The First Crusade]

[History 487T (formerly 374T) The Second World War: Origins, Course, Outcomes, and Meaning]

[History 490T (formerly 350T) History, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Collective Memory]

[Religion 231/History 209 (formerly 275) The Origins of Islam: God, Empire and Apocalypse]

[Religion 270T Father Abraham: The First Patriarch]

Spanish 201 The Cultures of Spain

Capstone Course

JWST 491 Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary seminar (Members of the Jewish Studies Advisory Committee)

Croghan Professorship

Each year, in addition to the regular course offerings listed above, Williams sponsors the Croghan Bicentennial Visiting Professor in Religion who offers one course in Judaism and/or Christianity. Past Croghan Professors have taught courses on the Mishnah (Shaye Cohen), the historical Jesus (John Dominic Crossan), and Ancient Mediterranean Religions (Ross Kraemer).

Overseas Studies

Studying in Israel is highly recommended for students interested in Jewish Studies. Many students have spent a semester or year at Hebrew University. With the approval of the Jewish Studies coordinator, students may count a study-abroad program towards one core requirement.


The Bronfman Fund for Judaic Studies was established in 1980 by Edgar M. Bronfman `50, Samuel Bronfman II `75, and Matthew Bronfman `80. The Bronfman Fund provides opportunities for the Williams community to learn about Jewish history and culture, both within the College's formal curriculum and through the planning of major events on Jewish themes.

The Morris Wiener and Stephen R. Wiener `56 Fund for Jewish Studies was established in 1997 through the estate of Stephen R. Wiener `56. The Wiener gifts have provided an endowment to support a faculty position in modern Jewish thought, and are used to underwrite an annual lecture, forum or event relevant to contemporary Jewish life.