Field of Jewish Studies:

Jewish Studies at Rutgers:

FAQ: Field of Jewish Studies

•   What is Jewish Studies?

Jewish Studies takes an academic approach to understanding the full range of Jewish experience. The field has a broad reach, extending throughout history, from ancient times to the present, in settings around the world, and includes Jews’ interactions with other peoples. Jewish Studies brings together scholars trained in virtually every field in the humanities and social sciences, including history, literary studies, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, comparative religions, philosophy, political science, communications, psychology, economics, art history, musicology, and folklore.

•   When did Jewish Studies enter the university?

Jewish Studies is a modern phenomenon, emerging from the development of humanistic scholarship in Western Europe during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and finding its home in European universities beginning in the early nineteenth century. Today there are major centers of Jewish studies in universities and other institutions of higher education in North America, Europe, and Israel.

•   How do Jewish Studies scholars work?

The approach of Jewish Studies is distinct from the traditional religious scholarship that has informed Jewish life for centuries. At the same time, Jewish Studies scholars engage traditional religious texts, practices, and ways of learning as subjects of interest in their own right. Scholars working in this field may specialize in specific historical periods or geographical locations (such as the Ancient Near East or Early Modern Western Europe) or on certain communities (e.g., Hasidim or Sephardim) or languages (e.g., Aramaic, Hebrew, Yiddish). Scholars of Jewish Studies may focus on particular issues, such as gender or immigration, which are also studied by scholars of many other peoples. Other subjects that Jewish Studies scholars address are more specific to the Jewish experience, such as Jewish-Muslim relations or the Holocaust.

•   How does Jewish Studies deal with the diversity of Jewish life?

The great diversity of Jewish life is part of what makes this field especially interesting to scholars. Examining this diversity from an academic perspective provides opportunities to understand the many different ways that people understand Jewishness on their own terms. Jewish Studies scholars strive to study the variety within Jewish life apart from their own personal beliefs or convictions. In this field, all of the many understandings of Jewishness—past and present, well-known or obscure, by different Jewish communities or by people who are not Jews—are of interest.

FAQ: Jewish Studies at Rutgers

•   Who takes courses in Jewish Studies at Rutgers?

Courses offered by the Department of Jewish Studies welcome all students. Other than certain courses with specific academic prerequisites, such as upper-level language courses, Jewish Studies courses do not assume that students have any particular knowledge or experience in the subject.

Students who have taken Jewish Studies courses at other institutions of higher education should consult with the Undergraduate Vice Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies about transfer credit and to learn about how to continue their interest in Jewish Studies at Rutgers.

•   What is expected of students in Jewish Studies courses at Rutgers?

The Department of Jewish Studies expects students to approach its courses no differently than courses taken in other departments and programs at Rutgers. Students are expected to respect the range of opinions and experiences of others in the class and to avoid language or ideas that assumes a shared conviction, knowledge, or experience.

•   What do students who have taken Jewish Studies courses at Rutgers do after graduation?

Students who have majored or minored in Jewish Studies at Rutgers have gone on to become educators, historians, lawyers, clergy, physicians, non-profit administrators, and social workers, among other careers.