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Jewish Studies

The program in Jewish studies at Smith College explores the history, literature, arts, politics, philosophy, culture, religion and languages of the Jewish people from its origins in ancient Israel through contact with major world civilizations over the course of a global diaspora extending more than two millennia. Jewish studies draws on the most important disciplines of the humanities and social sciences to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the Jewish contribution to civilization. Students have opportunities to work closely with committed faculty in special studies at the advanced level, to develop close mentoring relationships and to expand their knowledge through study abroad. Many go on to pursue graduate studies in law, medicine, literature, history, religious studies, education, community service and other professions.

Department Update

Mazl Tov!

  • Congratulations to our ’24 graduates: majors Morgan Hatherill, Noa Gittelman-Egan, Miriam Abrams, and Annie Slate, and minors Zephyr Steiner and S.J. Waring. Did you know that over the past decade 36 students have graduated with a major in Jewish studies? Double Chai!!!
  • Katy Swartz '13 on her appointment as a Foreign Service Officer at the US Department of State. 
  • Nell Adkins ’23 for her essay on how a 20th Century Yiddish Play Changed My Life.
  • Sarah Biskowitz ‘21 on being appointed the manager of the rising voices fellowship at the Jewish Women's Archive.
  • Reyna Levine ‘11 on the occasion of her aliyah.

Opportunities

  • Interested in interning with the Jewish Women's Archive? Click form more information here
  • Interested in studying a Jewish language next summer? See our summer Summer Study section below in Study Abroad. We may be able to provide limited funding.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Jewish Studies

The program in Jewish studies expects students to graduate with an understanding of the religious, historical, political and cultural forces that have shaped Jewish civilization for more than 3,000 years. This includes the ability to:

  • Frame questions and situate core texts and ideas in their appropriate intellectual, social and cultural contexts.
  • Analyze and critique religious, historical, philosophical, political, literary and artistic texts, ideas and materials pertaining to Jewish experiences through the ages.
  • Acquire knowledge of the diversity of Jewish culture through time and space, with a specific understanding of the interactions between Jews and co-territorial cultures, peoples, empires and states.
  • Think about the ways in which Jewish studies contributes to, broadens and challenges important conceptual approaches in humanistic studies, engaging with questions related to such issues as nationalism and transnationalism, diaspora and globalization, multilingualism and translation, majority-minority relations, race, gender and sexuality, etc.
  • Attain beginning competency in a Jewish language.
  • Be confident thinkers, analysts and creators of culture.

Jewish Studies Major

Requirements

Ten semester courses

  1. Basis: JUD 125/ REL 125
  2. Language: JUD 101 and JUD 102 
  3. Breadth: Six courses from at least three of the following categories: Language, The Bible, Religion and Thought, History and Politics, and Literature and the Arts. Students can expect advisers to work closely with them to select courses that cover the chronological sweep of Jewish civilization from biblical times to the present.
  4. Capstone: One seminar or research-intensive special studies
Additional Guidelines
  • Students who arrive at Smith with the equivalent of a half-year of college-level Hebrew may petition for exemption from JUD 101. Those who arrive at Smith with the equivalent of a year of college-level Hebrew may petition for exemption from JUD 102 as well; in such cases, they are strongly encouraged to continue their study of Jewish languages. Exemption from JUD 101 or JUD 102 does not reduce the requirement to take ten semester courses for the major.
  • No course counting toward the major shall be taken with the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading option. 
  • Except for JUD 125/ REL 125JUD 101 and JUD 102, no more than two courses at the 100 level shall count toward the major.
  • Although JUD 102 is the minimum language requirement for the major, the Program strongly encourages students to continue study of Hebrew, and to do so at Smith when appropriate courses are available. A student may continue study of Hebrew, or of another Jewish language such as Yiddish, within the Five College Consortium or at an approved program elsewhere.
  • Courses on Smith Programs Abroad or on other approved programs for study away may count toward the major. A student’s petition to count such courses must be approved by the major adviser and the Jewish studies program.
  • With the approval of her adviser, a student may count one Smith College course from outside the approved list of Jewish studies courses toward the major, when that course offers a broader comparative framework for Jewish studies. In such a case, the student writes at least one of her assignments for the course on a Jewish studies topic.

Honors

Requirements

Eleven semester-courses, with JUD 430D counting for two of them. The thesis is written during the two semesters of a student’s senior year, and is followed by an oral examination.

To be admitted to the Honors Program, a student will normally have a 3.4 cumulative GPA through the junior year, demonstrate an ability to do independent work and have her thesis topic and application approved by the program by the requisite deadline.

For honors guidelines, please consult the Jewish studies website.

Jewish Studies Minor

Requirements:

Five courses

  1. JUD 125/ REL 125
  2. Four additional courses distributed over at least three of the following categories: Language, The Bible, Religion and Thought, History and Politics, and Literature and the Arts

Courses

JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I (5 Credits)

The first half of a two-semester sequence introducing modern Hebrew language and culture, with a focus on equal development of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Learning is amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. No previous knowledge of modern Hebrew is necessary. This course is available to Mount Holyoke College students through a simultaneous video-conferencing option. Enrollment limited to 18.

Fall

JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II (5 Credits)

The second half of a two-semester sequence introducing modern Hebrew language and culture, with a focus on equal development of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. By the end of the year, students are able to comprehend short and adapted literary and journalistic texts, describe themselves and their environment, and express their thoughts and opinions. Learning is amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. Prerequisite: JUD 101 or equivalent. This course is available to Mount Holyoke College students through a simultaneous video-conferencing option. Enrollment limited to 18. {F}

Spring

JUD 115tt Topics-What Matters: Thinking Through Jewish Studies (1 Credit)

This topics course explores pressing questions at the heart of Jewish Studies from multiple theoretical, historical, political, cultural and artistic perspectives. Members of the Program in Jewish Studies will talk with students about how their research and teaching animates not only their interpretation of Jewish histories and cultures but also their understanding of contemporary events and their role as global citizens. Repeatable with a different topic. S/U only. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 125/ REL 125 The Jewish Tradition (4 Credits)

Offered as REL 125 and JUD 125. Who are the Jews? What is Judaism? How have Jews understood core ideas and texts, and put their values into practice, from biblical times until today? An interdisciplinary introduction to the dramatic story of Jewish civilization and its conversation with different cultures from religious, historical, political, philosophical, literary and cultural perspectives, organized around different themes. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

JUD 214/ REL 214 Women in the Hebrew Bible (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the lives of women in ancient Israelite society through close readings of the Hebrew Bible. We look at detailed portraits of female characters as well as the role of many unnamed women in the text to consider the range and logic of biblical attitudes toward women, including reverence, disgust and sympathy. We also consider female deities in the ancient Near East, women in biblical law, sex in prophetic and Wisdom literature, and the female body as a source of metaphor. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 217 Motherhood in Early Judaism (4 Credits)

How did early Jewish communities imagine mothers, and what does this reveal about communal ideas of gender, family and identity in early Judaism? This course considers various manifestations of mothers in early Judaism through exploration of such literary sources as the Bible, rabbinic literature and the pseudepigrapha, as well as artifacts from material culture such as Aramaic incantation bowls, synagogue wall paintings and other archeological evidence. No prior knowledge of Judaism is expected (E). {A}{L}

Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 219 Midrash: The World of Rabbinic Interpretation (4 Credits)

This course explores the world of midrash, a genre of rabbinic biblical interpretation. In this course, students define the word midrash, speculate about the origins of midrash and learn about various midrashic genres and techniques. Students see how the creation of midrash allowed the rabbis to explore vital moral, theological and literary concerns in daring and imaginative ways. Ultimately, the study shows how the rabbis transformed their Bible, the TaNaKh, into a living document that had continued relevance in their own times and which continues to be relevant today. (E) {H}{L}

Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 223 The Modern Jewish Experience (4 Credits)

A thematic survey of Jewish history and thought from the 16th century to the present, examining Jews as a minority in modern Europe and in global diaspora. We analyze changing dynamics of integration and exclusion of Jews in various societies as well as diverse forms of Jewish religion, culture and identity among Sephardic, Ashkenazic and Mizrahi Jews. Readings include major philosophic, mystical and political works in addition to primary sources on the lives of Jewish women and men, families and communities, and messianic and popular movements. Throughout the course, we explore tensions between assimilation and cohesion, tradition and renewal, and history and memory. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History (4 Credits)

Previously REL 227. An exploration of Jewish women’s changing social roles, religious stances and cultural expressions in a variety of historical settings from ancient to modern times. How did Jewish women negotiate religious tradition, gender and cultural norms to fashion lives for themselves as individuals and as family and community members in diverse societies? Readings from a wide range of historical, religious, theoretical and literary works in order to address examples drawn from Biblical and rabbinic Judaism, medieval Islamic and Christian lands, modern Europe, America and the Middle East. Students' final projects involve archival work in the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 228/ HST 228 The Jew in the Middle Ages (4 Credits)

Offered as JUD 228 and HST 228. The medieval period in Jewish history is also a global history. It includes the long history of Jews in the Islamic Middle East and North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and North-Western Europe, and their subsequent exiles. Some of the greatest medieval thinkers, mystics, poets and travelers emerge from this period, marked by significant intellectual and cultural crosspollination and competition, sometimes in aggressive ways through disputations, crusades, exile and murder. How does the medieval period continue to influence or complicate contemporary understandings of race, religious cooperation and rivalry, and constructions of otherness? Open to students at all levels. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 230/ ENG 230 American Jewish Literature (4 Credits)

Offered as JUD 230 and ENG 230. Explores the significant contributions and challenges of Jewish writers and critics to American literature, broadly defined. Topics include the American dream and its discontents; immigrant fiction; literary multilingualism; ethnic satire and humor; crises of the left involving 60s radicalism and Black-Jewish relations; after-effects of the Holocaust. Must Jewish writing remain on the margins, too ethnic for the mainstream yet insufficient for contemporary gatekeepers of diversity? No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 235/ MES 235 Perspectives on the Arab-Israel Conflict (4 Credits)

Same as MES 235. What is in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians? What has prevented a resolution to the conflict, and why does it continue to arouse such passions? Situating contemporary controversies in their historical contexts, explores key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, security, debates about Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the impact of religious claims, and the role of regional and international players and activists. Includes analysis of competing models for conflict resolution. No prerequisites. Open to students at all levels. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 238 Sacred Space in Jewish Antiquity (4 Credits)

This course examines archaeological and textual evidence to explore how diverse Jewish groups in antiquity constructed sacred spaces, and ultimately Jewish identity, through art, architecture, and ritual. (E) {A}{H}

Fall, Variable

JUD 239 Jewish Art (4 Credits)

A global survey of Jewish art from artistic traditions and practices in the ancient and medieval world to the impact of Jewish artists on the development of modern and contemporary art. Discussions include art and archeology of the ancient Mediterranean world; Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts; the impact of Jewish culture on such twentieth century movements as Abstract Expressionism and American social realism; traditions of Ethiopian, Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian Jewish art; and Jews and comics. No background in Jewish studies or art history is presumed. (E) {A}

Spring, Variable

JUD 260 Colloquium: Yiddish Literature and Culture (4 Credits)

Why did Yiddish, the everyday language of Jews in east Europe and beyond, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? From dybbuks and shlemiels to radicals and revolutionaries, the course explores Yiddish stories, drama, and film as sites for social activism, ethnic and gender performance, and artistic experimentation in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Americas. How did post-Holocaust engagements with Yiddish memorialize a lost civilization and forge an imagined homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders? All texts in translation. No prerequisites. Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 263 Colloquium: The Jewish Graphic Novel (4 Credits)

Traces the history of major antecedents to the graphic novel and related works, including illustrated books, journalistic cartoons, and comics and sequential art. Topics include Jewish secularism; Yiddish theatre and literature; comic strips; comic books; editorial and magazine cartoons; book, magazine, and other forms of illustration; and a range of Jewish graphic novels, primarily from the United States, Canada, and Israel, with some consideration of creators and publications from Europe and the Middle East. {A}{L}

Spring

JUD 284 Colloquium: The Lost World of East European Jewry, 1750-1945 (4 Credits)

The modern history of the largest Jewish community in the world, from life under the Russian tsars until its extermination in World War II. Topics include Jewish political autonomy under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; the shifting effects on Jews in Russian, Soviet and Polish society of Partition, tsarist legislation, Revolution, Sovietization and the emergence of the modern nation-state; the folkways and domestic culture of Ashkenaz; competition between new forms of ecstatic religious expression and Jewish Enlightenment thought; the rise of mass politics (Zionism, Socialism, Diaspora Nationalism, Yiddishism) and the role of language (Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish) in the creation of secular Jewish identity; and the tension between memory and nostalgia in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Concludes with an analysis of the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 287 The Holocaust (4 Credits)

The history of the Final Solution, from the role of European antisemitism and the origins of Nazi ideology to the implementation of a systematic program to annihilate European Jewry. How did Hitler establish a genocidal regime? How did Jews physically, culturally and theologically respond to this persecution?. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 288 History of Israel (4 Credits)

Looking to make better sense of today's headlines? A historical survey of the State of Israel, from the 19th-century origins of Zionism to the present. Competing interpretations of Israel's political and cultural history through analysis of primary sources, literature and film, and debates over how history is written and by whom. Places discussions about Zionism and Israel within the broader histories of Judaism, Palestine, Europe and the Middle East. Open to students at all levels. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 362yl Seminar: Topics in Jewish Studies-Yiddishland (4 Credits)

Explores the relationship between East European Jewish history and post-Holocaust and post-Communist memory through the prism of Yiddishland, the dream of a transnational homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders. The seminar includes a course field trip to Poland over March break. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{L}

Spring, Variable

JUD 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Advanced research or language study, conducted by a faculty member in Jewish studies.

Fall, Spring

JUD 430D Honors Project (4 Credits)

Full-year course offered each year. Credits: 8 for year-long course.

Fall, Spring, Annually

Crosslisted Courses 

ENG 230/ JUD 230 American Jewish Literature (4 Credits)

Offered as JUD 230 and ENG 230. Explores the significant contributions and challenges of Jewish writers and critics to American literature, broadly defined. Topics include the American dream and its discontents; immigrant fiction; literary multilingualism; ethnic satire and humor; crises of the left involving 60s radicalism and Black-Jewish relations; after-effects of the Holocaust. Must Jewish writing remain on the margins, too ethnic for the mainstream yet insufficient for contemporary gatekeepers of diversity? No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FYS 117 The Bible and the American Public Square (4 Credits)

This course examines what the Bible (and to some extent the broader Jewish and Christian traditions) have to say about controversial issues that have divided Americans in the past (e.g., slavery) and present (e.g., abortion). The aim is to give students the skills to assess critically various arguments that invoke the Bible or religious tradition and authority, wherever they come from on the political spectrum. Students are introduced to the Bible and biblical scholarship, as well as learn about different understandings of biblical authority and views of applying the Bible to contemporary political and ethical debates. This course counts toward the Jewish studies and religion majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 243 Colloquium: Reconstructing Historical Communities (4 Credits)

How much can historians learn about the daily lives of the mass of the population in the past? Can a people’s history recapture the thoughts and deeds of subjects as well as rulers? Critical examination of attempts at total history from below for selected English and French locales. The class re-creates families, congregations, guilds and factions in a German town amid the religious controversy and political revolution of the 1840s. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 246 Colloquium: Memory and History (4 Credits)

Contemporary debates among European historians, artists and citizens over the place of memory in political and social history. The effectiveness of a range of representational practices from the historical monograph to visual culture, as markers of history, and as creators of meaning. {H}

Fall, Spring, Annually

JUD 125/ REL 125 The Jewish Tradition (4 Credits)

Offered as REL 125 and JUD 125. Who are the Jews? What is Judaism? How have Jews understood core ideas and texts, and put their values into practice, from biblical times until today? An interdisciplinary introduction to the dramatic story of Jewish civilization and its conversation with different cultures from religious, historical, political, philosophical, literary and cultural perspectives, organized around different themes. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

JUD 214/ REL 214 Women in the Hebrew Bible (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the lives of women in ancient Israelite society through close readings of the Hebrew Bible. We look at detailed portraits of female characters as well as the role of many unnamed women in the text to consider the range and logic of biblical attitudes toward women, including reverence, disgust and sympathy. We also consider female deities in the ancient Near East, women in biblical law, sex in prophetic and Wisdom literature, and the female body as a source of metaphor. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 223 The Modern Jewish Experience (4 Credits)

A thematic survey of Jewish history and thought from the 16th century to the present, examining Jews as a minority in modern Europe and in global diaspora. We analyze changing dynamics of integration and exclusion of Jews in various societies as well as diverse forms of Jewish religion, culture and identity among Sephardic, Ashkenazic and Mizrahi Jews. Readings include major philosophic, mystical and political works in addition to primary sources on the lives of Jewish women and men, families and communities, and messianic and popular movements. Throughout the course, we explore tensions between assimilation and cohesion, tradition and renewal, and history and memory. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 235/ MES 235 Perspectives on the Arab-Israel Conflict (4 Credits)

Same as MES 235. What is in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians? What has prevented a resolution to the conflict, and why does it continue to arouse such passions? Situating contemporary controversies in their historical contexts, explores key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, security, debates about Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the impact of religious claims, and the role of regional and international players and activists. Includes analysis of competing models for conflict resolution. No prerequisites. Open to students at all levels. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

REL 110hl Colloquium: Topics in Thematic Studies in Religion- Jerasalem and the Holy Land (4 Credits)

This course will examine the religious and historical legacy of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will explore the ways Jerusalem and the Holy Land have been sanctified in scripture, art, architecture, literature, poetry, and film. It will also explore how rulers tapped into this sanctity and significance to promote their own legitimacy and agendas. In this respect, the course emphasizes Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a common, shared heritage to the three monotheistic traditions, yet how it has inspired religious and political conflict in the past and today. Enrollment limited to 20. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 112 Introduction to the Bible I (4 Credits)

The Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh/Old Testament). A survey of the Hebrew Bible and its historical and cultural context. Critical reading and discussion of its narrative and legal components as well as an introduction to the prophetic corpus and selections from the wisdom literature. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

REL 201 Colloquium-Ritual: Performance and Paradoxes (4 Credits)

A central feature of religious traditions and lived religious experience, ritual is often thought of as repetitive, unchanging, and prescriptive. Yet, enacted rituals are often open-ended and allow considerable room for creativity and innovation. Through embodied action and symbolic drama, rituals serve complex functions of making meaning, deepening spirituality, performing cultural identity, and advocating for social change. In this course, students will study various theories of ritual and examine ritual practices (religious and secular) in diverse traditions and societies. For their final project, students will themselves participate in the process of ritualizing--that is, crafting new rituals. Enrollment limited to 20. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 211 What Is the Good Life? Wisdom from the Bible (4 Credits)

Critical reading and discussion of Wisdom texts in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha (Job, selected Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.) as well as some of the shorter narrative and poetic texts in the Writings such as Ruth, Esther and Song of Songs. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 213 Social Justice in the Hebrew Bible (4 Credits)

An exploration of biblical prophecy with a focus on how the prophets called for social and religious reform in language that continues to resonate today. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 310is Seminar: Hebrew Bible-Why Do the Innocent Suffer? (4 Credits)

Many biblical texts question whether God consistently rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Prominent examples include Job, Ecclesiastes and certain Psalms, but similar ideas occur in the Torah and the Prophets. While focusing most deeply on Job, this course introduces students to an array of biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, as well as some post-biblical and even modern literature, to illuminate the Hebrew Bible’s discourse surrounding this issue. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 230mj Topics in Latin American and Peninsular Culture and Society-Maghribi Jewish Women: Cordoba, Casablanca, Tel Aviv (4 Credits)

This course examines constructions and representations of Maghribi Jewish women from the western Mediterranean to Israel. The first part of the course focuses on Jewish women in Andalusi and Maghribi texts. Students are invited to think critically about concepts such as "tolerance," "convivencia," and "dhimma," as well as what it means to be a woman and a religious minority in Muslim-majority communities. The second half of the course examines representations and realities of Jewish women of Moroccan descent in Israeli society. This part centers on questions of immigration, class, demography, gender, diaspora and identity. Enrollment limited to 19. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 218 Holocaust Literature (4 Credits)

What is a Holocaust story? How does literature written in extremis in ghettos, death camps or in hiding differ from the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust? How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy? Selections from a variety of genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, graphic novel, memoir, film, monuments, museums) and critical theories of representation. All readings in translation. No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

Additional Programmatic Information

For a full list of additional courses available through the Five College Consortium, explore the Five College course schedule

The honors program is designed to enable qualified students to devote a substantial portion of their senior year's course work to an extensive research project, culminating in the writing of a thesis and the completion of an oral examination. Students are expected to work within a field in which they already know the general literature and which Smith faculty can support. Interested students should consult the departmental honors section of the class deans website for complete information on applying for honors and for funding resources.

The program allows a student to prepare her honors thesis over two semesters (JUD 430D) for a total of 8 credits.

In recent years Jewish Studies students have written honors theses on the following diverse topics:

  • Encounters with Yiddish Paris
  • Anticipatory Illuminations: The Performance of the Jewish Sabbath as Queer Futurity
  • Grains of Wheat: A Play in Two Acts
  • The Fiction of Rikuda Potash (translation and analysis)
  • I am Supermentsh: Searching for the Jew in Comic Book Superheroes
  • American Jewish Anti-Zionism: Historic Precedents, Intellectual Influences and Contemporary Consequences
  • Post-vernacular Yiddish: A Case Study of the Yiddish Book Center
  • Innovation Within Tradition: Halachic Egalitarianism and the Role of Independent Minyanim

Requirements for the Honors Major

Eleven semester courses, with JUD 430d counting for two of them.

A. BASIC REQUIREMENTS

Basis: JUD 125 Jewish Civilization, normally taken in a student’s first or second year.

Language: JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew I and JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II. Students who arrive at Smith with the equivalent of a year of college-level Hebrew may petition for exemption from this requirement; in such cases, they are strongly encouraged to continue their study of Jewish languages. Exemption from JUD 101/102 does not reduce the requirement to take 10 semester courses for the major.

B. BREADTH REQUIREMENT

Six further courses from the categories Language, The Bible and Classical Judaism, Religion and Thought, History and Politics, and Literature and the Arts. In keeping with the multidisciplinary character of Jewish studies, these six courses must include one or more courses from at least three of the following four categories: The Bible and Classical Judaism, Religion and Thought, History and Politics, and Literature and the Arts. Students can expect advisers to work closely with them to select courses that cover the chronological sweep of Jewish civilization from biblical times to the present.

C. HONORS CAPSTONE REQUIREMENT

The yearlong honors thesis project (JUD 430d) counting as two semester courses.

ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES
  1. No course counting toward the major shall be taken for an S/U grade.
  2. In addition to JUD 101/102 and JUD 125, no more than two courses at the 100 level shall count toward the major.
  3. Although JUD 101/102 is the minimum language requirement for the major, the program strongly encourages students to continue study of Hebrew, and to do so at Smith when appropriate courses are available: JUD 200 Intermediate Modern Hebrew or JUD 201 Readings in Modern Hebrew Language; special studies in language. A student may continue her study of Hebrew, or of another Jewish language such as Yiddish, within the Five College Consortium or at an approved program elsewhere.
  4. Courses on junior year abroad programs or on other approved programs for study away may count toward the major. A student’s petition to count such courses must be approved by the major adviser and the Jewish studies program after the course has been completed.
  5. With the approval of her adviser, a student may count one Smith College course from outside the approved list of Jewish studies courses toward the major, when that course offers a broader comparative framework for Jewish studies. In such a case, the student writes at least one of her assignments for the course on a Jewish studies topic.

Requirements for Admission to Honors

A student majoring in Jewish studies who intends to submit an application for candidacy in the honors program should first meet with the director of honors in Jewish studies to obtain the application form and the college's regulation sheet and to make sure that the procedures for admission are understood. Proposals are normally developed during the spring semester of the student's junior year either by directly meeting with a potential thesis adviser or by clarifying the proposal via e–mail if the student is studying abroad.

To be admitted to the honors program a student must have a 3.4 cumulative GPA through her junior year, demonstrate the ability to do independent work and have her thesis proposal approved by the program by the requisite deadline.The achievement of the minimum GPA is no guarantee that a student's honors proposal will be accepted.

Advisers

A student should arrange to have one faculty member from the program serve as her thesis adviser. The thesis adviser is to supervise the planning, research, writing and evaluation of the thesis. Because the adviser and candidate will work closely together throughout the duration of the program, a student must make sure that her adviser will not be on leave or on sabbatical during the relevant semesters. In addition, students may suggest the names of other faculty whom they desire to act as readers for the thesis, although the program must approve the second reader.

Application Deadlines

Students are encouraged to submit proposals during the spring semester of junior year. The college's deadline for application for honors is the third week of September (or the first week of February in the case of students completing their college studies in January). In order for the program to complete its review process, however, applications and proposals must be submitted to the director of honors no later than two weeks before the college's deadline for applying to honors. Students who have not received approval for their projects by the end of the spring semester of their junior year must register for a four–course load for the following semester; if they are admitted to honors they can then drop one or two regular courses during the year and substitute honors.

The Proposal

In addition to completing the college's application form, each student will submit a proposal for honors. The proposal should be approximately three double-spaced typed pages that explain the specifics of the project by outlining the following:

  • What issues will be explored?
  • Which historical eras, texts or thinkers will the project focus upon?
  • What types of methods will be used?

An initial annotated bibliography including relevant primary and secondary sources should be appended to the proposal. The program may ask a student to rewrite her proposal and to submit it again, but this cannot be done after the college's official deadline. All proposals should be developed under the supervision of a student's potential thesis adviser. Proposals submitted at the last minute and without close consultation with a faculty member often fail to meet the research and scholarly specifications required to secure program approval.

The Thesis

The honors thesis is expected to be a mature and polished piece of undergraduate research. Though there is no minimum or maximum page limit for the thesis, normally they amount to at least 50 pages (double-spaced) and rarely exceed 80 pages.

Deadlines

Jewish studies follows the college deadlines for due dates. The final version of the thesis is due to the thesis adviser according to the final deadline set by the college. The date of the oral examination is set through negotiation between the honors candidate, the adviser and the program, and must take place on or before the final day of classes for the semester.

Grading

Honors work in Jewish studies will be evaluated in the following fashion:

  • 60% for the written thesis
  • 10% for the oral defense
  • 30% for GPA in the Jewish studies major

Double majors

A student who is pursuing a major in Jewish studies and another department or program may want to develop an honors thesis project that integrates work from both majors. Please consult the director of honors for more information.

Please check the course catalog for up-to-date information.

Basis

  • JUD 125/REL 125 The Jewish Tradition 
  • JUD 115 What Matters? (1 credit only, highly recommended but not required; students may take the course multiple times on different topics; this course does not count as one of the 10 full courses required for the major or minor)

Language

  • JUD 101 Elementary Modern Hebrew 1 (fall)
  • JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew 2 (spring)
  • JUD 200 Intermediate Modern Hebrew
  • JUD 201 Readings in Modern Hebrew Language 

Bible 

  • FYS 117 The Bible and the American Public Square
  • REL 112 Introduction to the Bible I 
    (Formerly REL 162)
  • REL 211 What is the Good Life? Wisdom from the Bible
  • REL 214 Women in the Bible
  • REL 216 Archaeology and the Bible
  • REL 310 Sibling Rivals: Israel and the Other in the Hebrew Bible
  • REL 310 The Book of Judges
  • REL 310 Why do the Innocent Suffer

Religion and Thought

  • JUD 217 Motherhood in Early Judaism
  • JUD 219 Midrash: The World of Rabbinic Interpretation
  • JUD 229 Judaism and Environmentalism
  • JUD 238 Sacred Space in Jewish Antiquity
  • JUD 362 Judaism and Feminism
  • REL 110 Colloquia: Thematic Studies of Religion: The Holy Land
  • REL 221  Jewish Spirituality: Philosophers and Mystics
  • REL 223  Jews and Modernity: A Global Diaspora

History and Politics

  • HST 243 Reconstructing Historical Communities
  • HST 246 Memory and History
  • HST 350  Gender and Histories of the Holocaust 
  • JUD 223  The Modern Jewish Experience
  • JUD 235  The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • JUD 255 20th Century European Thought
  • JUD 284  Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, 1750-1945
  • JUD 287  The Holocaust
  • JUD 288 History of Israel
  • JUD 362 Yiddishland
  • MES 235 The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • REL 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History
  • SPN 230 Maghribi Jewish Women
  • SPN 245 Jewish Women of the Muslim Mediterranean

Literature and the Arts

  • ENG 230  American Jewish Literature 
  • FYS 186  Israel: Texts and Contexts
  • GER 231 Nazi Cinema
  • JUD 110 Introduction to Yiddish
  • JUD 239 Jewish Art 
  • JUD 260  Yiddish Literature and Culture 
  • JUD 263 The Jewish Graphic Novel
  • JUD 362 Seminar in Jewish Studies
  • SPN 246 Latin American Jewish Writers
  • THE 208 American Musical Theater
  • THE 241 Staging the Jew 
  • WLT 218  Holocaust Literature 
  • WLT 231  American Jewish Literature 
  • WLT 277  Modern Jewish Fiction 

Consult the Schedule of Classes for detailed course descriptions and times

Fall 2024

  • JUD 101  Elementary Modern Hebrew 1 (Joanna Caravita)
  • JUD 125  Jewish Civilization (Sari Fein)
  • JUD/HST 228 The Jew in the Medieval World (Justin Cammy/Joshua Birk)
  • JUD/MES 235 The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Justin Cammy)
  • JUD 287  The Holocaust (Ernest Benz)
  • JUD 362  Judaism and Feminism (Sari Fein)
  • JUD 400  Special Studies (Program Faculty)

    Cross-listed courses:

  • FYS 117  The Bible and the American Public Square (Joel Kaminsky)
  • REL 110  Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Suleiman Mourad)
  • REL 214  Women in the Bible (Joel Kaminsky)

Spring 2025 (Tentative)

(The official spring course schedule will be posted in early November 2024)

  • JUD 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew II (Joanna Caravita)
  • JUD 115 Thinking Through Jewish Studies: Antisemitism (Justin Cammy + colleagues, 1 credit-1/2 semester)
  • JUD 217 Motherhood in Early Judaism (Sari Fein)
  • JUD 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History (Sari Fein)
  • JUD 238 Sacred Space in Jewish Antiquity (Sari Fein)
  • JUD 362 Yiddishland (including March break trip Eastern Europe, Justin Cammy)
  • JUD 400 Special Studies (Program Faculty)

    Cross-listed courses:

  • WLT 218 Holocaust Literature (Valentina Geri)
  • REL 112  Introduction to the Bible (Joel Kaminsky)
  • REL 213 Social Justice in the Bible (Joel Kaminsky)

The Program in Jewish Studies encourages international study as a way to enhance knowledge of Jewish civilization. The following Smith-approved institutions offer courses in Jewish studies.

Study Abroad Adviser: Justin Cammy

Israel

Students planning to study for a year or semester at Smith-approved programs at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv University are reminded that international study guidelines require that students complete JUD 101 and 102 Elementary Modern Hebrew (or the equivalent of a full year of college-level elementary Hebrew) prior to departure.

Students who believe they already have the equivalent of JUD 101 and 102 will be required to take a Hebrew language proficiency exam administered by the Program in Jewish Studies to determine whether they have met the foreign language requirement set by Smith College.

The Office for International Study at Smith College recommends, but does not require, a full year of Hebrew or Arabic for students applying only to the Arava Program for Environmental Studies.

Special waivers are required of students electing to study in Israel. Please contact the study abroad adviser and/or the Office for International Study for more information.

Europe

Canada

Australia

Students who wish to take summer courses abroad or domestically should follow the procedures for summer school credit available on the class deans website.

Yiddish Language Study

Students interested in Yiddish language, literature and culture are encouraged to attend one of the following programs.

Israel

Universities in Israel offer intensive summer programs for all levels of Hebrew language study, and courses in Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies.

  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew University offers courses in classical and modern Hebrew, Arabic, Jewish Studies, Biblical Studies, Archeology, and Middle East Studies)
  • Tel Aviv University (TAU offers summer courses in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish and Middle East)
  • Haifa University (Courses in Hebrew and Arabic language, archeology and Israel studies)

Hebrew Language Study in the United States

There is very little financial aid available for students studying at domestic (U.S.) programs. Students planning to attend a program at an American institution should apply for financial aid at that institution and for assistance through the class deans office.

Summer Study Grants

  • Program in Jewish Studies funding for the study of Jewish Languages
    Students are eligible to apply to the Program in Jewish Studies for support of accredited summer language study in modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino. The application is competitive and funding is limited. Please send an email to the director of the Program in Jewish Studies, Justin Cammy, with the following information: Name of program at which you plan to study; total cost of program (including airfare); confirmed sources of other funding; pending sources of other funding; a one page of explanation of how language study intersects with your scholarly program and an unofficial copy of your transcript. A letter of recommendation from a faculty member in support of your summer language studies should be sent directly to the program director no later than the deadline. Students are expected to have a minimum GPA of 3.30 at the time of application. All application materials must be received no later than March 15, 2024
  • Leila Wilson Fund for the study of a Middle Eastern Language
  • International Experience Grants (for study, research, internships, or volunteer opportunities)
  • Praxis stipends for summer internships

Students who have studied Hebrew prior to coming to Smith should contact Joanna Caravita for advice on placement in the correct course level. Students with no previous knowledge of Hebrew may enroll in JUD 101, Elementary Modern Hebrew I.

Faculty

Justin Cammy

Jewish Studies

Professor of Jewish Studies and of World Literatures

Justin Cammy

Sari Fein

Jewish Studies

Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies

Joel Kaminsky

Religion

Morningstar Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion

Joel Kaminsky

Emeriti

Martha Ackelsberg
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emerita of Government and Professor Emerita of the Study of Women & Gender

Silvia Berger
Lecturer Emerita of Spanish

Donna Robinson Divine
Morningstar Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and Professor Emerita of Government

Lois Dubin
Professor Emerita of Religion
Modern Jewish Studies: Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going?
A colloquium in honor of Professor Lois Dubin

Myron Peretz Glazer Z"L
Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor Emeritus in the Social Sciences

Ellen W. Kaplan
Professor Emerita of Theatre

Hans Vaget
Helen and Laura Shedd Professor Emeritus of German Studies and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature

Resources & Opportunities

The Sidney Balman Prize

The Sidney Balman Prize is awarded annually for outstanding work in the Jewish studies program. Faculty within the program nominate candidates for the prize, with priority given to graduating seniors. Among past recipients of the Sidney Balman Prize are:

  • Miriam Anna Abrams ’24 (2024)
  • Eliza Menzel '23 (2023)
  • Hannah Rose Platter '22 (2022)
  • Sarah Faye Biskowitz '21 (2021)
  • Eden Farrah Glaser '20J (2020)
  • Abigail Claire Weaver '19 (2019)
  • Hunter Myers ’18 (2018)
  • Teddy Schneider ’18 (2017)
  • Emily Bell ’16 (2016)
  • Dia Roth ’15 (2015)
  • Suri Roth-Katz ’15J (2015)
  • Emma Cooke ’14 (2014)
  • Katy Swartz ’13 (2013)
  • Carole Chalfin-Renard ’13 (2012)
  • Rebecca Peterson ’11 (2011)
  • Gadielle Stein-Bodenheimer '10 (2010)
  • Chantel Braley ’10J (2009)
  • Gabrielle Thal-Pruzan ’08 (2008)
  • Rebekah Anna Saidman–Krauss ’07 (2007)
  • Rachel Rubenstein ’07 (2006)
  • Shulamit Elisheva Izen ’07 (2005)
  • Miriam Marcelle Quintal ’04 (2004)
  • Sarah Julie Rose Schlesing ’03 (2003)
  • Elizabeth Lerner '05 and Meaghan Manchester ’02 (2002)
  • Molly Curren ’01, Julia Oestreich ’01 and Joyce Pang ’01 (2001)
  • Alexa Kolbi-Molinas ’00 and Quinn Lai ’00 (2000)
  • Jennifer Lovejoy ’99 and Stacey Philbrick ’99 (1999)

The Jochanan H. A. Wijnhoven Prize

The Jochanan H.A. Wijnhoven Prize may be awarded annually for the best essay written by a Smith undergraduate for a course in the religion department or Jewish studies on a subject in Jewish religious thought. Past recipients of the Jochanan H.A. Wijnhoven Prize are: 

  • Isadora Kianovsky '23 (2023)
  • Alexandra Sophia Gilbert Domeshek '22 (2022)
  • Eliza Menzel '23 (2021)
  • Liel C. Green '20 (2020)
  • Abigail Lily Allen '19 (2019)
  • Hunter Myers ’18 (2018)
  • Rebecca White '17 (2017)

Internships & Fellowships

Additional Contacts

INTERNSHIPS
  • AIPAC Diamond Summer Internship Program
  • Americans for Peace Now
  • JESNA Summer Internship
  • Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse
  • Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA)
  • Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Jewish Museum of New York
  • Jewish Women’s Archives (JWA)
  • J-Street
  • KOACH Internship Program
  • Museum of Jewish Heritage
  • National Museum of American Jewish History
  • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
  • UN Watch (Geneva)
  • United Stated Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

FELLOWSHIPS
  • ADAMAH: Jewish Environmentalism Fellowship
  • American Jewish Archives Fellowship Program
  • American Jewish Committee GoldmanFellows Program
  • American Jewish Historical Society
  • Hillel Fellowship Program
  • Israel Government Fellows Program
  • Legacy Heritage Fellowship Program
  • New Israel Fund/SHATIL Social Justice Fellowships

Jewish Studies Abroad

Our program encourages international study as a way to enhance knowledge of Jewish civilization. Visit the Study Abroad website.

Alum Spotlight

“Jewish studies introduced me to a world of meaningful literature and history. The course work and connections made at Smith were the foundations that prepared me professionally to lead one of the largest public history projects in the country documenting the legacy and changing nature of Jewish culture.”
—Christa Whitney ’09, Director, Wexler Oral History Project, Yiddish Book Center (MA)
“I learned Yiddish at some of the leading organizations in the world, and my honors thesis brought all my learning together in a project I could call my own. I went on to earn a master’s degree in library and information science and have since used what I learned in working with Jewish sources in my work at academic and public libraries.”
—Teddy Schneider ’18, Head of Collections, Jenkintown Public Library (PA)
“Jewish Studies provided me with the self-confidence to analyze complicated ideas and find my critical voice. I developed the skills to become a Fulbright scholar, pursue an M.A. in public policy, and ultimately have a career with the State Department as a presidential management fellow. The support of my professors was paramount to my success, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the college and Jewish studies for bringing me to where I am today.”
—Katy Swartz ’13, Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, U.S. Department of State
“My Jewish Studies major was integral to becoming a medical student. The skills and knowledge I gained in the Jewish Studies department helped me approach healthcare with cultural humility, tackle ethical problems, and formulate questions that get to the heart of the matter.”
—Hunter Myers ’18, Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont

Contact Jewish Studies

Dewey Hall 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3679

Chair: Justin Cammy
Administrative Coordinator: Lyndsay Lettre

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.