Why Pursue Jewish Studies?
Over the past few decades American higher education has come to understand the value of multiculturalism not only as a political agenda but as an intellectually productive lens with which to view the world. For over two millennia Jews have operated primarily as a minority cultural other within a plurality of different cultures and political situations. To study the Jews, Judaism and Jewish History is to explore the story of a minority that has survived and sometimes thrived within less than ideal circumstances. Whether the subject is the Hebrew Bible, the Holocaust or Hasidim, students of Jewish Studies are always considering the relationship between the subjective, conditioned experience of a specific Jew or Jewish community against the backdrop of the larger world in which such Jews operate. The diasporic Jewish experience invites an interdisciplinary approach that combines the rigors of historiography, literary criticism and social analysis. Students will come to realize that the story of the Jews is a helpful place to begin discussions of ethnicity, race and identity in addition to the more obvious discussions of religion and comparative thought. There are many things a student in university can study; Jewish Studies is a digestible microcosm of the Humanities as a whole.
Like other Humanities disciplines, Jewish Studies is not a pre-professional field. Students of Jewish Studies will learn to read closely, to analyze for breadth and depth and to channel mined data into theories of Jewish history, Judaism as a religion, Jewish thought and Jewish sociology. These skills are marketable for our graduates because they form the bedrock of thinking, researching and writing that are necessary but increasingly overlooked skills on the job market. Majors (and to a lesser extent minors) in Jewish Studies will command the historical breadth of Jewish history, be fluent speakers and readers of Hebrew (or Yiddish) and understand the intersection of religion, history and philosophy that lies at the heart of Judaism as a set of ideologies.