About the Program

What is Jewish Studies?

The field of Jewish Studies began in the nineteenth century as a branch of Classics that studied ancient texts from the Jewish canon in Hebrew and Aramaic. Today, though, Jewish Studies is a big tent that has expanded historically to cover every period of Jewish life from antiquity to the present, and methodologically to employ every possible tool in the academic toolbox to understand the history of the Jews, the development and evolution of Judaism, and the implications and complications of Jewishness.

Jewish Studies does not promote Judaism as a religion or Jewishness as an ethnic identity. Though Jewish Studies encourages Jewish students to use its courses and curriculum to learn about their heritage, Jewish Studies is an academic venture that critically examines Judaism, the Jews and Jewish History from the outside. As such, Jewish Studies actively invites students who are not Jewish to study the unique ideology, culture and historical context of Jews throughout history. Because Jewish experience over the past two plus millennia has been so variegated, students of all backgrounds will find aspects of the Jewish cultural experience that speak to them quite personally.

Jewish Studies at Northwestern

Northwestern has many resources in Jewish Studies. The Jewish Studies Program is the unit of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences through which undergraduates can enroll in courses or opt for minor or major curricula. This inter-disciplinary program is comprised of faculty whose primary appointments are in various departments but who come together because of a shared interest in Jewish Studies. The Jewish Studies Mellon Cluster is the unit of The Graduate School through which graduate students can affiliate with Jewish Studies, enroll in courses and receive supplemental funding for their research.

In addition to these undergraduate and graduate curricular entities, Northwestern is home to The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. The Crown Center has two primary missions: promoting research into Jewish and Israel Studies at all levels of Northwestern University and producing outreach events that educate a broader population both on and off campus about both Jewish Studies and Israel Studies. The Crown Center has funding opportunities for undergraduates, graduates, post-docs and faculty members to encourage rigorous academic work in Jewish and Israel Studies. The Crown Center also hosts post-docs in Israel Studies and Judeo-Spanish that contribute to the undergraduate curriculum through their courses. The various public lectures and conferences hosted by The Crown Center ensure that students and faculty at Northwestern have many opportunities to hear from the most prominent scholars in the field and that Jewish and Israel Studies have a strong presence both on campus and in Chicagoland more generally.

Northwestern is also home to The Holocaust Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to ensuring that the Holocaust be taught broadly and well in higher education institutions all over the world. HEF hosts important educator training programs as well as a prominent biennial conference in Holocaust Studies.