Jewish Studies Major

Goals for the Jewish Studies Major

Developing an understanding of the breadth and diversity of Jewish civilization through interdisciplinary learning in the arts, humanities, and social sciences

  • Learning to contextualize Jewish civilization within its broader milieu
  • Understanding the foundation texts and central ideas and institutions of Judaism
  • Building specialized knowledge in one area: e.g., among others, Biblical studies; ancient, medieval, early modern or modern Jewish history; European or Eastern Jewry; Hebrew language and literature; Israel studies
  • Establishing proficiency (equivalent to two years of undergraduate instruction) in Hebrew, either Biblical or modern, or if relevant Yiddish, Arabic or Spanish, or Ladino
  • Interpreting primary texts critically, developing writing skills, and learning to identify essential links among disciplines and cultures

Jewish Studies Major

For the nine-course major in Jewish Studies, students must take courses pertaining both to the ancient and modern worlds and show proficiency in a Jewish language (equivalent to at least two semesters at the second-year level). 

Required courses: Majors must take JWST 102/REL 102, Introduction to Jewish Studies, by the end of their junior year, as well as two 300-level courses. 

Concentration: Students are expected to concentrate in some area or aspect of Jewish Studies (such as religion, European Jewish history, American Jewish studies, Sephardic studies, or comparative literary studies) by taking four courses above the 100 level, including at least one 300-level course. Majors devise their own concentrations in consultation with the director of the Jewish Studies program and another faculty member with expertise in a relevant area. 

Language proficiency: Students are expected to show proficiency (equivalent to at least two semesters at the intermediate level) in a language relevant to their concentration. Most typically the language counted will be a Jewish one (Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino), but in certain cases, non-Jewish languages (such as Arabic, French, Spanish, or German) may be accepted, where relevant to the student’s concentration, in consultation with the student’s major advisor. Up to two language courses at the intermediate level can count toward the Jewish Studies major. 

Courses outside of Wellesley: Up to three relevant courses taken outside of Wellesley—at Brandeis or other institutions in greater Boston, during study abroad, or in accredited summer programs—may be counted toward the major. 

Honors: The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the program may petition on her behalf if her GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.


Jewish Studies Minor


A minor in Jewish Studies consists of five units of which at least one must be at the 300 level and no more than two can be at the 100 level. JWST 102, Introduction to Jewish Studies, is required. In consultation with the director of the program in Jewish Studies, students devise their own programs.