It’s that time of year again—not just the High Holidays but the time when Jewish college students pore over online course catalogues and make their choices for the fall semester. Will they take Jewish Studies courses? If so, does it matter which ones?
Courses in Hebrew language, “Judaism 101,” the Holocaust, and the contemporary Middle East are ubiquitous. Some colleges and universities provide menus ranging from rigorous, sacred-text-based courses on the Bible and Talmud to more literary and cultural offerings. The rest of the approximately 100 Jewish Studies programs in American colleges emphasize more recent Jewish culture and history—Yiddish theater, Israeli literature, or the role of women and gender in American Jewish life.