Jewish studies was born in the 19th century when secular German Jewish scholars created what they called the “science of Judaism” (Wissenschaft des Judentums) to give Judaism a dignified burial, as one of them joked. Eulogies for Jewish civilization have always been premature, however, and the interdisciplinary field of Jewish studies continues to thrive. Lang’s approach to this subject builds on The New School’s own role as a haven for leading European Jewish intellectuals in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of these scholars (Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss are perhaps the best known) are major figures in modern Jewish culture. They saw the study of Jewish culture not as a means of affirming identity but as a way of understanding the world at large. And so do we. The Jewish Culture minor is a structured experience in the liberal arts that considers Jews and Judaism as rich case studies for questioning the meaning of concepts like nation, state, religion, ethnicity, exile, and diaspora; for grasping how modernity was born of antiquity; and for understanding how texts can transform the world.
Jewish Culture is an interdisciplinary area of study drawing on courses offered across the university. Students study classic Jewish texts, both sacred and secular, and Jewish history from the time of Abraham to the present. They are encouraged to explore resources offered by other colleges of The New School, including the Jewish Text seminar series and the Jewish Student Union, a student organization at The New School. Our students also benefit from the richness of Jewish life and institutions in New York City, such as the Museum at Eldridge Street, the Tenement Museum, YIVO, and the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU, to name just a few in the New School neighborhood.
Jewish Culture courses can be taken as electives to supplement any Lang major or incorporated into the self-designed Liberal Arts major. Undergraduate students from any division of the university who are not
majoring in Liberal Arts can select the minor in Jewish Culture. Liberal Arts majors who complete five Jewish Culture courses—two core courses (Jewish History and the Hebrew Bible) and three electives—and a senior capstone project (guided by a Jewish Culture advisor) receive a letter from the director attesting to their completion of the curriculum. See the requirements (PDF) for the minor (non-Liberal Arts majors) and suggested course sequence (Liberal Arts majors).