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 studies. 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. Eugene Lang College's Jewish Studies program 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 Studies 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 other resources offered by other divisions of The New School, including the Jewish Text seminar series; the Jewish Student Union, a student organization at The New School; and Jewish Cultural Studies, a continuing education program offered by The New School for Public Engagement. 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 Studies courses can be taken as electives to supplement any Lang major or incorporated into the self-designed Liberal Arts major. Liberal Arts majors who complete six Jewish Studies courses—two core courses (Jewish History and the Hebrew Bible) and four electives—and a senior capstone project (guided by a Jewish Studies advisor) receive a letter from the director attesting to their completion of the curriculum; see the Jewish Studies program requirements worksheet (PDF).