CJS - Courses and Degree Programs

Jump to...

The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) at the Graduate Theological Union is a premier center for the advanced study of Jewish history, literature and culture. Our programs combine rigorous text-study of primary sources with distinctive interdisciplinary approaches. Studies at CJS provide training for those preparing for academic careers, leadership positions in the Jewish community, as well as pastoral positions in congregations of many religious affiliations.

Course Offerings

Spring 2019 
To register for classes, click here: www.gtusonis.net

HRHS-4351 Jewish Mysticism
Instructor: Deena Aranoff | Tuesday, 9:40am-12:30pm
GTU Hedco Room, 2465 Le Conte Avenue, Berkeley CA 94709

This course will examine the ideas, narratives, theologies and practice that have been part of Jewish mysticism throughout the ages. We will proceed chronologically and thematically, exploring the variety of Jewish mystical trends as well as themes such as language, hermeneutics, gender, sexual imagery, nomian and anti-nomian aspects, messianism, symbolism and practices. We will consider the relationship between Jewish mysticism and surrounding systems as well as relationships between Jewish mysticism and other Jewish communal and rabbinic structures. Doctoral level seminar; at least one year of Jewish studies required. 

HSHR-2780 Aesthetics in Islam and Judaism
Instructors: Carol Bier and Francesco Spagnolo | Tuesdays, 5:30pm-8:20pm
Collaborative Learning Space, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley CA 94709

This course examines various approaches to the study of aesthetics in Islam and Judaism, and explores a variety of visual and performing arts, as well as literary texts. Considerations of aesthetics in Islam focus on diverse cultural traditions and intersectionality of the arts; questions of representation, addressing such concerns as abstraction, geometry, and meaning; and the centrality of the Qur’an through calligraphy, illumination, and monumental inscriptions. Approaches to aesthetics in Judaism focus on synagogue liturgy as a synesthetic experience encompassing time/form, space/architecture, text/literature, sound/music, and gesture/choreography, and the confluence of diverse and often conflicting aesthetic dimensions of Jewish ritual in the global diaspora, including the liturgy of Jews in Islamic lands. Particular attention will be paid to aesthetic "values" such as non-linearity, repetition, and discontinuities.

HSHR-2025 Modern Jewish Ideas, Beliefs, and Practices
Instructors: Rachel Brodie and Bernie Steinberg | Wednesday, 5:30pm-8:20pm
CDSP Classroom B, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709

This course will explore modern Judaism as a complex intergenerational conversation among a diverse range of Jews, ideas, beliefs, and practices.  Organized thematically, we’ll probe dilemmas of modern Jewish identity; diversity of Jewish cultures, languages, and narratives; laws and power structures; messiahs and mysticisms; visions of the future of Judaism.  The group discussions will focus on words as mediators of cultural meanings, and concrete encounters with a variety of practices.  In addition to general background readings, the course will integrate guided close-readings and discussion of thinkers, such as Avivah Zornberg, Franz Kafka, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Elie Wiesel, Judith Plaskow, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Mordecai Kaplan among others.  Background texts: Jews and Words by Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Sulzberger,  Judaisms: A 21st Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities by Aaron Hahn Tapper, and Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought: Original Essays on Critical Concepts, Movements, and Beliefs edited by Arthur A. Cohen & Paul Mendes-Flohr.

HSST-4000 Gender and Judaism
Instructor: Naomi Seidman | Wednesday & Friday 9:40am-12:30pm, April 10-May 24
GTU Hedco Room, 2465 Le Conte Avenue, Berkeley CA 94709

This course will explore the intersection between gender and Judaism by exploring the role of gender ideologies in Jewish texts from the Bible to contemporary philosophy; the gendered character of Jewish historical experience; and Judaism as a continually evolving mode of constructing gender. We will begin with reading a few general introductions to the study of gender and religion, moving on to such topics as feminist and queer readings of the Bible and rabbinic sources; childrearing in medieval Jewish life; women in mystical discourse and Hasidic experience; and sexuality and secularization.

Fall 2018

Ancient & Medieval Jewish Civilization (D. Aranoff)

Liberation or Occupation, Catastrophe or Triumph? Making Sense of the Difficult Past (M. Gross, Visiting Scholar)

Spring 2017

Jewish Mysticism (D. Aranoff)

Inventing Jewish Ritual (L.A. Hildebrand, Newhall Fellow)

Modern/Contemporary Jewish Thought (B. Steinberg, Visiting Scholar)

The Culture of the Synagogue (F. Spagnolo, Visiting Scholar)

Fall 2016

Ancient/Medieval Jewish Civilization (D. Aranoff) 

Texts/Contexts in Judaism and Islam (C. Fonrobert and N. Virani, Visiting Scholars)

Hasidism (S. Brownstein, Visiting Scholar)

The Jewish Atlantic (T. Whelan, Newhall Fellow)

Degree Programs

The GTU currently offers two degrees through the Center for Jewish Studies: a Master of Arts in Jewish studies and a Doctor of Philosophy featuring a wide range of concentrations within Jewish studies. The CJS also offers a certificate in Jewish studies for professional advancement in the field of Jewish education or Jewish communal life.

Scholars wishing to pursue a degree in Jewish Studies may choose to focus their studies in these departments and concentrations:

  • Sacred Texts and Their Interpretation
    • Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
    • Rabbinic Literature
  • Historical and Cultural Studies of Religion
    • Anthropology of Religion
    • Art & Religion
    • Comparative Religion
    • Jewish Studies
    • New Religious Movements
    • Religion & Literature
    • Sociology of Religion
  • Theology & Ethics
    • Aesthetics
    • Comparative Ethics
    • Comparative Theology
    • Ethics
    • Philosophical Theology
    • Theology & Science
  • Religion & Practice
    • Liturgical Studies

Master of Arts Jewish Studies

The MA program is a two-year program of advanced graduate study and research. Students complete four semesters of courses as well as supervised thesis research. They work closely with CJS faculty and may specialize in late-antiquity and rabbinic literature, medieval Jewish history and culture, as well as modern Jewish cultural and literary studies. Students are required to take a two-semester survey on the foundations of Jewish history and culture and may take a variety of electives at the member schools of the Graduate Theological Union and at UC Berkeley. Students are also required to take two courses of Hebrew study.

Doctor of Philosophy Jewish History

The CJS doctoral program encourages interdisciplinary and comparative research. Students work closely with professors from the GTU in the field of late-antique, medieval, and modern Jewish history and culture. Dissertations may focus on themes such as language, Biblical hermeneutics, translation, secularization, sexuality, cultural exchange, and Jewish-Christian interaction. Students may work within the discipline of history, as well as literary, religious, or cultural studies. Students acquire a strong general competence, particularly for teaching, in the history of Judaism from late antiquity to the recent past, and will acquire strength both for teaching and scholarly research. The doctoral program requires four semesters of coursework, including departmental and interdisciplinary methods seminars.

Certificate in Jewish Studies

The CJS offers a certificate in Jewish Studies. The program is open to registered GTU students as well as to the broader Bay Area community. The certificate allows students to register for graduate level coursework and to receive a transcript and documentation of graduate work in Jewish studies.

Intersession and Summer Programs

CJS may offer courses for credit during the winter and summer intersessions, as well as during the summer. Auditors are also welcome.

Non-Degree Study at CJS

Auditors are welcome in CJS classes, pending permission from instructors. We also offer a Fellowship for Jewish community professionals to enroll in one CJS course. Find further information under the Jewish Community Fellowship section of our website.