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CJS - Courses and Degree Programs

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

Fall 2020

To register for classes, click here:

HSHR-3000 Jewish Thought and Practice in Moses Maimonides
Instructor: Deena Aranoff | Tuesday, 9:40am–12:30pm

This course will examine central aspects of Jewish thought and practice through the writings of Moses Maimonides. Maimonides produced a highly influential synthesis of medieval philosophy and classical Jewish traditions, with an emphasis upon religious thought and action. In this seminar we will explore foundational elements of Judaism as defined by Maimonides, alongside broader questions such as: What is the nature of revelation? What is the nature of humanity? What is the purpose of religion? We will explore the writings of Maimonides as they contributed to an integrated understanding of the person, society and religion.

HSHR-4600 Jewish Counterculture of the Sixties
Instructor: Sam Berrin Shonkoff | Wednesday 6:10pm–9:00pm

The "counterculture" of the 1960s sparked revolutionary change in the United States and beyond. The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panthers, the Vietnam War and the Free Speech Movement, second-wave feminism and the sexual revolution, the hippies and the Age of Aquarius - all of these phenomena rattled the cultural landscape. And all of them had profound impacts in realms of religion, as new values clashed and cross-pollinated with traditions. In this course, we will focus on how Jews navigated these waters. Topics to be explored include Jewish feminism, the resurgence of Kabbalah and Hasidism, cultural impacts of psychedelics, perspectives on Zionism and identity politics, the Mizrahi "Black Panthers" of Israel, and reinterpretations of Jewish sources.

Spring 2020

A Genealogy of Jewish Culture (D. Aranoff)
The seminar will examine the factors and processes at work in the development of Jewish culture over time. we will employ historical, literary, cultural, and feminist analysis as part of an exploration of Jewish civilization from its beginnings in ancient Israel through the medieval period. This course satisfies the ancient-medieval survey course required for the M.A. and certificate in Jewish Studies.

Introduction to Jewish Theology (S. Berrin Shonkoff)
Many have contended that the phrase “Jewish theology” is oxymoronic, or at least somewhere between problematic and inconsequential. In this course we will consider those arguments, yet we will also expand and refine our definitions of theology in ways that might encompass Jewish perspectives on God. In so doing, we will explore the midrashic theologies, embodied theologies, philosophical theologies, and mystical theologies of Judaism. As we investigate these major streams in Jewish religious thought, we will also consider how they correlate with, and differ from, theologies of other traditions in the world.

Martin Buber: Philosopher, Theologian, Activist (S. Berrin Shonkoff)
Martin Buber was one of the most influential and intriguing Jewish intellectuals of the twentieth century. Through deep dives into his written works, this course will introduce students to Buber’s life, thought, and legacy. We will explore his own personal shift “from mysticism to dialogue,” his interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Hasidism, his political and religious anarchisms, and his enormous appeal to Christian audiences.

Fall 2019

Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (D. Aranoff)

Hasidic Mysticism (S. Berrin Shonkoff)

Modern Judaisms: Religion, Culture, or Nationality? (S. Berrin Shonkoff)

Spring 2019

Jewish Mysticism (D. Aranoff)

Aesthetics in Islam and Judaism (C. Bier and F. Spagnolo, Visiting Scholars)

Modern Jewish Ideas, Beliefs, and Practices (R. Brodie and B. Steinberg, Visiting Scholars)

Gender and Judaism (N. Seidman, Visiting Scholar)

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 2018

Issues in Modern Jewish History (N. Seidman)

Readings in the Zohar (D. Matt, Visiting Scholar)

Maimonides, Aquinas, Spinoza (D. Aranoff, I. Radzins)

Conversion and Literature (N. Seidman)

Fall 2017

Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (D. Aranoff)

History of Bible Translation (N. Seidman)

Levinas (N. Seidman)

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.

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