Reason #1: the Bible
The “good book” is a foundation of Western civilization. It is also a book about the origins, history, laws, customs, and wisdom of the ancient Israelites, the ancestors of modern-day Jews. It is the repository of Jewish cultural memory and the living law of Jewish life. Our Jewish studies program offers you the opportunity to study the Bible in historical context and with a view to its varied reception among Jews, Christians, Muslims down to the present.
Reason #2: the Jewish people
One of the oldest living communities, with a history going back over three-thousand years, the Jews are a diverse, global community, a significant minority in the Americas, and the majority population of the modern State of Israel. Jews have a long history of migration, surviving as a diaspora culture negotiating the tensions of identity and adaptation. At BU, you can study a variety of Jewish civilizations comparatively, from historical, social-anthropological, and cultural perspectives.
Reason #3: Israel/Palestine
Remembered and contested, the Land of Israel, is a rich subject of study from archaeological, historical, geographic, cultural, and political perspectives. Nestled between the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean and the Jordan valley, Israel/Palestine boasts dramatic landscapes, includes several UNESCO world heritage cities, including the holy city of Jerusalem and modernist Tel Aviv, and represents one of the most embattled areas in modern history. At BU you can study the archaeology of Israel and modern Israel, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Reason #4: Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust
Since late-antiquity Jews have been subject to hatreds, discrimination, exclusion, persecution, and expulsion for religious and economic reasons. Modern European nationalism turned the “Jewish question” into a major flashpoint of popular emotions that was easily exploited by demagogues. Political anti-Semitism exploded into the “war on the Jews” conducted, in the 1930’s and ‘40s, by the German National-Socialist regime and their allies across Europe, leading to the systematic murder of six million Jews, among them a million and a half Jewish children, and the enslavement, abuse, and exploitation of millions of others. At BU, you can study the Holocaust in historical context, and you can even minor in Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies.
Reason #5: Maimonides, Kafka, and beyond
Jewish thought and literature–from the early days of Jewish mysticism to the rationalism of the Middle Ages, to the modernism of Kafka–represent rich fields of literary and philosophical studies. At BU you can take courses on rabbinic literature and the the Dead Sea Scrolls, on Jewish and Islamic mysticism and philosophy, on Maimonides and his modern readers, on modern Hebrew literary authors such as Amos Oz and Sh. Y. Agnon, or you can study modern Israeli culture, in Hebrew!
Reason #6: Louis Brandeis, Woody Allen, and Seinfeld
For the late-nineteenth-century Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking Jews fleeing pogroms and forced conscription by the Czarist Russian Empire, America was the goldene medine: the golden country where all problems were going to be resolved. Jewish life in the Americas dates back to colonial times, with Sephardic Jews settling in New Amsterdam. Over the course of the 20th century, Jews achieved remarkable degrees of economic success and cultural integration and collectively represented a kind of “model minority,” for others to emulate.
The minor in Jewish Studies allows students to engage with themes of enduring human significance, such as faith and reason, religion and ethnic identity, cultural stability and change, and migration and diaspora, in Jewish and comparative perspectives. Courses explore Jewish sacred texts and traditions, literature and thought, history, politics, and cultures across time and space. Our program draws on internationally renowned faculty from different schools and departments across the University. The minor contributes to the professional formation of students interested in education, law, international relations, the health professions, journalism, and community leadership. Students minoring in Jewish Studies are encouraged to apply for a range of scholarships and financial support, including for study abroad in Israel.