Jewish Studies B.A.

Are you interested in learning about Judaism, the Bible, ancient and modern Israel, the Holocaust and antisemitism, Jewish literature and music, American Jewish culture and identity, East European and Yiddish culture, and Jewish history? Do you have a desire to learn a Jewish language - Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, or Yiddish?

The exceptional Jewish Studies faculty offer many points of entry to Jewish Studies - Comparative Literature, English, Fine Arts, Germanic Studies, History, Musicology, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Political Science, and Religious Studies.

Students of all backgrounds will explore Jewish culture and its evolution and expression from biblical times to the present and come to understand major moments in the formation of Christianity and Islam, as well as distinct episodes in the history and culture of the Middle East, Europe, and America.

Jewish Studies students can structure their course work according to their specific areas of interest. Majors are encouraged to study at The Hebrew University's Rothberg International School in Jerusalem (a co-sponsored program with IU Overseas Study) during a semester or both semesters of their junior year. The program offers generous scholarships to support study in Israel.

The Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program is considered one of the premier Jewish Studies programs in the world. The program is a lively center of learning, and a supportive community where faculty and staff inspire students to discover and explore their passions.

The interdisciplinary degree is easily combined with other majors and prepares students for a variety of rewarding career paths including professional schools, such as law, medicine, business, and careers in public administration, government service, education, communal service, foreign service, the rabbinate, the ministry, the cantorate, as well as graduate studies in religion, international relations, history, foreign languages, and social work.

Together with the Jacobs School of Music, the Jewish Studies Program offers a one-of-a-kind pre-cantorial program - the Jewish Sacred Music program.

The Jewish Studies Program offers two undergraduate minors that can be combined with the major: a minor in Hebrew, or a minor in Yiddish (with the Department of Germanic Studies).

Coursework

Getting started

Your starting point with the Jewish Studies major:

JSTU-J 251 Introduction to Jewish History: From the Bible to Spanish Expulsion (fall course)

JSTU-J 252 Introduction to Jewish History: From Spanish Expulsion to the Present (spring course)

First course in a Jewish language: Modern Hebrew (JSTU-H 100*-fall), Biblical Hebrew (JSTU-B 100) or Yiddish (GER-Y 100)

*Students with prior knowledge of Modern Hebrew should take the online Hebrew Placement Exam. Depending upon placement, students may enroll in more advanced levels of Modern Hebrew beyond Elementary Hebrew I (JSTU-H 100).

Majors are also required to take one 100 or 200 level course of their choosing. Suggested courses for freshmen year include a CAPP (COLL-C 103) course on a Jewish Studies related topic, JSTU-J 230 Introduction to Judaism, REL-A 210 Introduction to Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, or many other 200 level Jewish Studies-related courses.

Tracks and concentrations

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the Jewish Studies Program, students enrolled in the B.A. have the freedom to structure their coursework individually, according to their specific areas of interest. Topics include the study of Israel, the Holocaust and antisemitism, Jewish literature and culture, American Jewish culture, Judaism and the Bible, Jewish history, Yiddish language, and culture, or Modern or Biblical Hebrew.

This flexibility allows you to easily add additional majors, minors or certificates. We encourage you to work with the academic advisor to design your own Jewish Studies B.A. major curriculum based on your interests and goals.

Jewish Studies majors interested in a career in the cantorate can pursue the only pre-cantorial undergraduate program in the U.S. The Jewish sacred music concentration within the Jewish Studies major prepares students for cantorial school with courses in Jewish Studies and the Jacobs School of Music.

Students planning a career in rabbinics, Jewish education, or Jewish non-profit work/communal service should work with the academic advisor to design your Jewish Studies major to prepare you for careers and graduate study in these fields.

Upper level coursework

You are required to take six 300-400 level courses of your own choosing. Students can choose from dozens of upper level courses in many disciplines, including courses in:

  • Judaism/rabbinic Judaism/gender and Judaism/Jewish thought
  • Advanced Modern Hebrew language/Israeli culture, history, and politics
  • Yiddish culture and literature
  • The Holocaust/antisemitism
  • Muslim-Jewish history and relations
  • European Jewish intellectual and cultural history/Muslim Spain
  • The American Jewish experience
  • Jewish music and popular culture

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Jewish Studies B.A. majors frequently have double majors as well as other minors or certificates. With the help of the academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interests. You should investigate majors and minors that will provide you with valuable skills to complement your Jewish Studies major. Here are just a few examples of double majors, certificates, and minors pursued by Jewish Studies majors:

Sometimes students majoring in other schools at Indiana University, such as the Kelley School of Business, express an interest in also pursuing a Jewish Studies major. The academic advisor will work with you to find out if it is possible for you to combine your first degree with a concurrent second degree in Jewish Studies. Kelley School of Business majors and other majors outside the College of Arts and Sciences who are interested in Jewish Studies may want to pursue the Minor or Certificate in Jewish Studies.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

One of the advantages of being a student in Jewish Studies at Indiana University is that our faculty is committed to establishing close and enduring connections with students. Through an array of extracurricular and academic activities, the Borns Jewish Studies Program creates an intimate learning environment and a close-knit community of students and faculty.

Our distinguished faculty welcomes the opportunity to meet with students during their office hours to talk with you about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, your academic goals, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

Advanced students interested in independent study should start by taking a class with a faculty member whose research includes your area of interest. Go talk with the professor while you are enrolled in the class to discuss your interests. You can set up an independent study (JSTU-X 490) to build on an existing class or spend a semester exploring a topic in depth.

Honors

High achieving students are eligible for admission in their junior year to the program's two course sequence honors program.

Writing an honors thesis of your own design, under the supervision of a Jewish Studies faculty member (honors thesis director) offers outstanding students an opportunity to carry out a substantial research project and to craft and complete advanced scholarly work. The process culminates with an oral defense of the thesis before the thesis director and two other members of the Jewish Studies faculty (chosen by the student in consultation with the thesis director).

The first step is to meet with Dr. Carolyn Lipson-Walker to discuss your interest in the honors thesis, obtain the honors thesis contract, discuss the focus of your interest and the choice of your Jewish Studies honors thesis director.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

The Borns Jewish Studies Program is proud to offer numerous funding opportunities for its students:

Other financial aid resources include:

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities as early as freshman year, through the Career Development Center.

Jewish Studies students may apply for the Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Administrative Internship, a professional apprenticeship that includes assisting with recruiting students, alumni relations, and career support for current students. The year-long internship is a paid position.

You can earn credit toward graduation with the Jewish Studies internship course - JSTU X-473.

Jewish Studies students have had internships with many organizations:

The Borns Jewish Studies Program keeps a list of more than 30 Jewish Studies-related internships.

Learn more about internships, and the possibility of earning credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. You have access to many resources there for finding internships. It may be possible to earn academic credit for an internship by enrolling in or ASCS X-373.

Foreign language study

The study of Jewish languages is a key component of the Jewish Studies major. Majors are required to complete 4 semesters of one Jewish language - Modern Hebrew (the language of modern day Israel), Biblical Hebrew (read the Bible in its original language), or Yiddish (the historical language of Ashkenazic Jews). The program is known for its strong language curriculum.

Completing the language requirements for the Jewish Studies major fulfills the Foreign Language requirement for the B.A.

Majors may also choose to complete the minor in Hebrew (choosing the Modern Hebrew track or the Biblical Hebrew track) or the minor in Yiddish Studies through the Department of Germanic Studies.

Study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem during the junior year includes ulpan, as well as semester courses in Modern Hebrew.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 70 languages.

Overseas study

Jewish Studies students are encouraged to study at The Hebrew University's Rothberg International School in Jerusalem (a co-sponsored program with IU Overseas Study) during their junior year. When applying to Hebrew University through IU Overseas Study, students can also apply for Jewish Studies Presidential scholarships.

Students may also study in Israel at Ben-Gurion University, Haifa University, and Tel Aviv University and transfer credits back to IU. Students studying at these three Israeli universities may also apply for Jewish Studies Israel Scholarships.

A list of other study abroad options for Jewish Studies students can be found on the Overseas Study website.

Learn more about study abroad opportunities through conversation with Dr. Carolyn Lipson-Walker, and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

The Jewish Studies Student Association, a student-run group open to all Indiana University Bloomington undergraduates, promotes interaction between students and faculty while providing social and cultural extracurricular learning related to Jewish Studies. Events include dinners and desserts with the Jewish Studies faculty, weekly Hebrew conversation hour, film showings, study breaks, free dinners at local restaurants, and bowling with the faculty.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

As a Jewish Studies major, you are encouraged to seek out volunteer opportunities. Consistent volunteering allows you to develop leadership and organizational skills highly valued by employers.

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

The following are just a few of the professional organizations relevant to Jewish Studies:

For more information about professional involvement, consult the Jewish Studies Program advisor.

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, and nonprofit organizations.

Build your skills

Through the major

While earning the Jewish Studies B.A. degree, you will acquire a broad set of skills that are relevant and transferable to many areas of work and study. These include:

  • Understanding of diverse perspectives: listening and encouraging dialogue, appreciating a variety of cultural experiences and points of view
  • Critical reasoning: actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating sources to create persuasive arguments across multiple modes of human expression
  • Language proficiency: demonstrating written, verbal, aural, oral, and technological skills at an intermediate level in a Jewish language: Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, or Yiddish
  • Interdisciplinary competence: understanding and articulating.knowledge of Jewish culture, history, and religious practice through the lens of a variety of disciplines
  • Expertise in a global context: applying a functional knowledge of Judaism's cultural and religious diversity to real-world situations
  • Research synthesis: ability to initiate evidence-based arguments, assess the strengths of the arguments of others, and defend your own position
  • Effective and informed writing: ability to investigate and write critically and to develop effective written arguments
  • Communication and leadership: ability to communicate knowledge - facts, concepts, arguments - both orally and in writing about Jewish culture and history

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Create and/or edit written reports

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

For students interested in careers or graduate study directly related to Jewish Studies, the exploration starting point is an appointment with the Jewish Studies academic advisor, who is knowledgeable about a range of careers and opportunities.

To explore a wider range of careers, make an appointment with the Walter Center for Career Achievement career advisor.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. College of Arts and Sciences students should consider taking ASCS-Q 299 College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job and Internship Search. The purpose of this course is to teach students strategies and tools necessary to successfully market their qualifications gained from an Arts and Sciences education, achieve career-related goals, and plan for lifelong career development.

The job market

Jewish Studies majors find jobs and ones with meaning. The field is broad in scope and rich in the opportunities it offers. Our alumni report that their training in Jewish Studies significantly enhanced their professional opportunities.

Jewish Studies majors take their degree in many different directions. Our alumni pursue careers in fields as diverse as education, political activism, administration, scholarly research, journalism, business, public relations, medicine, social work and the clergy.

IU graduates in Jewish Studies have very good chances of acceptance into rabbinical seminaries, cantorial schools, and graduate programs in Jewish education, Jewish communal service, and Jewish Studies.

To begin your search for a job related directly to Jewish Studies, contact Carolyn Lipson-Walker, the academic advisor who can provide you a list of more than 150 alumni mentor/contacts and lists of alumni and their jobs. See a comprehensive list of opportunities for Jewish Studies students on the department website.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with the Jewish Studies advisor and the career advisor and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Examples of post-B.A. fellowships related directly to Jewish Studies include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A degree in Jewish Studies will prepare you for entry into academic and professional graduate programs in a wide variety of fields. Some are directly related to Jewish Studies, such as the rabbinate, ministry, cantorate, Jewish non-profit and communal service, Jewish education, and an academic career. Some wide-ranging, such as law, business, medicine, work with nongovernmental organizations, media, and diplomacy.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.

Alumni connections

More than 150 alumni working in careers related to Jewish Studies are part of our Alumni Mentor program. They are available to students via email and by phone. This list of alumni mentors is available to majors, on request, from the Jewish Studies advisor.

Annually the program sponsors a Jewish Studies Career Night bringing in outstanding Jewish Studies Alumni Fellows from around the country to meet individually and as a group with students.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

Jewish Studies attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests with different career and long term goals. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Curiosity about Jewish culture, religion, history, and literature
  • Passion to study about and in Israel
  • Desire to become proficient in a major Jewish language - Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew and/or Yiddish
  • Awareness of the significance of Jewish Studies to broader questions of world history and thought
  • Desire to learn more about the Holocaust, asking unavoidable questions from an historical, literary, political, and philosophical perspective
  • Passion to understand the foundations of Christianity and Islam
  • Curiosity about central texts of the Jewish canon - the Bible, Talmud, rabbinic literature
  • Interest in understanding distinct episodes in the history of the Middle East, Europe, and America through Jewish studies
  • Curiousity about current developments pertaining to Jewish identity throughout the world
  • Desire to study in the one-of-a-kind Jewish sacred music program that prepares students for cantorial study via Jewish Studies and Jacobs School of Music course work
  • Appreciation for the diversity of world cultures and perceiving the world from multiple points of view via the comparative study of the Jews and Judaism in global context
  • Desire to investigate the significance of Judaism and the Jews in world culture and history in an interdisciplinary and comparative way.
  • Fascination with the diversity of Judaism and Jewish culture through time and place
  • Aspiration to contribute professionally and personally
  • Well-rounded with interests and talents outside of Jewish Studies
  • Desire for flexibility and choice in major requirements
  • Interest in keeping options open for a variety of career fields
  • Desire to pursue a multicultural, interdisciplinary field of study that provides an outstanding liberal arts education
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination and a desire to expand the sense of what it means to be human

Learn more

Incoming freshmen should look at the special website to prepare them for freshman orientation (updated annually). Current Indiana University students should explore the Undergraduate Jewish Studies website. High school students should see the Prospective Jewish Studies Students website.

All students interested in Jewish Studies should contact academic advisor Dr. Carolyn Lipson-Walker by calling 812-855-0453 to schedule an appointment. Complete information about the major requirements can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
clipsonw@indiana.edu