Jewish Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Jewish Studies provides curricular and research resources for students who want to concentrate on Jewish Studies within their respective disciplines and have their work formally recognized in their degree designation. Designed to bring together faculty and students from different departments, the DE is administered by the Graduate Group in Jewish Studies and provides a unique context for rigorous cross-disciplinary research. Students applying to the DE must be prepared to integrate high-level research in Jewish Studies into their coursework, qualifying exam, and dissertation.

In keeping with UC Berkeley requirements for a Designated Emphasis, students must be admitted to the DE prior to taking their qualifying exams. We strongly encourage students to attend an informational meeting describing the program in their first year of graduate studies and formally apply for admission to the DE in their second year. The informational meeting takes place in the Fall semester. The application deadline for the DE is in the Fall semester (the exact date is announced each Fall), with admission effective the following Spring semester.


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To be admitted to the Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies, an applicant must already be accepted into a PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. For further information regarding admission to graduate programs at UC Berkeley, please see the Graduate Division's Admissions website.

Students will be required to fill out an application requesting admission to the DE, listing their prior preparation in the field, and their projected pathway through the program. In addition, they should submit a brief essay stating their academic interests and their reasons for applying, a CV, a writing sample, and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the student’s home department indicating why and how the student would benefit from the DE in Jewish Studies.


Designated Emphasis Requirements

Normative time considerations

Given the flexibility of the program, the completion of the DE will have no impact on Normative Time to degree.

Requirements for Designation

Students admitted to the Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies must complete the following requirements before applying for their qualifying examination:

  1. Students will be required to complete the course JEWISH 290 Modern Jewish Scholarship: History and Practice , which will serve as the integrative course for the program regarding methodology and research skills. This course can be offered by any faculty member of the Graduate Group in the DE in Jewish Studies.  Jewish Studies 290 will likely rotate among core faculty. The course topics will thus vary in accordance with the specific expertise of individual faculty member(s). The course is worth 4 units. 

    The course will be a combination of standard seminar format with shared readings and discussion, and individualized research and writing. The goal of this course is thus two-fold: to build cohort cohesion and intellectual exchange across disciplines, and to provide the necessary intellectual background for top quality scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies. The course will have a strong practical component, including engagement with bibliographical resources and scholarly practices essential to doing work in the field of Jewish Studies. A final paper will be required. 

  2. Students in the DE will also complete three additional course electives related to Jewish Studies, which must be approved by the Graduate Group’s Curriculum Committee. These courses will support the interdisciplinary nature of the program with attention paid to the individual students' research interests. At least one of these courses must be taken in a department outside the student's major area of study or chronological period. In general, electives are graduate seminars offered in any relevant department, but an appropriate upper division undergraduate course may be approved if the student completes a graduate-level assignment for the course. One of the three electives may be fulfilled by repeating JEWISH 290, under the condition that the topic of this course differs from the previous JEWISH 290 they will have taken. Students will be provided a list of potential electives offered by the different departments sponsoring the DE. A student may also petition to the advising committee to approve a course not on the established list.


A member of the DE Graduate Group in Jewish Studies must be a formal member of the PhD qualifying examination committee. Under most circumstances, the DE graduate group member in the student’s home department will serve in this function. A member of the DE graduate group may also serve as the Academic Senate representative on the qualifying exam committee if they are not a faculty member of the student’s major. A Jewish Studies topic must be included as a subject on the qualifying examination. Satisfactory performance on the qualifying examination for the PhD will be judged according to the established rules in the student’s major program.


A member of the DE Graduate Group in Jewish Studies must be a formal member of the dissertation committee. The dissertation must relate to the field of Jewish Studies.

Faculty affiliated with the DE are Lilla Balint (German); Kenneth Bamberger (Law); Isaac Bleaman (Linguistics); Robert Braun (Sociology);  John Connelly (History); John Efron (History); Ron Hassner (Political Science); Ethan Katz (History); Duncan MacRae (Ancient Greek and Roman Studies, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion); Roni Masel (Comparative Literature); James Porter (Rhetoric); Jonathan Sheehan (History); Ronit Stahl (History); Scott Straus (Political Science); Alan Tansman (East Asian Languages & Cultures); Estelle Tarica (Department of Spanish & Portuguese); Jason Wittenberg (Political Science).  


Jewish Studies

Contact Information

Center for Jewish Studies

4401 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-664-4154

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Faculty Director, Center for Jewish Studies

Ethan Katz

Graduate Advisor, DE in Jewish Studies

John Efron, PhD (Department of History)

Executive Director

Etta Heber

4401 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-664-4154

Program Coordinator

Jennifer Lipscomb

4401 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-664-4138

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