Judaic and Holocaust Studies
Find out more about Judaic and Holocaust studies, which is a broad interdisciplinary field that focuses on Jewish culture and history, Judaism as a religion, and Jewish communities. Holocaust studies focus specifically on the genocide, which was a program developed by the Nazis for the large-scale persecution and attempted genocide of European Jews during World War II (1939–1945). The field Judaic and Holocaust studies differs from the course of religious instruction available at Jewish seminaries and yeshivas in its secular approach to the subject.
Also known as Jewish studies, Judaic and Holocaust Studies can encompass a variety of other disciplines, including history, Middle Eastern studies, religious studies, archeology, sociology, languages (such as Hebrew and Yiddish), political science, women’s studies, and ethnic studies. Other areas of focus include Bible and biblical interpretation, rabbinic literatures and cultures (including the Torah), Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews, and Israel studies.
The study of Hebrew language and literature was part of the curriculum designed to help those studying to be Christian clergy understand their own religious heritage at North American institutions of higher learning as early as the seventeenth century. Broader programs of Jewish studies began to be established in the 1890s, and by the early twentieth century there were sixteen positions in Semitic Studies at major universities. These positions tended to be at least partially funded by members of the American Jewish community, who hoped to gain greater recognition and acceptance of Jews in the United States. They tended to be geared toward students in advanced studies rather than the general student.
Interest in Jewish and Holocaust studies increased following World War II, when the horrors of the genocide and subsequent founding of the state of Israel in 1948 riveted the world’s attention. U.S. colleges and universities began adding Jewish studies courses to their curricula in the 1960s. The establishment of the Association for Jewish Studies (ASJ) in 1969 indicated the growing importance of this discipline in academia. In 2013 the ASJ listed more than 200 programs in North American colleges and universities.