Understanding the American Jewish Community

At a Glance

Understanding the American Jewish Community is designed for students interested in learning about contemporary Jewish life and, in parallel, interested in learning how to conduct social scientific research. Students from anthropology, economics, psychology, and sociology, as well as Jewish studies are welcome.  The program combines both classroom and field-based learning. Students will spend five weeks on campus and, then, will conduct supervised research in a field setting. Program faculty include a group of distinguished scholars from Brandeis’ Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies/ Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. The Center and Institute are internationally renowned academic research centers and the Hornstein Program is the premiere graduate professional program for Jewish communal leaders. 

Participation in Understanding the American Jewish Community will enable students to learn about Jewish history and contemporary life and to gain broader analytic skills. The Jewish community will be treated as a model that provides a means to understand contemporary cultural and religious life.  Students will participate in classroom-based discussions that will provide substantive context and will then have an opportunity to apply these principles by conducting a small-scale study in a field setting.  Students will be able to choose their own research problem and setting. Potential sites include educational programs at summer camps, Israel education programs, and other organizations in various Jewish communities.  Students may develop/conduct surveys, conduct interviews, and/or engage in participant observation. Close faculty mentoring and supervision help students reflect on and integrate their learning from both coursework and fieldwork. At the end of the program, students will have both substantive knowledge of the American Jewish community and methodological expertise that can be applied to studying any complex social group. In addition to advancing students’ knowledge of contemporary Jewish life, the program will strengthen students’ abilities related to cultural observation, quantitative reasoning, writing, group work, and oral presentation.


HRNS 120bj The American Jewish Community (pending approval)
HRNS 154aj Social Scientific Research Methods for Studying Jewish Life (pending approval)
HRNS 195aj Supervised Field Research (pending approval)