Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Judaic Studies
The field of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) is broad and deep, encompassing a complex array of religions, cultures, politics, languages and literatures, and demanding both geographic and historical perspectives. To study the Near East in all its complexity is to gain insight into many of the forces that have shaped the Western world.
From the history of Islam to the state of Israel, from the ancient Near East to the modern Middle East, from Christianity to Rabbinic Judaism, from Yiddish to Arabic, the NEJS major offers a rich assortment of prisms through which to study Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. We also believe in exploring these topics through a variety of disciplines, including textual and literary studies, history, social sciences, intellectual history and philosophy, religion and the arts.
In addition to introducing you to the critical study of Near Eastern and Judaic source materials, the broad, cross-disciplinary scope of the NEJS major prepares you for a wide range of careers, including community organizing, secular and religious education, academia, political consulting, writing and entertainment, business, law and medicine. Many of our majors also pursue their study of NEJS in the finest doctoral programs.
At Brandeis, you will be taught by—and work closely with—faculty who not only are foremost in their field, but who also care deeply about their students. With a commitment to open discussion and respect for different viewpoints, these international scholars will help you gain an appreciation for the diversity of disciplines and approaches that Near Eastern and Judaic Studies embraces—and for the diversity of religious and cultural traditions it examines.
If you do decide to major in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, you will choose one of three tracks: Judaic Studies, focusing on the history, religion and literature of the Jewish people; Bible and Ancient Near East, focusing on the history, languages, literatures and cultures of the ancient Near East, including Ancient Israel; or modern Hebrew.
At Brandeis, you will be studying in one of the oldest and largest Jewish studies programs of its type outside of the State of Israel while benefiting from the many related centers and institutes for which the university is renowned, such as its program in Israel Studies, and its library, which houses one of the best collections of Hebraica and Judaica in the nation.
Academics and Research
Brandeis is home to an impressive array of Jewish studies centers and institutes, including the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, the National Center for Jewish Film, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry—to name a few.
It is also home to the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project, which works toward Jewish, Christian and Muslim sexual ethics rooted in freedom, mutuality and meaningful consent.
Many NEJS majors complete a senior honors thesis, delving deeply into a particular topic of interest and working one-on-one with faculty members. The thesis is year-long course requiring intensive research in primary sources and culminating in a major piece of writing. Two recent examples are "And a Fire Came Down from Before the Lord: Examining the Relationship Between Leviticus 10 and Numbers 16-18" and "Christianity and Antisemitism: An Evaluation of Rosemary Ruether's Faith and Fratricide."
Our faculty are not only internationally respected scholars, they are:
editors of distinguished journals, including "Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies," edited by Antony Polonsky; and "Israel Studies," edited by Ilan Troen.
directors of centers and institutes on campus and off, including Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Jon Levisohn, of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education; Sylvia Barack Fishman of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute; and David Ellenson, of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.
Here are some recent faculty highlights:
Bernadette J. Brooten was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship.
Jonathan P. Decter was awarded the Salo Baron prize for the Best First Book in Jewish Studies by the American Academy for Jewish Research.
Jonathan D. Sarna was the first scholar of American Jewry elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Internships and Networking
We encourage you to undertake credit-bearing internships that combine academic study with practical experiences in organizations such as Facing History and Ourselves, the Collegiate Internship program and the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
As a NEJS student, you'll have access to many art and culture opportunities on campus, such as learning more about filmmaking at the National Jewish Film Center/Brandeis Film Festival. You might also consider joining B'yachad, an Israeli folk dance group, the Bellydance Ensemble, or Manginah, a coed a cappella chorus focusing on Jewish music.
Beyond campus, you may choose to study abroad. The Ruth Nessel Gollan Memorial Fund and Frances Taylor Eizenstat ’65 Undergraduate Israel Travel Grants support undergraduate study in Israel.
Careers, Graduate Study and Alumni
NEJS graduates go on to careers in law, health care, business, politics, writing and the arts.
Some pursue a master’s degree (including the five-year BA-MA degree program, the DeLet Program for Jewish Educators and the Hornstein Jewish Leadership Program, all at Brandeis); others enter the finest doctoral programs.
NEJS alumni have gone on to become novelists, poets, editors, professors, composers, screenwriters and critics. Here are a few examples:
National broadcast supervisor at Havas Media group
Educator at Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Cornell University
Program Manager, Education and Engagement at Camp JRF
Campaign Executive at Jewish National Fund
New Product Developer at Happy Software
Writer, Capital Gifts and Special Initiatives at the UJA Federation of New York