Undergraduate Major


The major in Jewish studies will provide students of all backgrounds the opportunity to critically analyze Jewish cultures, histories, literatures, media, thought, and religion. Students who major in Jewish studies will be exposed to the long arc of Jewish history, while learning the skills of close textual analysis and discovering the complexity behind the formation of religious, ethnic, and cultural identities. At Cornell, students can study Jewish culture, history, media, and texts from: ancient Israel; late antique Mesopotamia; medieval Iberia; the Shoah; Modern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas; and beyond.

The Jewish studies major is designed to put the study of Jewish experiences in a comparative context. The range of courses available to Jewish studies majors highlight Jewish diversity: cultural, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and racial. Jewish studies majors can take courses in a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, film, gender studies, history, law, literature, philosophy, politics, race, and religion. Through these courses, and through the fulfillment of the related course requirement, students will gain insight into larger questions of global concern, including the problems of constructions of otherness, inequality, and colonialism—among much else. The major is constructed with a great deal of flexibility, not only to accommodate a range of student interests, but also to make it possible for Jewish studies students to double major in Jewish studies and another field.


  1. Obtain a copy of your Cornell unofficial transcript.
  2. Complete a major application and make an appointment with Program Director Professor Jason Mokhtarian to review your application. Please email jmokhtarian@cornell.edu.
  3. Once approved, please turn the application in to Chris Capalongo, 409 White Hall, or email to cmc40@cornell.edu.


No prerequisites are required to become a Jewish studies major.
To complete the major, students must successfully complete ten courses.

All courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade and students must receive a grade of "C" or better in order for it to count toward the major.

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements.

Required courses (2 courses)

  • JWST 2644 - Introduction to Judaism 
  • JWST 4769 - Research in Jewish Studies or
  • JWST 4998 - Honors Research I - JWST 4999 - Honors Research II

Major electives (7 courses)

  • At least four elective courses must be at 3000-level or above.
  • Historical breadth requirement: at least one course from antiquity to 1492; and one from 1492 to present. Courses that span this division could count in either category.

Courses in a Related Field (1 course)

The aim of the “Related Course” requirement is to help students situate their understanding of Jewish studies in a theoretical or comparative context. Students will select a related course that is not crosslisted with Jewish studies. The Director of Jewish Studies can help guide students in selecting courses relevant to their interests in Jewish studies. Only one related course can count toward the major.

Jewish studies will recognize three broad categories of related courses: Cultural Studies; Ethnic Studies; and Religious Studies. To follow are descriptions of the categories and a few sample courses that could fulfill the “related course” requirement:

Cultural Studies:

These are courses that will help students situate their study of Jewish cultures by theorizing culture, interrogating cultural formation, or foregrounding critical research methods.


  • PHIL 1650 - Philosophy of Race 
  • HIST 2335 - Making Public Queer History
  • ANTHR 2400 - Cultural Diversity and Contemporary Issues 

Ethnic Studies:

Courses that will provide comparative context for students to understand modern Jewish migrations, hyphenated identities, and minority status.


  • HIST 2251 - U.S. Immigration Narratives 
  • ANTHR 3703 - Asians in the Americas: A Comparative Perspective

Religious Studies:

Courses on the study of sacred texts, faith-based communities, theories of religion, and ritual practices other than Judaism.


  • ANTHR 3420 - Myth, Ritual, and Symbol
  • ASIAN 2250 - Introduction to Asian Religions 

Language Study

Students may count toward the major up to two courses at any level in a Jewish language (such as Hebrew, Yiddish, or Judeo-Arabic), provided those courses are not being used to fulfill the student’s College of Arts and Sciences language requirement.

So, if a student is taking Hebrew to fulfill the college language requirement, they cannot apply the first three semesters of language study (option 1) / or the single semester of upper-level study (option 2) toward the major.  The Hebrew curriculum offers six semesters of language study, plus a rotating selection of advanced text courses at the 3000- and 4000-levels. Any two additional Hebrew language courses may apply toward the major.

An unlimited number of content courses taught in Hebrew (such as HEBRW 3108 - Dynamics and Changes of Israeli Culture Through Language and Literature) may be applied toward the major. An alternative scenario would involve a student who has fulfilled the college language requirement with another language, say Spanish. If this student decides they also want to learn either Hebrew or Yiddish, they may apply two of the Hebrew or Yiddish language courses at any level (including introductory courses) toward the major.  While language study is not required for the Jewish studies major, we strongly encourage all majors to work on a relevant language during their studies. Students planning to attend graduate school in Jewish studies or related disciplines (anthropology, area studies, comparative literature, history, or religious studies) are strongly encouraged to make language work an ancillary part of the undergraduate major in Jewish studies.

Honors Program

Students with at least a 3.5 GPA in the major may apply for the honors program.

All Jewish studies majors enrolled in the honors program will be required to conduct independent research and produce a senior project. Students may opt for a one-semester senior project (JWST 4769 - Research in Jewish Studies), or a two-semester honors research sequence (JWST 4998 - Honors Research I and JWST 4999 - Honors Research II).

If there are not enough students to form a class for JWST 4769, Jewish studies will designate an existing 4000-level course as the senior research seminar. If no “Senior Project” course is offered, students may complete this requirement with an independent study.

In the fall semester, honors students will register for JWST 4998, which will co-meet with JWST 4769. In the Spring, honors students would continue in JWST 4999 under the direction of their thesis advisor.

Contact the Director of Jewish Studies with questions about the honors program in Jewish studies. 

Double Majors

We anticipate that some Jewish studies majors will carry a second major. The Jewish studies major requires only two specific courses, granting students flexibility in selecting from a range of major elective course offerings. This structure should make it possible for interested students to fulfill the requirements of two majors simultaneously. In keeping with college requirements, students will only be permitted to count two courses toward both majors. It would also be possible for students to double major in Jewish studies and either Near Eastern studies or religious studies without duplication. While some Jewish studies courses are crosslisted with Near Eastern studies and religious studies, the academic fields and the pathways through the respective majors are distinct. There are many Jewish studies courses about Jewish histories and cultures of Europe and the Americas, that fall outside of the area-studies field of Near Eastern studies (and are parented by other units on campus). There are also many Jewish studies courses about forms of cultural expression that are not engaged with the discipline of religious studies.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to consult with their advisor about options and eligibility to study abroad. With appropriate advance consultation and approval upon return, the program will accept credits earned abroad toward the major. Students are reminded that the College of Arts and Sciences requires that they carry a minimum of 15 credits during a semester abroad.