UVA's Graduate Program in the Study of Judaism, which offers an MA and PhD concentration in Jewish Textuality, Practice, and Thought, prepares students for advanced research and teaching about Jewish religion, history, and culture.  

Courses are offered in three sub-areas:

Textuality: The study of Judaism's ancient and foundational sacred texts in their historical context and in the context of their transmission and reception. This sub-area includes thematic and theological strains within the literature along with the ways it has been interpreted over time.   

Practice: The study of Jewish rituals, observances, culture and politics, foodways, and learning. This sub-area, ethnographically and historically based, focuses on how the practices of Judaism are transmitted, experienced, transformed and regularized.

Modern Thought: The encounter between Judaism and Western, as well as non-Western, philosophical sources. This sub-area examines the intellectual history of modern Judaism, from the Enlightenment era through contemporary Jewish thought.

Core Faculty:

Elizabeth Shanks Alexander:  Rabbinic literature and hermeneutics, Mishnaic textuality, orality in ancient literature, gender and Judaism, ethics and theology of the Rabbis

Jessica Andruss:  Jewish intellectual history in the Islamic world, Judeo-Arabic literature, Biblical exegesis, Karaite Judaism, historical thought in medieval Judaism and Islam

Asher Biemann: modern Jewish thought, German-Jewish intellectual history, secularization and Jewish orthodoxies, Zionism, philosophies of dialogue, Jewish conceptions of renaissance, Judaism and the arts

Jennifer Geddes: the Holocaust, evil and suffering, hermeneutics and ethics

Greg Schmidt Goering: classical Hebrew language, Jewish wisdom literature, religions of the ancient Near East, Second Temple Judaism, the intersection of historical and literary methodologies in the study of ancient texts, ethnicity and religious identity in antiquity,theodicy, sacrifice

Martien Halvorson-Taylor: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, classical Hebrew, history and religion of Ancient Israel, wisdom literature, biblical interpretation in the Second Temple period, canonical process, history of biblical scholarship, literary approaches to the Hebrew Bible

Vanessa Ochs: Jewish ritual studies and material culture, Jewish women's experience, Abrahamic feminisms, Jewish spirituality, foodways in Judaism and Christianity, Jewish healing practices

Peter Ochs: Jewish philosophy and theology, postmodern and semiotic approaches to Rabbinic literature, Scriptural Reasoning in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, religion and global affairs

Affiliated Faculty:

Gerard Alexander (Politics): politics of the Holocaust

Alon Confino (History): German and Jewish history, the Holocaust

Gabriel Finder (German): German and East European Jewish history and culture, the Holocaust, memory of the Holocaust

Zvi Gilboa (MESALC): Hebrew Program Coordinator, transnational literatures

Jeffrey Grossman (German): German Jewish literature, Yiddish

Daniel Lefkowitz (Anthropology): Hebrew linguistics, Israel)

James Loeffler (History): Jewish history, European history, history of human rights

Caroline Rody (English): Jewish American literature

Joel Rubin (Music): Director of Music Performance, Klezmer music

Alison Weber (Spanish): culture and religion in early modern Spain, Sephardic Jewry, conversos

Degree Requirements



Students should engage one member of the Core Faculty in the Study of Judaism as graduate advisor. Individual courses of study must be approved by the advisor, in consultation with the Core Faculty.


All Doctor of Philosophy candidates in the Study of Judaism who do not hold a graduate degree are required to pass a minimum of minimum of 45 credits in courses at the 5000 level and above, plus 27 credits in other courses (may be non-topical research) for a total of 72 credits.

Students admitted directly to the PhD program (i.e., who already hold a graduate degree in religious studies, such as the MA, MDiv, or some equivalent) may petition the Graduate Committee for advanced standing no later than the end of their first year of residence and may be allowed to transfer up to 15 credits toward the course work. 

Students admitted directly to the Ph.D. program may petition the Graduate Committee for advanced standing no later than the end of their first year of residence and may be allowed to transfer up to 15 credits toward the course work. 

PhD students should complete required coursework by the end of their fourth semester. All doctoral students must take RELG 7360: The Study of Religion, normally during their first semester.  All SIP area students in coursework must take the Proseminar (1 credit, each semester).

Candidates concentrating in the Study of Judaism are required to pass five Foundational Courses:

·         Two courses within Textuality: (one in Biblical Studies, one in Rabbinic Literature)

·         One course in Practice

·         One course in Modern Jewish Thought

·         One course in Jewish History

External Study:

Students in the Study of Judaism may wish to study at another institution during the course of their program. In the past, students have spent a year or semester studying Rabbinic texts at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and Mechon Hadar in New York City. External study is not credited toward UVA requirements.


At the end of their first semester, in consultation with their advisor, students are expected to file a plan for language acquisition.  Students must demonstrate by examination a reading knowledge of at least one modern research language, usually French or German. Candidates must also demonstrate by examination a reading competency in Modern Hebrew (which may be substituted for either French or German) and Classical Hebrew. Additional competencies may be required depending on the student’s area of specialization. Language competencies must be certified before a student may proceed to comprehensive examinations.

Comprehensive Exams and Doctoral Candidacy:

Students must successfully complete comprehensive examinations no later than the end of the semester following completion of coursework. Some exams may be taken during coursework at the discretion of the faculty. When all comprehensive exams are completed and languages are certified according to the student’s Language Plan, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy.

Candidates must pass five comprehensive examinations in the Study of Judaism. The examinations must be taken in the following five areas:

Textuality: Biblical Literature, Rabbinic Literature, and Methods of Text Study. A six-hour exam.

Practice: Ritual Theory and Methods of Study, Historical Studies in Jewish Practice. A six-hour exam or paper.

Thought: Enlightenment era (16th–17th centuries), Modern era (18th–19th centuries), and Contemporary era (20th–21st centuries). A six-hour exam.

Jewish History: A three-hour exam.

Special Topics in Issues in the Study of Judaism:  A three-hour exam designed, in consultation with the faculty, within the student's concentration of study.

Candidacy Deadline:

All pre-dissertation requirements, including coursework, language examinations and comprehensive examinations, are expected to be completed by the sixth term of study.

Within six months of the completion of comprehensive examinations, students are expected to present a proposal before their faculty dissertation committee (chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor).  With the approval of the dissertation proposal, students proceed to the writing of a dissertation that demonstrates a high level of research skills, sophistication of method, originality of insight, and specialized knowledge.

Dissertation Proposal:

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, a Ph.D. candidate will be invited to choose a dissertation advisor from the SIP Faculty and, with the advisor's guidance, to gather a dissertation committee including two other members of the Religious Study Faculty and at least one faculty member outside of Religious Studies (in any other Area of the Graduate School). The candidate will then prepare a dissertation proposal and submit it to the committee for approval.


With the approval of the dissertation proposal, students proceed to the writing of a dissertation that demonstrates a high level of research skills, sophistication of method, originality of insight, and specialized knowledge. The candidate is strongly advised to complete the dissertation within two years after completing the comprehensive exams.


Dissertations must be defended in oral examination before the student’s dissertation committee and a University of Virginia Arts and Sciences graduate faculty member from outside the department.


Course Requirements: 

The MA in the Study of Judaism requires a) the successful completion of 24 credit hours of course work,; and the preparation and successful defense of a thesis that exhibits competence in the area of specialization; OR b) the successful completion of 30 credit hours of course work,; and the satisfactory performance in a comprehensive examination based upon a reading list approved by the relevant field committee. (The choice between these options is determined in consultation between the student and faculty advisors, and with a view to the student's objectives upon graduation.)


A reading knowledge of at least one modern research language (French, German, or Modern Hebrew) must be demonstrated by examination. Another Judaic language may be substituted under appropriate circumstances and with approval of the faculty advisor.


Candidates are required to pass four Foundational Courses: ·

·         Within the sub-area of Textuality, one course in Biblical Studies or one course in Rabbinic Literature

·         One course in Practice

·         One course in Thought

·         One course in Jewish History

SIP Proseminar (1 credit, each semester for all SIP area students in coursework).