Medieval manuscript in Hebrew.
Program Overview

Jewish Studies

Explore Jewish cultures across centuries and continents.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

An Interdisciplinary and Open-Ended Major

Established in 1971, Oberlin’s interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Program teaches students to appreciate and analyze both continuities and differences in Jewish history, religion, and culture around the world. Faculty in Jewish studies offer courses in many fields, including art history, comparative literature, German, history, Latin American studies, philosophy, and religion. Students learn to read and comprehend core religious and historical texts of the Jewish tradition, and to apply diverse methods for understanding Jewish cultures. Our graduates have gone into academic careers, the rabbinate, Jewish education and communal work, as well as varied professional careers enriched by grounding in Jewish historical experiences, text, and instruction.

Faculty-Student Mentorship and Research

Whether taking one class or planning to pursue graduate study, students in Oberlin’s Jewish Studies program will find a collegial, open-minded, and diverse community. Rooted in the particularity of Jewish texts and histories, our classes and events open onto larger questions of human experience. The mentorship and close attention our majors receive from faculty empower them to explore their interests and tailor a course of study around their passions.

Established in 1971 Oberlin’s Jewish Studies program was founded in the early years of the academic discipline

Jewish History and Travel

From Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to Paris or Berlin, Oberlin students have the opportunity to spend a semester or academic year at partner universities abroad. The Office of Study Away works closely with interested students to select the right program for their global educational goals.

A large group of students gathered in a hall.
Oberlin College is among the top producers of Fulbright scholars in the United States
Learn more about Oberlin’s legacy of Fulbright scholars

Oberlin’s Jewish Community

Oberlin’s students have access to a number of extracurricular opportunities for exploring Jewish identities. Those who elect to live in the Hebrew Heritage House, which is overseen by Jewish studies faculty, share a space where they can create community, whether around a film, a Havdalah ritual, or a bagel brunch.

Faculty and students gathered in the Hebrew Heritage House.

Featured Courses

JWST/HIST 281

Jewish Communities of the Ottoman Empire 1453–1914

This course focuses on Jewish communities of the Near East and North Africa from the conquest of Constantinople to World War I. It examines the experiences of Jews as one of many minorities, with special attention to the permeability of social boundaries within a multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural empire. Emphasis will be placed on the history of Jewish-Muslim relations, specifically in contrast to the experiences of Jewish communities within Christendom.

Taught by
Laura Herron
JWST/RELG 253

Pilgrimage, Travel and Judaism

The desire to seek spiritual fulfillment in a far-away place is a hallmark of many religious traditions, including Judaism. In this course we will trace the ancient and medieval roots of pilgrimage and various Jewish pilgrimage practices that have emerged in the modern period, in Israel as well as in Europe, North Africa, and the United States. Together, we will ask, what has motivated Jewish travelers? Have they found what they were looking for? How have their travels shaped—and been shaped by—the histories of their places of origin and of destination?

Taught by
Shari Rabin
JWST/CMPL 277

Israel/Palestine in Literature and Film

This course introduces students to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as represented in literature and film. We’ll proceed chronologically, beginning with the rise of Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms through the present day, focusing on the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Six-Day War or Naksa, and the first and second intifadas. In doing so, we’ll complicate the notion of dual narratives by considering the experiences of people of marginalized and hybrid identities.

Taught by
Sheera Talpaz
JWST/POLT 241

Antisemitism and White Supremacy

From “White Lives Matter” to “Jews will not replace us,” America has recently witnessed a resurgence of white supremacist and antisemitic political activity under the rubric of “white nationalism.” This course offers a U.S.-focused, comparative exploration of anti-Jewish and white supremacist ideology and politics. It examines their shared roots in European Christian societies; the different ways they were transposed to North America through conquest, colonization, and slavery; and their subsequent evolutions, intersections, and organized manifestations.

Taught by
Matthew Berkman

Student Profiles

Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Fellow

At Oberlin, Jesse Gamoran ’16 majored in history, German studies, and Jewish studies. After graduation he was selected to participate in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) fellowship program.

Jesse Gamoran.

A Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan

A psychology major with a minor in Jewish studies, Talia Greenberg ’15 performed with CHALLaH cappella, a Jewish music a cappella group she and Lyz Glickman ’13 founded in 2012. After graduation, Talia was awarded a 10-month Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Taiwan.

Talia Greenberg.

Gaining Hands-on Research Experience

As part of the Oberlin Stories Project, Anna Band ’13, a double-major in history and Jewish studies, reflects on the value of friendship and her experience researching primary documents for a sourcebook of Early Modern Jewish History.

Anna Band.

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Peters Hall, Cox Administrative Building and Finney Chapel overlooking South Professor Street.
Photo credit: Matthew Lester