Judaic Studies at GW

As early as 1915, Jewish students on campus gathered together under the umbrella of the Intercollegiate Menorah Society to promote, study, and engage with Jewish ideas as well as with one another. A later generation of GW undergraduates went further still, lobbying to make Jewish literature, history and culture an integral part of their education, not just an extra-curricular pursuit. As a result of their efforts, the university inaugurated the Program in Judaic Studies in 1974, explaining that "not to know Job and Isaiah, as well as Socrates and Seneca, is to be denied one of the great sources of our culture." This program, the administration went on to add, "clearly transcends the ephemeral relevance all too often associated with shifting fads for various 'ethnic' or 'activist' studies."

Now in the middle of its fourth decade, the program has stood the test of time. With the establishment of the Charles E. Smith Chair in Judaic Studies in 1979 and the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection some fifteen years later, in 1994, its resources have grown steadily. Today, the dedicated and imaginative faculty associated with the Program in Judaic Studies offers dozens of innovative and far-reaching courses on the artistic, cultural, historical, literary, political and religious experiences of the Jews to over one thousand students each year.

Meet the Director

Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History, is a renowned author, museum curator and public intellectual with more than 25 years of experience in both the academic and the American Jewish community. Her book, The Wonders of America, received the National Jewish Book Award in History, while her monthly column in The Forward is in its 13th consecutive year of publication. The former Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress is currently at work on a book about America’s relationship with the Ten Commandments.