Doctoral Degrees in Jewish Studies

The University of Virginia Jewish Studies Program currently offers two doctoral degree pathways via the Department of History and the Department of Religious Studies. 

Jewish History

For all candidates within the Department of History, UVA's PhD concentration in Jewish History is offered as a Doctor of Philosophy in History.

Ph.D. students concentrating in Jewish history find a rich cluster of specialist faculty within the History Department and across related departments and programs. Entering graduate students work closely with an advisor to prepare a program of study that fits the specific disciplinary imperatives of Jewish history, while also ensuring strong training in adjacent and intersecting fields. These typically include modern European history, modern Russian/ Soviet history, modern Middle Eastern history, U.S. history, or international history. Entering students should ideally possess a strong command of the Hebrew language and one or more other relevant languages (typically including German, Yiddish, French, Russian or Polish). Students will be expected to demonstrate language proficiency through exams. Where necessary, language coursework may be required. Additional information on the program is available here.
Prospective students are encouraged to review the departmental information.


Expectations for the Degree

UVA's PhD concentration in the study of Judaism is offered as a Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies.

All PhD students who do not hold a graduate degree are required to take 72 credits, including a minimum of 45 credits in graded courses at or above the 5000 level and 27 or fewer additional credits (which may be taken in non-graded, non-topical research consultation). Students who already hold a graduate degree in Religious Studies from another University (M.A., M.Div., or equivalent) may petition for advanced standing at the end of their first year of residence and be permitted to waive ­­­­­up to 15 credits of the course-work requirement.

Course Expectations

Students in Judaism research area are expected to pass five foundational courses:

  • Two courses in Textuality, which includes Biblical Studies, Rabbinic Literature, and Contemporary Jewish Literature
  • One course in Practice or Material Culture
  • One course in Jewish Thought
  • One course in Jewish History

Additional courses, taught within the interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Program and across the University, will be decided upon by students and their advisors.


Students must demonstrate by examination a reading competency in at least one research language other than English appropriate to the field of concentration. In addition, students must demonstrate by examination a reading competency in Modern Hebrew or in Classical Hebrew. It is expected that students will have taken at least two years in either Modern or Classical Hebrew upon matriculation. Additional competencies may be required in Rabbinic Hebrew and/or Aramaic, depending on the student’s area of specialization. 

Comprehensive Exams

Students must successfully complete their comprehensive examination by the end of the semester following the completion of coursework. When all comprehensive exams are completed and languages are certified, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy.

The number and format of the comprehensive exams will be decided individually by the student and their advisor in light of their anticipated dissertation research and career plans. Students must pass at least three (but no more than five) comprehensive examinations in the Judaism research area. The format will be determined by the faculty reading the exams, for instance, three- or six-hour closed book exam, extensive research paper, or annotated syllabus. Students will need to engage two UVA faculty readers for each exam, including at least one reader from the Department of Religious Studies.

Suggested Research Areas

  • Textuality: The study of Jewish texts—from ancient and foundational sacred writings to literary, exegetical, and religious-philosophical texts of later eras—in their historical context and in the context of their transmission, reception, and interpretation, for example, Biblical Literature, Rabbinic Literature, Liturgy, and Contemporary Jewish Literature.
  • Practice: The study of Jewish practice, learning, culture, literature, ethics, art, and material culture. This area focuses on how the practices of Judaism are transmitted, experienced, transformed, and regularized. 
  • Thought: Jewish thought, from the earliest period to today, as well as its encounters with Western and non-Western philosophical sources. 
  • Jewish History: From the earliest period to today, including theories of Jewish history and historiography, as well as memory studies.
  • Special Topics in the Study of Judaism: for example, Judaism and Gender, Jewish Ethics, Jewish Film and Visual Culture, Jewish Literature, Holocaust Studies.

More information on the PhD concentration in the study of Judaism is available here.