The Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies (ATCJS) offers a unique, interdisciplinary undergraduate program where students can gain foundational knowledge of Jewish Studies while pursuing their diverse academic interests by choosing from courses offered by more than 20 collaborating units at the University of Toronto. Along with the diverse coures offerings, students come to love ATCJS courses because of its small class sizes and exciting discussions.The friendly environment at the Centre encourages students to engage with professors and fellow students regarding lesson topics or research interests. Generous support is also given to students who wish to pursue academic and research opportunities abroad. Many students benefit from language courses and exchange programs in Israel and Europe. The bond over a common interest in Jewish Studies and the enriching academic experience ties the undergraduate student community together.
Areas of Interest
Our program is organized around four areas of study to reflect the breadth, depth, and relevance of Jewish Studies as an academic discipline, and builds on the expertise and range of the faculty. These areas of interest are guidelines to assist you in choosing courses and cultivating a program that is specially tailored to your academic interests. If you are driven to gain special expertise in one area, you can focus your program by taking several courses in that area, or if you interested in gaining a well-rounded understanding of Jewish Studies as a broader field, then you can choose to sample courses from all areas.
I. Classical Judaism
The civilization of the people of the book has produced a rich, classical literature: the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hellenistic texts, as well as rabbinic literature from the earliest targumic and midrashic interpretations through the Talmuds and geonic traditions to medieval commentators on Talmudic texts. We situate these texts in their linguistic and cultural contexts, and study them with philological rigour. Our students learn to trace the development of the Jewish imagination in its interactions with surrounding cultures and to appreciate its many expressions: legal, exegetical, mythic, and mystical. Jewish civilization emerges as a highly variegated collection of phenomena and traditions.
II. Jewish Philosophy and Thought
Both in the ancient world and contemporary society, many vital questions have arisen from Jewish experience and its interaction with diverse religions and philosophies. Why would the perfect, all-sufficient God care to speak to human beings? How could God’s inner life be described? What is the relationship between law and ethics? What future could a particular, religious identity have in a secular democracy based on universal values? What can traditional Jewish sources contribute to contemporary feminism and what does contemporary feminism have to say about the traditionally gendered view of Jewish commandments? In addressing these questions, we teach students to engage critically with the great figures in the history of Jewish thought, from Philo to Maimonides, from Spinoza to Rosenzweig.
III. Jewish History and Social Sciences
Covering the whole range of Jewish history, from ancient Israelites to modern Israel, from medieval Spain to the Holocaust and beyond, our courses explore both the ideal and material aspects of the many contexts in which Jewish civilization has survived and thrived, while offering a unique perspective on world history. Social sciences such as anthropology, political science, and sociology enrich our comprehension of today as well as yesterday by exploring phenomena such as collective memory, group identity, and inter-group conflict. Our courses give students the tools not only to understand the past but also to shape the future.
IV. Jewish Cultures, Languages, and Literatures
We offer a rich variety of courses in Jewish literature, film, and theatre, as well as Yiddish and Hebrew language. How have Jews expressed their resilience and imagination under the extreme conditions of the Holocaust or within communist societies? What is the Jewish contribution to North American popular culture? From the social lives of contemporary Russian Jews to the impact of Israeli folk dance on national identity, from experimental Jewish photography to Jewish involvement in Broadway musicals, we investigate the many ways in which Jews express their identity and creativity in cultures around the world.
All of the courses offered by the ATCJS are within one of these subject areas. Our students complement their academically rigorous education in the foundations of Jewish Studies by taking courses in over 20 collaborating departments; such as Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, History, English, Classics, Environmental Studies, and more, to fulfill their program requirements. For more information on speicific courses which can count towards your Specialist, Major, or Minor degree in Jewish Studies see Program Requirements. For more information on course offerings, including those in other departments, see Courses & Curriculum.
Read more about our undergraduate studies and what a degree in Jewish Studies can offer you.