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Graduate Program

Students apply to the Graduate Program through the Department of Religious Studies, the Department of History or the Department of Comparative Literature. (For other department options, such as Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Philosophy, Spanish and Portuguese, for example, consult the chair of the Program or relevant members of the Program in Jewish Studies faculty.)

Applying to the Graduate Program through the Department of Religious Studies:

The guidelines for graduate students are intended to assist students in developing a suitable program of study within the field. Graduate students are required to meet with relevant faculty in the Program in Jewish Studies early in their academic program in order to discuss prerequisites and requirements and to design a course of study which will best prepare them for their qualifying examinations and subsequent work. The Director of Graduate Studies for Jewish Studies (, and the Director of Graduate Studies for Religious Studies can assist students in meeting departmental requirements.

The standard procedure for applying to the Yale Graduate School must be followed. Applications must be submitted on the website. Applicants should go to Graduate Admissions or call the Graduate admissions office for more information: 203-432-2770. Previous language study should be described in full. Applicants are strongly urged to insure that recommenders have their letters of recommendation submitted no later than the end of January at the latest in order for them to be taken into account, since admission decisions are normally made in the second week of February.

The Program FAX number is 203-432-4889. Prospective applicants may schedule a visit to Yale by contacting the Director of Graduate Studies in the Program (Eliyahu Stern) at (Please note that official letters of admission are not mailed until mid-March, and that the office will not be able to provide application results by telephone in advance of that date.)

Language Requirements

Students are expected upon entering the program to have attained a mastery of Hebrew, both of primary sources and modern Israeli scholarship, appropriate to their field of study. Proficiency in two other scholarly languages, usually German and French, must be demonstrated before the beginning of the third year and proficiency in at least one of those languages must be demonstrated before the end of the first year of course work. Proficiency is demonstrated by (1) passing an examination administered by the department; (2) by accreditation from a Yale Summer School course designed for this purpose; or (3) by achieving a grade of A or B in one of Yale’s intermediate language courses. Other languages appropriate to the student’s field of study (e.g., Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, Yiddish, Polish) may be required. Limited funding is available through the Graduate School and the Program in Jewish Studies to offset the expenses of intensive summer language study.

Course Work

Students should complete a minimum of twelve term courses during the first two years, including at least one major research paper per semester, but most students do more than this minimum. Students must normally achieve Honors in at least two term courses during each of their first two years. Courses are to be selected in consultation with the faculty. Students may be required to take more than two years of course work, but no more than three, if deemed necessary by the relevant faculty.

Distribution Course Requirement

All students must take at least one course in each of the following historical periods: ancient, medieval and early modern, and modern. For periods other than a student’s specialization, this requirement can be satisfied through a survey course, an appropriate seminar, or a reading course, with the choice approved by the faculty member who specializes in that period.

Study in Israel

When feasible, study at an Israeli university as part of one’s program is encouraged.

Yearly Review

The faculty in the students field of specialization (Ancient Judaism, Modern Jewish History) will review the work of each student at the end of each academic year, communicating to the student areas of strength and weakness.

Qualifying Examinations

The format of exams is to be determined in consultation with faculty examiners. Typical formats include a 12-hour take home exam, a three-five hour written exam, a two hour oral exam, or some combination thereof. All exams, whether written or oral, must have two faculty examiners determined by the student. The examiners work with the student in developing the topic of the exam and an appropriate reading list. Exams are to be completed by the beginning of the student’s fourth year, or by January of the fourth year if the student was required to take third-year courses.

A. Examinations in two areas of specialization: These two exams will cover two aspects of the student’s field of study (e.g., literature and history, or two adjacent historical periods). The specific range of subjects covered is to be determined through consultation with the relevant faculty.

B. Ancillary field: Each student, in consultation with the relevant faculty, will define at least one ancillary field outside of the Program in Jewish Studies, representing a broader historical or methodological context of his or her field of study. Normally, a faculty member from outside of the Program in Jewish Studies will work with the student in developing a topic and reading list for this exam, and in administering and evaluating the exam.

Dissertation Prospectus

The dissertation prospectus is prepared following the completion of the qualifying exams. Students normally submit a dissertation prospectus and have a colloquium on the prospectus no later than the first semester of their fourth year. The prospectus is developed in consultation with the faculty, and submitted to the teaching group in the field, who meet with he student for a two-hour colloquium to assess the scope, significance, and feasibility of the topic and the student’s preparation to accomplish it in a reasonable time. The prospectus itself ordinarily should include a statement of the precise nature of the topic, its significance, its relationship to previous work, and the method and sources to be employed. After approval by the teaching group, a two-page summary of the prospectus is submitted to the entire graduate faculty in Religious Studies and thence, if none object, to the Dean of the Graduate School. Once accepted, this prospectus becomes the basis for the eventual assessment of the completed dissertation. After acceptance of the prospectus, the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.


Students normally begin writing their dissertation in the fourth year and normally will have finished by the end of the sixth. The completed dissertation must be approved by a committee of three readers and the departmental faculty. There is no oral examination on the dissertation.

Recent Dissertations.

Teaching Fellowships

Teaching fellowship are often available, and they offer an opportunity to gain fluency with the subject matter of the program and to develop pedagogical and lecturing skills under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Students are required to serve as teaching fellows for two semesters, preferably in courses related to their field of study. Teaching fellowships are usually available during a student’s third and fourth years of study.

The Program in Jewish Studies Faculty and Graduate Student Seminar

Approximately four times a semester, faculty and graduate students interested in the Program in Jewish Studies meet over lunch for an informal seminar, the topic of which changes every semester. Presentations are made by Yale faculty, visiting faculty, and invited guests on subjects of their research relating to the semester’s topic, with ample time for discussion by all of the participants. This provides an important opportunity for conversation across temporal and disciplinary boundaries within Jewish Studies as well as an informal opportunity to integrate Yale’s impressive resources in Jewish Studies. Regular attendance is expected of all students enrolled in the Jewish Studies graduate program and of participating faculty. Lunch is provided.

Applying to the Graduate Program through the Department of History

Graduate Study in Jewish History

Graduate Study in Jewish History takes place within the Department of History while also taking advantage of faculty in the Program in Jewish Studies in other disciplines. The general requirements for Graduate Study in Jewish History are the requirements for History. Please consult the History Department website for the current course of study.

The specific requirements for students in Modern Jewish history are: 

  1. Proficiency in Hebrew and at least one European language. Knowledge of German is strongly encouraged.
  2. Two courses in earlier periods of Jewish history. Reading Hebrew texts from these periods as part of the course work is strongly encouraged. The student should consult with her/his advisor in selecting courses.

In consultation with the advisor students are encouraged to concentrate in one national history and one broadly conceived transnational or comparative theme or method.

The specific requirements for students in Medieval Jewish history are:

  1. Proficiency in Latin or Arabic in addition to Hebrew and German.
  2. Two courses in other periods of Jewish history selected after consultation with his/her advisor.
  3. Proficiency in Hebrew manuscript paleography and codicology.

Study of ancient Jewish history can be pursued through the Department of Religious Studies

Applying to the Graduate Program through the Comparative Literature Department

Graduate Certificate Program

Next: Graduate Courses