Jewish Studies at Syracuse & the Central New York Humanities Corridor


No doubt a dubious career proposition given the current state of the job market, but it is that time of year to pitch graduate studies to prospective students. In the interest of pitching Jewish Studies at Syracuse University, the Religion Department is pleased to announce exciting developments relating to new faculty, new curriculum, and the creation of a new Religion Studies and Jewish Studies network in Central New York.

[1] Regarding new faculty, next academic year we will be conducting a search for a tenure-track colleague in American Judaism. This has not been formally announced yet, but I wanted to get the word out. Additionally, this year we welcomed a new member to our faculty—Biko Mandela Gray, a PhD graduate of Rice University, a student of Jeffry Kripal who works on the intersections of race, subjectivity, religion, and embodiment, shuttling between continental philosophy and African-American religious studies. We’re very excited about all that Dr. Gray adds to our mix.

[2] The Department of Religion has recently revamped its graduate program, and we want to get the word out to colleagues who might be advising undergraduates or masters students interested in further study of religion, for whom Syracuse might be a particularly good fit. We’ve also expanded our theories and methods curriculum, created three “concentrations” to sharpen the focus of our interdisciplinary programming, strengthened the emphasis on developing expertise in a particular religious tradition or region, and restructured our comprehensive exams to match these developments. The concentrations are “Critique Image and Politics,” “Texts and  Contexts, Communities and Identities.” Currently in the  Department of Religion we have Jewish Studies faculty in the “Critique  Image and Politics” and in “Texts and Contexts.” Our new hire in American Judaism will be a colleague in the “Communities and Identities” concentration.

[3] To increase the depth and breadth of our resources, the Department is working to strengthen alliances with other Religious Studies Departments and with colleauges in related departments in the Central New York Humanities Corridor. The Corridor includes Syracuse University, Cornell University, and the University of Rochester. Related is the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium including Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Skidmore College, St. Lawrence University, Union College. Graduate students in Jewish Studies will able to study with and develop working relations with colleagues throughout the Central New York region. The purpose of this collaboration is to deepen our bench in areas of study including modern Judaism, but also ancient Christianity along with possibilities in African American Religion, Islam, and South Asia.

To date, these new developments reflect exciting work in progress. The goal is to build on the heritage of our department as a place where graduate students can pursue cutting-edge, creative, interdisciplinary scholarship, in an intimate and collegial setting, while pursuing excellence in the study of religious traditions.

There is collective power in the Corridor offering unique opportunities for graduate work in areas of modern Judaism. About other fields of study in modern Jewish Studies, my colleagues Ken Frieden could speak about corridor colleagues in Jewish literatures, and Jim Watts could speak to colleagues working in Hebrew Bible. For students interested in modern Jewish thought and culture, I would point to colleagues at Cornell and Rochester, namely Jonathan Boyarin (Cornell) (anthropology, American Judaism, critical theory), Nora Rubel (Rochester) (foodways and American Judaism), June Hwang (Rochester) (German Jewish culture, thought and literature, and Holocaust studies), Aaron Hughes (Rochester) (modern and medieval Jewish philosophy, Islam). All four have all expressed interest in creating a collaborative hub between colleagues and graduate students.

With both a Department of Religion + a graduate program, Syracuse University is uniquely situated as a unique hub for the study of religion and for the study of modern Jewish religion, thought, and culture.

Finally,  the Department of Religion admits two MA students and about three PhD students each year, and they all receive both tuition scholarships and stipends. In Jewish Studies we have two named graduate fellowships. The funding for MA students is two years, for PhD students, five years minimum. The stipends for PhD students are attached to teaching assistantships, and our support for our students’ development as teachers is particularly strong.

If you have a student who fits that profile, please consider pointing them in our direction. The link to the Department of Religion website is here.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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