The origins of the department of Jewish Thought trace back to the Institute of Jewish Studies, one of the oldest academic centers of the Hebrew University. The Institute was inaugurated even before the official opening of the university. In its early years, several of the leading scholars from the field taught and were active in the Institute, including Gershom Scholem (since 1925), Julius Guttmann (since 1934) and Shlomo Pines.
The department of Jewish Thought was established in the 1970s, through a consolidation of the department of Jewish philosophy and mysticism, the department of the history of Jewish thought, and the department of ethical and philosophical literature (whose faculty included Isaiah Tishby, among others). In addition to the original two areas of concentrations within the department- philosophy and mysticism- the department added two more during that period: Jewish thought in antiquity (the focus of Susan Daniel-Nataf) and modern Jewish philosophy (the focus of Eliezer Schweid).
Since then, the department of Jewish thought has become the leading center for the study of Jewish thought in Israel and throughout the world. Many of the prominent scholars in this field today, including those who teach at universities throughout Israel, are alumni of the department of Jewish thought of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Likewise, most of the centers of Jewish studies and research institutes have been established by alumni of the department or its faculty.