The department of Jewish Thought focuses upon classical works of Jewish thought throughout the ages, and their intersection with wider currents in general philosophy. The goal of study within the department is to provide students with a broad foundation in the history of Jewish thought, as well as more profound knowledge in one or two areas of concentration from among the following:

  1. Jewish thought during the Second Temple period (Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Qumran literature, ancient mysticism, and rabbinic literature).
  2. Jewish medieval and Renaissance philosophy from Saadya Gaon until Spinoza.
  3. Kabbalah from the medieval period until the Renaissance (Safed Kabbalah).
  4. Modern Jewish thought (Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah and mysticism, the Mussar movement, and Orthodox Jewish thought).

The method of study combines philological-textual skills and philosophical-analytical concepts, alongside a comparative and historical framework.  In the first-degree program, students will take mandatory courses, including introductory courses and a couple of text-based courses (‘Guide for the Perplexed,’ ‘Zohar’), several mandatory and elective tutorials that focus upon Jewish thought throughout the ages, and a few elective courses from the four areas of concentration described above.  The program enables students that intend on continuing to advanced research to gain the knowledge and training that are necessary for this purpose.  For students who intend on teaching at high-schools, the program offers the knowledge base and the analytical methods that are necessary to teach Jewish thought in such an educational environment.

Within the department there are also tracks for those studying for advanced degrees (a masters and a doctorate), wherein students focus upon one of the four areas of concentration described above.

Graduates of the department can continue their studies in the following ways:

  • Continuing to study for an advanced degree at Hebrew University or other leading universities.
  • Researching in universities or research centers.
  • Continuing to study for a teacher’s certificate, and to teach in a high school.


Department's History

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.