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Jewish Studies at Ursinus

Jewish studies at Ursinus College is an academic discipline focused on the study of Jews and Judaism. Although naturally a subset of religious studies, Jewish studies is also interdisciplinary as it focuses on the language, literature, culture and history of the Jewish people from their origins in the Ancient Near East to the present day.

Welcome! Please check out our faculty, course offerings and programs below.

Alexandra FrischFaculty

Alexandria Frisch recently earned her PhD from New York University’s Hebrew and Judaic Studies Department, focusing on Second Temple period history and the Dead Sea Scrolls. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2000 with degrees in religion and history and completed a master’s degree in Jewish Education from Baltimore Hebrew University in 2004 and a master’s degree in Religion from Yale University in 2006. Frisch also has been a fellow at the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at Cardozo Law School and a scholar-in-residence at The Tikvah Center for Jewish Law and Civilization at NYU. She will be teaching courses in Jewish Studies in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department and contributing to the development of a Jewish Studies program at Ursinus.

Please contact her with any questions at or come visit in Olin 208.

Course Offerings

Fall 2013 – Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (RELS242-A)

Not only is the Bible a central and sacred text within the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, its influence is felt throughout contemporary, Western civilization. Laws, politics, ethical values, philosophy and even pop culture bear marks of the biblical legacy. For this reason, a study of the Hebrew Bible is not merely a historical endeavor, but necessarily takes on modern importance as well. As the scholar Timothy Beal puts it, “You can’t be culturally literate in our society without also being biblically literate.” This course will give students knowledge of the Hebrew Bible in terms of its subject matter, the many functions it serves as both a historical source and as a religious text, how it developed, and its position within the larger history of the Ancient Near East.

Spring 2014 - Revolts and Rabbis, Scrolls and Sects:
The History of Jews and Judaism in Antiquity (RELS-309.A)

Mark Twain once wrote about Jewish history that “The Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone…The Jew saw them all, survived them all.” This course will trace exactly this time span of Jewish history (6th century BCE to 5th century CE) and explain how the Jewish people survived (and even thrived!) despite being continually ruled by foreign empires. As we shall see, their survival was partly due to their transformation of the religion of the Bible into rabbinic Judaism, the dominant form of Judaism until the 19th century. Our course of study will include this period’s many religious developments such as the appearance of different “sects”– Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the Dead Sea sect, and early Christians. Attention will also be paid to the Jewish engagement with Greco-Roman culture and the resulting literary inventions, such as Hellenistic Jewish writings, and political developments, such as the Maccabean rebellion and the Hasmonean dynasty; the rise of Herod under Roman rule; and the two revolts against Rome. This course will, therefore, give students both an introduction to Judaism as well as a broad survey of ancient history. 

Fall 2014 - Judaism: An Introduction (RELS-234)

Attention is given to the history, traditions, and literature of the Jewish people from their origins in the second millennium B.C.E. to the present day. Stress is given to specific religious concepts and teachings which are pertinent to modern times.

Jewish Studies Programs

Check the calendar below for monthly programs that explore various aspects of Jewish history, religion, and identity! Our first program is:

Exorcising Demons and Making Monsters: Jewish Folklore in the Movies

Join Prof. Jennifer Fleeger from MCS and Prof. Alexandria Frisch from Jewish Studies to explore how Jewish ideas about the supernatural found their way into contemporary film and television. We'll be watching clips that feature dybbuks and golems, discussing the background of these figures in Jewish folklore, and tracing their impact on the horror genre. Spooky refreshments will be served! (October 30th, 8-9 pm in Olin 107)

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