Requirements for Major and Concentration


Major in Yiddish Studies

The program is designed as a combination of language and content courses. First- and second-year Yiddish language courses emphasize spoken and written communication, and provide a basic introduction to Eastern European Jewish culture. Goals include mastery of the structure of the language and enough cultural understanding to interact comfortably with native speakers.

After second-year Yiddish language courses are completed, students should feel sufficiently comfortable to begin to work with Yiddish literature in the original. Upper-level undergraduate/graduate courses are designed to accommodate students with a range of Yiddish language experience, and intensive language summer study abroad, such as the Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program (the Yiddish Studies program at Columbia offers the fully-subsidized Naomi Fellowship for students of Yiddish), or other academic summer programs, is also encouraged for improvement in language acquisition and comprehension.

The goal is to provide students with reasonable proficiency in reading a variety of literary, philosophical, and historical texts in the original and, through this training, to provide them with a critical understanding of Yiddish-speaking culture and society.

The second pillar of the Yiddish program is an intimate exposure to the literature and culture of the Yiddish-speaking Jewry. That exposure is achieved through several courses in Yiddish literature, which, although they may cover a variety of subjects or proceed from a number of methodological and disciplinary orientations, share a rigorous commitment to analyzing and experiencing that literature within an overarching historical and cultural framework.

These courses in Yiddish literature, culture and Jewish history will provide students with a solid interdisciplinary foundation in Yiddish studies. Inevitably and necessary, these courses, whether taught in Yiddish, English, or in a combination of the Yiddish text and English language instruction – cover the sweep of Yiddish literary history from the early modern period to today.

Students should plan their program of study with the director of undergraduate studies as early as possible. There is a prerequisite of two years of Yiddish, or equivalent to be demonstrated through testing.

The Major in Yiddish Studies requires a minimum of 30 points, distributed as follows:

  1. Two courses of advanced language study (6 points); YIDD UN3101, YIDD UN3102
  2. Three courses in Yiddish literature (9 points); e.g. YIDD UN3500, YIDD GU4420
  3. At least one course related to a senior thesis (3 points);
  4. Four related courses, at least one of which is in medieval or modern Jewish history (12 points); e.g. HIST UN4604, YIDD GU4113.

A senior thesis is required for the Major in Yiddish Studies. Students interested in a senior thesis or research project may do so through independent study with a faculty member over one or two semesters. Students must conduct original research, some of which must take place in the Yiddish language, and are required to submit a culminating paper, of no less that 35 pages.

Elective courses: Elective courses can be taken at Columbia as well as at affiliated institutions such as the Jewish Theological Seminary, Barnard College, New York University, etc. Columbia’s arrangements with the joint degree appointing program at JTS, i.e. JTS and GS Joint program with List College, offers students exposure to a wide variety of courses on Yiddish and Yiddish-related topics taught by experts in the field of Yiddish and comparative Jewish literature such as Profs. David Roskies and Barbara Mann.

Thanks to the consortial arrangements with other universities in the New York area (Barnard, NYU, Yale, Penn, etc.) students both in Columbia College and General Studies, can take courses at these institutions for degree credit, which allows for student exposure to experts in twentieth-century Soviet Yiddish literature, Yiddish women’s writing, Yiddish literature in Israel, and much more (Profs. Gennady Estraikh, Kathryn Hellerstein , and Hannan Hever). These arrangements allow students to have, if they so choose, an even broader intellectual experience than the already broad interdisciplinary opportunities available to them via the courses offered by the faculty on the Interdisciplinary Committee on Yiddish at Columbia.

Language courses need to be taken at Columbia.

Honors options: Departmental Honors in Yiddish Studies can be granted to a total of 10% of the students graduating with the Major in Yiddish Studies in a given year across both Columbia College and General Studies.


Concentration in Yiddish Studies

The concentration in Yiddish studies requires a minimum of 21 points, distributed as follows:

  1. Two courses of advanced language study (6 points); YIDD UN3101, YIDD UN3102
  2. Two courses in Yiddish literature (6 points); e.g. YIDD UN3500, YIDD GU4420
  3. Three related courses, at least one of which is in medieval or modern Jewish history(9 points); e.g. HIST UN4604, YIDD GU4113.

Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Yiddish Studies
Jeremy Dauber
Office: 310 Hamilton Hall
Tel: 212.854.9608
Email: jdauber@columbia.edu