The Schmooze

What Is the Use of Judaic Studies?

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

These days, people (i.e. parents) often ask me about the utility of Judaic Studies, especially when it comes to finding a job in a rocky economy like ours. In response, I go on and on about the ways in which Judaic Studies hones one’s critical skills, facilitates a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving and brings to bear a global perspective on the world — qualities that would certainly stand any job-hunting candidate in good stead.

If they’re still listening, I also invoke the work of historian Lucy Dawidowicz who, years ago, published a book with the provocative title, “What Is the Use of Jewish History?” In it, she cited a story by Y.L. Peretz in which two gentlemen, sitting on a park bench in Warsaw, exchange pleasantries about this and that. As their conversation picks up steam, gentleman number one glumly remarks on the recent passing of Heinrich Graetz, the great German historian of the Jews, seeking some measure of shared consolation. But gentleman number two has nothing to say. Having never heard of Graetz, all he can muster is a feeble, “Was he from around here?”

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What Is the Use of Judaic Studies?

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