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One of the campuses of Yeshiva University in New York. Photo: Wikicommons.

Master’s degree offered to Christians at Jewish college

Christians who want to learn more about Judaism can now earn a master’s degree at Yeshiva University in New York City.

The Hebraic Studies Program for Christian Students began this summer as a partnership with the Philos Project, a nine-year-old Christian nonprofit that promotes engagement with Jews. The Philos Project pays for one-third of the $34,950 tuition cost and Yeshiva provides students with a scholarship covering another third of the tuition. The rest — $11,650 — is paid by the students. This fall, students will begin taking classes in ancient and modern Jewish history, post-biblical Jewish literature and Jewish-Christian relations.

“This is very much in keeping with our graduate school’s mission, which is to use the best methodologies to enhance the understanding of Jewish religion, Jewish culture,” said Jonathan Dauber, associate professor of Jewish mysticism at Yeshiva and the director of the new program.

Although Yeshiva has a rabbinical school that ordains rabbis in the Orthodox tradition — the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary — the master of arts degree program is a separate graduate school offering.

The program comes at a time when many seminaries and graduate schools are courting students of different faiths. Nearly all U.S. Jewish schools have long welcomed non-Jewish students to their master’s programs. These M.A. and Ph.D. degrees typically draw non-Jewish students who intend to convert to Judaism or have an academic interest in teaching biblical Hebrew at a university level.

Christian seminaries also have sought a greater mix of students. Schools such as Harvard Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary have expanded beyond their traditional pool of Christian students studying to be pastors to include Muslims, Buddhists and Jews who are seeking advanced knowledge but not ordination in a Christian church.

The Yeshiva University program consists of four semesters of study. The summer semester, which concludes this week, was entirely online, but the fall and spring semesters will be a hybrid of online and in-person classes. Students apply to the program through Philos. Once admitted, they take classes alongside Jewish students, except for a few classes tailored especially for non-Jews with little background in biblical Hebrew.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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