Masters of Jewish Culture


We know that Jewish culture goes beyond the kitsch of shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But does the investigation of Judaism in popular culture warrant an entire school curriculum?

According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the answer is an emphatic yes. Joselit, a professor at George Washington University, is launching a master’s degree in Jewish Cultural Arts–the first time a program like this has ever been created. Students in the program will study classic Jewish studies (which consists, according to GWU, mostly of old texts) while exploring more modern expressions of culture–such as pop music and film. They might ask questions like: Are bris jokes merely kitsch, or are they part of some deeper cultural conversation? Are there ways of passing on Jewish traditions through jokes, stories, and Facebook memes?

The study of pop culture in academia is nothing new–although until now, it’s never been offered with a Jewish twist in a formalized graduate degree program. And so, in launching the program, Joselit created her own example of postmodern Jewish culture–a video that both satirizes the program and argues for its existence.

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