Degree Requirements - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Degree Requirements

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Ph.D. Requirements

The Ph.D. is awarded to students who can demonstrate mastery of a well-defined area of study. Each area of concentration consists of core courses, electives, and courses in sub-fields that broaden the student’s academic scope. Specifics within an area of concentration are determined by the student in consultation with faculty advisors. Competence or mastery of an area of study is based on satisfying the following guidelines and requirements:

  1. Residency and course work on the Cincinnati Campus for three years. Students may receive credit for up to one year of coursework from another HUC-JIR program or from doctoral level courses taken at another college or university.
  2. Passing candidacy examinations in three subject areas.
  3. Satisfactory completion of a dissertation, which reflects the student’s ability to apply acquired knowledge and methods and the capacity to carry out a scholarly research project.
  4. The student has the option to present a public dissertation lecture after acceptance of the written dissertation by the faculty. This lecture is not required but is highly recommended. 

Generally, students are required to complete 72 credits of graduate course work (or the equivalent on the Cincinnati Campus), ordinarily over a three-year period, but not less than two years. Cross-campus courses are available electronically from the N.Y. and L.A. campuses of HUC-JIR, as are graduate level courses taught at member universities of the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities.

After completing required course work, and with the approval of an individual faculty advisory committee, the student may sit for their three candidacy examinations. Students who satisfactorily complete candidacy exams are awarded the M.A. in Philosophy degree and achieve the rank of A.B.D.

Students are then ready to embark on the last leg of the journey, writing the doctoral dissertation. The student will select two faculty members as their dissertation supervisors and submits a written dissertation proposal for acceptance to the Graduate Executive Committee of the PSGS. When the dissertation is completed, it is circulated, along with written reports by the two supervisors, to the entire faculty. The dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate Office by mid-March in order for the student to be eligible for graduation in that academic year. The student is then invited to give a public dissertation lecture. Ph.D. degrees are awarded at commencement exercises. 

Ph.D. Language Requirements

The knowledge of ancient and modern languages, especially Hebrew, is essential for text study in any of the major areas of the Ph.D. program.

A prerequisite for admission to the PSGS includes a basic knowledge of Biblical Hebrew. In general, this means at least 2 years of Hebrew language study at the university or seminary level. For applicants to The American Jewish Experience program, knowledge of Modern Hebrew is preferred. Students admitted to the Ph.D. program take a Hebrew proficiency test during orientation week. The purpose of the examination is solely diagnostic, to determine the appropriate section of HEB 402 (or HEB 518) in which the student should enroll during their first semester of course work, and to determine whether additional work in Hebrew language might be necessary. 

A reading knowledge of French and German is also required for Ph.D. students. Ordinarily the requirement is fulfilled by a language exam administered by an HUC-JIR faculty member. Another option is for students to pass a language course at the University of Cincinnati. Students must pass the modern language exams before they sit for candidacy exams.

Transfer of Credit and Advanced Standing 

Transfer of credit for postgraduate work undertaken at other institutions may be counted towards the residency requirement. Students normally petition for credit at the end of their first year in the Ph.D. program. Rabbis ordained at HUC-JIR or at another academically accredited Jewish seminary may get credit for courses completed post M.A.H.L., up to 24 credits. All students must earn a minimum of 48 credits in residence at HUC-JIR.

M.A. Degree Requirements (Cincinnati and New York)

The program leading to an M.A. in Jewish/Judaic Studies (M.A.J.S.) is designed to give students the opportunity to attain a graduate level of competency either broadly, in a variety of subject areas within Jewish Studies, or in one major subject area. Admission to the M.A. program requires a completed B.A. or its equivalent from an accredited college or university. Certified transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a personal statement, and an example of previous academic work will be required of all applicants. Admission to the M.A. program also requires a minimum of one year of Hebrew Language study at the university or seminary level (two years is preferable). For applicants who wish to specialize in Modern Jewish History and  The American Jewish Experience, some knowledge of Modern Hebrew is preferred.  For students who lack the Hebrew prerequisite, we offer two semesters of Biblical Hebrew to bridge the introductory and intermediate levels.

The M.A.J.S. is usually completed in two years. The degree requires 45 credits of graduate level courses or 36 credits plus a thesis (worth 9 credits). 9 credits of Hebrew language instruction (which includes the 2 semesters of Biblical Hebrew mentioned above) are included in that total. A minimum of 24 credits must be taken in residency at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati (for those taking courses elsewhere). The program may be taken on a part-time basis; but all requirements for the degree must be completed within a span of 4 years. 

Relationship to the Ph.D. Program

The M.A.J.S. is designed to be a terminal degree. Students who complete the M.A. and desire to continue for a Ph.D. at the PSGS may apply for admission to the Ph.D. program. If admitted, coursework from the M.A. program may be transferable in partial fulfillment of Ph.D. requirements.

D.H.L. Degree Requirements

If you are an HUC-JIR rabbi or have been ordained at another accredited Jewish seminary, the Doctor of Hebrew Letters program offers a flexible course of study for earning a doctoral degree. Eligibility is based on:

1. An earned M.A.H.L.

2. Two years of post-M.A.H.L. residency required for ordination

3. Rabbinical ordination at HUC-JIR or at another academically accredited Jewish seminary

D.H.L. students engage in a course of focused study with HUC-JIR faculty. The program is designed primarily for guided independent study, though it may be combined with formal coursework.

The D.H.L. program has three components: a course of study, a set of oral examinations (or the equivalent), and a doctoral dissertation. The core of the program is study and research in three subject areas – one major field and two minor fields – designed by the student in collaboration with three faculty advisors (one for each field).Faculty advisors may be chosen from any HUC-JIR campus; they do not all have to be working at the same campus. Major and minor fields include, but are not limited to: Bible and Related Literature; Jewish Liturgy and Worship; Talmud and Rabbinic Literature; Judaism and Early Christianity; Jewish Thought; Jewish History; Human Relations (minor field only); and Jewish Religious Education (minor field only).

Students should submit outlines with the approval of advisors for the three areas of study to Dr. Richard Sarason, Director of the Pines School of Graduate Studies program. The three components of the course of study may be completed concurrently or sequentially within seven years.