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College of Letters and Science

Hebrew and Semitic Studies

Note: Admission to the undergraduate major in Hebrew is closed to undergraduates admitted to UW–Madison in fall 2014 and after. Undergraduates who wish to study Hebrew language and literature are able to do so through the Center for Jewish Studies.

Requirements for the Major
Honors in the Major

1346 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3204; hebrew@mailplus.wisc.edu; hebrew.wisc.edu

Professor Rachel F. Brenner; Associate Professor Ronald L. Troxel; Assistant Professors Philip A. Hollander, Jeremy M. Hutton, Jordan D. Rosenblum; Senior Lecturers Bilha Mirkin, Haya Yuchtman

Undergraduate advisors: Modern Hebrew—Rachel F. Brenner, 1354 Van Hise Hall, 608-262-6102, brenner@wisc.edu. Biblical Hebrew—Ronald L. Troxel, 1348 Van Hise Hall, 608-263-1972, rltroxel@wisc.edu.

Faculty diversity liaison: Rachel F. Brenner, brenner@wisc.edu

The department teaches Hebrew as a classical language and as the living language of modern Israel; Hebrew literature from all periods in the original and in translation; other ancient Semitic languages; and cultural, historical, and archaeological courses concerning Judaica and Hebraica.

The department provides students with opportunities for fulfilling the B.A. and B.S. foreign language and literature requirements both in Biblical Hebrew (103, 104, 323, 324) and in Modern Hebrew (101, 102, 201, 202). Students frequently choose to add breadth to their undergraduate degrees by taking courses taught in English, such as Introduction to Judaism and Introduction to Biblical Literature.

The department also offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Students who anticipate graduate work in biblical or historical studies of the Ancient Near East, in the languages or literatures of the ancient Semitic world, in modern Hebrew literature and other areas of Jewish studies, or in theological studies in seminaries, frequently complete undergraduate majors in the department. Such a major provides preparation for graduate programs here and at other major universities.

The elementary courses in Hebrew are planned both for those who have begun the language in high school or elsewhere and for those who take it for the first time in college. One year of high school work is the equivalent of one semester of college work in foreign language, but all students are assigned to courses on the basis of placement tests. These tests may admit a student to a more advanced course, but give no credit toward graduation. (For information on acquiring credit for foreign language work taken in high school, see the section on Credit by Course Examination in the L&S General Academic Information section.)

For a Modern Hebrew Placement Test or Biblical Hebrew Placement Test contact the department.

Requirements for the Major

The Hebrew studies major may be earned with an emphasis in either modern or biblical Hebrew. Majors in Hebrew studies are encouraged to spend a year at the University of Haifa, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv University. See the section on Academic Programs Abroad in this catalog.

All students are required to fulfill the L&S requirement of 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Courses in the department above 300 (except for 323–324) count toward this requirement.

Major in Modern Hebrew

The modern sequence requires a minimum of 24 credits in the Hebrew department above Hebrew 202 (4th semester):

  1. Introduction to Judaism (211), Jewish Cultural History (377), 4 cr, or Modern Jewish Literature (318), 3 or 4 cr
  2. Hebrew Literature, 12 cr
    Four of the following courses: Introduction to Hebrew Literature (301–302); Survey of Modern Hebrew Literature (401–402); Readings in Contemporary Hebrew Literature (533–534).
  3. Electives, minimum 8 cr
    Three additional courses in the Hebrew department, which may include one course in the Jewish Studies program. Independent study courses may be included among electives, with the approval of the undergraduate advisor or chair.

Major in Biblical Hebrew

  1. The biblical sequence requires a minimum of three years of Biblical Hebrew language and literature (in Hebrew), 22 credits:
    • Elementary Biblical Hebrew (103–104), 8 cr
    • Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (323–324), 8 cr
    • Biblical Poetry (513–514), 6 cr
  2. Additional requirements for the major, 18 credits, of which 9 must be at the 300 level or above:

    (a) Introduction to Biblical Literature (217), 4 cr
    (b) Two of the following, 6 or 7 cr:

    • Biblical Poetry in Translation (237), 3 cr
    • Prophets of the Bible (332), 4 cr
    • Jewish Literature of the Greco-Roman Period (346), 3 cr
    • Bible in the Middle Ages (368), 3 cr
    • History-telling in the Bible (417), 3 cr


    (c) Electives, A mimimum of 8 additional credits in the Hebrew department, 200 level or above. These may include courses in group (b.) not used to fulfill this requirement. (In practice, it may be necessary to take three 3-credit courses, for a total of 9 credits).

Honors in the Major

Honors in the Major in Hebrew and Semitic Studies is intended for students who are interested in original research and who wish to graduate with the best possible undergraduate training in the discipline. Honors in the Major is especially appropriate for students who are considering graduate work in Hebrew literature or who want an especially rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices.

Students should consult with the department's undergraduate advisor to determine the best way to fulfill honors requirements and how to make the most of the Honors in the Major experience.

To earn the B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Hebrew and Semitic Studies, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major and the following additional requirements:

  1. Achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  2. Achieve a GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 in all Hebrew major department courses at the time of graduation.
  3. Complete a Senior Honors Thesis, 681 and 682, in Hebrew and Semitic studies for at least 6 credits with a grade of B or higher.

This page was updated 5/6/14.