About

As current news demonstrate daily, understanding the world of religion is as relevant as ever: from ISIS to the values of the United States Republican Party; from Haredi political parties and religious Zionism to the Japanese PM taking the heads of the G7 states to visit the Grand Shrine at Ise, in face of grand protest from the Chinese government; from Mecca to Jerusalem and to the Ganges river that flows through the holy Indian city Varanasi: Religions, the feelings they evoke and the thought structures they produce continue to motivate the world. In spite of progress and the pronouncement that God is dead, most human beings still believe in one religion or another and religions are fundamental to culture all over the globe. In a very real sense, religions are a window into the inner workings of the human psyche.   

The Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of the best places in the world to delve into such matters. It is also the only department in the world where the subject may be learned in Hebrew (it is the only department in Israel to teach a BA in the field). The department is one of the oldest in the University, and yet has a young and up to-date staff and offers a rich, innovative and versatile study program.

Our program has two main emphases, which enhance each other: The first is a rich introduction to the central religious traditions of the world and to formative theoretical concerns of the discipline of religious studies. This connects to an in-depth a focus on a specific religious tradition, depending on the student's choice. The second is an experiential curriculum, in which we drive our students to contemplate the great existential questions that religions have dealt with since the dawn of humanity. In this emphasis we may also mention also tours, courses on religion in Jerusalem, and travelling courses.

 

Some History

 

The Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University was founded in 1959 By Prof. Zvi Werblowsky and Prof. David Flusser (RIP) as an advanced studies department in the Faculty of Humanities. Since its foundation the department has been blessed with distinguished teachers and researchers, amongst whom are Israel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences. For over fifty years advanced courses for second and third degrees were at the center of the department's teaching, together with a division of Christianity History for BA students. In 2008 a rich BA study program was opened in the department, which concentrates on the different branches of Comparative Religion: theoretical and comparative studies alongside possibilities of specializing in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Asian Religions. Today, the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University is the only department in Israel which offers a wide and versatile study program in Comparative Religion for BA and MA students.

 

Why Study Comparative Religion?

It is difficult not to notice the high relevance of the study of religion for understanding contemporary reality. In spite of science and modernity, many people and a wide spectrum of cultures still define themselves in relation to the religious tradition they belong to. Religions define human values, the nature of reality, morality and the value of human behavior, "us" and "them", and much more. The best way to get millions or even hundreds of millions of people to act together under one cause is to speak in the name of religion.

Comparative Religion stands as an important intersection for many fields of knowledge. Religion is connected with philosophy, but no less to sociology and anthropology, as it provides the basis of a social structure. The best of literature, philosophy, poetry and art throughout history was created with religious goals and motivations. Religion is central to human identity and to the way people find their place in the world, so that religious studies are also intertwined with Psychology.

Therefore, studies in comparative religion are an excellent way to prepare oneself for a wide range of professional options, as the stories of the department's alumni demonstrate. Whether in economics or government positions, or in different free professions, the studies we provide place our students in a situation where it is easier for them to understand the human reality before them and to choose how to act accordingly. Many alumni of the department have also continued in academic studies in the best institutions in Israel and abroad, making the department a wonderful beginning for academic careers.

 

Contact Us

 

The Depatment of Comperative Religion Secretary:

Meirav Fischer | Room 4605, Humanities Building | email: meiravfi@savion.huji.ac.il

Office Hours: Sun., Mon., Tue., Thu. 10:00-13:00, Wed. 9:30-12:30, 14:30-15:00

Tel.: 02-5880287 | Fax: 02-5883572

Advisor to Undergraduate Students:
Dr. Eviatar Shulman | email: eviatar.shulman@mail.huji.ac.il | tel. 02-5882898

Advisor to Graduate Students and Department Chair:
Prof. Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony | email: ashkelon@mscc.huji.ac.il