In order to maximize the health and safety of both students and staff during the pandemic, HJS comprehensive exams for MA-MPA students will be conducted remotely until further notice. The following is a breakdown of how the remote system will work in practice. We encourage students to reach out to program co-director, Elisha Russ-Fishbane (email@example.com), with more detailed queries.
- Scheduling: As with the traditional exam, students will arrange the date and time of the exam in advance, coordinating with Elisha Russ-Fishbane and Doug Voight (and, when relevant, other department faculty with whom they are working for the exam). When scheduling remote exams with faculty, students should be mindful of time-zone differentials. Students should also consider required university deadlines (or student visas, in the case of non-citizens) if they wish to complete the exam with enough time to graduate in a particular semester.
- Timing: The timing of the remote exam will be mostly identical to the in-person exam. Students have three hours in which to complete the two essays of the exam. In order to accommodate for a potential lag in receipt or submission (and to allow for a personal break), students will have an additional half-hour buffer to submit their work.
- Honor System: All students in the program are treated as trustworthy adults. Remote exams will be conducted on the honor system, i.e. without direct supervision.
- Open-Book or Closed-Book: Students may choose to take the remote exam in its traditional form, i.e. closed-book, in which case examples provided in the essays do not require specific references in support of claims. In other words, it would be sufficient to refer to an author and/or book without specifying exact pages. As an alternative, students may opt to have an open-book (and open-note) exam, in which case precise references are expected. The timing for closed-book and open-book exams is identical. In order to maximize writing time, students who select an open-book/open-note exam are encouraged to prepare for potential citations in advance.
The Dual MA comprehensive exam reading list is available. (We recommend starting with Zachor, as it provides a useful frame for thinking about history and memory, and then working through the rest of the list chronologically)
Before beginning to read, you should select 7-10 themes, and you will trace their evolution throughout Jewish history. Here is a list of themes that have been used in the past:
Communal organizations and institutions (what are the institutions, what role did they play, how did the Jewish community organize itself)
Authority and leadership - Sources of authority/Jewish leadership
God/belief/theology/role of religion from a sociological perspective
Women (what place do women have, if any, in these books/histories)
Relationships between Jews and non-Jews
Identity/Prejudicial violence against Jews. (What were the different kinds of prejudices against Jews and how did anti-Semitism evolve)
Social justice - Thought and practice about vulnerable/needy populations
Jewish connection to the land of Israel; idea of homeland and statehood
If you have other ideas for themes, please share them with Professor Russ-Fishbane before you begin to ensure they will be feasible. You may find it useful to create one document for each theme; when you come across relevant information in your reading, you can plug it into the appropriate document. The overall idea is to be able to discuss how the themes changed over time and to support your arguments with examples from each era.
Based on your themes, you will receive four exam questions - two in the first section and two in the second section. You must write one question from each section; you may not write both questions from the same section. Here is an example of a question:
Like all groups, the Jews have aroused the animosity of their neighbors. Has this animosity—over the past century called anti-Semitism—differed from the broad contours of historic inter-group animosities? What are the salient features of this anti-Jewish animosity? How have Jews attempted to react to this animosity? What are the contrastive positive images of Jews that have developed over the ages?
In preparation for the exam, students are permitted to use up to three Hebrew and Judaic Studies independent study credits. We strongly urge you to use these independent study credits during the semester in which you plan to take comps. You will receive a grade for the independent study once you have completed the exam. We are aware that students occasionally must use an independent study at an earlier point in their academic careers in order to fill holes in their schedules (if they have fewer than 12 credits in a given semester) - if this applies to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so that we are able to track this and discuss with you how this will work.