Propose a Theme

Shaping the theme of a fellowship year at the Katz Center is an opportunity to have a major impact on scholarship, and to set an agenda for new research and thought. Each fellowship year, the Center’s resources support a cohort of significant scholars at all career stages, generating new conversations and collaborations that include conferences and a volume. A fellowship theme is different from a book project or colloquium theme—the goal is not merely to identify a specific topic that needs investigation but to advocate for a question or issue that will push research in new directions. We accomplish this goal in part through the selection of themes that productively juxtapose scholars representing a variety of disciplines and perspectives, drawn from both within and beyond the field of Jewish studies.

Such initial proposals serve as seeds for the collaborative work of topic-development. They will go before our faculty advisory boards, and other scholars are consulted for input. As a result, should a proposal result in a fellowship year, its ultimate contours may differ to some degree from what was originally proposed.

Any individual or group of scholars in Jewish studies may submit a proposal, but an ideal proposal will come from a team of two or three scholars* at different stages in their careers who represent divergent national perspectives and will encompass diverse disciplines or intellectual viewpoints.

Proposal Guidelines

Theme year proposals should be no more than 2500 words and should include the following elements:

  1. A description of the intellectual background needed to understand why a given theme is worthy of such a significant investment, and why it merits attention now. Is the theme opening up a new vein of research worth investing in? Is it taking an existing subfield in some exciting new direction? Does it leverage Penn’s Judaica collections? Can it benefit from collaboration in some specific way? A proposal that addresses many or all of these questions stands a better chance at success.
  2. The proposal should identify intellectually significant questions that are driving current scholarship on the theme, and that can guide the fellowship year.
  3. A proposal should also include an appendix listing scholars whom you can imagine participating in the year. The list is not binding in any way and will not be made public; it is only meant to provide some indication of potential breadth and appeal of the theme. The list should indicate field and region of origin (North America, Europe, Israel, etc.) and/or other indicators of their range, such as subfield or discipline (roughly 50 names).

To submit a proposal, please email it to director Steven Weitzman ( or associate director Natalie Dohrmann ( If you would like to consult beforehand about the process, you are welcome to be in touch with either of them. While they cannot commit to reading drafts, they can offer guidance about what makes for a successful proposal. Proposals are considered on a rolling basis two and sometimes three years in advance of the relevant year, so please factor that into your planning.

It may be helpful to consult two samples of successful prior proposals.

* The authors of a successful proposal are strongly encouraged to apply to be semester or year-long fellows and their applications are given special consideration in the selection process. If full participation is impossible, the Center will strive to keep the proposing scholars actively involved in the fellowship in one way or the other.


America's Jewish Questions Proposal


Premodern Law Proposal