The application portal for the 2021–2022 fellowship year is now closed. Applicants will be notified of decisions by March 1, 2021.

Jews and the Law
Year 1: Rethinking Premodern Jewish Legal Cultures

2021–2022 Fellowship Theme

The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to open a call for applications for the first of two successive fellowship years devoted to Jews and the law.

Jews have been closely associated with law since antiquity, developing a rich and complex legal tradition and participating variously in the legal cultures of the societies in which they have lived. Several leading universities are now home to centers for Jewish law, ancient to contemporary in focus, and the topic is drawing scholarly interest from well beyond the field of legal studies, including research in history, literature, philosophy, political theory, and gender studies, among others. The Katz Center is pleased to contribute to this growing and expansive topic over the course of two consecutive fellowship years devoted to exploring the connections between Jewish studies and legal thought, culture, and practice.

During the first year of this cycle, the 2021–22 academic year, the Center seeks to support scholars working on law as a dynamic feature of Jewish culture in premodern contexts, spanning from antiquity to the eighteenth century.

The Katz Center invites applications that propose the study or framing of Jewish law or legal thinking within relevant historical contexts; that explore the relationship between law and other aspects of society or culture; that attend to questions of form, genre, and rhetoric; that investigate the institutions, practices, and actors that enact law; or that address related topics such as governance and/or crime. The vision for the year is of a fellowship community that advances an interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional approach to law and that bridges between Jewish law and other legal cultures.

Successful topics, among others, might explore:

  • Exchange between Jewish and non-Jewish legal genres, substance, and practice; the ubiquity of legal pluralisms in Jewish and ambient legal cultures.
  • The relationship between halakhic texts and the social practice of law, as reflected in court documents and notarial records from disparate premodern Jewish communities.
  • Evidence of negotiations between law, halakhic, and other sources of social and cultural authority (such as custom) in premodern Jewish societies.
  • The theorization of sovereignty—by Jews and over Jews—in different periods and places.
  • New approaches that illuminate Jewish intellectual history within and across premodern periods.
  • The intersection between law and empire, and between race, religion, and territory, in a variety of Jewish contexts.
  • The formation and authorization of legal experts across Jewish contexts, and their portrayal in the Jewish literary imagination.
  • The deployment of Jewish law in broader cultural discourses.
  • The benefits and limitations of different disciplinary approaches to these questions: history, anthropology, sociology, literature, etc.

The Katz Center will issue a separate call for applications in the summer of 2021 for the year 2022–23, focused on Jews and the law in modern contexts. While the hope is to promote interaction between the two years, the two fellowship cohorts will be distinct: there will be a separate selection process for each year, and fellows selected for the first year will not be eligible to reapply for the second.

Applications from scholars worldwide are encouraged. All applicants must hold a doctoral degree or expect to receive it by the start date of the fellowship. Fellows will be expected to take residence in Philadelphia, and to contribute to the Center’s intellectual community through active participation in seminars, conferences, and other collaborative activities.

Fellowship Eligibility

The Katz Center invites applications from scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts at all levels. Applicants must hold a doctorate degree or expect to receive it no later than the start date of the fellowship. The fellowship is open to all scholars, national and international, who meet application terms. International scholars are appointed under a J-1 visa only (Research Scholar status). No exceptions can be made, and the Katz Center reserves the right to cancel awards if the recipient or the Katz Center is unable to meet this condition. Applicants should consult the international programs office at their current university to confirm eligibility before applying for this fellowship.

Fellowship Requirements

Fellows are required to spend the term of the fellowship in residence in Philadelphia at the Katz Center and are expected to pursue their proposed research projects. The Center’s requirements are residency in Philadelphia, attendance of weekly lunches on Mondays and weekly seminars on Wednesdays, one seminar presentation, as well as full participation in fellow-conceived colloquia and symposiums, among other special events. Fellows are provided with an office, computing and printing access, as well as administrative assistance and full library privileges to the University of Pennsylvania library system, including book delivery.

Additional Opportunity: Israel Institute Fellowship

With funding from the Israel Institute and in partnership with Penn’s Jewish Studies Program, the Katz Center is offering an additional opportunity for a teaching fellowship in 2021–2022 for Israeli scholars. The recipient will be a full participant in the Center’s fellowship program and will teach one undergraduate course per semester on an Israel-related subject. To be eligible for the Israel Institute/Katz Center fellowship applicants must be Israeli citizens with a PhD in a field or subject related to Israel and/or who is currently employed at an Israeli institution of higher learning or research center. Applicants to this fellowship are required to submit a sample syllabus along with a statement of past teaching experience and teaching style. Details are included in full fellowship application at the link below.

For additional questions, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.


The application portal for the 2021–2022 fellowship year is now closed. Applicants will be notified of decisions by March 1, 2021.