Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

Edit profile
Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (CAJS) at the University of Pennsylvania is the world's only institution exclusively dedicated to post-doctoral research on Jewish Civilization. It is located at 420 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The center is directed by Professor David B. Ruderman.

Dropsie College

The institution now known as CAJS was founded in 1907 as the Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning and finally as Dropsie University. It was named after its benefactor, Moses Aaron Dropsie (1821–1905), a wealthy half-Jewish religious convert who willed his entire fortune to "the promotion of and instruction in the Hebrew and cognate languages and their respective literatures."

Dropsie granted more than 200 Ph.D.s between its inception and its closing as a degree-granting institution in 1986. Dropsie was also the publisher of the Jewish Quarterly Review, which was at the time the most respected journal on the subject.

Recent history

Although no longer a degree-granting college, it became the Annenberg Research Institute after its 1986 closing and turned into one of the country's most noted interdisciplinary post-doctoral fellowship programs.

Annenberg merged with the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, after which the institution was renamed the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. It continues to publish the Jewish Quarterly Review, the oldest continuously published Judaic studies journal in English.


Today, CAJS supports approximately 24 fellows each year who conduct their research at the University of Pennsylvania. Each fellow is given their own downtown Philadelphia office and meets with the others at weekly seminars. The papers they produce are published by the University of Pennsylvania Press at the conclusion of their term in the program.

Each year has a specific theme; that is, the selected scholars cannot pick their own topics to study. For example, for the 2005-2006 academic year, all fellows were required to study on the subject "The Jewish Book: Materials Texts and Comparative Contexts." For 2006-2007, they addressed "Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Life under Caliphs and Sultans."


The combination of the Dropsie/Annenberg library along with the University of Pennsylvania's resulted in a 350,000-volume collection on Judaica, including more than 8,000 rare books and an assortment of cuneiform tablets. Texts are available to scholars in Hebrew, English, German, Yiddish, Ladino, Arabic, and Latin.

There are also 451 codices in eleven alphabets and 24 languages and dialects. Some of the languages and dialects represented, in addition to those already listed, include Judeo-Arabic, Armenian, Telugu, and Syriac. Fragments from the Cairo Genizah and others written in Coptic and Demotic on papyrus round out the collection.

The library also holds the personal letters of more than 50 Jewish-American leaders from the 1800s and 1900s, including Isaac Leeser, Abraham Neuman, Cyrus Adler (a former Dropsie College president), Mary M. Cohen, Sabato Morais, Charles Cohen, Ben Zion Goldberg, and the benefactor Dropsie.

Notable people

Many notable people in Judaic studies have been affiliated with CAJS or Dropsie in some capacity. Some include:

Dropsie College students
  • Philip Birnbaum, author and translator, best known for his translation of the siddur
  • Cyrus H. Gordon, Near East scholar - did not graduate
  • R. Laird Harris, Hebrew scholar
  • Meredith G. Kline, theologian and Old Testament scholar - Ph.D. in Assyriology and Egyptology
  • Samuel Noah Kramer, Assyriologist and Sumeriologist - did not graduate; transferred to Penn
  • Bernard Revel, future head of RIETS yeshiva and founder/President of Yeshiva College. 1911 doctoral thesis on Karaite Judaism.
  • Edward J. Young, Old Testament scholar and commentator
  • Iris Habib Elmasry, Coptic historian and scholar
  • David Dorsey, Old Testament scholar and author
  • Rev Mark Alterman, Hebrew-Christian evangelist(www.koshergospel.com)
Dropsie College faculty
  • Cyrus Adler, Jewish religious leader and scholar - president
  • William Chomsky, noted Hebrew scholar and father of Noam Chomsky
  • Benzion Netanyahu, historian of Jews in medieval Spain and father of Binyamin Netanyahu and Yonatan Netanyahu
  • Raphael Patai, ethnographer and anthropologist - professor of anthropology, 1948–1957
  • Stefan Reif, Jewish researcher - assistant professor of Hebrew, 1972–1973
  • Bernard Weinryb, Jewish historian, author of various definitive works on history of European Jews
  • Solomon Zeitlin, historian of the second Jewish commonwealth and early Christianity.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com