In recent years, a new methodological connection has been forged between the disciplines of history and law through the study of legal theory. The CJL graduate fellowship capitalizes on these interdisciplinary connections by integrating Anglo-American legal theory into the study of Jewish law and Jewish history, in order to provide a new methodological tool for re-thinking Jewish law as well reconsidering Anglo-American legal theory through the example of Jewish law.
Jewish texts from all periods of historical inquiry are infused with legal language and legal ideas. The academic study of Jewish law, however, often focuses on historical, social and cultural forces that impact law, without considering the ways in which legal theories – ideas about what law is and how law works – have impacted Jewish history. On the other side of the coin, legal theory stands to gain much from Jewish law. In the Diaspora, Jewish law not only survived but flourished for centuries—indeed for two millennia — without a state or central judicial institution and always within other legal jurisdictions. Jewish law pushes the boundaries of how legal theory understands law, the limits of jurisdictional boundaries, and the possibilities of plural legal communities. It thus represents an overlooked resource for legal theory as law and nation-states confront today’s globalized world.
These fellowships introduce students to the foundational texts of legal theory, as well as several essential legal-theoretical questions in Jewish law. The CJL fellowships focus on the intellectual and philosophical content of the issues discussed, while simultaneously serving as a broader introduction to interdisciplinary studies.