2017-2018 Katz Center Fellowship Program: "Nature between Science and Religion: Jewish Culture and the Natural World"

The fellowship program invites roughly twenty scholars each year to conduct research on a specific theme within the various fields of Judaic studies. Each fellow is given an office at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in downtown Philadelphia, and receives research support from the Katz Center's staff and librarians.

During the course of the year the fellows work on their individual projects and meet at weekly seminars to discuss their on-going research in the company of their colleagues. Intellectual camaraderie--sharing and mutual learning alongside scholars with diverse but focused interests--is the essence of the Katz Center's program. The fellows have ample opportunity to get involved with the academic life on Penn's campus, and to interact with students.

At the close of the year, the results of the year's research are presented at the two-day Gruss Colloquium in Judaic Studies, at which the fellows and other invited scholars present the findings, collective and individual, of the year's research and open new avenues of inquiry. Selected work from the year is collected into a volume that is published as part of the series Jewish Culture and Contexts, by the University of Pennsylvania Press.


For its 2017–2018 fellowship year, the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies seeks applications from scholars asking new questions about the history of science, medicine and technology from the perspective of Jewish culture. This year will explore the theories, institutions, and paradigms that shaped how Jews have studied nature, and the ideas, applications, and cultural and religious consequences that emerged from such study.

The fellowship is open to scholars working on particular thinkers, texts or theories, as well as research projects that frame the subject in relation to Classical, Christian, Muslim, or secular approaches. This theme spans the entirety of Jewish history, and encompasses the history of science, the anthropology of science, philosophy, philology, and environmental studies, among other potentially relevant fields.

This theme shall embrace an interdisciplinary and comparative approach and encourages projects within fields of inquiry that bear on how Jews have understood, interacted with, or sought to intervene into nature. This could include but is not limited to: astrology, magic and other esoteric forms of knowledge, medieval and early modern natural philosophy, Zionism and its impact on scientific and medical practice, contemporary research in genetics, as well as mathematics and technology.

Among the larger questions that a fellowship application might address are:

  • How have Jews conceived, studied, and talked about nature and the natural world in different historical periods?
  • In what ways has Jewish scientific engagement in nature been shaped by religious belief and practice? What is the relationship between science and Halakhah, or between science and Jewish religious thought?
  • What can be learned by reframing Jewish engagement in nature within a broader context? What insights can be gleaned by comparing Jewish scientific interest with Islamic, Christian, or modern secular science? To what extent has science or medicine served as a medium of interaction and exchange with non-Jewish communities?
  • What can one learn about Jewish engagement in science by attending to the practices and institutions of scientific culture (e.g., universities, medical schools) or by examining the social and discursive practices of science?
  • How has Zionism shaped Jewish medical and scientific activity or vice versa?


The Katz Center invites applications from scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts at all levels, as well as outstanding graduate students in the final stages of writing their dissertations who will have received their Ph.D. before the start date of the fellowship.

Awards and appointments

Fellowships are awarded either for a full academic year or one semester (fall or spring). Stipend amounts are based on academic standing and financial need.

Application date
31 Oct 2016
1 term or 1 academic year
America United States Mid-Atlantic
Humanities Anthropology, Ethnology and Folklore Archaeology Architecture Art & Art History Classical Studies Digital Humanities History History & Philosophy of Science Linguistics Literature Media Studies Music & Musicology Philosophy Religion & Theology Social sciences Business and Administrative Sciences Communication Sciences Demography Economics Environmental Sciences Gender Studies Geography International Relations Law Pedagogic & Education Research Political science Psychology & Cognitive Sciences Social Anthropology Sociology
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 99 years
Grants available
Ca. 20