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Doctor of Hebrew Letters

Doctor of Hebrew Letters

Jewish Studies at Spertus Institute

At Spertus Institute, we embrace the idea that the wisdom of Jewish thought and the richness of Jewish experiences inform Jewish society and Judaism today. Our programs encourage personal reflection. Students grapple with Jewish ideas in the service of their personal, professional, and communal advancement.

Spertus Institute’s Doctor of Hebrew Letters (DHL) is designed specifically for in-service Jewish professionals, primarily rabbis, but may also be of interest to educators and communal service workers with an extremely high level of facility with classical Hebrew texts. It serves those seeking career enhancement, career change and personal edification. Unlike traditional degree programs, each student in the program undertakes an individualized process of learning. The program demands academic excellence balanced with skill-based knowledge directly applicable to those who desire to make a significant contribution to Jewish life. Applicants must have a masters degree in Jewish Studies (or equivalent) and significant facility with classical Hebrew texts to be considered for admission.

Learning Outcomes
Students in the DHL program learn to:

  • Demonstrate skills in a variety of methodologies and approaches by conceptualizing and critically analyzing key ideas, practices, and issues
  • Demonstrate skills in studying classical and modern Jewish religious literature, including Talmud, Midrash, Biblical and Talmudic commentaries, codes, and responsa, kabbalistic and Hasidic works, medieval Jewish ethical literature and pietica, and liturgies
  • Trace historically, conceptually, and analytically a variety of issues, ideas, and practices through the labyrinth of classical Jewish religious literature
  • Draw upon the resources of Jewish literature and historical experience to address issues and problems challenging contemporary Jewish life

Course Requirements (54 quarter-hour credits) 
Spertus Institute's Jewish Studies degree programs are offered on a quarter-term system, which allows for flexible and asynchronous registration and start dates. As a result, course credit is granted in quarter hours (as opposed to semester hours).

  • Reading Courses (7 courses, 3 credits each)
  • Independent Study or Seminar Text Based Courses (7 courses, 3 credits each)
  • Research and writing related to the Project Demonstrating Excellence (4 courses, 3 credits each)

Project Demonstrating Excellence 
The Project Demonstrating Excellence (PDE) is not a traditional thesis, but an applied, practical project grounded in traditional Jewish sources and intended to address current, setting-based issues. It is unique for each participant in the program, and is primarily completed offsite, under faculty advisement.

Reading Course Titles 

  • Jewish Thought
  • Jewish Ethics
  • Jewish Law (Halakhah)
  • Key Issues in Contemporary Jewry
  • Jewish Community: Historical and Sociological Developments
  • Elective Core Reading Course (for example, Spirituality, Mysticism, Prayer, "Great Books")
  • Additional work specifically related to the PDE

Is This Program For Me?

Contact Assistant Director for Recruitment Amie Barrish or 312.322.1707, who will meet you to discuss your goals.


Spertus Institute is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, 230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604.

Top image: Spice containers from the Spertus Institute collection. Photo by Tom Nowak. 

Applications accepted year round



Students may transfer credit to Spertus Institute for appropriate courses taken at an accredited institution of higher learning. However, regardless of the number of credit hours accepted by Spertus as transfers, all students must complete a minimum of 36 quarter-hour credits (the equivalent of one year of full-time study) registered at Spertus Institute (on campus or through distance learning).