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Within the Department – Jewish Studies

JS 1002W/1002 – Introduction to Jewish Studies
Introduction to Judaism and Jewish history through philosophical, political, social, psychological, and artistic perspectives. Biblical studies; culture, philosophy, and literature. Antiquity and the medieval world; modern and contemporary experience.


JS 1010 – Introduction to Judaism
Judaism from the ancient Near East to the present day. The Jewish life cycle. Varieties of Jewish practice throughout history. Interaction and dialogue with other religious communities, and the challenges posed by modernity in the wake of Jewish ‘enlightenment’ and political emancipation. In this course, we will explore the development of Jewish religion from its foundations in the ancient Near East to its contemporary manifestations ranging from the secular to the Orthodox. Drawing on the literature from the field of Religious Studies, we will consider the central questions Judaism seeks to answer and we will study how interaction and dialogue with other religious communities throughout two millennia of diaspora has shaped and continues to shape Judaism. We will examine the Jewish life cycle and the varieties of Jewish expression throughout history, as well as the challenges Judaism faces in modernity in the wake of Jewish “enlightenment” and political emancipation.


JS 1040 – Intro to Modern Jewish History
Meaning and origins of modern Jewish history from 1492. The diverse experiences of Jewish communities across the globe. Men’s and women’s redefinition of Jewish identity as they confronted modernity. Rise of secular rights for Jews but also of new forms of persecution.


JS 1111 – First Year Seminar (Offerings vary)

  • Jews in Hollywood
    Immigrant Jews built the twentieth century movie industry as a patriotic U.S. fantasyland. We’ll examine how Jews created the Hollywood studio system and how Hollywood has chosen to represent and often not represent Jews. We will discuss roles in front of and behind the cameras. We’ll ask why Jewish characters virtually disappeared from American screens by the late 1930s. We will examine charges of Hollywood “collaboration” with Nazi Germany, and we’ll look at Holocaust refugees’ contributions to American film. We’ll also discuss the blacklisting of accused communists during the Cold War. We will conclude with contemporary popular film.
  • Jewish Response to Catastrophe
    “In every age, someone rises up to destroy us,” reads the Passover Haggada. Existential threats seem to be part of the very fiber of Jewish self-consciousness; a famous 1986 essay even described the Jews as “the ever-dying people.” This course will explore the response of Jewish texts and tradition to the crises of history, and the way in which those responses have in turn shaped the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.
  • Jews and Muslims: A Modern History
    Independent learning and inquiry in an environment in which students can express knowledge and defend opinions through intensive class discussion, oral presentations, and written expression.
    What do you think of when you hear the words “Jews and Muslims”? Can we think of Muslims and Jews together without conjuring a vision of raised guns and bombs exploding? What is the history of Muslim-Jewish relations beyond the images of violence in the Middle East that so often flash across our television screens? Turning our focus to Jewish communities indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, this class seeks to answer that question by covering a neglected chapter of Muslim-Jewish relations. It is a history of Jews and Muslims who lived as neighbors, in cooperation as well as in conflict. We will look at the experiences of individuals who lived through periods of major upheavals (including the impact of colonialism, imperialism, nationalism and decolonization) in order to understand the effect these different processes had on inter-communal relations across time and space. Our sources will include letters, newspaper articles, memoirs, histories, ethnographies, and photographs. Special attention will be given to reading these sources critically and to honing writing skills.
  • From Einstein to Chomsky: Revolutionary Sciences in Jewish America
    This course will survey work of Jewish writers, scientists and philosophers who were interested in “new scientific techniques” aimed at uncovering the structural, mathematical, psychic, poetic or biological basis of language. The impetus for this interest came from an age-old concern with “magical language,” a belief that new technologies would require new standardized approaches to language analysis, and, later on, a Cold War interest in propaganda, anti-propaganda, decoding and translating. The fact that so much of this work was being undertaken by left-leaning Jews adds a whole dimension to this crucial part of our recent history.
  • Reading across the Boundaries: Arab and Israeli Literature and Culture
    This seminar will focus on ways contemporary literature and other arts in Israel and surrounding Arab countries have been informed and influenced by religious traditions (primarily, though not exclusively, Jewish and Islamic) as well as various other aspects of culture. At the center of our discussion, thus, will be the intriguing, complex relationship between culture and artistic production. Questions regarding language, identity, gender, geography, borders, exile and migration, history, homeland, and memory will figure prominently.
  • Gender, Sexuality, and Desire in Jewish Literature
    In this course we will examine representations of gender, sexuality, and desire in Jewish literature. Our readings will span a broad range of literary texts, from biblical stories to contemporary American Yiddish Literature. This course will serve as an introduction to both gender studies and Jewish literature. No prior knowledge of Jewish culture is required. We will begin our discussion by looking at biblical texts and modern poetry to see how contemporary poets interpret and reinscribe biblical motifs for a modern audience. We will then move to prose, looking for example at the first Jewish autobiography written by a woman in 17th century German. Our readings will also take us to 19th century Eastern Europe and early 20th Western European literature to examine how Jewish writers imagine their own bodies and how Jewish bodies became a source of European cultural anxiety. Finally we will turn to the figure of the “Jewish Mother” in contemporary American Jewish Culture. As we read, we will interrogate how gender categories shift in different historical and social contexts; how Jewish men and women write and represent gender differently; and how gender intersects with sexual and cultural identity. Our discussions will be structured around close readings of texts, paying attention to formal issues and narrative strategies. The course will be writing intensive, practicing skills such as persuasive argumentation, close literary analysis, and correct usage of literary and secondary sources.
  • Civil Rights and Wrongs: Black-Jewish Relations in the 1950s and 1960s
    Blacks and Jews have shared a long and varied history together, particularly in the American context, as there have been strong forces pulling the two groups simultaneously together and apart.  Through an examination of historical and literary texts, as well as visual images, this course will explore that shared history, focusing on the period of its greatest intensity, the 1950’s and 1960’s.  In exploring this history, the course will show examples of Black-Jewish relations ranging from the heights of co-operation to the depths of conflict, with many halfway points in between. Because this is a First Year Writing Seminar, the most fundamental goal of the course is to help students to understand the process of college-level writing and to develop their written communication skills.  In terms of content, the primary goal of the course is to teach students about the history of Black-Jewish relations in America, particularly in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Since these two groups have played such an integral part in the nation’s history, however, a second and more abstract goal is to get students to think of ethnicity and diversity in America as being more complex than simple Black (or Red or Yellow or Brown) and White.  An ancillary goal is to expose students to little known but important works of creative art (novels, paintings, films) that comment on Black-Jewish relations; looking at these materials will allow students to put a personal face on what is sometimes an impersonal history.
  • Radical Jews from Karl Marx to Noam Chomsky
    In this course we will be study leading “radical” Jewish intellectuals and writers of the 19th and, moreover, 20th century by examining the basic ideas they promoted, and by assessing the approach they take to social issues as regards their Judaism or the Jewish community from which they emerged. Even if Judaism was of little or no importance to many of the crucial radical figures of this period, there is surely something in their upbringing that is reflected in the approach of the many Russian or (Eastern) European Jews who worked in this tradition, including the large number thereof who came to or were born in the United States, including Erich Fromm, Lowenthal, Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Zellig Harris and Noam Chomsky – to name but a few. Several of these individuals least studied and practiced some elements of Judaism, and for others Judaism played an important role in their life and work; but he ideas they promoted and the allegiances they formed teach us a lot about Jewish intellectual life, the New York intellectuals, and the interesting heritage of Jewish radicalism.
  • In a Pluralistic Age: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Spain
    Independent learning and inquiry in an environment in which students can express knowledge and defend opinions through intensive class discussion, oral presentations, and written expression. Between 711 and 1492 Jews Christians and Muslims created one of the richest and most fertile of medieval civilizations. In this seminar, we shall evaluate the settings and conditions for this culture’s extraordinary pooling of talent and attachment to tolerance, but also evaluate the reasons for its eventual end.
  • Music and Identity in Jewish Traditions
    This seminar will focus on music and identity in global Jewish cultures. The seminar will provide an introduction and background to the cultures, contexts, and historical development and structure of Jewish communities throughout the world. Seminar participants will consider the ways that music is adopted, adapted, and transformed when performed by individual Jewish communities.


JS 1200 – Classical Judaism
History of the Jewish people from biblical origins through the 2nd century CE. The Hellenistic Age, the Age of the Maccabees, Roman rule, and the rise of the Rabbis and Rabbinic literature.


JS 1220 – Jews in the Medieval World
Jewish experience from the 2nd century CE to 1492. Legal status of Jews; economic and religious developments. Burning the Talmud, age of charters, reaction to the Crusades, Jewish expulsion from Spain.
This course will examine the political, economic, social, and cultural experience of the Jews in the medieval period, from the closing of the Talmud in Babylonia in the early sixth century through the composition of the Shulchan Arukh by Joseph Caro in the late sixteenth. Over the course of this millennium of history, we will study the expansion of Jewish life in the Mediterranean diaspora, the flourishing of Jewish life in medieval Iberia, and the rise of Jewish communities in Christian Europe.


JS 1240 – Perspectives in Modern Jewish History
Meaning and origins of modern Jewish history from 1492. The diverse experiences of Jewish communities across the globe. Men’s and women’s redefinition of Jewish identity as they confronted modernity. Rise of secular rights for Jews but also of new forms of persecution.


JS 2100 – The New Testament in its Jewish Context
Documents of the origin of Christianity and the social, literary, ideological, and theological contexts in which they emerged and which they reflect. Various critical methodologies employed in interpreting them.
This course offers an introduction to the materials documenting the origins of Christianity, to the social, literary, ideological, and theological contexts in which they emerged and which they reflect, and to the various critical methodologies employed in interpreting them.


JS 2150 – Issues in Rabbinic Literature
History of Rabbinic thought from its origins to the Middle Ages through the reading of central Rabbinic texts. Capital punishment, women in Rabbinic culture, sectarianism, and the power structures of Roman Palestine and Sasanian Babylonia.


JS 2210W – Hebrew Literature in Translation
Origins and development in Eastern Europe from the nineteenth century to postmodern Israeli literature. The relationship between historical transformations and literary form.


JS 2215 – Modern Yiddish Literature in Translation
Late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. Diaspora, minority writing, gender, from shtetl to city, and the Holocaust. What is modern Yiddish literature and why does it matter? A diasporic language and literature unattached to any single nation, the story of modern Yiddish literature is the story of immigrants, revolutionaries, and rebels. How did Yiddish writers imagine themselves in a world whose political borders were constantly shifting and in a language whose future was always uncertain? From the shtetl to the Soviet metropolis, from the Lower East Side to Tel-Aviv, we’ll read works of Yiddish literature that document the major transformations of the twentieth century by Sholem Aleichem, Fradel Shtok, Kadia Molodowsky, Dovid Bergelson, Peretz Markish, Celia Dropkin, Anna Margolin, and Abraham Sutzkever.


JS 2220 – Israeli Culture Through Film
Cinematic representations of modern Israeli culture. Historical, social and political aspects. Constructions of national identity. Treatments of war and conflict, ethnicity, gender, Zionism, and more.


JS 2230W – American Southern Jews in Life and Literature
From colonial times to the present. Interactions between Southern Jews and other Southerners, and between Southern and Northern Jews. The Civil War, Jewish economic activities, and the civil rights movement.


JS 2240W – Black-Jewish Relations in Post-War American Literature and Culture
The historical relationship between African Americans and Jewish Americans and its portrayal in novels, short stories, and films by artists from both communities.


JS 2250W – Witnesses Who Were Not There: Literature of the Children of Holocaust Survivors
Fiction and non-fiction produced by children of Holocaust survivors.
While much has been written about and by those who survived the German concentration camps during World War II, both fiction and nonfiction, relatively little has been written about and by the children of these survivors. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, these “second generation” children began to raise their voices and discuss the Holocaust’s impact on their lives, though they were not themselves present in the camps. This course is designed to look at these responses, as seen in both memoirs and fictional productions, in an attempt to understand the rationales and motivations behind their authors’ diverse reactions to the events.

JS 2255 – Creative Writing With Jewish Perspectives

Students will try writing memoir, short stories with first-person and third-person narrators, dialogue-driven stories, diary/letter stories, science fiction stories, stage play scenes for two characters, and for many characters, flirtation scenes, family scenes, screenplays telling a story visually, and intercutting between locations, fixed
form and free verse poems, songwriting … and in each case, we’ll read works by great writers demonstrating genres, techniques and options that students explore. Some works we read will have a Jewish context; many will not. No student has to write about the “Jewish experience” in this class, or about their own religious or ethnic background, though they certainly can; hopefully, students will challenge themselves with new possibilities in this multi-genre creative writing course and discover work by some cool famous writers. Spring 2024 MWF 3:35 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.


JS 2260 – Coming of Age in Jewish Literature and Film
The transition of young Jewish protagonists into adulthood as portrayed in literary works and films from Europe, Africa, and the Americas. This course examines coming-of-age novels, stories, memoirs, and films from multiple Jewish cultural perspectives. What does it mean to grow up in the Russian empire in the late nineteenth century?  In French colonial Tunisia in the 1930s? In 1950s American suburbia? What are the different challenges that young men and women face as they embrace or reject the Jewish lives their parents lived? How did they relate to their burgeoning sexuality? We will address a range of topics in the course including minority identity, the Holocaust, and Zionism, sexuality and gender, and inter-ethnic and inter-faith relationships.


JS 2270W – Jewish Storytelling
Twentieth-century short fiction and narrative traditions. The transition from religious to secular cultural forms. Immigration and ethnic literary forms. All works are in English or English translation from Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian.


JS 2280W – Jewish Humor
The flowering of Jewish humor, especially in the U.S. during the twentieth century. Vaudeville, radio comedy, and the Golden Age of television. The careers and works of influential comics, writers and filmmakers, and the development of stand-up comedy. The effect of Talmudic disputes, Yiddish wordplay, and the history of Diaspora life upon secular Jewish comedians, essayists, playwrights, and fiction writers.


JS 2290W – Imagining the Alien: Jewish Science Fiction
Science Fiction and speculative fiction by Jewish writers in cultural context.  Aliens, robots, and secret selves; time travel: Utopia, political critique, and questions of Jewish identity.


JS 2300 – Modern Jewish Thought
Jewish intellectual responses to major transformations of modernity. Impact of secularization, universalism, pluralism, nationalism, and gender theories on Jewish thought and identity. Conflicting perspectives of tradition, education, culture, and religion. Relationship between Israel and the diaspora.


JS 2320 – Freud and Jewish Identity
Analysis of rhetoric and themes in selected writings of Sigmund Freud and his times, development of assimilation and of anti-Semitic repudiation.
This course examines selected writings of Sigmund Freud within the context of contemporary Viennese Jewish life and antisemitic discourses. Through an analysis of Freud’s rhetoric-figures, topoi, exemplar, emphases, omissions, anomalies-it explores how psychoanalytic theory developed in response to the traumas of Jewish assimilation and of antisemitic repudiation-whether by acting them out or working through them.  In particular it explores the intersections of notions of gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity in Freud’s work where those responses especially emerge. Freud’s psychoanalytic writings will be supplemented by his letters as well as by material on the social and cultural history of his times.


JS 2330 – Is God Guilty? The Problem of Evil in Judaism
The classic problem of theodicy: If there is a God, how can there be evil in the world? Jewish approaches to the question, from the Bible to after the Holocaust. Origin, nature, and representations of evil from Scripture through the Hasidic masters. Reflections of modern thinkers.
The problem of evil and seemingly inexplicable suffering not only poses a major challenge to the belief in a moral God but also to religion in general. Although it is a problem that cannot be solved and thus may appear as a futile intellectual activity, it is also—simply put—a problem that won’t go away. What do changes in our understanding of the problem of evil reveal about changes in our understanding of ourselves, of our place in the world, and human agency? We will begin our discussion with the Book of Job, which sets the framework for all subsequent reflections on the theme. Our primary focus will be on modern Jewish responses to and rationalizations of the experience of suffering (“justified suffering,” “meaningful suffering”) and how they shape Jewish ethics. The course concludes with post-Shoah (Holocaust) theodicies and anti-theodicies.


JS 2340 – Jewish Philosophy after Auschwitz
Critical responses to social and political institutions and the corresponding modes of thought that made Auschwitz possible and continue to sustain the barbarism that many leading philosophers have identified at the heart of culture.


JS 2400 – American Jewish Life
Diversity, individualism, and change in Jewish life. Food and culture, memory and identity, gender and assimilation, Reform-Conservative-Orthodox culture wars
This class explores key trends, innovations, dilemmas and flashpoints in contemporary American Jewish life. We ask how American Jews wrestle with key dilemmas of the modern condition, including tensions between continuity and change, individualism and group belonging, and unity and diversity. Treating these questions will open a window onto diverse aspects of the American Jewish experience such as food and culture, memory and identity, gender and family, religion and politics, Israel and diaspora, and more. This course is intended to enrich students’ understanding of the American Jewish experience and to help them develop their ability to think sociologically about religion, ethnicity, and social groups more generally.


JS 2420W – American Jewish Songwriters
From Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley through the invention of the Broadway musical, to Brill Building writers, the birth of rock and roll, folk singers and the present day. Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Lou Reed, Billy Joel.


JS 2450 – The Jewish Diaspora
Changing Jewish communities, especially outside the United States and Israel, in macro-historical context. Post-communist European Jewish identity. New global diasporas and their relationship to the largest Jewish communities in Israel and the United States
Of the world’s 13 million or so Jews, about 80% live the United States and Israel, divided roughly equally between the two countries. Most of the remainder live in Europe, Latin America and Canada. This course focuses primarily on this 20% of the world’s Jews who live outside of the US and Israel. It seeks to provide an understanding of Jewish diversity by examining the ways that contemporary Jewish communities are being shaped by broader global contexts of the post-Cold War world. We examine the migrations of Jews from the former Soviet Union, from Africa, and from Israel, considering the nature of diaspora communities—populations whose very dispersion creates symbolic, social and affective connections with multiple places. We examine how the fall of communism and the moves toward European unification have raised new questions about the legacy of the Holocaust and of Jews’ place in European society. We examine the sometimes precarious political and economic situation of Latin American Jews, and the surprising differences that distinguish Canadian Jews from their neighbors to the south. Interspersed throughout are sessions devoted to connections that tie these different Jewish communities to one another. The course is structured around conversations with local experts. Using web-based video conferencing, we engage with scholars, activists and community leaders from around the world.


JS 2500 – Modern Israel
Internal dynamics, debates, and conflicts within Israeli society. Political, social, and cultural transformations from the 1980s to the present.


JS 2520 – Zionism: Politics, Religion, and Ethnicity
Tensions among religion, nationalism, and political activism. Translations of Messianism into a secular program. Criticism from within and without the movement.


JS 2540 – Power and Diplomacy in the Modern Middle East
History of the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries with an emphasis on U.S. involvement after 1945. U.S. relationship with Israel, and its impact on the region.


JS 2555 – Creative Writing from Jewish Perspectives
Creative writing course with readings as broad how-to guides. How Jewish and non-Jewish writers engage with or distance themselves from their socio-ethnic/religious identity. Reading and writing in multiple genres including short stories, autobiography, poetry, plays, screenplays and song lyrics. Exploration of different styles and techniques of writing, such as narrative voice and dialogue.
We look at creative non-fiction, fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry and songwriting over the course of the term, and students try their hands at those genres. I provide examples of established writers using different techniques for each kind of writing; for example, if we are talking about unreliable first-person narrators, and first-person narrators who are peripheral characters on the sidelines watching events, we read short stories with those kinds of narrators, before students write their own. I’d do that in any fiction writing class — but since this is a JS course, all the writers of stories and plays and so forth that we look at are Jewish. Some write about Jewish characters and subjects; many do not. We discuss issues like writing what you know, and imagination, and the ethics of writing in the voice of a character from a different ethnic/cultural/religious background than your own, and human universals and appropriation and so on … but no one taking the course would have to write about Jewish subjects, whether they are Jewish or not. We’ll read some science fiction stories, and a lot of stories about people navigating relationships, or situations that come up in every life. If we read Metamorphosis by Kafka — we’ll talk about writing surreal and experimental fiction, and about killing of one’s point of view character before the end of the story and continuing the story without him. We’ll also talk about whether there is something “Jewish” about this novella. We read fiction by people like Sholem Aleichem and Cynthia Ozick and Dorothy Parker and a bit of Herman Wouk and JD Salinger. We look at plays and scenes by David Mamet and Ariel Dorfman, and Kaufman and Hart, and Paula Vogel. We look at fixed form poems, like Emma Lazarus’s sonnet on the Statue of Liberty, and rhyming poems by Karl Shapiro, and also at poems by Philip Levine and Allen Ginsberg. We look at poems that are also songs by Leonard Cohen, and songs by Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein and Kander and Ebb and Sondheim and Dylan and Janis Ian and Lou Reed and Billy Joel … and students write their own songs, or song lyrics. It’s a class for trying out different kinds of writing, and maybe being turned on to some first-rate writers.


JS 2560 – Social Movements in Modern Jewish Life
How social movements shape contemporary American Jewish culture and politics. Explores movements internal to Judaism and those bringing religion into the public sphere.
Social movements change worlds. They mobilize and empower people to shape policy and to create new visions for social life. Social movements have toppled governments and built countries. They have liberated some and victimized others. They have overturned traditions and changed values and lifestyles the world over. For over a century, Jewish life has been and is being molded / buffeted / challenged / invigorated / riven by social movements. Some of these regard the status of Jews in relation to governments and non-Jewish populations. Others focus internally to reshape Jewish institutions and culture. Some do both. It is almost impossible to understand Jewish life today without making reference to movements such as Zionism, socialism, feminism, the Soviet Jewry cause, and the counterculture-inspired “greening of Judaism.” This class examines the major Jewish social movements of the past century to understand the role they have played in creating the Jewish world of today. Through this, students will come to better understand the nexus of religion and politics in Jewish life, the cultural dimensions of political movements, and the major sociological approaches to the study of social movements.


JS 2600 – Muslims and Jews
Muslim-Jewish relations from the beginning of Islam to the present. Mohammed and the Jews, Jewish roles in Islamic cultures, status of Muslims in contemporary Israel, recent Jewish exodus from Muslim lands
In this course we shall look at the experience of the Jews in their contact with the world of Islam, from roughly the rise of that faith in the seventh century until the period of the Crusades, in the twelfth century.  Our aim will be to look at Jewish history in its specifically Islamic context and to see how it interacted with that context and how that context helped to shape it. In the first section of the course, we shall look at frameworks, and see what these were and how they helped to define Jews among their neighbors. In the middle section, we shall concentrate on a number of topics and case-studies, considering why Jews flourished in certain specific fields and locations rather than others. And in the final meetings we shall look at how Jews and non-Jews saw each other and at some methodological aspects of the study of Jewish history among Muslims.


JS 2620 – Jews in Egypt
Jewish life and experience under Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Muslim rule in Egypt from the Ptolemies to 1956 and after. Jewish self-government, economic life, and culture over twenty-three centuries, as seen through letters, documents, and imaginative literature.


JS 2640 – Jews and Greeks
From the seventh century BCE to ca. 1500 CE. Sites of interaction, languages, cultural ties, religious tensions, political conflicts, and competing philosophies. Works by Elephantine, Alexander the Great, the Maccabees, the Septuagint, Aristeas, Josephus.
Jews lived in Egypt from before the Ptolemies until 1956. In this course we explore the varieties of Jews and of Jewish life and experience under the many different regimes and cultures that have dominated Egypt in the last thirty centuries – Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, British, Arabs; pagans, Christians, Muslims. We read texts by and about Jews, written originally in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, and other languages, including letters and documents from Elephantine; Philo; writings of Saadya Gaon; letters and poems by Maimonides and Judah Halevi; documents from the Cairo Geniza of the middle ages; a special prayer-chronicle for Purim from the seventeenth century; and more. We look at how the Jews governed themselves and at how government treated the Jews; at economic life; and at the culture of the Jews in Egypt over twenty-two centuries.


JS 2700W – Judaism and Medicine
Medicine, healing, health, and disease in Jewish text, history, ritual, literature, and lived experience. Jewish encounters with Jewish and gentile medical expertise, disability, aging, and death. Jewish approaches to problems in biomedical ethics. Intersection of health, Jewish identity, and sex and gender.
You’ve heard the joke about how your parents want you to marry “a nice Jewish doctor.” But what else is there to the relationships between Jews, Judaisms, medicine, healing, injury, and illness?  How have different streams of Judaism understood health and medicine? How have medical discourses understood and depicted Jews and Judaism? And how have present-day Jewish ethicists dealt with the increasingly fraught and complex moral questions raised in contemporary medical contexts?


JS 3000 – Major Themes in Jewish Studies
The study of Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture. History of Jewish Studies, core perspectives, key methodologies, critical debates. Classical literature, current trends.


JS 3100 – The Holocaust
The history of the Holocaust: its origins, development, and its legacy in the context of Germany and European history.


JS 3210 – Reading Across Boundaries: Jewish and Non-Jewish Texts
Jewish and non-Jewish literary and historical texts studied in parallel so as to discover the differences between them. The course will consider texts from the ancient world to the early modern period and ask what constitutes Jewish writing and how it has been defined through time and geography. All readings will be in English.
What is Jewish about a Jewish text? Does it remain constant over time? Can we define a Jewish text as against a non-Jewish text? What does this sort of question tell us about the character of being Jewish, of Jewishness, culturally and in other ways?  Does language or subject tell us? Readership? How can we know? We shall look closely at a variety of texts, Jewish and non-Jewish. This course demands much reading and active participation in class discussion and writing. The texts will go from the ancient through the early modern period, each one generally paired with a related type of non-Jewish text.  The distant ancestor of this is in a sense Auerbach’s Mimesis, though this is intended more as a historical than a literary exercise.


JS 3350 – Christian-Jewish Relations in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Political and cultural history from the medieval persecutions to the expansion of religious toleration in the Enlightenment. Close consideration of legal toleration, banishments, re-admissions, and the impact of Christian reform movements.


JS 3890 – Special Topics (Offerings vary)

  • Secularism
    Secularism is a cultural phenomenon commonly associated with the contemporary world, especially the modern Western world. Its precise character, though, is quite elusive, pointing to attitudes and cultural forms that vary widely from each other. Secularism poses fundamental questions about the role of belief and the efficacy of religious practice, and it espouses instead the option of living life in terms of mainly human, this-worldly influences. In particular secularism is not mere atheism or anti-religion; rather, it advocates a separation of government, education, and various social functions and institutions from religious authority. The course aims to survey the complexities of secularism from a variety of angles:  history (ancient roots, developments since the Enlightenment and the rise of science), geography (variations from North America to South America to Europe to Asia to Africa to Australia), philosophy, religion (dominant traditions, popular movements, theism vis-à-vis atheism), ethics, law, sociology, economics, psychology, education, literature and art. By engaging these multiple facets, we hope to gain an appreciation for the conflicting forces within our own communities and in the global context. Guest lectures by several specialists from other university departments are planned. Students will explore a specific area of personal interest with a critical research paper.
  • Jewish Animals
    Throughout the centuries verbal and visual images of animals (pigs, dogs, vermin, rodents, apes, etc.) have been used to debase and bestialize Jews. What then is going on when Jewish writers employ such animal figures in their narratives and poems? After examining the history of such anti-Jewish representations, this course will analyze the animal tales of, among others, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Kolmar (Animal Dreams), H. Leivick (“The Wolf”), Bernard Malamud, Felix Salten (Bambi), Moacir Scliar (The Centaur in the Garden), Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man), and Art Spiegelman.
  • Alternative Modernities
    Is justice an obligation to the future or a debt to the past? Does progress demand that humanity unite as one or cultivate its diversity? How have modern secularized Christian and Jewish traditions approached these questions? Examine the works of Spinoza, Marx, Freud and others as they explore these questions and more.
  • Jewish and Christian Relations
    This course offers a brief history of relations between Christians and Jews and invites participants into critical engagement with present practices in light of that history. The course begins with a recognition that many of the worst examples of Jewish-Christian relations arise out of what might seem to be good intentions. But there can be critical gaps between intentions and consequences. This course particularly addresses gaps that arise in part because of failures to connect classroom learning in biblical studies, theology, history and ethics with lived practice beyond the classroom. This class asks students to make connections between theory and practice, and so to close some of the gaps between intention and consequence.


JS 4301 – Jewish Language and Paleography
Advanced study in a language of the Jewish people with a particular focus on the linguistic and paleographic features that define its cultural context. Each section focuses on one of the following languages: Aramaic, Ladino, Judaeo-Arabic, Rabbinic Hebrew, or Yiddish.


Within the Department – hebrew Language

HEBR 1101 – Elementary Hebrew
This course will provide introduction to alphabet, the basics of grammar, and elementary conversation in the Hebrew language. As the vocabulary will expand, grammatical structures will be incorporated through the exposure to different kinds of texts. Aspects of Israeli culture as well as differences between the standard language and the spoken language will be highlighted.


HEBR 1102 – Elementary Hebrew
Continuation of 1101. Greater stress upon conversation and grammar.


HEBR 2201 – Intermediate Hebrew
This course will concentrate on developing a significant level of linguistic and communicative competence in Hebrew. Active and passive lexicon will be expanded, and advanced grammatical structures will be introduced through exposure to different kinds of texts. Aspects of Israeli culture as well as differences between standard and spoken language will be discussed.


HEBR 2202 – Intermediate Hebrew
Continuation of 2201. Greater emphasis on reading and writing.


HEBR 2301 – Advanced Hebrew Grammar
Continuation of 2202. Emphasis on syntax and grammar supplemented by listening, speaking, and reading.


HEBR 2302W – Advanced Hebrew Composition
Continuation of 2301. Development of writing skills through the study of short stories, poems, articles, television, and web materials.


Outside the Department

  • ANTH 1201: Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 3202: The Collapse of Civilizations
  • CLAS 2100: History of the Ancient Near East
  • CLAS 2120: Greece and the Near East from Alexander to Theodosius
  • CLAS 2160: History of Roman Empire
  • CLAS 3010: The Ancient Origins of Religious Conflict in the Middle East
  • DIV 5444: The Holocaust Representation and Reflection
  • DIV 6608: Christian and Jewish Relations
  • ENGL 3370: The Bible in Literature
  • ENGL 3664: Jewish American Literature
  • EUR 2208: Conspiracy Theories and Rumors in European and U.S. History
  • FREN 4430: The Struggle of Encounter: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Literature
  • GER 2445: Nazi Cinema: The Manipulation of Mass Culture
  • GER 3344: Women at the Margins: German-Jewish Women Writers
  • HART 2260: Religious Art of the Roman Empire
  • HART 2765: Art Since 1945
  • HIST 1482: World War II
  • HIST 2160: Medicine in Islam
  • HIST 2170: Islam and the Crusades
  • HIST 2190: Last Empire of Islam
  • HIST 3210: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain
  • HIST 4960: Advanced Seminar in History of Art – Post-1945 Berlin
  • HUM 1610: The Golden Age of Islam
  • HUM 4554: The Qur’an and its Interpreters
  • MREP 2150: Music, Identity, and Diversity
  • MREP 2310: The Bible and Music
  • PHIL 2101: Hellenistic and Late Ancient Philosophy
  • PHIL 2102: Medieval Philosophy
  • PHIL 2109: Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy
  • PHIL 3005: Jewish Philosophy
  • PHIL 3006: Islamic Philosophy
  • PHIL 3011: Critical Theory
  • PSCI 2330: Middle East Politics
  • RLST 1200: Introduction to Judaism
  • RLST 1208: Themes in the Hebrew Bible
  • RLST 2210W: Constructions of Jewish Identity in the Modern World
  • RLST 2220: Jewish Ethics
  • RLST 2940: Great Books of Literature and Religion
  • RLST 3225: Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
  • RLST 3229: The Holocaust: Its Meaning and Implications
  • RLST 3270: Jewish Theories of Religion
  • RLST 3940: The Nature of Evil
  • RLST 4938: Marriage in the Ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible
  • RLST 4939: Religious Autobiography
  • RLST 6511: The Book of Genesis
  • RUSS 2434: Russian Cinema
  • RUSS 3231: Jews in Russian Culture: Survival and Identity
  • SOC 3702: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States
  • SOC 3204: Tourism, Culture and Place
  • SOC 3222: Sociology of Religion