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Jewish Studies Program

Courses

The following is a comprehensive list of courses offered by the Jewish Studies Program.  Please check the  current Schedule of Classes for a listing of the courses offered this semester.

10000: Introduction to Jewish Life and Religion

A general introduction to the religious and cultural civilization of the Jewish people. Emphasis given to life cycle events, the various ways in which Jewish life is practiced around the world, and special topics, including Jewish mysticism, American Jewish life, and a brief examination of traditional Jewish texts. This course includes a 20 hour learning-service component, where students work inside the Jewish community and bridge classroom work with fieldwork experience.

Introduction to Jewish Literature

This course surveys the literature and culture of the Jews from the Bible onward. We will discuss selected texts from the Hebrew Bible with an eye for conflict and resolution, highlighting themes such as crime and punishment, barrenness and fertility, piety and transgression, the divine and the human.  We will see the Bible texts as palimpsests, of sorts, whose themes are rewritten later in numerous exegetical modes, examining the Talmud and Midrash and Apocrypha and then Medieval literature as illustrative of this notion of revisiting and revising.  We will continue to trace the evolution of the text as a central concern of Jews throughout the centuries in legal, linguistic, religious, and cultural terms, investigating the Hasidic tales and their 19th and 20th century offshoots in Eastern Europe.  Jewish American fiction will round out the course, along with a taste of Modern Hebrew literature, underscoring the urgency of Biblical themes and religious tradition, translated and reworked for modern eyes and ears.

Introduction to Jewish American Literature

In this course we will make use of this country's great books to trace the experience of Jews in America from the beginning of the 20th Century to the present moment.  From their arrival on these shores they traversed new terrain literally but also metaphorically, with respect to language, religious observance, and cultural awareness. After a few decades, and almost paradoxically, they became so comfortable with their new hyphenated (Jewish-American) identity that they relished playing the role of outsider, and literature began to reflect this marginalized-cum-contented status. Once their marginalized roles were exhausted, American Jews began to appear in fiction as, simply, people. They became people with preoccupations stemming from sources other than their born identity; now they were Jews who grappled with their new and surprisingly strong attachments to Yiddishkeit, feminism, observance, family, Israel. It will be our privilege this semester to garner from these characters and their stories a particular understanding of Jewish identity, and Jewish-American identity plus a more universal appreciation of the general human condition and its wants, needs, hurts, and loves.

10411: Psychology of Religion

An investigation of religious behavior through the language of psychology. Major focus given to the writings of Freud, Fromm, Maslow and Hillman. Writings from anthro-pologists and sociologists of religion are also included, including Mircea Eliade, Alan Watts, Lawrence LeShan, Arnold van Gennep and Peter Berger. Examples from Jewish tradition will help concretize these many theoretical writings in a specific context.

28100: The Holocaust

A survey of the events leading to and encompassing the destruction of European Jewry. Attention is also given to the legacy of these events: the experience of the concentration camp survivor and the psychodynamic profile of both children of survivors and children of former Nazis. Jewish communal and world responses as well as moral and religious reflections are also explored.

31101: Modern Israeli Culture

This course will discuss the recent history of the State of Israel and its literary, linguistic, technological, medical, musical, culinary output in light of world opinion and politics.  Questions of Jewish and Israeli identity will be explored with an eye for the following dichotomies: the secular and the religious, the Jew and the Arab, the nostalgic and the forward-thinking.

31103: Judaism and Islam

31105: Jewish Life in New York

This course discusses the Jewish presence in New York from the beginning of the 20th Century with a special focus on the immigrant Jew and his acculturation and/or assimilation.  Readings by Yezierska and others highlight the Lower East Side beginnings and special presentations introduce the Bukharan community as well as the Hasidic community.

31106: Kabbalah: An Introduction

31108: Humor and Despair in Modern Jewish Fiction
This course will examine the literary trajectory of the American Jew from his immigrant beginnings to his contemporary lifestyle with respect to the depth of human feeling.  The fiction we will be reading focuses on characters who straddle two emotional camps: the joyful and the melancholy. We will investigate character development, narrative style, and the ways in which Jewishness informs the central themes of humor and despair. With fiction by Henry Roth, Delmore Schwartz, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Saul Bellow, Gerald Shapiro and others.

31111: Jewish Humor in Film


31113: The Jew in Hollywood Cinema

A historic accounting of the founding of the Hollywood studio system by Jewish immigrants and the effect that had on the (in)visibility of Jewish characters for decades to come from the silents to the talkies. This course will then delve into the first films to deal with anti-Semitism, Yiddish cinema, and continue on to the subsequent depictions of Jews since the '60s, including the adaptations of the novels of Philip Roth plus the movies of Woody Allen, unearthing the various ways that the medium of film translates Jewish culture, and how these translations of Jewish culture influence and are influenced by their implied audiences.

31116: The Jew in European Film

An examination of the complex post-Holocaust relationship between European Gentiles and Jews as delineated in both fiction and nonfiction features. How did the resuscitated film industry come to terms with the Nazi persecution from 1933-1945? How was the Jewish experience confronted? How were the masterminds of the atrocities, the victims, the bystanders, and the resisters depicted? Do the mediated images impart an air of fictionality to the events they represent? And how is Judaism now visualized by those to whom WWII is just a historical fact and not a memory? Films such as Night and Fog, Europa, Europa, and Shoah will be screened.

31118: Introduction to Jewish Music

The musical history of the Jewish people from ancient Israel through the modern period will be examined, including many areas of the Diaspora – Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Both liturgical and secular music are explored; lectures, discussions, multi-media selections and live demonstrations. Previous musical background is not required for this course.           

31201: Heretics and Believers

This course is divided into two parts. Part I will address issues of belief, heresy, community and dissent in the classical Jewish texts. Particular focus given to Elisha ben Abuyah, a first century Rabbi who is famous for leaving his community. Part II will investigate the question of whether Judaism has dogmas. If it does, what are Judaism's core beliefs? Particular attention here given to the Thirteen Principles of Maimonides, their origin and their impact.

31310: Holocaust in Film

This course does not focus on historical method or the genocide of World War II. Rather, it serves as a concentrated introduction to the ways, over the last 50 years, that the Holocaust has been approached through film. The initial cinematic attempts at portraying this event were largely from countries at or near the scene of genocide. They will be the films screened first. In more recent years, especially over the last decade, there has been a shift toward portraying the Holocaust from directors in this country. They will serve as a second focus.

31313: Angels and Demons in Modern Jewish Fiction

This course will investigate the angels and demons, real and imagined, that populate Jewish American texts of the second half of the twentieth century.  We will discuss the ways in which such manifestations should be understood.  Do demons represent history's calamities? Do angels stand in for the high moments?  How are characters informed by their relationship to their heritage?  How do they confront their inner angels and demons? With fiction by Bellow, R. Goldstein, Roth, Ozick, T. Rosenbaum, Malamud and others.

31315: The Hidden Children

This advanced seminar looks specifically at the phenomenon of Jewish children who were either physically hidden or had their identities concealed during the Holocaust. This course has a tripartite focus. First, an examination of the more troubling side of Jewish-Polish relations from a historical perspective. This research is recent, ongoing and disturbing. Secondly, a focus on the Polish non-Jews, who at tremendous risk to themselves and their families hid Jewish children. Finally, an examination of the experience of the hidden child, both then and now. When funding permits, this course will include a five-day trip with a former hidden child back to Poland to visit his or her rescuers. Open by permission only. JWST 28100 is a pre-requisite.

31316: Messianic Models in Judaism

The eventual arrival of the Messiah is integral to Jewish core beliefs and convictions. This class asks how Jews envisioned the advent of this redeemer and how they reacted to the various messianic contenders as they appear through history.

31408: Jews of Morocco

This advanced seminar will serve as intense survey of key elements of Moroccan Jewish life. To adequately introduce this topic, we need to have some basic review of "Moroccan" ways of making sense of the world and how those ideas seeped into and interacted with the Jewish community there. We will then spend some time looking at the not-so-clear relationship between the majority Muslim community and the Jews in its midst. The early appearance of the mellah, or Jewish ghetto, will be explored in its various facets as a partial way to understand this relationship. Further, the phenomenon of the hiloula, or veneration of a saint's tomb on the anniversary of his or her death, is a deeply Moroccan Jewish phenomenon with many parallels in the wider Moroccan community. An examination of the hiloula, too, will help us understand the nature of the Muslim-Jewish connection. Finally, we look at how the Jewish community in Morocco may have looked in times past and how it looks now. We will be able to gain some understanding of how the Moroccan Jewish community may have functioned through both eyewitness accounts and more scholarly reconstructions. How the community looks in more recent times, through the filter of Western eyes, will be the final topic of our study.

31500: The Woman in Modern Jewish Fiction

This course will survey short stories and novels by modern Jewish writers, and focus on the characterization of the Jewish woman.  The class will discuss differences between the way men and women as authors depict their fictional females, and will explore what, if anything, constitutes the essence of the Jewish woman character.  What qualities do these women soak up from their surroundings? What effect does history have on the formation of these women as strong or weak personalities? How do societal pressures exert themselves on a Jewish woman?  How might the women be differently rendered if they weren't Jewish?  Does the woman as intellectual character constitute a threat to her male counterparts? Is there such a thing as "the typical Jewish mother?" Fiction by Malamud, Roth, Ozick, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Delmore Schwartz, I.B. Singer, and others.

31502: The Jew in Film and Fiction

This class will examine the portrayal of Jewish characters in (mostly) post-WWII fiction and film; examination of the way directors and writers treat stereotypes and stock characters; investigation of the nuanced depiction of complex characters and exploration of what role religion plays in these depictions.  Further, this course will look at the representation of women compared to men, the portrayal of parents and their expectations, talk about the significance of children, examine the importance of bearing witness to tragedy, investigate the way in which stories change when subjected to different media, and discuss, in general, the larger questions that are posed by being Jewish in America. Films include The Jazz Singer, Gentleman's Agreement, The Pawnbroker, Annie Hall, A Life Apart, Trembling Before God. Fiction includes texts by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Rebecca Goldstein.

31503: Jewish Dreams, Jewish Nightmares

This course will introduce students to Twentieth Century Jewish American fiction and explore the way such fiction presents the best and the worst scenarios for Jewish protagonists in America, their newly adopted home.  We will examine the position of the Jew as outsider and as insider, as lover and beloved, as paranoiac and as victim, as tragedian and comedian, as angelic and demonic.  Special attention will be paid to the writers of the 1950s and 1960s whose work represents the Jewish renaissance in American literature.

31510: Introduction to the Talmud

An introduction to classical rabbinic literature with an emphasis on the Talmud. This course is divided into four units: (1) Laws of Lost Objects (2) Laws of the Sukkah (3) Laws of Marriage (4) Talmudic Tales. The class will be working with primary texts in translation.

31515: The Jews of Sosua

This advanced seminar will examine the unique Jewish community of Sosua. Particular attention will be given to the Sosua settlement from the time of the Evian Conference in 1938 through the contemporary period. This course includes a five day trip among the Jewish communities of the Dominican Republic. Open by permission only. JWST 10000 is a prerequisite.

31602: The Bible as Literature/Bible and its Stories

This course will consider some of the major figures of the Hebrew Bible with an eye for binaries.  How are these figures both ordinary and extraordinary?  How do they incorp-orate the sacred and the profane into their everyday lives?  How are the women and men in these stories at once close to their god and impossibly far away?  How might modern readers see themselves projected into these stories?  What do contemporary writers offer in their renderings? Primary texts culled from Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Jonah, Job, Esther, and Ruth. Secondary texts from contemporary essayists and fiction writers include Rebecca Goldstein, Norma Rosen, Cynthia Ozick, Gerald Shapiro.

31608: Biblical Archaeology

This course examines the myriad issues in Biblical archaeology, including the chronological periods not mentioned in the Bible, the establishment of the early farming communities and later Bronze and Iron age cities, the interconnections with neighboring cultures, and the archaeology of conquest (Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman).  We will consider not only the archaeological record in how it conforms to the Bible but how it may contradict it, and explore not only temple and city structures but the remains of cult and daily use objects.

31700: Jewish Law and Ethics

This course explores the intersection between Jewish law and ethics from a variety of traditional sources. Among the topics included are: abortion, euthanasia, birth control, "lifeboat ethics", the white lie and the boundaries of truth, the ethics of privacy, civil disobedience, capital punishment, business ethics, animal ethics, the ethics of charity, adultery.

31702: God and Evil in Judaism

During this course, students will be expected to consider, discuss, and interpret the philosophical argument of theodicy and how it relates to Jewish Studies.  We will investigate the ancient extra-Biblical texts relating to the problem of evil, and analyze examples from Bible.   Students will also compare and contrast post-Holocaust questions concerning the God's role in the issue of evil, and will defend these arguments in oral debates.  Through writing based assignments, students will employ critical thinking skills in analyzing text and constructing arguments based on citing the texts, and will develop stronger writing skills by engaging in different types of writing.  Finally, students will gain a stronger understanding of Biblical texts and the complexity of the role of God in Jewish studies.
31705: Jews of Latin America

31708: Introduction to Biblical Commentaries

This course will begin with a reading of some of the most famous passages in the Torah in English translation and then look at English translations of the later, rabbinical commentaries on those same passages. Many of the commentators explain a passage by asking a question and then presenting another story: What was the very first thing created on the world's first day? What kind of fruit did Adam and Eve eat that caused them to be sent out from Eden? Were other bodies of water affected by the parting of the Red Sea? This course will look at the rabbi's answers to these questions and then develop a new set of questions inspired by these commentaries.

31803: Jesus the Jew

This course examines the figure of Jesus from a Jewish perspective.  Jesus of Nazareth emerged at a time of great upheaval in the Roman province of Judea.  Political upheavals in the Roman administration of the province met with the challenges of religious change within Judaism and social transformation in both the Jewish and Greco-Roman communities.  We see Jesus as a product of Herodian politics, the charismatic influences of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai, the mystical Essene community based near Qumran, and the Hellenization of Judaism in the first century.  We also consider the figure of Jesus as a Jew in the early Christian movements, especially in the Ebionite Christian communities.  Issues such as the adherence to Law, Rabbinic interpretation of Law, the messianic movement, prophecy, magic, social reform, and growing anti-Semitism will be discussed.

32006: History of the Afterlife

This course begins with an analysis of current and ongoing scientific research on both the near-death experience and reincarnation. The second half of this course surveys Jewish views of the afterlife as they have evolved from the early Biblical period through today. This course concludes with an examination of parallels which may appear between current research and traditional perspectives.

32012: Jewish Spiritual Medicine

Throughout history wherever Jews have settled they have become distinguished as physicians and healers. This course will explore the role of Jewish tradition in directing Jews towards the healing arts, the biblical, rabbinic and kabalistic texts that encouraged Jews to study and practice medicine and the traditional approaches to healing taught by Jewish tradition. In pre-modern times Jewish Doctors viewed their work as a sacred calling in collaboration with God. Later there was often the perception that Jewish Doctors practiced differently than others because they were aware of magical or mystical practices. What inspired these Jewish healers to become involved in Medicine? We will learn that "healing" from a traditional Jewish perspective involves mind, body and spirit. By studying the mystical and kabbalistic perspectives on the Torah (Bible), Talmud and Codes of Jewish law, we will learn many of the ancient practices that inspire to revere the practice of medicine.

Elementary Hebrew 12100:

This course will introduce students to the basics of Modern Hebrew--its alphabet, grammar, idiom, and some of the cultural references it calls to mind. No prior Hebrew knowledge is required for this course. By the end of the term, you will likely be able to read and converse on a basic level.

Elementary Intermediate Hebrew 12200:

This course will continue to introduce students to the basics of Modern Hebrew--its alphabet, grammar, idiom, and some of the cultural references it calls to mind. By the end of the term, you will likely be able to read and converse on an intermediate level. Prerequisite of Hebrew 12100 or placement via proficiency exam.