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2012-13 Courses Approved for the Jewish Studies Major/Minor

Please click here for an archive of past courses.

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Interested students may also consult the graduate course page, as some graduate courses in Jewish Studies may be open to undergraduates by permission of the instructor.

Judaic Civilization 2012-2013

Two sequences of Judaic Civilization will be offered for 2012-2013, Jewish History and Society and Jewish Thought and Literature.  Both sequences meet the general education requirement in civilization studies; taking the courses in sequence is not required.


Jewish History and Society I-II-II

Students explore the ancient, medieval, and modern phases of Jewish culture(s) by means of documents and artifacts that illuminate the rhythms of daily life in changing economic, social, and political contexts. Texts in English.

JWSC 20001 (= NEHC 20401/30401, HIST 22113, CRES 20001). Jewish History and Society I. History of Ancient Israel. This section of the course concentrates on the ancient era of Jewish History and Society, beginning with the emergence of the kingdom of Israel in the tenth century B.C.E. D. Schloen. Autumn.

JWSC 20002 (= HIST 22406, NEHC 20402/30402, CRES 20002). Jewish History and Society II. Staff. Winter. (Not offered in 2013.)

JWSC 20003 (= HIST 22202, NEHC 20403/30403). Jewish History and Society III. Topic: Jews in Muslim Lands. The history of Jews in Muslim lands was typically told as either as a model of a harmonious of coexistence, or, conversely, as a tale of perpetual persecution. Our class will try to read beyond these modes of analysis, by looking into particular contexts and the unique historical circumstances of a variety of Jewish communities whose members lived under Muslim rule. The class will explore the ways in which Jewish culture—namely, theology, grammar, philosophy, and literature—thrived, and was transformed, in the medieval and early modern periods, as a result of its fruitful interactions with Muslim and Arab cultures. Likewise we will study how liberal and communist Jews struggled to attain equal rights in their communities, and their understanding of various concepts of citizenship. Finally, the class will study the problems faced by Jews from Muslim lands as they immigrated to Israel in the 1950s. The class will discuss such concepts as “Sephardim,” “Mizrahim,” and “Arab-Jews,” as well as “Dhimmis” and “People of the Book” and investigate how their meaning changed in various historical contexts. O. Bashkin. Spring.

Jewish Thought and Literature I-II-III

Students in this sequence explore Jewish thought and literature from ancient times until the modern era through a close reading of original sources. A wide variety of works is discussed, including the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and texts representative of rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewish philosophy, and modern Jewish culture in its diverse manifestations. Texts in English.

JWSC 20004 (= BIBL 31000, RLST 11004). Jewish Thought and Literature I: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a complex anthology of disparate texts and reflects a diversity of religious, political, and historical perspectives from ancient Israel, Judah, and Yehud. Because this collection of texts continues to play an important role in modern religions, new meanings are often imposed upon it. In this course, we will attempt to read biblical texts apart from modern preconceptions about them. We will also contextualize their ideas and goals through comparison with texts from ancient Mesopotamia, Syro-Palestine, and Egypt. Such comparisons will demonstrate that the Hebrew Bible is fully part of the cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East. To accomplish these goals, we will read a significant portion of the Hebrew Bible in English, along with representative selections from secondary literature. We will also spend some time thinking about the nature of biblical interpretation. J. Stackert. Autumn.

JWSC 20005 (= NEHC 20405/30405, FNDL 20414, SLAV 20203/30203). Jewish Thought and Literature II: Narratives of Assimilation. This course offers a survey into the manifold strategies of representing the Jewish community in East Central Europe beginning from the nineteenth century to the Holocaust. Engaging the concept of liminality—of a society at the threshold of radical transformation—it will analyze Jewry facing uncertainties and challenges of the modern era and its radical changes. Students will be acquainted with problems of cultural and linguistic isolation, hybrid identity, assimilation, and cultural transmission through a wide array of genres—novel, short story, epic poem, memoir, painting, illustration, film. The course draws on both Jewish and Polish-Jewish sources; all texts are read in English translation. B. Shallcross. Winter.

JWSC 20006 (=NEHC 20406/30406, CMLT 20401/30401). Jewish Thought and Literature III: Biblical Voices in Modern Hebrew Literature. The Hebrew Bible is the most important intertextual point of reference in Modern Hebrew literature, a literary tradition that begins with the (sometimes contested) claim to revive the ancient language of the Bible. In this course, we will consider the Bible as a source of vocabulary, figurative language, voice and narrative models in modern Hebrew and Jewish literature, considering the stakes and the implications of such intertextual engagement. Among the topics we will focus on: the concept of language-revival, the figure of the prophet-poet, revisions and counter-versions of key Biblical stories (including the story of creation, the binding of Isaac and the stories of King David), the Song of Songs in Modern Jewish poetry. N. Rokem. Spring.

Other Jewish Studies Offerings

JWSC 11000 (= ARAM 10101). Biblical Aramaic. PQ: Second-year standing and knowledge of Classical Hebrew. S. Creason. Autumn. This course will be offered in Autumn 2012 and in alternate years.

JWSC 11100 ( = ARAM 10102). Old Aramaic Inscriptions. PQ: Second-year standing and ARAM 10101. S. Creason. Spring. This course will be offered in Spring 2013 and in alternate years.

JWSC 11200 (= ARAM 10103). Imperial Aramaic. PQ: Second-year standing and ARAM 10101. S. Creason. Winter. This course will be offered in Winter 2013 and in alternate years.

JWSC 21003 (= NEAA 20003/30003). Archaeology of the Ancient Near East III: Levant. This course will take advantage of the detailed archaeological research taking place, from the very first German excavation in the ‘Orient’ to the most recent international projects. Students will become familiar with the archaeology and the history of the Northern Levant through lectures and the readings and will learn how to critically analyze the archaeological arguments that underlie current reconstructions of the past. Emphasis will be placed on how to read excavation reports and how to evaluate the quality of fieldwork in terms of both publication and its historical conclusions. Winter. Note: This sequence does not meet the general education requirement in civilization studies.

JWSC 22000-22100-22200 (= HEBR 10101-10102-10103). Elementary Classical Hebrew I-II-III. The purpose of this three-quarter sequence is to enable students to read biblical Hebrew prose with a high degree of comprehension. This sequence is divided into two segments: (1) the first two quarters are devoted to acquiring the essentials of descriptive and historical grammar (e.g., translation to and from Hebrew, oral exercises, grammatical analysis); and (2) the third quarter is spent examining prose passages from the Hebrew Bible and includes a review of grammar. The class meets five times a week. S. Creason. Autumn, Winter, Spring, annually.

JWSC 22201 (= HEBR 20301). Tannaitic Hebrew Texts. PQ: Some basic knowledge of biblical and/or modern Hebrew, and consent of instructor.  This course consists of readings in the Mishnah and Tosefta, the main corpus of legal and juridical texts assembled by the Palestinian academic masters during the second and early third centuries. Goals are to introduce: (1) views and opinions of early rabbinic scholars who flourished in the period immediately following that of the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls; (2) aspects of the material culture of the Palestinian Jews during that same period; and (3) grammar and vocabulary of what is generally called “early rabbinic Hebrew,” thereby facilitating the ability to read and understand unvocalized Hebrew texts. N. Golb. Autumn.

JWSC 22300-22400-22500 (= HEBR 20104-20105-20106). Intermediate Classical Hebrew I-II-III. PQ: HEBR 10103 or equivalent. The first quarter consists of reviewing grammar and of reading and analyzing further prose texts. The last two quarters introduce Hebrew poetry, with readings from Psalms, Proverbs, and the prophets.  Autumn, Winter, Spring annually.

JWSC 23403 (=HIST 23403/33403) Modern Jewish History. This lecture course will survey the main contours of Jewish intellectual, social, and political history since the eighteenth century. Among the topics to be examined are: enlightenment, emancipation, religious reform, migration, anti-semitism, nationalism and socialism, the rise of American Jewry, the Shoah, Soviet Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, Jews in the Arab world, and Christian-Jewish relations since Vatican II. Wasserstein. Spring 2013.

JWSC 23000-23100-23200 (=HUMA 23000-23100-23200, NEHC 20411/30411-20412/30412-20413/30413). Medieval Jewish History I-II-III. PQ: Consent of the instructor. This three-quarter sequence deals with the history of the Jews over a wide geographical and historical range. First-quarter work is concerned with the rise of early rabbinic Judaism and development of the Jewish communities in Palestine and the Eastern and Western diasporas during the first several centuries CE. Topics include the legal status of the Jews in the Roman world, the rise of rabbinic Judaism, the rabbinic literature of Palestine in that context, the spread of rabbinic Judaism, the rise and decline of competing centers of Jewish hegemony, the introduction of Hebrew language and culture beyond the confines of their original home, and the impact of the birth of Islam on the political and cultural status of the Jews. An attempt is made to evaluate the main characteristics of Jewish belief and social concepts in the formative periods of Judaism as it developed beyond its original geographical boundaries. Second-quarter work is concerned with the Jews under Islam, both in Eastern and Western Caliphates. Third-quarter work is concerned with the Jews of Western Europe from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries. This sequence does not meet the general education requirement in civilization studies. N. Golb. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

JWSC 25000-25100-25200 (= HEBR 10501-10502-10503). Introductory Modern Hebrew I-II-III. This course introduces students to reading, writing, and speaking modern Hebrew. All four language skills are emphasized: comprehension of written and oral materials; reading of nondiacritical text; writing of directed sentences, paragraphs, and compositions; and speaking. Students learn the Hebrew root pattern system and the seven basic verb conjugations in both the past and present tenses, as well as simple future. At the end of the year, students can conduct short conversations in Hebrew, read materials at their level, and write short essays. A. Finkelstein.  Autumn, Winter, Spring.

JWSC 25148 (=MAPS 35148, ANTH 25148/35148, NEHC 25148/35148, CMES 35148). Israel in Film and Ethnography. Combining weekly screenings of both Israeli fiction and documentary films with readings from ethnographic and other relevant research, this seminar will explore the dynamics of ethnic and religious diversity in modern Israelit society. Some of the (often overlapping) topics to be covered in this examination of the institutional and ideological construction of Israeli identity/ies: the absorption of immigrants; ethnic, class, and religious tensions; the kibbutz; military experiencec; the Holocaust; evolving attitudes about gender and sexuality; the struggle for minorities’ rights and Arab-Jewish relations. M. Fred. Spring

JWSC 25300-25400-25500 (=HEBR 20501-20502-20503). Intermediate Modern Hebrew I-II-III. PQ: HEBR 10503 or equivalent. The main objective of this course is to provide students with the skills necessary to approach modern Hebrew prose, both fiction and nonfiction. In order to achieve this task, students are provided with a systematic examination of the complete verb structure. Many syntactic structures are introduced (e.g., simple clauses, coordinate and compound sentences). At this level, students not only write and speak extensively but are also required to analyze grammatically and contextually all of material assigned. A. Finkelstein.  Autumn, Winter, Spring.

JWSC 25600-25700-25800 (= HEBR 30501-30502-30503). Advanced Modern Hebrew I-II-III. PQ: HEBR 20503 or equivalent. This course assumes that students have full mastery of the grammatical and lexical content of the intermediate level. The main objective is literary fluency. The texts used in this course include both academic prose, as well as literature. Students are exposed to semantics and morphology in addition to advanced grammar. A. Finkelstein. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

JWSC 25903 (= NEHC 20906/30906, HIST 26004/36004, CMLT 20906/30906). The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Literature and Film. How do historical processes find their expression in culture? What is the relationship between the two? What can we learn about the Arab-Israeli conflict from novels, short stories, poems and films? Covering texts written by Palestinians and Israelis, as well as works produced in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the United States, this course attempts to discover the ways in which intellectuals defined their relationship to the “conflict” and how the sociopolitical realities in the Middle East affected their constructions of such term as nation and colonialism. O. Bashkin. Autumn 2012.

JWSC 26250 (= PHIL 26100/36100, HIJD 36100, RLST 25902). The Philosophical Interpretation of Scripture in the Middle Ages: The Problems of Evil and the Book of Job. An important genre of philosophical writing during the Middle Ages was the commentary, both commentaries on canonical philosophical works (e.g., Aristotle) and on Scripture. This course is an introduction to medieval philosophical exegesis of Scripture, concentrating on the Book of Job and the philosophical problems of evil and suffering. Authors will include Saadiah, Maimonides, and Aquinas, and readings will include both their commentaries on Job and their systematic philosophical discussions of the problems of evil. J. Stern. Winter.

JWSC 26360 (= POLI 38600). Bruno Schultz: An Unfinished Project. B. Shallcross. Autumn.

JWSC 26400 (= HIST 28704/38704, LLSO 28313, CRES 28704, GNSE 28703/38702,). Race in the 20th Century Atlantic World. This lecture course will provide an introduction to the workings of race on both sides of the Atlantic from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Topics covered will include: the very definition of the term “race”; policies on the naming, gathering and use of statistics on racial categories; the changing uses of race in advertising; how race figures in the politics and practices of reproduction; representations of race in children’s books; race in sports and the media. We will explore both relatively autonomous developments within the nation-states composing the Atlantic world, but our main focus will be on transfer,connections, and influence across that body of water. Most of the materials assigned will be primary sources ranging from films, fiction, poetry, political interventions, posters, advertisements, music, and material culture. Key theoretical essays from the Caribbean, France, England, and the United States will also be assigned. L. Auslander; T. Holt. Autumn.

JWSC 27000 (=MUSI 23911/33911). Jewish Music. Few questions in ethnomusicology and music history remain as enigmatic and yet ideologically charged as, “What is Jewish music?” With responses ranging from claims that Jewishness defies representation with music to those that argue for a plurality possible only when Jewish culture appropriates the musics of constantly shifting historical contexts, Jewish music has acquired remarkably important resonance in the history of religions and in the meaning of modernity. In this proseminar we approach the richness and diversity of Jewish music as givens and as starting points for understanding of both the sacred and the secular in Jewish culture. The cultural contexts and soundscapes of Jewish music, thus, are not isolated, restricted, for example, to the synagogue or ritual practice, but rather they cross the boundaries between traditions, genres, and even religions. The sound materials and structures of Jewish music, say, the modal ordering of Arabic classical music that is standard for biblical cantillation in Israel, will be treated as complex phenomena that both influence and are influenced by the worlds around Jewish communities. Genres and musical practices will be examined in their full diversity, and we shall move across the repertories of liturgical, folk, art, and popular music. Throughout the proseminar students will be asked to think creatively about the usual categories of Jewish music by exploring the ways in which different repertories intersect. Rather than move chronologically through as history of Jewish music from the Temples to the present, we shall deliberately juxtapose past and present, history and ethnography. For each week, students will prepare several different kinds of readings, and teams of students will work together to gather diverse Jewish musics for collections and anthologies. Just as Jewish music comes from many different sources, so too should students from different disciplines and backgrounds feel free to join the proseminar. Students from Music, Divinity, Jewish Studies, Middle East Studies, NELC, and other fields at the University should feel welcome to take this proseminar. The class is open for both College and graduate credit. P. Bohlman. Spring.

JWSC 29700 Reading and Research Course. Consent of instructor and Undergraduate Program Adviser. Autumn, Winter, Spring. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form.

JWSC 29900 BA Paper Preparation Course. PQ: Consent of instructor and Undergraduate Program Adviser. Autumn, Winter, Spring. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Required of honors candidates. May be taken for P/F grading with consent of instructor.


This class surveys the history of Israeli film as well as critical methods with which to approach it. The principal interest of the class is to examine Israeli films as a “national cinema” by considering the various ways in which they reflect, enforce, and perpetuate – and also criticize and deconstruct – the dominant Israeli national ideologies and myths. We will explore how the developing Israeli film

industry related in different historical moments to the efforts of the Israeli state to define its own identity, history, borders and aesthetic traditions, and discuss the film in light of topics such as the Zionist conception of Jewish history, the trauma of the holocaust, the project of Israeli nation building, and the changes in Israeli culture’s representations of “others” on grounds of nationality, religion, ethnicity, and gender. Class screenings will include Israeli films that range from the pre-Israeli state Zionist propaganda films, to the nationalistic-heroic cinema of the young state, the mid-1960s attempts at establishing an “Israeli New Wave,” and to today’s unprecedented international

critical and commercial success of Israeli cinema. The class lectures and discussions will take various critical perspectives on the films, drawing primarily on the works of contemporary Israeli scholars who debate Israeli cinema’s place in constructing Israeli identity and history, in reflecting Israel’s political and social conflicts, and as offering a critical commentary on Israeli life.