Jewish Studies Program

Director: Debra Zeifman (Psychology). Steering Committee: Peter Antelyes (English), Andrew Bush (Hispanic Studies), Marc Michael Epstein (Religion), Natalie J. Friedman (English), Rachel Friedman (Classics), Judith L. Goldstein (Anthropology), Lynn Lidonnici (Religion), Jannay Morrow (Psychology), Elliott Schreiber (German Studies), Joshua S. Schreier (History), Tova Weitzman (Religion), Agnes Vet˝o, (Religion).

Jewish Studies is a multidisciplinary approach to the diversity of the history and culture of Jews in Western and non-Western societies. This approach involves studying the creation and reproduction of Jewish culture in multi-ethnic societies in the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary world as well as such theoretical concerns as Diaspora, Zionism and the construction of Jewish identity.

Requirements for Concentration: 12 units, including: 1) Jewish Studies 201 and 301; 2) 2 units of college-level Hebrew or Yiddish or its equivalent; 3) two additional courses at the 300-level drawn from either Jewish Studies offerings or the list of Approved Courses; 4) six remaining units drawn from Jewish Studies offerings and Approved Courses.

Students are encouraged to explore complementary courses in a variety of disciplines. After consulting with the director, students choosing a concentration are encouraged to explore language, literature, texts, religious traditions, history, society, and culture.

Jewish Studies strongly recommends that students pursue a Junior Year Abroad experience whenever possible. Many different options exist, and students are encouraged to begin discussions about this with the Program director and their professors as soon as declaration of concentration is made. No more than 3 units per semester from study away can be counted toward the concentration.

After declaring a concentration, no required courses may be elected NRO.

No more than 4 units of Hebrew, Yiddish or other study in Jewish languages may be applied toward the concentration. Hebrew 305 may be counted as one of the three 300-level courses required of majors.

Senior-Year Requirements: Jewish Studies 301, if not taken earlier. The Senior Thesis or Project (Jewish Studies 300) is optional, but must be elected by students to be considered for Honors in the Program. If elected, the thesis is taken in addition to the three 300 level courses required. The thesis or project should reflect the multidisciplinary orientation of the Program. It will be graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Requirements for Correlate Sequence: 6 units, including Jewish Studies 201, one 300-level course, and four other courses, only one of which can be a field work credit (Jewish Studies 290). Students electing the correlate sequence are encouraged but not required to take 301, as well as two units of college-level Hebrew or Yiddish or the equivalent. Hebrew 305 may be counted as one of the 300-level courses required for the correlate sequence. After consulting with the director, students should choose a correlate sequence program that complements concentration requirements. No more than 2 units from study abroad can be counted toward the correlate sequence.

I. Introductory

101a. Jewish Identities and Jewish Politics(1)

Are "the Jews" white people of East European origin, or Arabic-, Mahrathi-, and Amharic-speaking people of color from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa? Are Jewish politics conservative and affirming of the status quo, or progressive and prophetically charged? Are Jewish gender roles and attitudes towards sex suburban and patriarchal, or queer and radical? This course is a multidisciplinary introduction to the extraordinary diversity of the Jewish people and Jewish culture, and to the ways history, geography, gender, religious status, race, and class are factors in the construction of Jewish identity, in interaction with surrounding cultures. We study primary sources such as the Hebrew Bible and Talmud and mid rash in their historical contexts, as well as art and literature produced by and about Jews. Mr. Epstein.

Open to freshmen only. Satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

110b. Jerusalem Above/Jerusalem Below(1)

Jerusalem has captured the imagination of Jews, Christians and Muslims for the past three millennia. This course explores the city's fascination classical texts, historical accounts and rereadings of the idea and ideal of Jerusalem through the eyes of guest lecturers utilizing tools, techniques, and resources from fields as diverse as literature, geography, history, architecture, sociology, and ethnography. The course includes a mandatory study trip to Jerusalem during Spring Break, for which financial aid is available. Mr. Epstein.

150b. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam(1)

(Same as Religion 150) An historical comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The course focuses on such themes as origins, development, sacred literature, ritual, legal, mystical, and philosophical traditions, and interactions between the three religions. Mr. White; Mr. Epstein.

Open to all students.

184a. New Voices, Old Stories, New Immigrant Jewish Writers(1)

(Same as English 184a) American History is, in some ways, the story of immigrants, and one of the first immigrant groups to publish their stories were Jews, particularly those from Eastern Europe. American Jewish writers established the immigrant literary scene that today has become multifaceted and multicultural. In this class, we read the newest, most popular young writers to emerge from the recent Eastern European Jewish diaspora, and compare them to their classic forerunners. We examine the themes of assimilation, religious awakening, and responses to the Holocaust by members of the Second and Third Generation. New texts include Gary Shteyngart'sThe Russian Debutante's Handbook, Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated, and Lara Vapnyar's There Are Jews in My House; older voices include those of Abraham Cahan, Henry Roth, and Anzia Yezierska. Ms. N. Friedman.

Open to freshmen only. Satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

II. Intermediate

201b. Jewish Textuality: Sources and Subversions(1)

(Same as Religion 201b. and Women's Studies 201b.) Jewish tradition consists of a series of developments from the biblical stratum of text and practice through rabbinic interpretations and medieval, modern and postmodern revisions, reforms and even rejections of those interpretations. This course examines themes in Jewish life and thought from their biblical roots to their postmodern reinventions or reclamations.

Topic for 2009/10: Women in Judaism: Oppressed, Rebellious, Empowered. An exploration of key moments in the experience of Jewish women throughout history, building on an analysis of primary sources (Hebrew Bible and the corpus of rabbinic literature) custom, and non-religious cultural factors, and the implications and repercussions of all of these for the lived experience of women in a variety of Jewish societies up to and including the postmodern era. All sources in translation. Instructor: Ms. Veto


Jewish Studies 101 or by permission.

215a. Jews and Material Culture(1)

Topic for 2009/10: Screen Memories: Representing Jews on Film, TV and the Web. A course on Jewish culture in what German-Jewish philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin called "the age of mechanical reproduction," concentrating on representations of Jews in the various screen media. Viewing and analysis are guided by considerations raised by Benjamin and other early Jewish film theorists (e.g., B. Balazs, S. Kracauer) and recent Jewish Studies scholarship on media (e.g., J. Shandler). The title and theoretical cornerstone of the course are derived from Freud's discussion of "screen memories," a process of visual projection in which one image masks another. Mr. Bush.

217b. Film, Fiction and the Construction of Identity -- Israeli and Palestinian Voices(1)

(Same as Hebrew 217b and Religion 217b) This course explores the emergence and consolidation of collective identities in modern Israel and Palestine. Through a close examination of Israeli and Palestinian literary texts in translation and select movies students are introduced to an array of competing and complementing narratives that Israelis and Palestinians have relied on to understand themselves and their relationship to the other. Special attention is given to issues related to class, gender, ethnicity, religion and ideology. Ms. Weitzman

[ 221b. Voices from Modern Israel ](1)

(Same as Hebrew 221 and Religion 221) An examination of modern and postmodern Hebrew literature in English translation. The course focuses on Israeli voices of men, women, Jews, Arabs, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim to investigate such topics as memory, identity, alienation, community, exile. Authors may include Yizhar, Yehoshua, Oz, Grossman, Kanafani, Almog, Katzir, Liebrecht, Ravikovitch, Zelda, Zach, Amichai, Darwish and el-Kassim. Ms. Weitzman.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 222b. Psychological Perspectives on the Holocaust ](1)

(Same as Psychology 222b) Ms. Zeifman.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 225. The Hebrew Bible ](1)

(Same as Religion 225) The Bible is one of the most important foundational documents of Western civilization. This course surveys the literature of the Hebrew Bible (Christian ‘Old Testament') within the historical, religious and literary context of ancient Israel and its neighbors. What social and religious forces created these books, and how did they shape the lives of the ancient Israelites, their descendents, and all those they influenced for three thousand years? All texts are read in English translation. Ms. Vet˝o.

Not offered in 2009/10.

Pre-requisites: Jewish Studies 101, 201, Religion 150, or consent of the instructor.

[ 240a. The World of The Rabbis ](1)

With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, Jews found themselves at the lowest moment of their history. Yet, within a few short years a remarkably creative, versatile, portable and use-friendly culture of law and lore had developed, a culture that has sustained Jews through their application and response to it, and through their rejection of it for the past two millennia. This course examines rabbinic culture and rabbinic imagination through analysis of primary texts (Bible, Mishnah, Talmud and midrash), considering the impact of canonical literature on Jewish societies, and conversely, the effect of social change on the interpretation of canonical literature. Ms. Vet˝o.

All readings and discussions are in English.

Pre-requisites: Jewish Studies 101, 201, Religion 150, or consent of the instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 260b. Current Thoughts in Anthropological Theory and Method ](1)

(Same as Anthropology 260b)

Not offered in 2009/10.

276b. Jews Without Borders(1)

As far back as antiquity, Jews have formed alliances, and sometimes rivalries, amongst themselves that have crossed boundaries of hegemonic powers: long-distance legal consultations and commercial relations, shared reading lists and life practices, and mass population movements through exile and immigration. This course maps correspondences, both literal and figurative, between Jews otherwise separated by political geography, and so enables a critical examination of the commonalities and differences that constitute the alternative understandings of Jewish "peoplehood" and Jewish "community."

Topic for 2009/10: Within and Beyond the Pale. A multidisciplinary study of Jewish cultural production in Eastern Europe in the modern period, including literature, film, painting, politics, historiography and ethnography. Mr. Bush

280b. Magicians, Madmen and Messiahs: The Jewish Search for Redemption(1)

(Same as Religion 280b.) The pervasive tension in Jewish culture and society between the acceptance of the world as it is, with all its flaws, and the desire for a new and better society, or, alternately, a "return to the Garden" has bred in Jews a tendency to imagine, to seek and to attempt to construct ideal and utopian societies. Hopes for the realization of this dream have often been attached to great personalities, from the biblical Queen Esther to Bar Kokhba, Jesus of Nazareth, and Saul/Paul, to Theodore Herzl and the Lubavitcher Rebbe; from the humble and pious to the megalomaniacal. The ideas and ideals of these figures and the movements that crystalized around them are the subject of this course, which examines biography, autobiography, contemporary accounts, visual sources and sociological, philosophical and theological texts on the subject of redemption and redemptivist movements in Jewish history. Mr. Epstein 

290. Field Work(1/2 or 1)

298. Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

300. Senior Thesis or Project(1)

Optional for students concentrating in the program. Must be elected for student to be considered for Honors in the program.

Permission required.

301b. Special Topics in Jewish Studies(1)

Advanced study in selected aspects of Jewish Studies, emphasizing the multidisciplinary nature of the field. The seminar gives students the opportunity to develop their own scholarly work built around the common core of the topic for that year.

Topic for 2009/10: Jews, Others and Other Jews.  A consideration of the shifting ground of the debate over the concept of otherness and the position of Jews as a minority among majority societies, examined through the lens of sacred texts, historical documents, art, music, and literature. The course will problematize the relationship between the "mainstream" and the "periphery" of Jewish culture, and examine internal otherness including issues regarding gender, race and ethnicity. Instructor: Mr. Epstein

[ 315b. Jews, Jewish Identity, and the Arts ](1)

This course examines the relationship of Jews with the arts from ancient times through the postmodern period.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 340b. Women in the Classical Jewish Tradition ](1)

The issues and debates that frame contemporary Jewish women's lives and women's roles in Judaism have been shaped, directed and sometimes limited by religious narratives in general and Jewish law in particular. We examine both the key texts from rabbinic literature (Talmud, Tosefta, and midrash) on topics affecting women's status and feminist critiques of these issues demonstrating how historical and contemporary interpretations of scripture, law, and cultural narratives have very real consequences for women's lives within Jewish communities. All reading and discussion in English. Ms. Vet˝o.

All readings and discussions in English.

Pre-requisites: Jewish Studies 101, 201, Religion 150, or consent of the instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 346b. Studies in Jewish Thought and History ](1)

(Same as Religion 346) Advanced study in selected aspects of Jewish thought and history.

Not offered in 2009/10.

350b. Confronting Modernity(1)

Topic for 2009/10: Jewish Communities in the Middle East. This seminar explores the lived worlds of Jewish communities in the Middle East from the nineteenth century to the present. To this end, the course combines many sources and genres including: oral and written histories, novels, memoirs, ethnographies, material and visual culture. The course focuses on issues of self representation and on the cultural reproduction of community in different places and times and under varying conditions (which include contact with foreign travelers and educators, and the rise of nationalism). Ms. Goldstein.

399a or b. Advanced Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

Prerequisite for all 300-level courses unless otherwise specified: 1 unit at the 200-level or permission of instructor.

Approved Courses

American Culture 275 Ethnicity and Race in America (1)

Classics 103 Crosscurrents: History and Culture of the Ancient Mediterranean (1)

English 326 Challenging Ethnicity (1)

Hebrew 105-106 Elementary Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 205 Continuing Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 298 Independent Work in Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 305 Advanced Hebrew (1)

History 214 The Roots of the Palestine-Israel Conflict (1)

History 231 France and its “Others” (1)

History 237 Germany, 1918-1990 (1)

History 337 The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany (1)

History 369 Social Reform and the Evolution of the Welfare State (1)

Religion 266 Religion in America (1)

American Culture 275 Ethnicity and Race in America (1)

Classics 103 Crosscurrents: History and Culture of the Ancient Mediterranean (1)

English 326 Challenging Ethnicity (1)

Hebrew 105-106 Elementary Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 205 Continuing Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 298 Independent Work in Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 305 Advanced Hebrew (1)

History 214 The Roots of the Palestine-Israel Conflict (1)

History 231 France and its “Others” (1)

History 237 Germany, 1918-1990 (1)

History 337 The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany (1)

History 369 Social Reform and the Evolution of the Welfare State (1)

Religion 266 Religion in America (1)

Hebrew Language and Literature

I. Introductory

105a-106b. Elementary Hebrew(1)

Introduction to the language. Basic phonics and grammatical structures. Stress on development of reading comprehension, simple composition, and conversational skills. For Hebrew 105, no background in the language is assumed; admission to Hebrew 106 is possible with the demonstration of previous work equivalent to Hebrew 105. Ms. Weitzman.

Open to all students.

II. Intermediate

205a, 206b. Continuing Hebrew(1)

Formal study of Hebrew language with emphasis on oral practice and writing skills. Ms. Weitzman.

Prerequisite: Hebrew 105-106, or equivalent of two years in high school.

221b. Voices from Modern Israel(1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 221 and Religion 221)

Prerequisite: One 100-level course in Jewish Studies or permission of instructor.

II. Intermediate

298. Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced Hebrew

305a. Advanced Readings in Hebrew: Genres and Themes(1)

Expansion of language proficiency through intensified study of culture and literary texts and examination of different Israeli media. Readings are arranged according to thematic topics and course may be repeated for credit if topic changes. Ms. Weitzman.

399a. Independent Work(1/2, 1)

Note: A self-instructional introductory course in Yiddish language exists. See Self-Instructional Language Program (SILP).