Jewish Studies Program

Director: Deborah Dash Moore (Religion); Steering Committee: John Ahern (Italian), Peter Antelyes (English), Susan H. Brisman (English); Andrew Bush (Hispanic Studies), Marc Michael Epstein (Religion), Rachel Friedman (Classics), Judith L. Goldstein (Anthropology), Luke C. Harris (Political Science), Maria Höhn (History), William Hoynes (Sociology), Hartley Lachter (Religion), Lynn LiDonnici (Religion), MacDonald Moore, Jannay Morrow (Psychology), Judith Weisenfeld (Religion), Tova Weitzman (Religion), Debra Zeifman (Psychology); Participating Faculty: Peter Antelyes, Pinar Batur (Sociology), Nancy Bisaha (History), Susan H. Brisman, Andrew Bush, Miriam Cohen (History), Andrew Davison (Political Science), Marc Michael Epstein, Rachel Friedman, Judith L. Goldstein, Luke C. Harris, Maria Höhn, Hartley Lachter, Lynn LiDonnici, J. Bertrand Lott (Classics), Marque Miringoff (Sociology), Deborah Dash Moore, MacDonald Moore, Tova Weitzman.

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 the study of the creation and reproduction of cultures in Israel, the Diaspora, and multi-ethnic societies in the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary world.

Requirements for Concentration: 12 units, including 1) Jewish Studies 101, 201, and 301, 2) 4 units of college-level Hebrew or its equivalent (no more than 4 units of Hebrew may be applied toward the concentration), 3) two additional courses on the 300-level, drawn from either Jewish Studies offerings or the list of approved courses (including Hebrew 305), 4) remaining units from courses drawn from Jewish Studies offerings, approved courses, or Jewish Studies in Comparative Contexts. Students are encouraged to explore complementary courses in a variety of disciplines. After consulting with the director, students should prepare a proposal for the major in Jewish Studies to be approved by the director and the Steering Committee. Students choosing a concentration are encouraged to explore language, literature and texts, religious traditions, history, society, and culture. 

No more than 3 units per semester from study away can be counted toward the concentration. Jewish Studies recommends that students interested in the Junior Year Away Program in Israel begin the study of Hebrew in the freshman year. 

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

Senior-Year Requirements: Senior Seminar (Jewish Studies 301). The Senior Thesis or Project (Jewish Studies 300) is optional, but must be elected by students to be considered for Honors in the Program. The thesis or project should reflect the multidisciplinary orientation of the Program. It will be graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence: 6 units, including Jewish Studies 101, a 300-level seminar in Jewish Studies, and four other courses, only one of which can be Jewish Studies 290 or Jewish Studies in Comparative Contexts. At least two courses at the 300-level are required. Students are urged to complete one year of college-level study in Hebrew or the equivalent. Up to two units of Hebrew may be counted toward the correlate sequence. After consulting with the director, students should prepare a proposal for the correlate sequence in Jewish Studies to be approved by the director and the Steering Committee. Students choosing a correlate sequence are encouraged to explore language, literature and texts, religious traditions, history, society, and culture. The specific shape of a student’s program should reflect student interest in a disciplinary field, such as history, literature, anthropology, religion, and should complement concentration requirements. Jewish Studies recommends that students interested in the Junior Year Away Program in Israel begin the study of Hebrew in the freshman year. No more than 2 units from study abroad can be counted toward the correlate sequence.

I. Introductory

101a. Jewish Identity/Jewish Politics: An Introduction to Jewish Studies
Multidisciplinary introduction to the theoretical and methodological bases for the study of the diversity of Jewish culture. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of geography, gender, religious status, race and class in the construction of Jewish identity in interaction with surrounding communities, through the study of primary sources in historical context, religious culture, social life, as well as art and literature produced by and about Jews. Mr. Lachter.
[110. Vienna, Prague and Budapest: The Imperial Cities and Their Jews]
From court Jews to Kafka, the cities of East Central Europe have been magnets for Jewish life and creativity since the Middle Ages. We explore the Jewish heritage of these great urban centers through the eyes of guest lecturers who utilize tools, techniques, and resources from fields as diverse as literature, geography, history architecture, sociology, and ethnography. The course includes an optional study trip to all three cities during Spring Break. Mr. Epstein.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
[151. Keywords and Codewords]
After the Second World War several words used primarily with reference to Jewish experiences were drawn into wider debates. Holocaust, ghetto, and diaspora became hot-buttons. Gradually they were taken up as terms of choice for referencing issues central for African Americans and post-colonial emigres. We look at the ways in which terms are hitched to our trains of thought; and we examine the freight we ask such “keywords” to haul. We start with books by Raymond Williams and Gary Wills;’ move on to the movies Whoopee! and Blazing Saddles; and conclude with essays, religious and political speeches from the 1960s and 1980s. Open only to freshmen. Mr. Moore.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
152b. Ancient Mythologies
(Same as Classics 152) In searching for the roots of western culture, we must turn back both to Homer and the Bible, Athens and Jerusalem, Greece and Israel. In this course we devote ourselves to a comparative look at the mythologies of the ancient Greeks and ancient Israelites with a view toward understanding both the convergences and divergences of these two foundational traditions. Among the topics we consider are: creation myths, family dynamics, the hero’s journey and the idea of homeland, in addition to readings from Homer and the Hebrew Bible, Greek tragedy, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Library of Appolodorus. Ms. Friedman.
       Open only to freshmen.
181a. God
(Same as Religion 181a) Whether we are furious with it, love it, or think it does not exist, the figure that Western Civilization calls “God” one of our most powerful root metaphors, an intellectual category that requires interrogation and understanding. As a literary figure, God has a personality, a biography, and a history; and, like all of us, a great deal to say (in literature) about how he has been understood and misunderstood. Through analysis of primary materials—Biblical, Ugaritic, Canaanite, and Mesopotamian, we explore this complicated figure. Ms. LiDonnici.
       One 2-hour period for six weeks during the first half of the semester.

II. Intermediate

201b. Jewish Textuality: Sources and Subversions
Jews—male and female, traditional and radical, East and West—have preserved, read, reread, and subverted their classical texts in a variety of ways through their various cultural and personal lenses throughout history. This course introduces specific and significant themes in Jewish thought and culture (all of which have practical and political implications today), and traces them from antiquity, through postmodernity, through study of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and Midrash, and modern texts drawn from a variety of disciplines. Mr. Bush.
       Prerequisite: Jewish Studies 101 or by permission.
221b. Voices from Modern Israel
(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 Sephardim to investigate such topics as memory, identity, alienation, the “other,” community, exile. Authors may include Dalia Ravikovitch, Zelda, Nathan Zach, Yehudah Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, Anton Shammas, Savion Liebrecht and Ruth Almog. Ms. Weitzman.
248a. Out of the Ghetto
(Same as Religion 248 and History 248) Starting in the seventeenth century, Jews gradually moved out of the physical, political, social, and religious ghettos to which Christian Europe had consigned them. This course explores the implications of such an exodus. It looks at Jewish piety and politics, individuality and community in Europe, North American and northern Africa. Topics include changing gender roles, migration, hasidism, religious reform, and antisemitism. Ms. Moore.
249a: The Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century
(Same as Religion 249 and History 249) The twentieth century shattered and transformed Jewish life throughout the world altering our understanding of evil and challenging accepted meanings of modernity. This course explores the growth of political and racial antisemitism and its culmination in the Holocaust; the grown of Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel; the transformation of Jews from a largely small-town people into a highly urbanized one. The implication of these events—what it has meant for Jews to live in a post-Holocaust world, how Jews interpret political sovereignty, the Jewish response to American life—form the second part of the course. Ms. Moore.
[260. The Holocaust]
The Shoah, or Holocaust, the systematic effort by the Nazis to exterminate the Jews of Europe, was documented from the very midst of the experience by some of those who lived through or died in it. This course draws upon these first-hand accounts, and others written after the war, to give voice to Jewish victims and Jewish resistance. Careful literary analysis of these texts is combined with historical investigation and the concerns of philosophy and theology in a broadly multidisciplinary approach that considers the ideologies and practices of perpetrators and bystanders in addition to its central focus upon the experience of the Jews. Mr. Bush, Ms. Höhn.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
281a. Jewish Philosophy
This course examines the dynamics of the Jewish encounters and struggles with philosophical speculation from Antiquity to the contemporary period. The dialectical relationship between rational speculation and the Jewish tradition has had a formative impact on both the history of Jewish thought and the history of philosophical discourse. The purpose of this course is to examine how some of the key ideas in the Jewish tradition have been engaged in a philosophical way. Topics to consider include: the nature of God, metaphysics, Artistotelianism, free will, the meaning of Scripture, reason and faith, ethics, the idea of community, tradition, law, inclusion and gender. Mr. Lachter.
289b. Zionisms
(Same as Political Science 289) Examination of selected, competing and conflicting nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century theories of Zionism, the ideological context for their emergence, and their relation to traditional Jewish conceptions of peoplehood. Attention is given to such topics as nationalism, anti-Semitism, radical and conservative politics (e.g., regarding class and gender struggles), and cultural identities under the pressures of modernity. Course discussions are informed by contemporary theoretical perspectives on these issues. Mr. Bush, Mr. Davison.
290. Field Work
(1/2 or 1)
298. Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

Prerequisite for all 300-level courses unless otherwise specified: 1 unit at the 200-level or permission of instructor.
300. Senior Thesis or Project
Optional for students concentrating in the program. Must be elected for student to be considered for Honors in the program.
       Permission required.
301a. Senior Seminar in Jewish Studies
Addressing developments in Jewish Studies, the seminar affords students the opportunity to present their own scholarly work in the field and to place modern Jewish studies in the context of other contemporary intellectual developments. Topics may vary from year to year, but will reflect program issues such as history and memory, cultural contact and conflict, practice and representation. Ms. Goldstein.
       Open only to seniors.
       Permission required for non-majors.
315a. Jews, Jewish Identity, and the Arts
This course examines the relationship of Jews with the arts from ancient times through the postmodern period. Topics addressed include the definition of Jewish art and the attitude of Jewish tradition toward art, iconism, and aniconism, Jews as artists, Jewish patronage, and Jewish scholarship concerning both Jewish and non-Jewish art. We discuss the role of identity politics in the artistic and art historical world, as well as self-definition, self-presentation and self-hatred among artists, patrons, and scholars of art history. Mr. Epstein.
[340. Classical Jewish Culture]
(Same as Religion 340) This course considers classical Jewish culture as it existed prior to Emancipation and, in some cases, has endured into the present. Topic for 2003/04: “Messiahs, Redeemers and Heretics.” Mr. Lachter.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
346b. Studies in Jewish Thought and History
(Same as Religion 346) Topic for 2003/04: NY Jews in the Ghetto of Eden. At the beginning of the twentieth century Jews from around the world migrated to New York City bringing their diverse dreams, traditions, and folkways. Together they created a new American Judaism and the grammar of American Jewish Life. This course explores the philosophies, politics, religious movements, and culture industries that made New York the preeminent Jewish city of the twentieth century. Ms. Moore.
350b. Confronting Modernity: Messiahs, Utopias and Radical Jewish Thought
Since the French Revolution, generations of religious and secular Jewish intellectuals have attacked the failure of the Enlightenment to improve life for swelling populations enveloped by the lengthening shadow of its promises. We start with the diary of young Gershom Scholem. The future scholar of Kabbalah and Messianism stood in the mountains, mocking guide book tourism and weighing whether he, himself, might be the Messiah. Scholem came down from the mountain to write about a legacy of double and triple consciousness from forced converts called Conversos, revolution, oppression, precariousness, and varieties of Zionism. From within this matrix we examine evolving meanings of ideology and identity, to understand how Marx’s ‘false consciousness’ and Freud’s ‘unconscious’ framed skeptical utopianism for Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse. Mr. Moore.
       Topic for 2003/04b: Jews and Visual Media. In the 20th century, media became a nexus of Jewish confrontations with modernity. Long association of Jews as economic middlemen shaped anxieties about their cultural roles. The old pejorative expression, "A Jew's Eye," suggested that Jews have a unique ability to perceive worth: to translate various kinds of value to monetary exchange value. At the same time, by the end of the 19th century it was taken to be scientific fact that Jews' eyes were defective, not fit for artistic work. As photographs and movies became more popular and prestigious, controversies grew over the roles of Jews in media. The seminar examines these issues through a range of analytical literature, movies, and photographs by Lisette Model, William Klein, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Michal Rovner.
383a. American Jewish Literature
(Same as English 383) An exploration of the American Jewish literary imagination from historical, topical and theoretical perspectives. Texts may include works by Anzia Yezierska, Celia Dropkin, Henry Roth, Charles Reznikoff, Kay Katrowitz, Adrienne Rich, Art Spiegelman, and Nathan Englander. Also included are films and music, and theoretical works by such critics as Walter Benjamin and Daniel Boyarin. Topics may include: the development of immigrant modernism, the influence of Jewish interpretive traditions on contemporary literary theory, the (anti-) conventions of Jewish feminist and lesbian literature, the possibilities and limitations of a diaspora poetics, and contemporary representations of the Holocaust. Mr. Antelyes.
385b. Unspeakable Confessions
(Same as English 385) This course explores a paradox at the heart of much confessional and testimonial writing: How can language represent events that resist conscious knowledge? Some events of this kind are called “traumatic” insofar as they are registered rather than experienced. They are “missed encounters” that can only be inferred or reconstructed from certain symptoms, since the original “experience” (sexual abuse, trench warfare, or the Holocaust itself) proves too powerful to retrieve or communicate without distortion. To understand the workings (and undoing) of metaphor in narratives of “missed events” we read Wordsworth’s “Prelude” against the confessions of Augustine and Rousseau and consider issues of Bellow, Philip Roth, Art Spiegelman, Bernhard Schlink, and the Wilkomitski “Fragments.” The second half of the course is devoted to Holocaust testimony, in theory and practice, with readings drawn from memoirs (Primo Levi and Charlotte Delbo) and poetry (Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan, Haim Gouri, and Dan Pagis). Some attention is paid to shifting patterns of cultural reception of the Holocaust in America, which have often skewed historical and ethical understanding of the Shoah. Opportunities for students to do original research at the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale are available. Ms. Brisman.
399a or b. Advanced Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)

Hebrew Language and Literature

Approved Courses

Hebrew 105-106 Elementary Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 205a Continuing Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 206b Continuing Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 298 Independent Work in Hebrew (1)

Hebrew 305a Advanced Hebrew (1)

Religion 225 The Hebrew Bible (1)

Religion 255 Western Mystical Traditions: Kabbalah (1)

Religion 346 Studies in Jewish Thought and History: Portraits of Biblical Women (1)

Jewish Studies in Comparative Contexts

American Culture 275 Ethnicity and Race in America (1)

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

English 326 Studies in Ethnic American Literature (1)

History 237 Germany, 1890-1990 (1)

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

History 369 Themes in Twentieth Century Urban History: Social Reform and the Evolution of the Welfare State (1)

Political Science 237 Law of Race and Gender Antidiscrimination in the United States (1)

Political Science 247 The Politics of Difference (1)

Political Science 256 Politics and Conflict in the Middle East (1)

Political Science 375 The Three Religions of the Book and Political Theory (1)

Religion 150 Western Religious Traditions (1)

Religion 220 Text and Tradition (1)

Religion 266 Religion in America (1)

Sociology 271 Forms of Social Conflict (1)

Sociology 272 Genocide and Social Theory (1)

Sociology 366 Racism and Intellectuals (1)

I. Introductory

105a-106b. Elementary Hebrew
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.
       May not be counted toward fulfillment of requirements for concentration.
       Open to all students.
221b. Voices from Modern Israel
(Same as Jewish Studies 221)
       Prerequisite: One 100-level course in Jewish Studies or permission of instructor.

II. Intermediate

205a, 206b. Continuing Hebrew
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.
298. Independent Work
(1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced Hebrew

305a. Advanced Hebrew
Expansion of language proficiency through intensified study of cultural and literary texts, including poetry, prose, essays, newspapers, films, songs. Extensive discussion of issues related to contemporary Israel. Ms. Weitzman.
       Prerequisite: Hebrew 205/206 or equivalent.


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