Jewish Studies Courses

The following is a descriptive list of Jewish Studies courses.

History/Religion Courses

HIST/RELG 107: Intro to Jewish Traditions

This course explores the development of Judaism from its ancient origins until the present. We will discuss the biblical foundations of Judaism and the impact that different historical contexts have produced on its rituals and beliefs. This approach raises a number of questions, which we will keep in mind throughout the course: What is Judaism? Who are the Jews? What is the relationship between Judaism and being Jewish? How have historical circumstances shaped this relationship? What has changed and what has stayed the same, and why? The class will address these questions through discussions and readings.

HIST/RELG 218: American Jewish Experience

This course will explore the religious, social, political, cultural, and economic history of the Jewish people in America from the first settlement until the present. The major themes of study will focus upon the development of Judaism in America. We will take into account a number of historical factors that shaped that development: the economic, social and political evolution of American Jewry and its institutions; Jewish immigration to the United States and its consequences; American Jewish self-perception; and the relationship between Jews and non-Jews in American society. Assignments will draw upon a wide range of materials, from secondary historical studies and primary documents to fiction and film.

HIST/RELG 263: Jews in a Changing Europe

Between 1780 and 1880, enormous changes took place in Jewish religious, political, social, intellectual and economic life. These changes worked in tandem with developments in general European life to create new forces within Judaism and new ways of looking at the connections between Jews. In this course, we will study these developments as they affected the Jews on the European continent. In so doing, we will explore their consequences for both Jews and non-Jews, and the issues and questions they raised.

HIST/RELG 264: Jewish Revolutions

Between 1881 and the period immediately following the Second World War, the world’s Jews experienced momentous demographic, religious, political, economic, and social changes. These changes in turn shaped their relationship to non-Jews with whom they lived. This course will study the context of change across the globe from Europe and America to the Middle East and North Africa. Through primary and secondary documents, we will explore the forces that produced these changes, and the results that they produced for both Jews and non-Jews. AOS History or Religion; CR: Europe.

HIST/RELG 265: Zionism: From Idea to State

This course explores the origins, development, and manifestations of Zionism. Beginning with traditional religious conceptions of the connection between Jews and the Land of Israel (also known as Palestine), the course examines the transformation of this religious belief into a nationalist cultural and political ideology in the nineteenth century. We will also follow these trends through further Jewish intellectual, religious, social, and political changes related to entertaining the idea of a Jewish state, culminating with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. This transformation entailed parallel changes to the idea of Jewish peoplehood and the relationship of Jews to Palestine. Through the use of primary documents, we will investigate the ideas that shaped conceptions of Zionism, and study the roots of these ideas in the historical context that produced them.

HIST/RELG 267: Women and Judaism

This course will explore the theological and historical position of women in Jewish society. We will discuss religious practice and theological beliefs as well as social and economic developments as a means of addressing questions such as: What role have women played in Jewish tradition? How are they viewed by Jewish law? How has their status changed in different historical contexts, and why might those changes have taken place? What are contemporary ideas about the status of Jewish women, and how have these ideas influenced contemporary Jewish practices and communal relations? AOS History or Religion; CR: Comparative.

HIST/RELG/SEMN 268: Jews on Film

It will examine themes in Jewish history and culture as expressed through the medium of film. Through readings, lectures, and class discussions, students will explore issues such as assimilation and acculturation, anti-Semitism, group cohesion, interfaith relations, Zionism, and the Holocaust. We will consider questions, such as: How are Jewish characters portrayed on film? Which elements of these portrayals change over time, and which remain constant? How do these cultural statements speak to the historical contexts that produced them? What choices do filmmakers make regarding the depiction of Jewish life, and how do those choices influence perceptions of Jews in particular, or minorities generally? This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.
Prerequisite: Sophomores Only

Political Science Courses

POLS 295: Constructing and Reconstructing Israel

The basic introduction to Israeli politics offers a historical and ideological overview that moves us from the late nineteenth century to Israel’s establishment as a state in 1948. Therefore, we explore the formation of Israel through migration, key political institutions, and wars. We conclude with current challenges and thus consider some of the unanticipated consequences of Zionism.

POLS 330: Politics of the Holocaust

Study of two fundamental elements: (1) a brief historical overview of anti-Semitism and the social construction of identity whereby Jews are rendered Other and (2) a focus on how and by whom the Jews were annihilated. Students will comprehend the unique fate of the Jews under National Socialism, the incorporation of racial eugenics into law, and the capacities of modern states to service genocide. AOS (SS)

POLS 335: Politics of Contemporary Antisemitism

This course examines antisemitism’s recent resurgence. We’ll consider debates over definitions, data, and denials. This includes varied appropriations and inversions of the Holocaust from the alt-right to the progressive left.

Religion Courses

RELG 110: The Hebrew Bible

This course will explore the writings of the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament and Jewish Tanak), their relationship to the history and culture in which they were produced, and their relevance to more recent issues in modern religious discourse. A range of topics will be covered, including divine encounters, worship practices, sacred space, political religion, archaeology, ethics, and gender. Several modern approaches will be applied as well as survey at various points the “afterlife” of the Hebrew scriptural traditions in Judaism and Christianity. No prior knowledge of or experience with the subject is assumed or required.

RELG 160: Hebrew Bible

This course explores the writings of the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament and Jewish Tanak), their relationship to the history and culture in which they were produced, and their relevance to more recent issues in modern religious discourse. We cover a range of topics, including divine encounters, worship practices, sacred space, political religion, archaeology, ethics, and gender. We apply several modern approaches as well as survey at various points the “afterlife” of the Hebrew scriptural traditions in Judaism and Christianity. No prior knowledge of or experience with the subject is assumed or required.

RELG 210: Sex and the Bible

This course is about sex and interpretation, focusing primarily on how Christians have interpreted the Bible around questions of human sexuality. The questions that we will consider are: What does it mean to say a particular view of sexuality and sexual behavior is “biblical” given the sheer variety of possible interpretations? How have changing notions of human sexuality affected the way that the biblical text is understood and deployed? We will explore these questions by reading key biblical texts from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament and their interpretation by thinkers from antiquity up to the present. Topics to be covered include marriage, gender, desire, same-sex relationships, and sexual renunciation.
Prerequisite: Previous course(s) in the Department of Religion recommended but not required.

RELG 260/CLAS 261: Judaism in Antiquity

This course examines the history and literature of Judaism from the Second Temple Period to the beginnings of Rabbinical Judaism (400 BCE – 400 CE). This course explores the diversity of ancient Judaism and explores themes of religious and cultural identity. We shall consider the political and religious implications for Jews living under the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Christian empires, while briefly ruling themselves in the Hasmonean period. We will read a series of primary sources in translation from ancient Jews and non-Jews, as well as modern scholarly treatments of these works.

Hebrew Courses

HEBR 101: Beginning Hebrew I

An introduction to the Modern Israeli Hebrew language. Learning the Aleph-Bet, with beginning reading, writing and speaking skills emphasized.

HEBR 102: Beginning Hebrew II

This course follows Beginning Hebrew I, focusing on the continued development of basic speaking, reading, and writing skills in modern Israeli Hebrew. Prerequisite: HEBR-101 or language placement exam.

HEBR 103: Beginning Hebrew III

Third in a three course sequence, this course follows HEBR 102, building on the basics already learned as well as improving vocabulary, language nuance and verb conjugation skills. By the end of this course students will have reached the intermediate level and should be able to participate in more complex conversations, be able to read short stories and express themselves more clearly. Prerequisite: HEBR-102 or language placement exam.

Classics/Religion Courses

CLAS/RELG 261: Judaism in Antiquity

This course examines the history and literature of Judaism from the Second Temple Period to the beginnings of Rabbinical Judaism (400 BCE-400 CE). This course explores the diversity of ancient Judaism and explores themes of religious and cultural identity. We shall consider the political and religious implications for Jews living under the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Christian empires, while briefly ruling themselves in the Hasmonean period. We will read a series of primary sources in translation from ancient Jews and non-Jews, as well as modern scholarly treatments of these works.

CLAS 255/RELG 211: Religion from Alexander to Constantine

This course examines various forms of ancient religion and worship in the classical world. Topics included are concepts of divinity, varieties of religious space and practices, distinctions between civic and private worship, religious festivals and rituals, attitudes towards death and afterlife, importations of Near-Eastern and African religions, and political and philosophical appropriations of religion. Specifically, the course will focus on classical Greek and Roman religion, new religious movements, Judaism, and Christianity within classical culture. Students will become acquainted with a variety of texts, archaeological sites, and religious art and artifacts. (This is a designated Greek and Roman literature or culture course in Classics.)