Courses

Undergraduate Courses

Spring 2021

Apocalypse: The End of the World and the Secrets of Heaven in Ancient Judaism and Christianity
This course studies the rich corpus of revelations composed by ancient Jews and Christians about the end of the world, the fate of souls after death, the secrets of the cosmos, and God's heavenly abode, placing them in their historical contexts and considering them in relation to the development of Judaism and Christianity from the Hebrew Bible through late antiquity. Among the works to be considered are Enoch (an anthology of ancient Jewish apocalypses about the antediluvian patriarch), Daniel (Hebrew Bible), Revelation (New Testament), and Ezra (Apocrypha).
Instructors: Martha Himmelfarb
Great Books of the Jewish Tradition
This course is intended to introduce students to the classical Jewish tradition through a close reading of portions of some of its great books, including the Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Talmud, the Passover Haggadah, medieval Bible commentaries (Rashi, Nahmanides), Maimonides's Mishnah Torah (code of Jewish Law), and the Zohar, the central work of Kabbaah (medieval Jewish mysticism). We will pay particular attention to the role of interpretation in forming Jewish tradition.
Instructors: Martha Himmelfarb
Holocaust Testimony
This course focuses on major issues raised by but also extending beyond Holocaust survivor testimony, including genres of witnessing, the communication of trauma, the ethical implications of artistic representation, conflicts between history and memory, the fate of individuality in collective upheaval, the condition of survival itself, and the crucial role played by reception in enabling and transmitting survivors' speech.
Instructors: Thomas Alan Trezise
Jerusalem Contested: A City's History from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives
Jerusalem is considered a holy city to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this course, students will learn the history of Jerusalem from its founding in pre-biblical times until the present. Over the course of the semester, we will ask: What makes space sacred and how does a city become holy? What has been at stake - religiously, theologically, politically, nationally - in the many battles over Jerusalem? Is a city that is so deeply contested doomed to endless tension or does history offer more hopeful precedents?
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
New Israeli Cinema: Contemporary Visions
Post-2000 Israeli cinema offers powerful representations of the local and global forces shaping life in contemporary Israeli society. In this course, through analysis of twelve recent cinematic masterpieces, you'll develop your own vision for a film. We'll discuss both artistic choices and social questions including Israeli women's rights, Arab-Jewish relations, and religious-secular tensions. Weekly assignments culminate in your original screenplay exploring an aspect of contemporary Israeli society. Class time is split between synchronous discussions and asynchronous practicum activities. All films and texts are in English translation.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Problems in Near Eastern Jewish History: Karaism
Karaism was the only major alternative to rabbinic Judaism in the Middle Ages: an anti-rabbinic, scripturalist, scholarly, messianic, and proto-Zionist Jewish movement that developed in Iran and Iraq in the ninth century and that by the tenth century had spread across the Islamic Middle East. This course examines how and why Karaism emerged and flourished during this period and after, and what its history tells us about Judaism in the medieval Islamic Middle East more generally. Proficiency in either Hebrew or Arabic required.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
Who Wrote the Bible
The Hebrew Bible (Christian "Old Testament") is a collection of diverse books that is central to worldwide social, political, and religious experience. Despite this centrality, there are many mysteries and misconceptions about how the Bible came into being and what it really says. In this class, we will explore the Bible's historical context and ancient meaning, with a focus on matters of composition and early reception. Moving beyond the project of identifying texts with authors, we will use biblical and ancient non-biblical sources to situate biblical authors with respect to institutions, class, gender, and more.
Instructors: Madadh Richey
Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood
Are the Jews a separate nation? Should they have their own country? Where should it be located? This course investigates why Jews and non-Jews alike began asking these questions in the late eighteenth century and explores the varieties of answers they offered. The course's focus is on those who insisted that the Jews were a nation that required a state in the Jews' historic homeland. We will try to understand why these people - known collectively as Zionists - came to these conclusions, and why many others disagreed. The final part of the course will address debates within the State of Israel about what it means to be a "Jewish state."
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz