Spring 2000 Courses

Introduction to Judaism: Religion, History, Ethics
Starting with ancient Israel's radically new conceptions of the divine, morality and history, this course explores the complex nature of Judaism and its development as a religion and culture over millennia--a development marked by internal debates and external challenges to continuity and survival. We will emphasize traditional bases of Judaism, such as religious beliefs and practices, interpretations of sacred texts, and shared communal values. Attention will also be given to the variety of Jewish encounters with modernity, philosophy, secularism, and non-Jewish cultures. All students are welcome.
Professor: James Diamond

The Making of Americans: Material Culture and the Immigrant Experience
The study of material culture, a multidisciplinary exploration of things and their contexts, has grown materially in the past two decades. Drawing on theories and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines--from anthropology and folklore to social history--material culture looks at how everyday objects structure communal activity, mediate between the public and the private, articulate religious beliefs and shape identity. This course introduces students to material culture by looking closely at how immigrants over the past century drew on things--clothing, furniture, tableware, artwork and gifts--to express their ties to both the Old World and the New. Field trips to museums and historical sites will supplement the classroom experience.
Professor: Jenna Weissman Joselit

Modern Jewish History: 1750-Present
This course surveys the breadth of Jewish experience from the era of the Enlightenment to the contemporary period. Tracing the development of Jewish communities in Europe and the United States against the background of general history, the lectures focus on themes such as the transformation of Jewish identity, the creation of modern Jewish politics, the impact of anti-Semitism, and the founding of the State of Israel.
Professor: Olga Litvak

Religion and Literature of the Old Testament: Wisdom Literature and the Post-Exilic Period
Wisdom literature and the history of the religion of Israel through the Maccabean revolt as known through biblical and extra-biblical sources. Topics to be studied include post-exilic prophecy, historical writings, the biblical and apocryphal novella, the impact of Hellenistic culture, the rise of apocalyptic literature, and the sources for the Maccabean revolt.
Professor: Martha Himmelfarb

Jewish Mysticism: From the Beginnings to Kabbala
One of the revolutionary innovations within the history of the Jewish religion is Kabbala, the summit of Jewish mysticism. It transforms the single, static (and essentially male) God of biblical and rabbinic Judaism into a dynamic and multi-faceted God whose rich inner life can be explored, and influenced, by human beings. The course follows the historical development of Jewish mysticism and examines its major topics, such as God, creation, good and evil, and redemption.
Professor: Peter Schäfer

Responses to the Holocaust
A multi-media study of the ways in which writers, artists, film makers, cartoonists, composers, and comics have responded to the horrors of the holocaust. Among the questions to be considered are: How is it possible to describe and represent the Holocaust in writing? in art? in film? What distinguishes the ways in which this is done by different generations? How can the memory of these events be effectively preserved and transmitted through monuments and museums? What role does the memory of the Holocaust play in the life of contemporary Jews?
Professor: Laurence Silberstein

Studies in Ancient Judaism - Special Topic: Genres of Rabbinic Literature
This course will involve a close reading of a variety of genres of Rabbinic literature (Mishna-Tosefta, Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, halakhic midrashim, homiletical midrashim, rewritten Bible, etc.,). In addition to matters of genre, we will compare different versions of a tradition in different literary corpora. All texts will be read in the original language (Hebrew and Aramaic), but English translations will be provided. Open to qualified undergraduates.
Professor: Peter Schäfer

Jewish Culture 800-1500
Jewish culture had a great flowering between 800-1500, represented by such genres as poetry, Jewish law, midrash and folklore, Bible commentary, mysticism, liturgy, epistolography, history, philosophy, travel literature, ethical wills, drama, all of which influenced early modern and modern Jewish culture. This will be an introduction of some of these great works.
Professor: Mark Cohen

The Arab Israeli Conflict
An essential course for understanding nearly a century of Arab-Israeli conflict. The course will place the conflict in social, political and historical contexts. We'll discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict as a process with three distinct phases. During the first phase, 1905-1948, Jewish immigrants and Palestinian Arabs sought to create basic state institutions. The second phase, 1949-1984, is a period of conflict between existing states. The third phase, from 1985 to the present, focuses on conflicts between a Palestinian community and Israel over state structures. Gain a clearer, better-informed perspective on how this century-old--and ongoing--conflict has developed.
Professor: Ellis Goldberg

The Bible as Literature
The Bible, closely read in its own right and as a fabulous resource for literature and commentary. We'll encounter its forms and genres. Including historical narrative, uncanny tales, prophecy, lyric, lament, commandment, sacred biography and apocalypse; its pageant of weird and extraordinary characters; and its brooding intertextuality. We'll make ourselves familiar with some striking examples of Biblical interpretation, from the Rabbis to Augustine to Kafka and Kierkegaard. "Cinematic commentary" will be included- Bible films, both campy and sublime.
Professor: Esther Schor

Exodus: The Women's Version
This course brings together guest artists to collaborate with students and faculty in creating works performed or exhibited on campus. Students will write and perform a staged reading based on the experience of women characters--Hebrews and Egyptians, slaves and masters--in the Biblical Exodus story, exploring the emotional and political dimensions this story continues to have for us today. This work will be both individual and collaborative.
Professors: Alicia Ostriker and Susana Tubert

Elementary Hebrew
Continuation of Hebrew 101 focusing on the structure, grammar, and vocabulary of the Hebrew language. There will be reading of easy texts from Israeli newspapers and from the textbooks. Also, there will be more compositions and presentations about various topics in Hebrew.
Professor: Esther Robbins

Intermediate Hebrew
Completion of two-year text book Ha-Yesod, and reading and discussion of selected additional texts (newspapers, stories, poems, etc.). Extensive practice in conversation, writing, and reading Hebrew literature.
Professor: Esther Robbins

Previous Semesters Courses