Spring 2006 Courses



JDS 202/REL 202
Class C01: 11:00-12:20 TTh


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. These books include the Bible, rabbinic midrash, the Talmud, Rashi’s commentary on the Torah (probably the most influential Bible commentary among Jews ever), the Zohar (the central work of Kabbalah), and the Guide for the Perplexed (Maimonides’ great philosophical work). As we read, we will consider what these works tell us about the relationship between revelation and interpretation in Jewish tradition and how they come to define that tradition.
Professor: Martha Himmelfarb


JDS 301/WOM 309
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 Th


Topics in Judaic Studies: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body in Judaism: From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America
An exploration of distinctive Jewish approaches to questions of gender, sexuality, and the body, as formulated in their historical, religious, legal, ethical, imaginative, and comical dimensions. Emphasis on received traditions (Bible, Talmud, Kabbalah), definitions of gender roles and identities, and contemporary transformations in Jewish thought and practices. Topics include the 'body of God,' circumcision, laws of purity, rites of passage, feminist theology, and masculine and feminine stereotypes. Primary and secondary readings, contemporary films.
Professor: Froma Zeitlin


HIS 359/JDS 359
Class C01: 11:00-12:20 MW


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


REL 230/JDS 230
Lecture L01: 12:30-1:20 TTh, Precept P01: TBA


Religion and Literature of the Old Testament: Through the Babylonian Exile
The history of the religion of Israel through the Babylonian exile as it emerges through the study of the Torah, historical writings, and prophets, by means of modern critical methods.  The ancient Near Eastern background of the Hebrew Bible, source criticism and the documentary hypothesis, and the beginnings of the editorial process.
Professor: Simeon Chavel

NES 328/REL 329
Lecture L01: 1:30-2:50 TTh


The Origins of Monotheism: Shaping the Divine in the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near Eastern religions conceive of the divine as a relative category, which not only defines anthropomorphic deities but can be extended to demons, humans, and cultic objects. Rather than being conceived as an individual person, a deity represented an agent of functions and roles placed in the social constellation of the pantheon. The fluid understanding of the divine and the political setting of rising territorial states and empires eventually allowed for a development of the concept of national deities such as Marduk, Assur and Yahweh. This will allow us to trace the interface between polytheism and the formation of monotheism.
Professor: Beate Pongratz-Leisten

REL 340/JDS 340
Class C01: 3:00-4:20 TTh


Judaism in the Greco-Roman World
This course seeks to understand the evolution of Judaism during the crucial period from the conquest of Alexander the Great to the destruction of the Second Temple, through a careful reading of primary texts and consideration of such issues as the process of hellenization, the development of biblical canon, the emergence of sects, and the growth of eschatological expectation. Topics include Palestine in the third century BCE; the Hellenistic reform and the Maccabean revolt; Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes; the Dead Sea Scrolls; Philo and Egyptian Judaism; and apocalyptic literature.
Professor: Martha Himmelfarb

REL 348/JDS 348
Seminar S01 1:30-4:20 M


Jesus in the Talmud
The terms “Jesus” and “Talmud” are almost oxymora: what do Jesus, the founder of Christianity, and the Talmud, the founding document of rabbinic Judaism, have in common? Not much, but still Jesus does appear in the Talmud, despite the efforts of Christian censors to eliminate all the references to him. The seminar will deal with the relevant sources (in English) that are preserved mainly in the manuscript tradition. We will compare the Talmudic stories about Jesus’ life and death with the respective narratives in the New Testament, with particular emphasis on how the rabbis read the New Testament and responded to the Christian message.
Professors: Peter Schäfer


NES 220/HIS 220/JDS 220
Class C01: 1:30-2:50 TTh


Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Middle Ages
An introduction to the history and culture of the Jews in the Middle Ages (under Islam and Christendom) covering, comparatively, such topics as the inter-relationship between Judaism and the other two religions, interreligious polemics, political (legal) status, economic role, communal self-government, family life, and cultural developments.
Professor: Mark Cohen

NES 523
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 Th


Readings in Judeo-Arabic
An introduction to the reading of Arabic texts written by medieval Jews in the Hebrew script, especially documents from the Cairo Geniza.
Professor: Mark Cohen


PHI 332/JDS 332
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 W


Early Modern Philosophy: Spinoza
This course will focus on the thought of Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza. We will read a variety of his works, including “Theological-Political Treatise” and the “Ethics.”
Professor: Dan Garber


JDS 363/COM 363/THR 363
Class C01: 1:30-2:50 MW


Performing the Jew on Stage
What accounts for the recurrence of Jewish characters in prominent dramas and operas throughout the centuries? Do such portrayals of the Jew link Jews and drama—that is, are Jews inherently “dramatic”? We will consider these questions in relation to such works as The Merchant of Venice, Lessing’s Nathan the Wise and Ansky’s Yiddish classic The Dybbuk. Students will watch renditions of these dramas; lectures and a number of critical readings will contextualize these works historically, culturally and theoretically.
Professor: Alyssa Quint

FRE 367/JDS 367
Lecture L01: 8:30-9:50 T, P01 (English): 8:30-9:50 Th, P02 (French): 1:30-2:50 Th.


The Jewish Presence in French Literature Since 1945
France has the largest Jewish community in Europe as well as a strong tradition of cultural assimilation. The aim of this course is to explore literary and film work that represents or refracts the experience of Jews in France in the last sixty years. Problems that arise include the diversity in the cultural backgrounds of the French Jewish community, the conflict between “Jewish literature” and French republican ideology, and the role of Holocaust narratives in literary and cultural production.
Professor: David Bellos


NES 311/JDS 311
Class C01 11:00- 12:20 MW


Introduction to Biblical Hebrew II
Detailed introduction to biblical Hebrew morphology and syntax. Translation from Hebrew into English and English into Hebrew. No previous knowledge of Hebrew is required.
Professor: Emmanuel Papoutsakis


HEB 101
Class C01: 10:00-10:50 MWF, Drill D01: 10:00-10:50 TTh


Elementary Hebrew
To develop the skills of reading, speaking, comprehending and writing. The main emphasis is on acquiring communicative proficiency and therefore, Hebrew is progressively employed as the classroom language. A solid grammatical basis and awareness of the idiomatic usage of the language will be emphasized. Classroom activities include conversation, grammar exercises, and reading. Towards the middle of the semester, an Israeli movie is shown, discussed and criticized through a written assignment.
Professor: Esther Robbins


HEB 105
Class C01 : 12:30-1:20 MTWThF


Intermediate Hebrew
Reinforcement and expansion of reading, oral, aural, and writing skills through maximum student participation, exclusive use of Hebrew in the classroom, and coverage of remainder of basic grammar. Readings of graded selections from prose, poetry, and newspapers, and viewing and discussion of Israeli films and television programs open a window on Israel and its culture.
Professor: Esther Robbins


HEB 301
Class C01: 1:30-2:50 TTh


Advanced Hebrew: Aspects of Israeli Culture
This course develops an advanced, active command of the written and spoken language through reading and discussion of newspapers, short stories, and poetry. Focus on aspects of contemporary Israeli and Jewish cultures.
Professor: Esther Robbins