Spring 2008 Courses



JDS 315/WOM 310
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 Th


The Family in Jewish Tradition
This seminar will examine the historic flexibility and variability of the Jewish family in the context of selected times and places: Biblical period, early Common Era Diaspora, 20th Century Europe, contemporary U.S. and Israel. The major emphasis in this course will be on the different protocols and forms that may collectively be called the “Jewish Family.”   Among the topics to be covered are the Biblical family, the Rabbinic period of late antiquity, the East European shtetl and subsequent immigration to America before and after World War I, the situation of the family during and after the Holocaust, the experimental family arrangements of the Kibbutz, the role of sexuality as prescribed by Jewish law, and conflicts between traditional morality and contemporary secular life. Application required; concentrators have first priority.
Professor: ( Dr.) Ruth Westheimer


JDS 353/MUS 353
Seminar S01:  1:30-4:20 W


Music and Jewish Identity: Tradition, Assimilation, and Innovation from Ancient to Modern Times
In this seminar, we will explore the complex role that music has played in the formation and expression of Jewish cultural and religious identity.  We will consider not only music performed within liturgical settings both historically and in modern times, but also the ways in which a sense of Jewishness has shaped and continues to shape the composition, performance, and the reception of a variety of musical styles, including popular music, music for the concert hall, music for theater and film, jazz, and folk music.  We will explore whether or not there is such a thing as “Jewish Music” and the ways in which the often fraught history of Jews in both East and West impacted music, and the ways in which music and musical performance has impacted Jewish life.  Seminar discussions will be supplemented with guest lecturer, presentations, and films, and students may also bring some aspect of their own performance experiences to class as relevant.   We will also explore the various resources for research on Jewish Music.
Professor: Wendy Heller


REL 341/JDS 341
Class C01: 11:00-12:20 TTh


Jews and Judaism in Ancient Egypt and Other Diaspora Communities
This course studies development of Judaism in the diaspora from 33 BCE to 200 CE, including the rich body of literature produced by Egyptian Jewry, the best documented of the ancient diaspora communities, the archaeological and epigraphic evidence for Judaism in Rome and Asia Minor, and the writings of ancient non-Jews on the Jews and Judaism.
Professor: Martha Himmelfarb  

JDS 372/REL 372
Class C01: 11:00-12:20 TTh


God’s Body:  Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Literature, and Jewish Mysticism
It is widely accepted today that the Jewish conception of God is of an incorporeal entity. This, however, was not always the case. This course will survey a dominant view in pre-modern Jewish thought that understands God as embodied and, indeed, possessing a human form. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible, and working through classical rabbinic texts and early Jewish mysticism (including the Kabbalah), we will try explore the theological significance of God’s body: its relation to different Jewish doctrines of human existence, its significance for the Jewish ritual commandments, and its implications for divine and human gender and sexuality. All sources will be in English.
Professor:  Azzan Yadin

JDS 381/REL 381
Class C01: 1:30-2:50 TTh


The Biblical King David – Between Myth and History
Shepherd, hero; bandit, international power; musical therapist, prophetic liturgist; home-wrecker, dynastic and cultic founder — David plays the Bible’s richest role. Yet far from confirming his monumental accomplishments, archaeology barely acknowledges his very existence. We will explore these two poles and the historiographical space in between them.
Professor: Simeon Chavel

REL 512
Seminar  S01: 1:30-4:20 Th


The Binding of Isaac in Ancient Judaism and Christianity
This seminar will study ancient Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Biblical story of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22).  The story plays a central role in Jewish tradition, and it also has an important place in the debates between Jews and Christians.  For Jews, Abraham’s obedience gives his descendants a claim on God’s mercy while for Christians the near sacrifice of Isaac prefigures the crucifixion.
Professor:  Martha Himmelfarb



REL 311
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 W


Religious Existentialism
An in-depth study of existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, Martin Heidegger, Hans Jonas, and Emmanuel Levinas.  This course will focus on their respective arguments about the relations between philosophy and existence, reason and revelation, divine law and love, philosophy, religion, and politics, and Judaism and Christianity.
Professor: Leora Batnitzky  

JDS 316/CHV 316/AMS 320
Class C01: 11:00-12:20 TTh


The Ten Commandments in Modern America
In contemporary America, few issues are as hotly debated as religion, especially when it comes to the Ten Commandments. Some citizens, claiming that the Ten Commandments are as American as apple pie, insist they should be displayed as often and as prominently as possible. Others, pointing to the separation of church and state, insist that the Ten Commandments have no place in the public square. And still other Americans are caught in the middle, torn between the Bible and the Constitution. This seminar contextualizes the current debate, which has reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Drawing on literature and the media, the arts and the law, it explores the variety of ways in which this ancient text has left its mark on America of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Professor: Jenna Weissman Joselit


AMS 322/JDS 322
Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 M


American Legal Theory and Jewish Law
This course investigates the relationship between “Torah and Constitution.” Early political and legal philosophers often drew on the Bible to develop their theories.  More recently, American legal and political theorists have turned to the rabbinic tradition as an alternative model for law.  Do these two systems of law share common principles, values, or methods of interpretation?  The course will look at a variety of schools of legal thought, including various theories of constitutional, common law, and literary interpretation, feminist jurisprudence, naturalism, positivism, and legal realism.
Professor: Suzanne L. Stone


JDS 303/REL 303/NES 311
Class C01: 11:00- 12:20 MW


Elementary Biblical Hebrew II
Students will achieve a basic ability to read the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its original language.  During the semester, students will continue studying grammar, and developing vocabulary. Upon completing the grammar textbook, students will read large passages from the Bible from all genres.
Professor: Simeon Chavel


HEB 102
Class C01: 10:00-10:50 MTWThF


Elementary Hebrew II
Continuation of Hebrew 101 focusing on the structure, grammar, and vocabulary of the Hebrew language. We’ll be reading easy texts from Israeli newspapers and from the textbooks.  We’ll be writing more compositions and be giving presentations about various topics in Hebrew.  
Professor:  Esther Robbins


HEB 107
Class C01:  11:00-11:50 MTWThF


Intermediate Hebrew II
Completion of two-year textbook, 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

HEB 302
Class C01: 1:30-2:50 TTh


Advanced Hebrew Language and Style II
Readings in Hebrew culture, exploring the underlying tensions in identity among Israeli Jews: tensions in religious identity (i.e. Ashkenazim vs. Sephardim/Ultra-Orthodox [Chareidim] vs. Secularists), political identity, age/generational identity, and personal identity.  We will analyze these issues within the context of contemporary short stories, modern poetry, newspaper articles, and cinema/theater.     
Professor: Esther Robbins


HEB 402
Class C01:  1:30-4:20 F


Coexistence through Theater and Film
An advanced language and culture course in Hebrew will develop further proficiency in all skills through discussions and oral presentations of authentic materials and media.  The objective is to investigate how playwrights and filmmakers deal with socio-cultural issues of coexistence.  In addition to reading the plays, students will watch DVDs of the performances from the unique bilingual theater in Jaffa.  Lab work will also be assigned.     
Professor: Esther Robbins