Spring 2010 Courses


JDS 202/REL 202: 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, Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, the Zohar (the central work of Kabbalah), Moses Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem, Salomon Maimon’s Autobiography, Leo Baeck’s The Essence of Judaism, and Gershon Scholem’s The Messianic Idea in Judaism. As we read, we will consider what these works tell us about creation, revelation, and salvation in Jewish tradition and how they come to define that tradition.
Professor: Peter Schäfer Class C01: 11:00-12:20 MW

JDS 315/WOM 310: 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 to JDS required; concentrators have first priority.
Professor: (Dr.) Ruth Westheimer Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 Th

JDS 355 /NES 355 /HIS 356: Between Swords and Stones: Jerusalem, a History
For 3000 years the city that is holy to all three monotheistic religions has known little peace and tranquility and has been the site of wars, conquests, and division. By drawing on historical, literary, religious, and cinematic sources, this course will explore the history of Jerusalem from antiquity to the modern period. It will examine its place in the religious imagination of Jews, Muslims, and Christians and trace the political history of a city that continues to be one of the most inflammable places on earth. The course will look at the conditions in today’s ‘united’ Jerusalem and explore the different contingencies to bring peace to it.
Professor: Eran Kaplan Seminar S01: 11:00-12:20 TTh

REL 396/PHI 396/GER 304: Genealogy of Secularism
This course explores the philosophical development of the concept of secularism, its philosophical and religious sources, as well as its critiques. Among the questions we will consider are: what is universal about secularism? Is critical thought necessarily secular? What is the relation between secularism and readings of the Bible? Our method will be genealogical, meaning that our focus will be on the philosophical aspects of secularism, rather than on the history of secularism.
Professor: Oded Schechter Seminar S01 1:30-4:20 Th

NES 398/JDS 398/REL 398: Clash of Civilizations? Perceptions of East and West from the Medieval Period to the Contemporary World
Among the pressing issues of our time is the perceived divide between the Islamic "East" and the European and American "West." As this course explores, the meeting if Islamicate and western civilizations has a long, complicated history. Examine the roots of this tension and ways in which the two perceived one another from the Middle Ages to modernity through classic works of literature and art. Likewise, examine the experience of "eastern" Judaism and Christianity, including how they viewed their western counterparts, and the complex relationship between religion and culture in the formation of identity.
Professor: Elisha Russ-Fishbane Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 W

HIS 446/JDS 446: Maimonides: From Medieval Egypt to Modernity
This course will use the works of Moses Maimonides (ca. 1136-1204) as a case study in the history of knowledge. After reading select passages in his Guide of the Perplexed and The Code of Law, we will trace the reception of Maimonides and his work from the 12th century to modern times. As we read him and his interpreters we will pay attention to questions of transmission, sociology of knowledge, and the reception of a text. Also, we will explore the Maimonidean controversies in the high Middle Ages, the printing and censorship of his Code in the early modern period, and his impact on the Jewish Enlightenment and modern Jewish thought.
Professor: Yaacob Dweck Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 T


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


NES 408/JDS 408/COM 365: The Hebrew Poetry of Medieval Spain
Covers the rise of the golden age of Hebrew poetry in Muslim Spain; the Arabic literary background; lyrical, liturgical, and contemplative verse by great poets of the 11th and 13th centuries (Shmuel ha-Nagid, Ibn Gabirol, Judah Halevi, Todros Abulafia, etc.); and narratives in rhymed prose. Two weeks will be devoted to developments outside Spain: the 12th and 13th c. martyrdom poems from France and the Rhineland, and, in conclusion, the adoption of Romance forms, especially the sonnet, in the Hebrew poetry of Italy. Weekly Hebrew readings. Taught in English.
Professor: Andras Hamori Seminar S01: 3:00-4:20 TF

NES 545: Problems in Near Eastern Jewish History
The topic this year is the Dhimma, the status of Jews and other non-Muslims in medieval Islam. In addition to reading secondary literature, we will read and discuss primary sources in class.
Professor: Mark Cohen Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 M


REL 242/JDS 242: Jewish Thought and Modern Society
What is Judaism’s and the individual Jew’s relation to the modern world? Is Judaism a religion, a nationality, an ethnicity, or a combination of these? This course explores various answers to these questions by examining various historical and cultural formations of Jewish identity in Europe, America, and Israel from the eighteenth century to the present, as well as by engaging particular issues, such as Judaism’s relation to technology, the environment, bioethics, feminism, and democracy.
Professor: Leora Batnitzky Lecture L01: 12:30-1:20 MW, Precept P01: TBA.

WWS 482/JDS 482: Israel Extremism and the Search for Peace
In 1995 Israel's prime minister was assassinated at a peace rally by a religious student. The Rabin assassination helped derail the peace process; it also exposed the deep currents of political extremism in Israel. This course explores the roots of Israeli political radicalism. It examines the impact of the Arab-Jewish conflict on Israeli politics and assessed the way the '67 War impacted political alignments in Israel. The course considers how political radicalism in Israel reacted to the peace efforts of the 1990s and it looks at how, in the 21st century with the rise of fundamentalism, globally political radicalism impacts Israel.
Professor: Eran Kaplan Seminar S01: 1:30-4:20 W


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

HEB 107: 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, reading, and tasting Hebrew literature.
Professor: Esther Robbins Class C01: 11:00-11:50 MTWThF

HEB 302: 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 Class C01: 3:00-4:20 M; C02: 7:30-8:50 Th

HEB 402: 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 Class C01: 1:30-4:20 F

Courses from Previous Semesters