Spring 2018 Courses

Israeli Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics
COM302/ NES 320 JDS 308
Lital Levy

This course investigates the question of ethics and culture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is the relationship between culture and ethics? How does the conflict permeate everyday life, and how do Palestinian and Israeli artists, writers and filmmakers respond? How have they pushed aesthetic and ethical limits in representing extreme violence and loss? How does the cultural imagination transgress borders or challenge one-sided understandings of responsibility? Course material includes feature film and documentary film, literature, memoir, visual art, photography, theater, dance, rap music, and cookbooks, all in English translation.

Great Books of the Jewish Tradition
JDS/ REL 202
Yaacob Dweck and Moulie Vidas

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 Bible, the Midrash, the Talmud, Maimonides's legal and philosophical work, the Zohar, and Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise. We will pay particular attention to the role of interpretation in forming Jewish tradition

Jewish Mysticism, Magic and Kabbalah
Ra’anan Boustan

This course traces the history of Jewish mysticism and magic from the Hebrew Bible to the flourishing of the Kabbalah in medieval Europe. We will consider such historical problems as: the roots of the Jewish mystical tradition in Israelite prophecy; rabbinic attitudes toward secret knowledge and ecstatic practice; and the emergence of the Kabbalah against the background of Jewish rationalist philosophy. The course also considers such thematic questions as: the relationship between literary expression and mystical experience; the power of speech and language in Jewish magic; and gender, sexuality, and the body in Jewish mysticism.

The Politics of American Jewish Power and Powerlessness
JDS 312 AMS 308
Lila Corwin Berman

How much power do American Jews have? Instead of trying to answer the question directly, this course will excavate the histories, ideologies, and conflicts embedded in it. We will start with an exploration of what we mean when we talk about politics and power by reading some classic (and, in some cases, antisemitic) theories about the relationship between Jews and state rulers, and Jews and economic modes. As we focus our analysis on American Jews, we will consider how American political, economic, and cultural forms offered Jews opportunities to access various kinds of power and, also, excluded them from other forms.

Muslims, Jews and Christians in North Africa: Interactions, Conflicts and Memory
NES 316 HIS 299 AAS 324 JDS 316
M’hammed Oualdi

This has been as one of the main events of the modern times in North Africa: from the 1950s onwards, the Jewish local communities and the European settlers started to leave Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. We will study the various interactions between Muslims, Jews and Christians in this part of the Islamic world. How did Europeans transform North African Islam and local societies? We will as well explore the reasons why the local Jews and Europeans left en masse after the colonial period and how North African Muslims, Jews and former European settlers developed either a strong memory of a shared past or a mutual distrust even today.

Harlots and Heroines: Readings in the Book of Esther and Ruth
JDS 314 REL 304
Laura Quick

We will read the books of Ruth and Esther in the original Hebrew, considering aspects of translation and Hebrew grammar and syntax, as well as the historical, literary and religious contexts of the books. Particular attention will be paid to the role of women in the larger societal context of ancient Israel, as well as the development of the genre of the Jewish novella in the Second Temple Period.

Jews in Ancient Egypt
Martha Himmelfarb

The Jews of Egypt were one of the first diaspora communities in antiquity, and, from the fourth century BCE until the second century CE, undoubtedly the best documented. This course will examine the rich body of texts that allows us to trace the development of Judaism in Egypt, including works such as the Septuagint (the translation of the Torah into Greek) and the biblical commentaries of Philo of Alexandria, who combined Platonic philosophy with Judaism, as well as documentary papyri that illumine the everyday lives of Egyptian Jews. It will also look at how other Egyptians responded to a community whose central text was so anti-Egyptian.