Spring 2019 Courses

Spring 2019

Introduction to Jewish Cultures
This course explores the relationship between culture, history, religion, and ethics in global Jewish experience from the Bible to the present. Following representations of themes such as sexuality, suffering, and mysticism, we'll debate the boundaries between religion and culture and see how ethical questions play out in cultural forms. How does Jewish law, ritual, and custom inform Jewish culture, and how does culture sometimes push back against religious norms? Topics include Bible and Talmud, kabbalah, sexuality, Yiddish, Arab Jews, Zionism, Jewish music, food, literature, cinema, and comics. No background required; readings in English.
Instructors: Lital Levy
Holocaust Testimony
This course focuses on major issues raised by but also extending beyond Holocaust survivor testimony, including genres of witnessing, the communication of trauma, the ethical implications of artistic representation, conflicts between history and memory, the fate of individuality in collective upheaval, the condition of survival itself, and the crucial role played by reception in enabling and transmitting survivors' speech.
Instructors: Thomas Alan Trezise
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, including the Hebrew Bible, the Midrash, the Talmud, the Passover Haggadah, Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed, the Zohar, and Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise. We will pay particular attention to the role of interpretation in forming Jewish tradition.
Instructors: Ra'anan Shaul Boustan
Jewish Mysticism, Magic, and Kabbalah from Antiquity to Middle Ages
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.
Instructors: Ra'anan Shaul Boustan
The Arab-Israeli Conflict
This course examines the fascinating and tragic history of the encounter and conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine/Israel beginning in the late 19th century. We will try to understand the evolution of the conflict from the distinct perspectives of the different parties engaged in it, aiming to comprehend their motivations and the obstacles that have stood in the way of a peaceful resolution. The course is structured around questions, inviting students to partake in the challenging task of exploring one of the world's most complex, ever-developing and enduring political conflicts.
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Zionism: Jewish Nationalism Before and Since Statehood
Are the Jews a separate nation? Should they have their own country? Where should it be located? This course investigates why Jews and non-Jews alike began asking these questions in the late eighteenth century and explores the varieties of answers they offered. The course's focus is on those who insisted that the Jews were a nation that required a state in the Jews' historic homeland. We will try to understand why these people - known collectively as Zionists - came to these conclusions, and why many others disagreed. The final part of the course will address debates within the State of Israel about what it means to be a "Jewish state."
Instructors: Jonathan Marc Gribetz
Problems in Near Eastern Jewish History: Judaism after the Talmud
Most varieties of late ancient Judaism disappeared after late antiquity, leaving rabbinic Judaism challenged only by Karaism (a medieval anti-rabbinic movement). This course examines this shift, focusing especially on the role played by the Babylonian Talmud's canonization and circulation throughout the Near East. Students will learn to work with the medieval Jewish scholastic genres that developed around and against the Talmud (rabbinic responsa, commentaries, and digests, as well as Karaite exegesis), consider material evidence for these texts' production and consumption, and survey their historical contexts and parallels.
Instructors: Eve Krakowski
Who Wrote the Bible
The course will introduce students to the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") in its ancient Near Eastern setting. Key concepts such as God, worship, the afterlife, and history, will be scrutinized through a careful reading of a selection of Biblical texts including the Creation and Garden of Eden narratives in Genesis, the laws of Deuteronomy, the prophecies of Isaiah, and the poetry of Psalms. Particular attention will be paid to questions of authorship--possible dating, social setting, and original audience; and to transformations that the texts underwent through a continuous process of transmission and interpretation.
Instructors: Laura Elizabeth Quick
Intermediate Biblical Hebrew
We will read the selections from the Hebrew Bible 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.
Instructors: Laura Elizabeth Quick