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Undergraduate Program





Course Offerings


Undergraduate Fall 2004 Courses


JS 100: Survey of Jewish History
JS 169: The Arab-Israeli Conflict
JS 205: Biblical Literature
JS 242: American Jewish History
JS 250: Introduction to Biblical Archaeology
JS 250S: Freshman Seminar: Introduction to Biblical Archaeology
JS 354SWR: The Ethics of Judaism
JS 370: Jews in Islamic Lands
JS 370: Interpreting Psalms
JS 370: Religion and Culture in Israel: An Ethnographic Approach
JS 370: Yiddish Culture: From the Shtetl to the Lower East Side
JS 371SWR: The Crusades: Religions in Confrontation
JS 371SWR: Minorities in the Arab World
JS 430R: Modern Hebrew Literature
JS 495RWR: Honors Thesis
JS 497RWR: Directed Reading


JS 100-000: Survey of Jewish History (same as HIST 270-000)
Rustow, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX 40 (30 JS, 10 HIST)

Course description: This course offers an overview of the history of Jews and Judaism from antiquity to the present, tracing how that history has unfolded in varying cultural and geographical settings. On the basis of primary sources and the interpretations of modern scholars, we will ask how the Jews have responded to the social and political circumstances in which they lived and how they imagined, constructed and renegotiated the boundaries of identity and community. Special emphasis will be placed on the use of primary texts—original documents in translation that will enable students to practice hands-on historical analysis—and on the types of questions historians bring to bear on source material. The course will therefore focus both on major problems in Jewish history and on the central questions, philosophies, and techniques by means of which scholars have attempted to analyze, understand, and narrate that history.


  • Biale (ed.), The Cultures of the Jews: a New History
  • Hallo et al. (eds.), Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (source reader)
  • Scheindlin, A Short History of the Jewish People
  • Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (revised ed.)
  • Tanakh: the Holy Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society)

Particulars: Three exams (two mid-term and one final) and five 2-3 page writing assignments. This course is appropriate for anyone who wishes to pursue further courses in history or Jewish Studies, and for anyone seeking an overview of the subject. The course satisfies area V.B. of the General Education Requirements (Historical Perspectives on Western Culture).

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JS 169-000/001/002: The Arab-Israeli Conflict (same as HIST 169-000/001/002, POLS 169-000/001/002)
Stein, MWF 9:35-10:25, MAX: 135 (45 HIST, 45 JS, 45 POLS)

Course description: This is an introductory survey to the history, politics, and diplomacy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first half of the course will deal with the historical, ideological, and social origins of the conflict to 1948-49. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the composition of Jewish and Arab communities in Palestine, the respective political culture of both, and their interaction with the British Mandatory power. The second half of the course focuses on political, social, economic, and diplomatic aspects of the conflict, including, the evolution and development of Palestinian national identity, and the 1956, 1967, and 1973 Middle Eastern wars. A significant portion of the course is spent in understanding the successes and constraints in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, especially those diplomatic efforts led by the United States. The relationship of European, Arab states, and diaspora supporters to the sides of the conflict are reviewed in detail. Finally, discussing, and analyzing documents related to the conflict's 100-year history is a central feature of the course.


  • Bickerton and Klausner, A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967
  • Stein, Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace
  • Stein, Making Peace Among Arabs and Israelis: Lessons from Fifty Years of Negotiating Experience
  • A documents book must be purchased. It will be distributed by the professor at the beginning of the semester.

Particulars: Grading: midterm (30%), discussion (20%), and final (50%). Students will be expected to attend three lectures per week and participate actively in one discussion session. This course is intended as an introduction to the Arab-Israeli Conflict; freshmen and sophomores are especially encouraged to enroll in this course.

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JS 205-000: Biblical Literature (same as REL 205-000)
Buss, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX: 30 (15 REL, 15 JS)

Course description: In this course, we will seek to understand the dynamics of various parts of the Jewish Bible, called "Old Testament" by Christians. This will involve questions such as the following: What is said? How is it said? What appears to be the aim? Insofar as there can be disagreement in regard to these questions, we will look at different answers, both as they have been given by others and as they are presented by members of the class.


  • JPS, Tanakh
  • Sandmel, The Enjoyment of Scripture
  • Buchmann and Spiegel (eds.), Out of the Garden
  • Buss, Manuscript

Particulars: Students will bring to each class an analysis of the text studied and will be ready to discuss their analyses orally in class. Students who have to miss class more than occasionally can turn their analyses into short papers and discuss them in an individual conference (which will normally cover two or three such papers covering the topics of two or three missed classes). There will be a midterm and a final. The course fulfills General Education Requirement IV.A (Humanities).

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JS 242-000: American Jewish History (same as HIST 242-000)
Davis, MWF 11:45-12:35, MAX: 40 (20 HIST, 20 JS)

Course description: This course is a survey of the Jewish experience in the United States, examining the cultural, political, religious, and economic activities of American Jews from the colonial period to the present. Students will explore how Jewish tradition has been adapted to and challenged by the American setting, how patterns of communal life have been reshaped, what the relationship has been to other Americans and to the international Jewish community, and how American Jewish identities have been created from Jews' dual impulses for integration and distinctiveness.

Possible texts include:

  • Sarna (ed.), The American Jewish Experience
  • Gold, Jews Without Money
  • West and Lerner, Blacks and Jews
  • a number of articles on e-reserve

Particulars: Class sessions will combine lecture and discussions that emphasize the close reading of primary sources. There will be regular short homework assignments, and two longer (4-6 page) writing assignments. This course satisfies area V.A. of the General Education Requirements.

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JS 250-000: Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (same as MES 250-000, REL 260-000)
Borowski, TTh 1:00-2:15, MAX: 20 (10 MES, 5 JS, 5 REL)

Course description: An examination of the relationship between archaeology and the Bible with an introduction to the field of Biblical archaeology and a careful examination of theory and methodology. The famous discoveries (inscriptions, architecture) and important sites (Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer, Dan) which form the historical background to some of the biblical stories will be examined as well as issues and topics such as the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), Exodus (Moses), and settlement of Canaan (Joshua), the kings of Israel and Judah, and more. Other topics that will be studied include daily life, religion and ancient art. There will be a few early evening video screenings on related topics.


  • Rast, Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology
  • May, Oxford Bible Atlas, 3rd edition
  • The Bible (recommended Oxford Study Bible)
  • Course packet

Particulars: Examinations: Midterm (25%) and Final (35%), 2 papers (35%); quizzes (10%). Comments: This course fulfills the methodology requirements for a Minor in Mediterranean Archaeology; it also fulfills Area V.C. in the GER. 

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JS 250S-00P: Freshman Seminar: Introduction to Biblical Archaeology (same as MES 250S-00P)
Borowski, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX: 18 (12 MES, 6 JS)

Course description: An introduction to the field of Biblical archaeology with careful examination of theory and methodology. The famous discoveries (inscriptions, architecture) and important sites (Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer, Dan) which form the historical background to some of the biblical stories will be examined as well as issues and topics such as the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), Exodus (Moses,) and settlement of Canaan (Joshua), the kings of Israel and Judah, and more. Other topics that will be studied include daily life, religion and ancient art. There will be a few early evening video screenings on related topics.


  • Rast, Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology
  • May, Oxford Bible Atlas, 3rd edition
  • The Bible (recommended Oxford Study Bible)
  • Course packet

Particulars: Weekly reports (35%), 2 papers (25%+15%); oral reports (25%). This course fulfills the methodology requirements for a Minor in Mediterranean Archaeology; it also fulfills Area V.C. of the GER.

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JS 354SWR-000: The Ethics of Judaism (same as REL 354SWR-000)
Berger, MWF 12:50-1:40, MAX: 18 (8 JS, 10 REL)

Course description: As a discipline, ethics is the way one analyzes a situation and reaches a conclusion as to what one should do. As such, ethics must be done from within a particular tradition, maintaining certain assumptions and following unique patterns of thought. This course is meant to introduce the student to what ethical discourse is like in the Jewish tradition: what sources are used, how arguments are constructed, and how one weighs competing arguments. Through the analysis done largely in class, students will learn the skills involved in doing Jewish ethics, and actively participate in the process. Topics to be discussed are social ethics, such as lying and self-sacrifice, and sexual ethics. A final paper on medical ethics is the student's own attempt at writing Jewish responsum.

Texts: Sourcebooks of primary texts (in translation), available at the department office.

Particulars: Two in-class exams, final paper on a topic approved by the instructor. One special project done in groups. Active participation in class is crucial, and is part of the grade.

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JS 370-000: Jews in Islamic Lands (same as MES 370-001, HIST 385-000)
Newby, TTh 2:30-3:45, MAX 36 (10 JS, 10 HIST, 16 MES)

Course description: This course will survey the history, culture, religion and literature of Jews in the Islamic world from the beginnings of Islam in Arabia in the early 7th century CE to present times. The course will examine the formative period of Islam, the treatment of Jews in Islamic sacred and early secular texts, the development of the role of Jews in the Islamic polity and the development of varieties of Judaisms, such as Karaism, Issawiyyah, etc. Attention will be given to the contribution of Jews to Islamic society in various locations and periods, such as the development of Hellenistic ideas in Baghdad and Egypt, contributions to poetry and music in Islamic Iberia, and the role of Sephardic Jews in the development of the Ottoman Empire. The last portion of the course will explore the change of attitudes of Jews and Muslims toward each other with the rise of modernism, nationalism and fundamentalism.


  • Goitein (Lassner, ed.), A Mediterranean Society: An Abridgment in One Volume
  • Lewis, The Jews of Islam
  • Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times
  • Supplemental text: Newby, A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam
  • Other readings will be available on reserve

Particulars: The course will be a lecture-discussion course with several short written discussion and research papers and a final research paper. Regular attendance and class participation will be factors in grading.

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JS 370-001: Interpreting Psalms (same as REL 370-003)
Blumenthal, TTh 11:30-12:45, MAX 18 (10 JS, 8 REL)

Course description: The Psalms remain one of the most central documents of western culture and religion. Each generation reads them in the light of traditions received from previous generations and of current experience. This course will bring to the student various interpretations of the Psalms, especially those with literary, feminist, and midrashic points of view, and it will demand that students do their own interpretation of these great classic texts.


  • The Bible, any translation; best: Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society
  • Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest
  • Trible, Texts of Terror
  • Wiesel, Night
  • Brueggemann, The Message of Psalms
  • Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

Particulars: We will read the texts very closely and consider the questions: What religious experiences lie behind the text of Psalms? What experience does the text evoke in us? This is a very writing- and reflection-intensive class. Very active class participation is expected. One final paper.

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JS 370-002: Religion and Culture in Israel: An Ethnographic Approach (same as REL 370-007, MES 370-005, ANT 385-005)
Seeman, TTh 1:00-2:15, MAX 20 (5 JS, 5 REL, 5 MES, 5 ANT)

Course description: Contemporary Israel is a society of profound religious and cultural diversity. Sometimes that diversity leads to conflict over the meaning of citizenship, the distribution of resources or basic values. This course explores the religious and cultural diversity of Israel through ethnography, and also asks critical questions about the use of ethnography to understand a complex modern society. Issues to be discussed include: changing gender roles in Israeli religious life, the role of religion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, debates over the secular or religious nature of public life, and the experience of ethnic or religious minorities like Ethiopian Jews. Through ethnography, we will focus on the everyday lives of people of different backgrounds and beliefs, and we will ask what special strengths or weaknesses ethnography brings to this task that might be different from other disciplines. We will show how large social and political questions often look different when we explore them "from the ground up," and we will do our best to provide a sympathetic and intellectually rigorous account of the people whose lives we study.

Texts: Readings will be available on reserve and also at the bookstore. Texts to be announced.

Particulars: Students are expected to attend class each week prepared to discuss that week's readings, and will be evaluated on the basis of attendance and participation (20%), at least one short paper (10%), mid-term exam (30%), and final paper (40%).

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JS 370-003: Yiddish Culture: From the Shtetl to the Lower East Side (same as GER 460-001)
Miller, TTh 11:30-12:45, MAX 35 (25 JS, 10 GER)

Course description: This course will offer a broad introduction to the subject of Yiddish culture. Utilizing both primary and secondary sources, we will examine the scope and depth of this subject from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students will examine texts from a host of fields including sociology, anthropology, literature, history, folklore, theater and film. Yiddish has a rich and diverse history, dating back to its inception in the eleventh century. We will analyze the development of this culture and trace its path from its origins in Europe to its various manifestations in countries where Eastern European immigrants settled. All course materials are in English. No knowledge of Yiddish is required.

Texts: A course packet will be available at the book store.

Particulars: Students are expected to attend class on a regular basis. There will be two five-page papers (50%) and a final essay (50%).

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JS 371SWR-000: The Crusades: Religions in Confrontation (same as HIST 489SWR-000, MES 370SWR-000)
Rustow, T 4:30-6:30, MAX 18 (6 HIST, 6 JS, 6 MES)

Course description: The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw a shift in power from the southern and eastern sides of the Mediterranean northward to Europe. One important arena in which this drama unfolded was the Holy Land. The Levant, sandwiched between Fatimid caliphs, Saljuq sultans, and Byzantine emperors, suddenly became the possession of Norman crusaders, and with that the first major confrontation between Christian European and Islamic Mediterranean cultures was set in motion. This course will study medieval chronicles of the Crusades in English translation from Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Old French, as well as documentary evidence of the period and a modern historical novel, to answer the following questions: When and how did the Holy Land became important to European Christians? How did Muslims and Jews respond to renewed religious fervor among Christians? How did medieval historians represent the Crusades for later generations?


Primary sources include selections from various Latin chronicles, memoirs of Usama ibn Munqidh and Obadiah the Proselyte, the Chanson d'Antoica, the chronicles of Solomon bar Samson and Eliezer bar Nathan, and musical and poetic works.

Secondary readings include landmark studies by Riley-Smith, Setton, and Hillenbrand. The class will conclude with Umberto Eco's novel Baudolino.

Particulars: Attendance, reading, and active participation in discussion; map quizzes; final paper.

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JS 371SWR-001: Minorities in the Arab World (same as MES 370SWR-001, HIST 489SWR-001)
Bengio, W 4:00-6:00, MAX 12 (3 JS, 3 MES, 6 HIST)

Course description: The issue of minorities is one of the most serious problems facing the modern state in the Middle East. Moreover, it is closely linked to an additional major issue: the need for democratization and representative government. This course will analyze the problem not only through the lens of the state, but also through the eyes of minority groups themselves, many of which predate the Arab-Muslim conquest of the 7th century. After providing a regional overview of the subject, the course will focus on the "leading" minority groups of the region—the Kurds, Copts, Berbers, and Shiites—as well as the states' respective discourses and policies towards them.


  • Bengio and Ben-dor (eds.), Minorities and the State in the Arab World
  • Tapper (ed.), Some Minorities in the Middle East
  • Maoz and Gabriel (eds.), Middle Eastern Minorities and Diasporas
  • Recommended: McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds

Particulars: There will be a final exam (50% of the final grade) and a 20 page paper (50% of the final grade). Mid-term exam will be optional. Students are expected to do all the readings assigned here, both the required texts and reserve readings. Students should complete the reading for a particular week prior to the week's assignments. This course fulfills General Education Requirement IC (Advanced Seminar). Upon successful completion of the course with a grade of C or better, this course will fulfill the GER post-freshman writing requirement.

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JS 430R-000: Modern Hebrew Literature (same as HEBR 430R-000)
Yeglin, MW 3:00-4:15, MAX: 15 (5 JS, 10 MES)

Course description: In this round-table seminar, we will take a snapshot of Israeli society through the lens of modern Israeli writings.

Texts: We will look at a variety of genres including novellas, short stories, poetry, plays, humor, and the movies. We will read works by people from all walks of life, men and women, the political left and right, secular and orthodox, Jewish and Arab, of European descent and from the Moslem world.

Particulars: All readings are in Hebrew. Grades will be based on class participation, weekly responses to reading assignments, two papers, and class participation. This course may be used to satisfy the requirements for the major in Middle Eastern Studies, the major in Jewish Studies, and/or the minor in Hebrew.

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JS 495RWR-00P: Honors Thesis
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 497R-00P: Directed Reading in Jewish Studies
Faculty, Time: TBA

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Undergraduates may also take graduate courses.


For information on the Jewish Studies Major & Minor, go to: Undergraduate Programs in JS


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