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Graduate Program



Course Offerings


Graduate Fall 2006 Courses

JS 540: Rabbinic Judaism: Mishnah and Midrash
JS 540: Introduction to Rabbinic Judaism and Its Literature

JS 561: Methods in Jewish Studies

JS 597R: Directed Study
JS 598R: Thesis/Exam Preparation
JS 730R: Popular Jewish Medieval Culture
JS 730R: Readings in Judeo-Arabic Text
JS 730R: Ethnography of Jews and Muslims: An Experimental Seminar


JS 540-000: Rabbinic Judaism: Mishnah and Midrash
Gilders, T 2:00-5:00, MAX: 15

Course description: This course will provide the opportunity to develop or reinforce facility with the literature of early Rabbinic Judaism ("Tannaitic" literature) through the close reading and discussion of texts in the original Hebrew, with a special focus on Midrashic literature. We will begin our work with systematic study of Rabbinic Hebrew and the reading of some 'classic' passages of the Mishnah. We will then turn to the reading of selections from the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, the Tannaitic Midrash on the book of Exodus. Along with this primary text, we will read and discuss several works of modern scholarship on Midrash and Rabbinic biblical interpretation.


  • Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (Hendrickson, 2006; or any other available printing)
  • M.H. Segal, A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Clarendon Press, 1927; repr., Wipf & Stock, 2001)
  • Miguel Perez Fernandez, An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew (trans., John Elwolde; Brill, 1999)
  • Daniel Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Indiana University Press, 1990)

Particulars: Prior study of Hebrew (at least two years of Biblical, Rabbinic, or Modern Hebrew; or equivalent) is a prerequisite for this course. Interested students who are unsure about their preparation should consult the professor. The course is open to qualified undergraduates, with the professor's permission. Graded work will consist of a 'mid-term' Hebrew test; an end-of-term Hebrew test; several quizzes; take-home translation exercises; a final research paper (undergraduates, 10 pages; graduate students, 20-25 pages). Graduate students will make a class presentation, and will also introduce the materials and lead discussion in at least one class meeting.

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JS 540-001: Introduction to Rabbinic Judaism and Its Literature
Berger, Time: M 9:30-12:30, MAX: 12

Course description: Rabbinic Judaism flourished in the waning years of the Second Jewish Commonwealth and the first five centuries of the Common Era. Its rulings, practices, and ideology largely shaped Jewish religious life throughout the diaspora until the 19th century. However, much of the record of that period is the literary legacy of the Rabbis themselves. In this seminar, we will examine the sitz im leben of Rabbinic literature, understanding the emergence and consolidation of Rabbinic Judaism, and then examining various texts from that period. We will read a chapter of the Babylonian Talmud in the original, using it as a springboard for a general overview of the texts from this period and trying to understand the mind of the scholars mentioned in them and of those who redacted them.


  • The Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakhot, chapter 4 (with translations)
  • G. Alon, The Jews in their Land in the Talmudic Age
  • M. Chernick, Essential Papers on the Talmud
  • H. L. Strack and G. Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash
  • E. E. Urbach, The Sages

Particulars: Students must be prepared to read the primary text for each class. Hebrew is a prerequisite, although translations will be available. The final will consist of both written and oral components.

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JS 561-000: Methods in Jewish Studies
, M 2:00-5:00, MAX: 15

Course description: Jewish Studies is a data field; it is not a discipline. Hence, Jewish Studies can be, and is, studied in many disciplines. This course is intended to display various methods for studying the data of Jewish studies: historical, philological, exegetical, literary, theological, feminist, artistic, legal, and social scientific. We will, therefore, begin by examining several texts through which to demonstrate these methods, with special attention to the Akeda (Genesis 22). This will be followed by an orientation in library sources. The main part of the course will be devoted to reading in each of the methods and applying the basic tools of that discipline to various texts. At the end, we will reconsider what we have done and, then, apply our learning to a topic for a final paper. Students completing this course will have a good idea of the range of methods in Jewish studies and those wishing to go on to doctoral work will be able to intelligently choose one of these disciplines.


  • The Tanakh and translation
  • Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest
  • Spiegel, The Last Trial
  • Peskowitz and Levitt, Judaism Since Gender
  • Trible, Texts of Terror
  • Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai
  • Woocher, Sacred Survival
  • Adler, Engendering Judaism

Particulars: Grading will be based on class participation and a final paper. We will have several guest discussants who will use part of the period.

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JS 597R-00P: Directed Study
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 598R-00P: Thesis/Exam Preparation
Faculty, Time: TBA

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JS 730R-000: Popular Jewish Medieval Culture
Blumenthal, Time: Th 2:00-5:00, MAX: 8

Course description: Most surveys of medieval Jewish literature focus on the culture of the elite few, i.e. theology, philosophy, and Kabbalah. As interesting as these ideas and expressions are, they are not the whole picture. In this course, we will be looking at expressions of medieval Jewish "popular culture" in literary and documentary sources. We will be looking at travel accounts, popular history, poetry, magical texts, art, and polemics, which will be supplemented by documentary sources like personal letters and marriage contracts to try and form a picture of what Jewish culture was for the non-elites. We will be looking at both European and Middle Eastern sources, all of which will be in Hebrew.

Texts selected from:

  • Nachmanides, Vikuah
  • Judah Halevi, Kuzari
  • Benjamin of Tuleda, Travels
  • Bahya Ibn Paquda, Duties of the Heart
  • Ibn Gabirol's poetry
  • Abraham Bar Hiyya's work on astrology
  • Illuminated manuscripts
  • In Praise of the BESHT (a biography of the first Hassidic rebbe)

Secondary sources:

  • S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society
  • Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition
  • Ivan Marcus, Ritual and Childhood
  • Ephraim Kanarfogel, Jewish Education and Society in the High Middle Ages

Particulars: The course is open to graduate students, and undergrads with a working knowledge of Hebrew.

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JS 730R-00P: Readings in Judeo-Arabic Texts (Same as MES 570R)
Hary, T 4:00-7:00, MAX: 10 (JS 5, MES 5)

Course description: This course is designed to introduce students to Judeo-Arabic, which has been written and spoken in various forms by Jews throughout the Arabic-speaking world. We will examine sociolinguistic issues of Judeo-Arabic, including terminology, periodization, orthographic issues and the sociolinguistic setting of the 'religiolect' within Arabic in general. One of the most important genres of the language is the sharh - literal translation of sacred texts from Hebrew into Judeo-Arabic. We will mostly read sharh texts and typically from Egypt. These texts are a rare window on the history of Arabic and its spoken dialects, since they preserve distinctive dialectal features of usage and pronunciation not found in classical Arabic texts. They are also a major source for understanding translation issues and issues of religious identity among Egyptian Jews.


  • Students will read the texts in the original language, from the original manuscripts (reproduced digitally or on microfilm). We will also read short selections of secondary works on Judeo-Arabic language and linguistics and translation issues.

Particulars: Requirements include weekly preparation of texts and one research paper consisting of a scholarly edition of an unpublished manuscript. This course is recommended for anyone with a strong interest in Arabic and its historical development. Undergraduates and graduate students interested in sacred texts (Bible, liturgical texts such as Passover Haggadah, etc.) are also welcome. Five semesters of Arabic is a prerequisite. (Familiarity with the Hebrew alphabet is not a prerequisite).

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JS 730R-001: Ethnography of Jews and Muslims: An Experimental Seminar (Same as RLSR 770-000, ANT 585-002)
Seeman, Th 3:00-6:00, MAX: 45 (15 JS, 15 RLSR, 15 ANTH)

Course description: Jews have long been the "other within", just as Muslims have been an "other without" of the Western social science tradition. This seminar explores ethnographic representation of both Jews and Muslims with an eye towards fundamental theoretical and methodological questions: (1) How can ethnography be used in the study of literate, highly textual religious traditions like these? (2) What is the role of subject position in the writing of ethnography? (3) Can scholarly and political agendas in the modern Middle East be separated enough to allow new ideas to emerge? (4) What does the study of these two traditions teach us about the ethnographic study of all religion and religious experience? We will read one ethnography each week, focusing both on the intellectual history of the discipline as well as recent developments in the field. Students will write an analytic paper on a topic of their choice.

Texts: May include:

  • Michael Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Debating Muslims
  • Jonathan Boyarin, Storm from Paradise
  • Susan Kahn, Reproducing Jews
  • Barbara Meyerhoff, Number Our Days
  • Talal Asad, Geneaologies of Religion
  • Joann D'Alisera, An Imagined Geography
  • Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog, Life is with People
  • Jonah Blank, Mullahs on the Mainframe
  • Uni Wikan, Behind the Veil in Arabia
  • Katherine Pratt Ewing, Arguing Sainthood
  • Stephanie Wellen Levine, Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers
  • Tone Bringa, Being Muslim the Bosnian Way
  • Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg, The Road to Martyrs' Square

Particulars: Undergraduates should ask the instructor for permission.

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View undergraduate offerings

For information on the M.A. in Jewish Studies, go to: Graduate Programs in Jewish Studies


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Last updated: August 25, 2008



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