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Undergraduate Program




Course Offerings


Undergraduate Fall 2008 Courses

JS 100: Survey of Jewish History
JS 125: Introduction to Jewish Literature

JS 190: Freshman Seminar: Archaeology and the Bible

JS 205S: Biblical Literature
JS 210R: Classic Religious Texts: The Five Books of Moses
JS 251WR: Daily Life in Ancient Israel

JS 309S: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times

JS 354RWR: Jewish Ethics

JS 370S: Holocaust Memoirs

JS 371: History of Modern Germany

JS 371: History of Israeli Politics: Institutions and Society
JS 371: The Making of the U.S.-Israel Relationship

JS 490SWR: JR/SR Colloquium: Germany after 1945: Reconstruction & Memory
JS 490SWR: JR/SR Colloquium: Issues in Israel's National Security, 1949-Present
JS 495RWR: Honors Thesis
JS 497RWR: Directed Reading
Hebrew and Yiddish



JS 100: Survey of Jewish History (same as HIST 270)
Rustow, TTh 1:00-2:15, MAX: 40 (20 JS, 20 HIST)

Course description: This course offers an overview of the history of the Jews and Judaism from antiquity to the present, tracing how that history unfolded in varying cultural and geograhical 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 original documents in translation, hands-on historical analysis, and the types of questions historians ask of source material.

Required texts:

  • Raymond Scheindlin, A Short History of the Jewish People
  • Eli Barnavi, ed., A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People
  • Yosef Yerushalmi, Zakhor:Jewish History and Jewish Memory
  • TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society)

Recommended texts:

  • David Biale, ed., Cultures of the Jews: A New History

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 and Jewish Studies, and for anyone seeking an overview of the subject.

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JS 125: Introduction to Jewish Literature (same as MESAS 125)
Yeglin, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX: 25 (15 MES, 10 JS)

Course description: This course is based on reading in major works of Jewish literature from Biblical narrative to Hebrew stories and poetry. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the breadth and depth of the Jewish historiographic and literary traditions. After a grounding in Biblical history we will move to the Jewish experience in pre-modern Europe and to the flowering of Yiddish and Hebrew literature.


  • Jewish Study Bible
  • Modern Hebrew Literature
  • The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself

Particulars: Students are required to attend all of the class sessions. Each class will consist of both lecture and discussion. Students will submit in hard copy form a weekly reading response (2 pages). Grading: Responses (50%), final exam (40%), class participation (10%).

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JS 190: Freshman Seminar: Archaeology and the Bible (same as MESAS 190, REL 190)
Borowski, Time: TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX: 18 (JS 6, MESAS 6, REL 6)

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, Walter E., Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992)
  • May, H.G., Oxford Bible Atlas (New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition)
  • The Bible (recommended Oxford Study Bible)
  • Course packet

Particulars: Weekly reports (35%), 2 papers (25% + 15%), oral reports (25%). Open only to freshmen.

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JS 205S: Biblical Literature (same as REL 205S)
Blumenthal, Time: TTh 1-2:15, MAX: 18 (JS 9, REL 9)

Course description: The Hebrew Bible (=Tanakh) is full of quotations. It is also brimming with stories and characters whose names have become legends in western culture. The purpose of this course is not to study passages in depth, but to study a good part of the Tanakh in order to learn who is who, what happened where, and who said what to whom. We will, accordingly, read our way through a sizeable section of the Tanakh, identify and memorize the quotations, and learn the key figures and moments in this literature.


  • Bible, any translation
  • recommended: Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society (best: Hebrew original)



  • S. Spiegel, Amos and Amaziah
  • P. Trible, Texts of Terror
  • M. Bal, Lethal Love
  • H. Fisch, Poetry With a Purpose
  • D. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest
  • E. Wiesel, Night
  • C. Newsom, The Women’s Bible Commentary


There is a lot of reading for this course, and a lot of memorizing. The final exam is short-answer identifications. Students will be responsible to hand in seven selected quotations each week and to keep a personal file. Professor Blumenthal will keep a running class file and distribute it periodically.

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JS 210R: Classic Religious Texts: The Five Books of Moses (same as REL 210R)
Gilders, Time: MWF 12:50-1:40, MAX: 30 (JS 5, REL 25)

Course description: The Five Books of Moses; Torah (“Teaching”); Pentateuch (“Five Scrolls”). These are three designations for the collection of biblical books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—that will be studied in this course. The course will focus on the meaning of these writings in their first setting, ancient Israel, the cultural soil out of which Judaism and Christianity grew. A basic working assumption of the course is that these ancient Israelite writings are open to the normal scholarly methods of literary, historical, social, cultural, rhetorical, and ideological investigation. Thus, we will explore the historical background and social context of the books, asking questions about when, where, why, how, and by whom they came to be written and collected together. We will also investigate their literary forms, structures and themes. Prior study of the Bible is not a requirement for taking this course, and no particular religious commitments or beliefs are assumed or required. What is required is openness to exploring new and different ideas, and a willingness to engage in careful, disciplined reading of the biblical documents.


  • Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translation of the Hebrew Bible
  • Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (HarperCollins, 1997)

Particulars: Graded course work will consist of three short papers (approx. 1500 words each), a midterm test, a final examination, and several short quizzes (announced and “pop”).

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JS 251WR: Daily Life in Ancient Israel (same as MESAS 251WR and REL 251WR)
Borowski, TTH 1:00-2:15, MAX: 15 (JS 5, MESAS 5, REL 5)

Course description: This course deals with everyday life in ancient Israel (1200-586 BCE), including topics such as the economy, religion and cult, city planning, the Israelite kitchen, death and burial, status of women, war and peace, and more.


  • Oded Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel (Boston, MA: ASOR, 2002)
  • Oded Borowski, Every Living Thing: The Daily Use of Animals in Ancient Israel (Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Press, 1988)
  • Oded Borowski, Daily Life in Biblical Times (Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2003)
  • The Bible

Particulars: Written weekly reports (35%), LearnLink communications (20%), final paper (35%), book review (10%). Graduate students will have additional assignments. This course fulfills the post-Freshman writing requirement.

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JS 309S: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times (same as REL 309S)
Seeman, Time: TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX: 18 (JS 9, REL 9)

Course description: How have Jewish communities faced the challenges posed by modernity? This class uses literary, historical, philosophical and sociological material to explore this question. What is the origin of the split between different Jewish religious movements (i.e., Orthodoxy and Reform)? What is the relationship between Zionism, good citizenship in America or in Europe and traditional Jewish religion? What are the special challenges facing Israeli Jewry? How has Jewish thought been influenced by the Holocaust? By feminism? This class focuses on Jewish religious and intellectual life, but always tries to relate those to the larger existential dilemmas that Jewish people have faced in modern times.


  • Joseph Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith
  • Elie Wiesel, Night Trilogy (Night, Dawn, Day)
  • Martin Buber, The Way of Man

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%). There will be an in-class mid-term exam (30%) and a final essay (50%) in which students write a critical essay analyzing one topic on the basis of class readings and discussions plus related newspaper articles. There will be a mandatory film and discussion night, approximately four times during the semester. May be taken for graduate credit in consultation with the professor.

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JS 354SWR: The Ethics of Judaism (same as REL 354SWR)
Berger, MWF 10:40-11:30, MAX: 18 (JS 9, REL 9)

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, such as pre-marital sex and homosexuality. A final paper on medical ethics is the student's own attempt at writing Jewish responsum.

Texts: Sourcebooks of primary texts (in translation).

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 370S: Holocaust Memoirs (same as REL 370S, IDS 385S)
Lipstadt/Bammer, Time: Th 2:30-5:30, MAX: 18 (JS 6, REL 6, IDS 6)

Course description: Memoirs are both documents of a history lived and textual (re)constructions of that experience remembered. Taking Holocaust memoirs as the focus of our inquiry, we will examine what it means for a text about the Holocaust to be both an historical document and a personal narrative. Within the scope of this inquiry, we will consider questions of evidence and truth; the relationship between experience, historical fact, and memory; the distinctions among ”truth,” ”reality,” and ”realism.” The readings for this course  will include memoirs of the first generation, who experienced the Holocaust directly; the second generation who were born during or directly after the Holocaust; and those who, at an additional remove, live with its ”post-memory.”

Issues to be examined will include: Who wrote memoirs and under what circumstances? For whom did they write and how do we read them? (For example, does it make a difference if we read a particular text as “history” or as ”literature”?)  How do these memoirs record the events of a catastrophic history at the same time as they record the ordinary events of people’s daily lives continuing?   What formal choices did these memoir writers make? How did they structure their narrative? What textual traditions did they invoke, change, or disrupt? Are the forms they chose appropriate to the experience they describe and are they effective as writing?

Texts: Will include selections from the following:

  • Erica Fischer, Aimée and Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943
  • Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, Vols. 1 &  2
  • Ruth Kluger, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered
  • Sarah Kofman, Rue Ordener, Rue Labat
  • Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, Vols. 1 & 2
  • Uwe Timm, In My Brother’s Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS
  • Deborah Lipstadt, History on Trial
  • Peter Weiss, The Investigation: Oratoria in 11 Cantos
  • Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Angelika Bammer, Those Germans – A Family Memoir (manuscript)

Particulars: Each student will give an  oral presentation (in collaboration with a class-mate) on one of the assigned texts and write two papers of 7-10 pp. Active participation is expected  and will include informal written responses to the weekly readings.

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JS 371 : History of Modern Germany (same as HIST 318)
Eckert, MWF 10:40-11:30, MAX: 32 (JS 8, HIST 24)

Course description: This course is a survey of modern German history. Since 1871, the changing territory called Germany has seen Imperial regency, fragile democracy, ironclad dictatorship, foreign occupation, the country’s division and an unforeseen, no longer expected unifcation of the two German states into the Federal Republic of Germany which we find on maps today. Germany has caused and been devastated by two World Wars, going down in history for the most horrific crimes, the Holocaust. For almost 150 years, the so-called German question has occupied the brightest political and scholarly minds. Indeed, comprehending Germany may lay at the core of understanding recent European history. The course will cover the key issues that have shaped modern Germany and its impact on Europe and the world. It will combine social, political, and cultural histories. Among scholars and contemporary Germans alike, German history remains highly contested. The course will therefore introduce students to different approaches and interpretations of German history as well.

Texts: Readings will most likely include Mary Fulbrook, History of Germany 1918-2000. The Divided Nation; Fulbrook, 20th Century Germany. Politics, Culture and Society, 1918-1990; Martin Kitchen, A History of Modern Germany 1800-2000; Sybille Steinbacher,Auschwitz. A History; Daphne Berdahl, Where the World Ended.

Particulars: Course evaluation will be based on active class participation, exams and essays. One of the essays will be a book review.

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JS 371: History of Israeli Politics: Institutions and Society (same as HIST 385, POLS 385, MESAS 370)      
, MWF 11:45-12:35, MAX: 40 (JS 5, HIST 15, POLS 15, MESAS 5)

Course description: This course explores the Israeli political system, its institutional characteristics and components, and its main political dilemmas. The course aims to provide knowledge about Israeli political history and society. Topics included will be the origins and the historical developments of the political system, electoral histories, and government formation. Attention is given to the dynamics between institutional arrangements and social cleavages in Israel and their interrelated effects. The course also discusses some of the main socio-political issues and tensions resulting from the dual definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, religion and politics, and the effects of armed conflicts on politics and society. The course requires no previous knowledge about Israel.


  • Mahler, Gregory S. 2004. Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State
  • Rabinovich, Itamar. and Jehuda Reinharz. 2008. Israel in the Middle East: documents and readings on society, politics, and foreign relations, pre-1948 to the present

Particulars: Students will have a mid-term exam (25%), short assignment(s) (15%), and write a final examination (60%). Class participation in encouraged and may count up to anadditional 10% bonus of the final grade. Students will also send weekly reflection paragraphs on the subjects and readings discussed in class.

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JS 371: The Making of the U.S.-Israel Relationship (same as HIST 385, POLS 385)
Tal, Time: MWF 12:50-1:40, MAX: 40 (JS 10, HIST 20, POLS 10)

Content: The course will deal with the buildup and development of the Israeli-American relationship from the 1940s to the present. The course will describe the historical roots of the American support to the Zionist idea in the 19th century, the transfer of the Jewish diplomatic center from Britain to the U.S., the ideological roots of the U.S. support of Israel and its extent, beyond the security dimension and the mutuality of those relationships, that is, the Israeli input in the creation of the Israeli-American special relations.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA

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JS 490SWR: JR/SR Colloquium: Germany after 1945: Reconstruction & Memory (same as HIST 487SWR)
Eckert, Time: W 4-6, MAX:12 (JS 4, HIST 8)

Content: The class allows students to explore problems of memory, identity, and social reconstruction in postwar Germany. It pays special attention to the emergence of two German states that developed diverging societies and independent policies during the Cold War, yet remained more closely intertwined than both sides cared to admit. The class is concerned with the liabilities and assets both Germanies had to reckon with after 1949. It examines how the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic dealt with the Nazi past and its perpetrators; related to their respective "superpower"; struggled to develop a new and independent national identity; and reconstructed their societies accordingly. Topics include the relationship to the occupying powers; denazification; the territorial division of the country; Jewish life in postwar Germany; migration, immigration, and guest worker programs; popular culture and "Americanization"; revolution & unification 1989/90; and memory in post-unification Germany.

Texts: Books will most likely include Konrad H. Jarausch, After Hitler. Recivilizing the Germans, 1945-1995; Timothy Garton Ash, The File: A Personal History; Jay Howard Geller, Jews in Post-Holocaust Germany, 1945-1953; Hanna Schissler, (ed.), The Miracle Years: A Cultural History of West Germany, 1949-1968. The course will also draw on primary sources and film.

Particulars: The class is a seminar rather than a lecture course. Strong emphasis is placed on active participation in discussing weekly readings (ca.150-200 pp.) and the interpretation of primary sources. The assignments are designed to practice scholarly debate and writing, and lead to a research paper (16-20 pp.) on a topic agreed upon between the student and instructor. The course is heavy in reading and writing.

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JS 490SWR: JR/SR Colloquium:Issues in Israel's National Security, 1949-Present (same as HIST 489SWR, POLS 490SWR)
, Time: M 4:00-6:00, MAX: 10 (JS 2, HIST 6, POLS 2)

Content: National security is a prime issue in Israel, and it was so since its existence. Being established in war, leaving in hostile environment, Israel had to deal with issues pertaining to its national security with the highest priority. The course will focus on several issues pertaining to Israel's national security, bringing together military, diplomatic and social issues. We'll study the ideas that provided the basis for the development of Israel's national security policy, build up of the IDF and the development of military strategy that were aimed to accomplish the goals of Israel's national security policy; the role of diplomacy in shaping and conduct of Israel's national security policy; the pursuit of peace and the conduct of wars; military-civic relations in Israel; Israel and the non-conventional threats, nuclear and low-intensity conflicts.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA

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JS 495RWR: Honors Thesis
Faculty, Time TBA

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

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Hebrew and Yiddish

The following courses are not cross-listed with Jewish Studies, but can count toward the major in Jewish Studies:

Hebrew: HEBR 101, 201, 301 (See Middle Eastern Studies course atlas)

Yiddish: YDD 101: Elementary Yiddish I (See German Studies course atlas)


Graduate Courses

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