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Undergraduate Program





Course Offerings


Undergraduate Spring 2004 Courses


JS 100: Survey of Jewish History
JS 125: Introduction to Jewish Literature
JS 190: Freshman Seminar: Modern Israel
JS 205: Biblical Literature
JS 251: Daily Life in Ancient Israel
JS 258: Anthropology of the Jews
JS 300: Methods in Jewish Studies

JS 309: Modernization of the Jews and Judaism
JS 326: History of Judaic Languages
JS 371: Israeli Politics and Society
JS 371SWR: History of the Palestine Mandate, 1920-1948
JS 375: Sunset of Isaak Babel: Context and Performance
JS 475R: The Exodus from Egypt and the Settlement of Canaan
JS 490S: Senior Seminar: Post-Holocaust Jewish Theology
JS 490SWR: Senior Seminar: Jews and Other “Others” in American History
JS 495RWR: Honors Thesis
JS 497R: Directed Reading in Jewish Studies


JS 100-000: Survey of Jewish History (same as HIST 270-000)
Rustow, MWF 12:50-1:40, 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 defined and redefined themselves and how they have responded to the societies in which they have lived. Special emphasis will be placed on the use of primary texts—original documents in translation that will allow students to develop their skills at hands-on historical analysis—and on the types of questions historians bring to bear on source material. This course is appropriate for anyone who wishes to pursue further courses in history or Jewish Studies, and for non-specialists who seek an overview of the field.


  • JPS Tanakh
  • Raymond Scheindlin, A Short History of the Jewish People
  • David Biale (ed.), The Cultures of the Jews: A New History
  • William Hallo et al. (eds.), Heritage: Civilization and the Jews
  • Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Atlas of Jewish History
  • Yosef Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Particulars: Two exams, a final examination, and weekly response papers. The course satisfies area V.B. of the General Education Requirements (Historical Perspectives on Western Culture).

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JS 125-000: Introduction to Jewish Literature (same as MES 125-000)
Goldman, TTh 11:30-12:45, MAX: 30 (20 MES, 10 JS)

Course description: This course is based on readings in major works of Jewish literature from Biblical narrative to Hebrew and Yiddish stories. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the breadth and depth of the Jewish literary traditions. After a grounding in Biblical history and narrative we will move to the Jewish experience in pre-modern Europe and the flowering of Yiddish and Hebrew literature. We will also investigate the relationship between literature and social issues, especially in the realm of family relations.


  • Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures
  • A Treasury of Yiddish Stories
  • The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse
  • Modern Hebrew Literature
  • Legends of the Bible
  • The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories

Particulars: Two-page response due each Tuesday, 3 quizzes, one research paper.

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JS 258-000: Anthropology of the Jews (same as ANTH 150-001)
Konner, TTh 1:00-2:15, MAX: 35 (25 ANTH, 10 JS) Requests for overload will be considered.

Course description: This course will introduce the major Jewish populations and cultures through the four fields of anthropology: biological anthropology, archeology, cultural anthropology, and linguistics. It will define the Jewish populations in space and time and then take up their origins and major movements using the evidence of demography, genetics, archeology, history, and ethnology. Jewish cultures considered include the tribal and Temple periods, the Jewish context of the life of Jesus, the Talmudic and medieval eras, the Central European Diaspora (especially the shtetl), the Jews of Spain and Islam, the modern Yiddishists, the Jews of the United States, the kibbutz, and Jewish communities of Ethiopia, India, and China. The primary Jewish languages will be briefly examined and placed in context among the languages of the world. Use of these languages for Biblical exegesis and troubadour poetry, prophetic declamation and modern comic fiction, prayer, curse, contract, song, and magic, will be touched upon. Please note: Religious students may find some material objectionable.


  • Melvin Konner, Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews
  • Harvey E. Goldberg, Jewish Life in Muslim Libya: Rivals and Relatives
  • Lis Harris, Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family
  • Barbara Myerhoff, Number Our Days

Particulars: Two hour examinations and a final examination.

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JS 190-00P: Freshman Seminar: Modern Israel (same as HIST 190-01P, MES 190-01P)
Stein, W 2:00-4:00, MAX: 14 (4 JS, 6 HIST, 4 MES)

Course description: This undergraduate freshman seminar will review the history of modern Israel from the inception of Zionism to the present. The four periods of study will be the ideological formations (to 1917), Zionist autonomy in Palestine and nation-building (to 1949), the problems and successes of sovereignty (to 1977) and the quest for identity and normalization (to the present). Issues to be discussed will include the structure of the old and new Yishuv, immigrations to Eretz Yisrael, British rule in Palestine, relationships with the great powers, sociological associations and cleavages, Israel-Diaspora relations, American Jewry and Israel, religion and state policy interaction, the political and economic systems, constitutional issues, Arab-Israeli wars and the negotiating process and quest for recognition from Arab neighbors. Several guest speakers will participate in the class.


  • Walter Laquer, A History of Zionism, New York: Schocken, 1989.
  • Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time
  • Ehud Sprinzak, The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right
  • Zev Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel, Princeton University Press, 1999.
  • David Vital, Origins of Zionism

Particulars: Freshmen only. There will be one hour examination and a final examination. Students may write a 10-page paper. The papers are due the last day of class. If students opt to write a paper, then the hour examination and paper will count for two-thirds of the final grade, the final examination, one third. If students choose only to take the examinations, grading will be one-half for the hour examination and half for the final examination. This course fulfills General Education Requirement IC (Freshman Seminar).

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JS 205-000: Biblical Literature (same as REL 205-000)
Gilders, MWF 9:35-10:25, MAX 30 (15 JS, 15 REL)

Course description: This course provides a focused introduction to the collection of Hebrew texts that constitute the Bible of Judaism and the "Old Testament" of Christian Bibles. Special attention will be given to reading biblical documents in relation to their original historical context in ancient Israel. We will also examine the diverse ways the texts have been read and interpreted as sacred scripture in Judaism and Christianity. The course will involve survey coverage of the complete collection of texts, as well as focused study of selected books or portions of books, including the "Five Books of Moses" (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), stories about kings and prophets in the books of Samuel and Kings, the book of the prophet Isaiah, and the book of Job. Students will be expected to engage in careful reading of the texts and to reflect actively on how they interpret biblical literature. Prior study of the Bible is not a requirement for taking this course, and no particular religious commitments or beliefs about the Bible are assumed or required. What is required is openness to exploring new and different ideas, and a willingness to engage in disciplined reading of the biblical texts.


  • The Jewish Study Bible (Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation)
  • Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?

Particulars: There will be two short (five pages) papers, two tests, and a final examination. Students will also prepare a variety of study exercises in the course Learnlink conference. Careful preparation and active participation in class discussions (including on-line discussions in the course Learnlink conference) are required. This course fulfills General Education Requirement IV.A (Humanities).

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JS 251WR-000: Daily Life in Ancient Israel (same as MES 251WR-000)
Borowski, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX 15 (5 JS, 10 MES)

Course description: This course deals with everyday life in ancient Israel in the period between the settlement in the land (1200 BCE) and the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE), covering the time of the Judges and the time of the Israelite monarchy under the kings of Judah and Israel. Topics will include religion of Israel and its neighbors, customs, city planning, the Israelite kitchen, agriculture, herding and the use of other animals, burials and cemeteries, warfare, status of women, music, the rich and powerful, and more.


  • Oded Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel
  • Oded Borowski, Every Living Thing: Daily Life in Ancient Israel
  • Victor H. Matthews, Manners and Customs in the Bible
  • Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Social World of Ancient Israel 1250-587 BCE
  • The Oxford Study Bible

Particulars: Examination: Midterm (30%) and final (40%), paper (30%). No prerequisites. Open to all students.

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JS 300-000: Methods in Jewish Studies
Blumenthal, TTh 10:00-11:15, MAX 20

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 choose intelligently one of these disciplines.


  • The Tanakh and translation
  • D. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest
  • S. Spiegel, The Last Trial
  • M. Peskowitz and L. Levitt, Judaism Since Gender
  • P. Trible, Texts of Terror
  • J. Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai

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JS 309-000: Modernization of the Jews and Judaism (same as REL 309-000)
Seeman, TTh 11:30-12:45, MAX 30 (15 REL, 15 JS)

Course description: How have Jewish communities faced the challenges posed by modernity? This class uses literary, historical, philosophical and anthropological 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.

Texts: TBA

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.

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JS 326-000: History of Judaic Languages (same as MES 326-000, LING 326-000)
Hary, TTh 1:00-2:15, MAX 25 (10 MES, 5 JS, 5 LING, 5 JS)

Course description: A "Jewish Language" is a linguistic variety that arises in a certain place and is used by Jewish speakers and writers. It is customary for these varieties to use the Hebrew script, to incorporate Hebrew and Aramaic elements into the language and to make use of a special literary genre, verbatim translations of sacred Hebrew texts (such as the Bible) into the Jewish variety. These languages rose in central and Eastern Europe (Yiddish), in the Arab world (Judeo-Arabic), in Spain (Judeo-Spanish or Ladino), in Iran (Judeo-Persian), in Italy (Judeo-Italian), in North Africa (Judeo-Berber) in Kurdistan (Judeo-Neo-Aramaic) and in other places. This course explores the following issues: How have such languages arisen in different places in the world? How are they different from the related non-Jewish languages, and in what ways are they bearers of Jewish culture? How are they associated with Hebrew/Aramaic? Special emphasis will be placed on typological study of the various languages in the different places, i.e., comparative study of the phenomenon of a Jewish language.

Required Texts:

  • Course packet with various articles on reserve
  • Herbert H. Paper [ed.], Jewish Languages: Theme and Variations (out of print, on reserve)
  • George Yule, The Study of Language

Recommended Texts:

  • Joshua Fishman [ed.], Readings in the Sociology of Jewish Languages
  • Benjamin Hary, Multiglossia in Judeo-Arabic, with an Edition, Translation and Grammatical Study of the Cairene Purim Scroll

Particulars: No knowledge of any specific language is required. All students are expected to attend class regularly and participate in class discussions and activities. Requirements include assignments, quizzes and fieldwork project. The course can fulfill one of the elective requirements for the Major in Middle Eastern Studies, the Major and Minor in Jewish Studies, and the Minor in Linguistics. The course also fulfills the new GER V.C.: Comparative and International Studies.

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JS 371-000: Israeli Politics and Society (same as POLS 385-005, MES 370-003)
Hazan, TTh 2:30-3:45, MAX 45 (25 POLS, 10 JS, 10 MES)

Course description: This course presents an analysis, couched within theoretical frameworks from other Western democracies, of politics and society in Israel. The emphasis will be on classification, typological mappings and model-derived explanations of how the social cleavages in Israeli society function and behave in the political process, and how the political institutions influence social divisions, particularly in light of the reforms during the last decade that transformed Israeli politics. This course also exposes students to some of the contemporary socio-political issues in Israel, particularly the highly contentious problem of religion and politics


  • Reuven Hazan and Moshe Maor (eds.), Parties, Elections and Cleavages: Israel in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective

Particulars: Lectures proceed from the assumption that all students have read the assignments, and class will often be devoted to open discussion. There will be a final exam, and class participation will be factored into the final grade.

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JS 371SWR-000: History of the Palestine Mandate, 1920-1948 (same as HIST 489SWR-001, MES 370SWR)
Stein, Th 2:30-4:30, MAX 18 (9 HIST, 5 JS, 4 MES)

Course description: This colloquium will review the thirty-year history prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. We shall try to answer the question: why and how did the Zionists succeed in building a national home? Using primary and secondary sources it will review social, economic, and political issues which influenced the development of Zionism, affected the creation of Israel, saw the emergence of Palestinian national identity, the creation of Israel and Palestinian refugees, and unfolding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Students will concentrate on understanding the internal workings of Arab, British, and Zionist communities and their relationships with one another. Students will use a variety of historical sources, including unpublished dissertations, period newspapers, memoirs, monographs, biographies, and novels of the era.


  • Laurence J. Silberstein (ed.), New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early Years of the State
  • Kenneth W. Stein, The Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939
  • Each student will purchase one used copy of John Marlowe, The Seat of Pilate at the first day of class
  • An extensive core of required articles and books will be available through the Woodruff Library reserve system

Particulars: Students will write two papers and be responsible for two oral presentations. Students may satisfy all college and history writing requirements. Using secondary source materials, the ten-page short paper (25%) will be written about a personality or institution of the period. The research paper (50%) will be 25 pages, or 35 pages for graduate students. Students will use the Colonial Office 733 (Palestine Mandate) microfilm series and other primary sources. Oral participation constitutes the remaining quarter of the grade.

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JS 375-000: Sunset of Isaak Babel: Context and Performance (same as RUSS 375-000, THEA 389-000)
Smekhov/Glazov-Corrigan, MWF 3:00-5:00, MAX 35 (15 RUSS, 10 THEA, 10 JS)

Course description: The central text of the class is Babel’s play Sunset (1928), which depicts the Odessa gangster world. Additional readings include Jews in Russian Literature after the October Revolution: Writers and Artists Between Hope and Apostasy by Efraim Sicher and The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel (Ed. Nathalie Babel). The subject of the class is twofold: it is a study of the political, artistic and philosophical implications of Babel’s writing in the context of his time and the mounting of the play, which is to be performed at the end of April. Students are invited to participate in the production as actors, stage-managers, and theater technicians and to become literary critics in diary entries and class discussions. Added rehearsal time TBA. No knowledge of Russian is required for this course.


  • Isaac Babel, Sunset
  • Efraim Sicher, Jews in Russian Literature after the October Revolution: Writers and Artists Between Hope and Apostasy
  • Nathalie Babel (ed.), The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel

Particulars: This is a four-credit course. Students can receive two additional credits as Reading Course hours from the participating departments.

Instructors: Veniamin Smekhov, a visiting professor, is a very well-known Russian actor. In the last decade, he has worked as a theater director in the United States, Europe and Russia. Elena Glazov-Corrigan is Associate Professor of Russian and Chair of the Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures.

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JS 475R-000: The Exodus from Egypt and the Settlement of Canaan (same as MES 475R-000)
Borowski, T 4:00-6:30, MAX 15 (5 JS, 10 MES)

Course description: The subject of this course is the neighbors of ancient Israel. Biblical Israel was located centrally in the Levant and was surrounded by related and unrelated peoples such as the Philistines, Phoenicians, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Arameans, and many others. These peoples were in close contact with ancient Israel and influenced her history, culture, economy, etc. We will study the cultures and histories of these peoples as they appear in biblical and extra-biblical texts, and as they are reflected in the archaeological remains uncovered in recent excavations.


  • John D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament
  • William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?
  • Ernest S. Frerichs and Leonard H. Lesko (eds.), Exodus: The Egyptian Evidence
  • Nahum M. Sarna, Exploring the Exodus
  • M.J. Suggs, K.D. Sakenfeld, and J.R. Mueller, The Oxford Study Bible
  • Course packet

Particulars: Participants will work on assembling a comprehensive bibliography of the topic. Students will investigate and present oral reports on Israel’s neighbors. Each student will write a major research paper and a short book review. Regular attendance and active class participation are required.

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JS 490S-00P: Senior Seminar: Post-Holocaust Jewish Theology (same as REL 470S-00P, PHIL 470S-00P)
Berger, M 2:00-5:00, MAX 18 (6 JS, 6 REL, 6 PHIL)

Course description: The classic religious question of theodicy—reconciling God and the existence of evil—received renewed interest after the Holocaust. This course will closely examine the radical as well as traditional arguments and approaches taken by Jewish theologians in the half-century since the destruction of European Jewry.


  • Eliezer Berkovits, Faith After the Holocaust
  • David Birnbaum, God and Evil
  • David Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God
  • Emil Fackenheim, God’s Presence in History
  • Edward Feld, The Spirit of Renewal
  • Irving Greenberg (collected essays)
  • The Book of Job (dept. packet)
  • Ignaz Maybaum, The Face of God After Auschwitz
  • Richard Rubenstein, After Auschwitz (2nd edition)

Particulars: Permission of instructor required. Weekly reading, in-class presentations by students, final paper.

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JS 490SWR-000: Senior Seminar: Jews and Other “Others” in American History (same as HIST 488SWR-004)
Goldstein, W 4:00-6:00, MAX 16 (8 JS, 8 HIST)

Course description: This course will explore where Jews have fit in the diverse ethnic and racial mix that has been characteristic of American history. By exploring the history of Jewish integration into American society in comparative context with the histories of other groups (African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and other European ethnics), we will answer the following questions: What groups’ experiences have been most similar to those of Jews and what groups’ experiences have been most different? How have American definitions of “difference” shaped Jewish integration and what impact have they had on Jewish efforts to assert a distinctive identity? Are Jews insiders or outsiders in American society? Are Jews white?

Specifics: In the first half of the course, students will gain a framework for exploring these issues through the reading of a number of secondary sources and the writing of two short papers. The second half of the course will be devoted to the completion of a major research paper (15-20 pages) on a topic related to the theme of the course. Students will have to turn in bibliographies, outlines, drafts, and other components of their final papers at various points during the writing and research process, and there will be opportunities for sharing and peer-review work during class sessions.


  • Hasia Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935
  • James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
  • Gish Jen, Mona in the Promised Land
  • Alfred Uhry, The Last Night of Ballyhoo
  • A number of articles on e-reserves by authors such as James Baldwin, George Sanchez, Michael Lerner, David Roediger and others

Particulars: This course fulfills General Education Requirement IC (Post-Freshman Seminar).

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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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