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Graduate Program



Course Offerings


Graduate Spring 2006 Courses

JS 560: Approaches to Jewish History
JS 597R: Directed Study
JS 598R: Thesis/Exam Research
JS 730R: Holocaust Literature
JS 730R: Maimonides: Philosophy, Spirituality, Medicine and Law
JS 730R: Readings in Judeo-Arabic: Geniza Letters
JS 730R: History of Judaic Languages


JS 560-000: Approaches to Jewish History (same as HIST 585-002)
Rustow, W 4:00-7:00 pm, MAX: 12 (6 JS, 6 HIST)

Course description: This course will explore how traditional understandings of Jewish history in the ancient and medieval periods were transformed with the rise of modern Jewish historiography beginning in the early nineteenth century. Examining some of the classics of Jewish historical writing as well as some innovative new voices, we will explore how Jewish historiography of the last two hundred years has been shaped both by the demands of the secular academy and by the challenges and concerns of modern Jewish life: the quest for Jewish emancipation, the rise of Jewish nationalist consciousness, and the changing meanings of diaspora.

Texts: Representative texts may include:

  • Biale, David, The Cultures of the Jews: A New History
  • Boyarin, Daniel, Border Lines
  • Katz, Jacob, Tradition and Crisis
  • Meyer, Michael A., Ideas of Jewish History
  • Scholem, Gershom, Sabbatai Sevi
  • Schwartz, Seth, Imperialism and Jewish Society
  • Segev, Tom, The Seventh Million
  • Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Particulars: Preparation of reading assignments and participation in class discussion; two review essays of 8-15 pages; two oral presentations; and two oral responses.

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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: Holocaust Literature (same as MES 570R-001)
Yeglin, Time: TBA, MAX: 15 (5 JS, 10 MES)

Course description: The Reading of Holocaust poetry nowadays might signify a vanquished revert from the domain of intimate memory to the material arsenal that is essential to the historical tesk: Archives, museums, anniversaries and public eulogies, a declining to a point where we no longer grieve the fate of a nation, but become fluent in its lamentations: an alternate root that defies the monopoly of History. We shall discuss the relationship between the art of poetry and witnessing, and read (in translation) some poems by Aba Kovner, which expands the capacity for witnessing. Kovner is one of the most profound and original Hebrew poets. In 1943, after two years of German occupation, it was he who famously exhorted his brothers and sisters in the Ghetto that they not go as sheep to the slaughter.


  • Poems of Paul Celan, Translated by Michael Hamburger, Persea Books, New York.
  • Felman, Shoshana and Laub, Dori, Testimony, Routledge, 1992.

Particulars: Hebrew is not a requirement, but some experience with poetry is required.

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JS 730R-002: Maimonides: Philosophy, Spirituality, Medicine and Law
Seeman, Th 3:00-6:00, MAX: 7

Course description: Eight hundred years after his death, the legacy of Moses Maimonides continues to grow strong. He made his living as a renowned physician who left behind treatises on contemporary medicine, but his greatest contributions are in the fields of Judaeo-Arabic philosophy and Jewish law, where he emerged as an unsurpassed master. In this seminar, we will critically examine the nature of his contribution across a wide spectrum of fields in order to ascertain his views and those of some of his contemporaries on questions like, “what is the purpose of Jewish law?” “What is the golden mean of ethical perfection towards which people should strive?” “What will the world be like when the Messiah comes?” And “what is the right relationship between different branches of knowledge, including Jewish and secular studies?” “Should we believe in astrology, and why or why not?” Students will read selections from some of Maimonides’ key works in English translation, and will have the opportunity to write their own responses to Maimonides’ claims about life, the universe and everything. We will seek to understand his relevance to Jewish intellectual history as well as to the intellectual and spiritual needs of people living today.

Texts: Preliminary texts list includes:

  • Twersky, Isidore, A Maimonides Reader (Behrman House Publishing, 1976)
  • Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed (Dover Publications, 2000)
  • Hartman, David, The Epistles of Maimonides (Jewish Publication Society, 1992)
  • Faur, Joseph, Homo Mysticus (Syracuse University Press, 1999)
  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua, Maimonides (Image; Reprint ed., 1991)
  • Seeskin, Kenneth, Maimonides: A Guide for Today's Perplexed (Behrman House Publishing, 1991)

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JS 730R-001: Readings in Judeo-Arabic: Geniza Letters (same as MES 570R-003)
Rustow, M 4:00-7:00, MAX: 12 (6 JS, 6 MES)

Course description: This course is designed to introduce students to Judeo-Arabic, the dialect of Arabic spoken and written by the majority of the world’s Jews during the Middle Ages, through letters preserved in the Cairo Geniza. We will read personal letters written by people from every echelon of medieval society – beggars, prisoners of war, merchants, scholars, and courtiers – ranging geographically from Baghdad to the Iberian peninsula. These texts are a rare window on the history of Arabic and its spoken dialects, since they preserve distinctive features of usage and pronunciation not found classical Arabic texts. They are also a major source for the history of the Jews during the central Middle Ages, and cast light into hitherto shadowy corners of the social history of the Near East – its minorities and majorities alike.

Texts: 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 literature, the history of the medieval Mediterranean, and the history of paper, letter-writing, and the mail system.

Particulars: Requirements include weekly preparation of texts and one research paper consisting of a scholarly edition of an unpublished Geniza text. This course is recommended for anyone with a strong interest in Arabic and the history of the Middle East. Undergraduates and graduate students are welcome.

Prerequisite: five semesters of Arabic. (Familiarity with the Hebrew alphabet is not a prerequisite.)

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JS 730R-003: History of Judaic Languages
Hary, TTH 1:00-2:15, MAX: 20 (10 MES, 5 JS, 5 LING)

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

Recommended Texts:

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

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. There will be additional meetings for graduate students participating in the course.

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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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