Spring 2018 Jewish Studies Courses

The list includes both courses directly offered through Jewish Studies, with the JWST prefix, and those offered through other departments which students minoring in Jewish Studies can take for credit towards the minor.


JWST 27500 Selected Topics: Israeli Culture through Film Mirit Hadar
TR 1:10-2:25
ICC: Humanities; Identities, Power and Justice
This course explores the history, culture and art of Israeli society through film. It is divided into two sections: the first part deals with Israeli history through contemporary Israeli film, the second part deals with cultural and social aspects of the Israeli people as shown in Israeli movies. Artistic aspects will be woven into the course discussions to enhance the subjects’ understanding and for better analysis of cinema. Students will become acquainted with some of the major issues that have shaped Israeli society, including religious tensions between different kinds of Jews, relations between Jewish and Arab Israelis, immigration, war, and terrorism. The course will demonstrate that film can serve as an artistic and historical medium that reflects and comments on the history, politics, and culture of Israel.

JWST 29400 Contemporary Jewish Identities: Gender, Race, and Power Rebecca Lesses
MW 4:00-5:15 PM
ICC: Diversity; Humanities; Identities, Power and Justice
This course addresses the multiplicity of contemporary Jewish identities, focusing on Jews in the United States and Israel, the two largest contemporary Jewish communities. Questions include: What does it mean to be Jewish? Is this a religious, ethnic, national, or racial identity? Is there a common Jewish identity among Jews of widely varying ethnic origins, religious affiliation, and national allegiances? These questions will be explored through four different topics: 1) Jews and Race; 2) Post-Holocaust Jewish Identity; 3) Jewish identity in Israel; 4) Gender, Feminism, and Queer Identity.

JWST 35300 Jewish Folk Religion: Magic and Ritual Power Rebecca Lesses
TR 2:35-3:50 PM
In the ancient and medieval worlds, Jews were reputed to possess much knowledge about magic: amulets and spells to heal from sickness or harm one’s enemies, mystical incantations to ascend to heaven or bring angels down to earth, and information about the beneficent angels who assisted humans in their fight against the demons of illness and madness. Jewish magic has been part of folk Jewish knowledge and elite rabbinic practice in many cultures. This course examines the Jewish magical tradition from antiquity through the Middle Ages, and investigates how it survived and underwent transformation in the modern world.

The course begins by examining the term “magic” itself, attempting to determine the relationship between magic and religion and questioning whether the term is still useful. We will read a variety of historical and anthropological approaches to this question, in order to discover the history of the term and the ways it has been used by modern researchers since the 19th century. We will then turn to different Jewish definition of magic and ritual power to see how ancient and medieval Jewish authorities judged magic – was it an acceptable activity, or wholly outside normative Jewish practice? The course then gives a survey of Jewish magical texts that range from the Bible to medieval stories and amulets. We will consider the use of amulets and other magical techniques for healing, and explore the relationship between magic and Jewish mysticism. The course will finish with an examination of possession and exorcism in the early modern world, and the ways in which the Jewish magic tradition still persists in the modern era. Prerequisites: Junior standing or permission of instructor.

JWST 36000 Witnessing and Representing the Holocaust through Literature and Film
David Barry
MWF 10:00-10:50 AM
This course analyzes various forms of cultural production (testimony, fiction, poetry, feature films, documentaries, and theatre) with an eye to the complexity of witnessing the Holocaust and the act of remembering and representing such experiences This is an interdisciplinary course designed to appeal to students majoring and minoring in Jewish Studies, English, History, Politics, Sociology, Writing, and Cultural Anthropology. Prerequisites: Junior standing or permission of instructor.

JWST 42000 – Internship: Jewish Studies Rebecca Lesses
On-site work experience, combined with academic study, in agencies or educational institutions with significant Jewish content, such as Jewish schools or community agencies or multicultural groups. Arranged individually at the student's request with the individual instructor, a sponsoring agency, and permission of the Jewish studies coordinator. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. 1-12 credits. (IRR)


HEBR 10200 Elementary Hebrew II Mirit Hadar
Continuation of Hebrew 10100 Elementary Hebrew I.

POLT 40103-01 The Political Implications of the Holocaust Don Beachler
Wednesday 4:00-6:30 pm
The seminar will explore portions of the voluminous literature on the Holocaust to extract implications for politics. Among the topics to be considered are the conditions that permit people to participate in genocide and the human capacity for self-deception that enables people to rationalize their actions. This section of the seminar will consider the controversy raised by Daniel Goldhagen’s book Hitler’s Willing Executioners. We will also explore the academic politics of Holocaust studies by reading works that both proclaim the uniqueness of the Holocaust and by considering authors who argue that too much attention has been paid the Holocaust to the neglect of other historical instances of genocide. The ethical lessons that can be gleaned from global indifference to the destruction of the European Jews will form another segment of the seminar. The global response to atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia will be included for comparative purposes.