Courses 2013-2014

Courses Spring 2014


Gender and Identity in Modern Jewish and Israeli Drama (Comp Lit 155/S. Aronson-Lehavi)

In this course we will discuss dramatic works by Jewish and Israeli playwrights, authors, and performance artists, in which relations between gender, religion, and cultural identity are explored. By engaging with performance theory we shall discuss topics such as gender and ethnicity, feminism and religion, identity politics in historical and contemporary contexts, and performance as a vehicle for exploring self-identity. In order to discuss plays which conflate gender and questions of modern Jewish identity, the course will contextualize the plays with various modes of representation, examining the relations between the dramatic styles which are employed and the social questions that are negotiated through the plays. These modes of representation include realistic drama (and the critique of realism); documentary drama; epic and Brechtian drama; Ecriture feminine; solo performance, and performance-art. Authors include: Orly Castel-Bloom, Anna Deveare-Smith, Yosefa Even-Shoshan, Etgar Keret, Tony Kushner, Deb Margolin, Tamar Raban, Paula Vogel, Rina Yerushalmi, and Wendy Wasserstein. Classes will be accompanied by DVD recordings of many of the plays we discuss. All readings are in English.


Yiddish Literature and Culture in Translation (German 168/Ingalls)

Introduction to the development of Yiddish literature from the start of the modern period, with particular emphasis on the global flourishing of the language of Ashkenazi Jews from the mid-19th century until the Nazi genocide and its aftermath. Works include a wide range of fiction, essays, political tracts, journalism, radio, photography, music, and theatrical and film performance.


Elementary Hebrew (Hebrew 1B/C. Boyarin)

Intermediate Hebrew (Hebrew 20B/R/ Adler)

Advanced Hebrew (Hebrew 100B/R. Adler)

Post-Biblical Hebrew Texts (Hebrew 120B/C. Boyarin)

I Want to Mix Up the Bible: The Work of Yehuda Amichai (Hebrew 104B/C. Kronfeld) A close reading of the poetry and short stories of Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), Israel’s leading poet and an internationally prominent literary figure. The course will focus on Amichai’s engagement with issues that range from contemporary politics to ethics and aesthetics through a sustained poetics of radical allusion to the Bible. Collaborative work will be encouraged. Taught in Hebrew.


History of the Holocaust (History 178/Efron)

This course will survey the historical events and intellectual developments leading up to and surrounding the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. We will examine the Shoah (the Hebrew word for the Holocaust) against the backdrop of modern Jewish and modern German history. The course is divided into two main parts: (1) the historical background up to 1939; and (2) the destruction of European Jewry, 1939-1945.


Jewish Storytelling (Jewish Studies 101/M. Wasserman)

We will study the stories Jews have told about who they are, where they come from, and what is most important. Examining the role of storytelling in the creation and perpetuation of Jewish identities from the Bible to Broadway, students will be introduced to the broad sweep of Jewish history, and to important religious and cultural expressions of Jewish life throughout the ages. Completion of this course is a required prerequisite for award of the Minor in Jewish Studies.

Jewish Law (Jewish Studies 120; Law 265/K. Bamberger)

It has been said that, for over 2000 years, it is law that has defined and kept the Jewish people together. This course will provide an introduction to that critical system of Jewish Law and Ethics.

It will address foundational questions about the relation between law and ethics, the benefits and disadvantages of basing law on notions of obligations as opposed to rights, legal evolution in the face of change, the role of narrative in law and ethics. It will consider a variety of substantive legal areas to illuminate overarching themes, including: Jewish law regarding speech, education, environmental protection, and abortion.** Assigned readings are all in English. ** No prior knowledge is required.** Admission is contingent on permission of the instructor. Please contact Prof. Bamberger with any questions.

Advanced Topics in Jewish Studies (Jewish Studies 200/ Y. Zaban)

Love and Ideology in Modern Jewish Literature” – The complexity in which romantic love is treated in Jewish works of art enables the viewing of ideological, social and poetical questions from a new perspective. The course will review the relationship between mutual love and sexuality, morality and nationality in literature and film. The course will highlight themes such as Zionism, the negation of the Diaspora, matchmaking, individualism versus collectivity, gender and sexuality and ethnic tensions.

Modern Jewish Scholarship: History and Practice (Jewish Studies 290/ J. Efron)

This seminar, specifically designed as the ‘integrative course’ for students pursuing the Designated Emphasis in Jewish Studies, will offer an in-depth introduction to some of the central trends and personalities in modern Jewish historiography. We will read (and read about) the founders of modern Jewish historiography, and then explore some contemporary trends in Jewish scholarship, according to the disciplinary affiliations of the students in the class.


Comparative Constitutional Law: The Case of Israel (Legal Studies 174/ A. Lehavi)

How do different societies solve common problems? What role do cultural, economic, and political attributes of nations play in the design of their legal systems, and what are the powers and limits of law in affecting societal changes such as promoting economic equality, mitigating racial and religious tensions, and ensuring basic freedoms for individuals and minority groups? What is the unique calling of constitutional law within legal systems and what lessons can we draw by comparing constitutional systems in studying the relations between law and society?

Israel serves as a fascinating case study for exploring these issues. As a relatively young country, it offers intriguing insights about the process of constructing democratic institutions, the interplay between politics and law, and the broader role of constitutional law in state-building. Israel’s constitutional history is unique in that it operated without any written constitution from 1948 until 1992, then going through an unorthodox “constitutional revolution” in which the Supreme Court awarded a constitutional status to newly-enacted “basic laws” while also establishing its own power of judicial review by invalidation of “unconstitutional” legislation. Accordingly, the Court has been playing a particularly dominant role in constructing fundamental constitutional concepts given the lack of a full-scale written constitution to date. The course will study this unique turn of events as compared with the establishment and current state of constitutional regimes in the United States and other prominent democracies.

The course will explore the development of constitutional rights in view of the unique social, cultural, and religious features of Israel. Unlike the formal separation of state and religion in the US, Israel is defined in its basic laws as “Jewish and Democratic.” This duality raises complex questions about constitutional values and norms not only with respect to individual and group rights of non-Jewish minorities, but also in regard to the relations among different groups within the Jewish majority, including the ultra-orthodox “cultural minority.” The course will then discuss how other constitutional rights such as the right of political association, freedom of expression, right to equality, and the protection of property are developed, interpreted, and applied in view of Israel’s social, economic, and cultural setting, while constantly evaluating the similarities and differences vis-a-vis the US Bill of Rights and other constitutional systems.


Kabbalah: A History of Jewish Spirituality: (Near Eastern Studies 190C/Y. Rosen)

What is Kabbalah? Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in Jewish Mysticism, both from scholars and spiritualists (or whatever you call Madonna). This course will map a two thousand year history of Jewish spirituality and Kabbalah. We will read and encounter the heavenly visions of Ezekiel, Second Temple Apocalypses, theologies of the Divine names, Late Antique angelology, magic, Medieval Kabbalah, Modern Hassidut, and contemporary forms of New-Age and Post-Modern Kabbalah.

Topics in Modern Jewish Thought: (Near Eastern Studies 298/ Manuel Oliveira)

This graduate seminar aims to analyze issues that have characterized the development of Jewish thought in the Modern period. We will approach the thought of Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Arthur Cohen, Abraham Heschel, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Yosef Soloveitchik, David Hartman and Emmanuel Levinas, as these thinkers confronted an ever changing world, marked by the increasing centrality of reason and the great challenges that secularization, Zionism, the Holocaust and the State of Israel brought into Jewish life.


Intermediate Yiddish (Yiddish 102/Chaver)

Further intensive study of Yiddish for advanced students, building on the foundation established in Yiddish 101, or equivalent knowledge. Advanced grammar and introduction to the reading of original texts.

Courses Fall 2013


Modern Jewish History (History 175B/Efron):

This course examines the impact of modern intellectual, political, economic, and social forces on the Jewish people since the 18th century. It is our aim to come to an understanding of how the Jews interpreted these forces, and how and in what ways they adapted and utilized them to suit the Jewish experience. Some of the topics to be covered include Emancipation, Haskalah, new Jewish religious movements, Jewish politics and culture, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the state of Israel.


Freshman/Sophomore Seminar: “The Paradox of Survival: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought” (Jewish Studies 39H/Rosenblatt):

Jewish thought since the 18th century is characterized by a commanding paradox: Whereas the Jews’ entry into the modern world has witnessed their increasing secularization, Jews have, at the same time, been preoccupied with the relevance and significance of their ancient tradition. This introductory course will examine how a variety of modern Jewish thinkers have constructed and radically re-evaluated Jewishness in the light of modern experience. We will consider significant philosophers, novelists, and poets and their understandings of concepts of the self, nation, history, and knowledge in relationship to their reconstruction of Jewish concepts such as justice, redemption, the stranger, holiness, exile, and the Land of Israel. Readings include Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Herzl, Achad Ha’am, Elmaleh, Azhari-Moyal, Buber, Rosenzweig, Benjamin, Scholem, Arendt, and Levinas. This course will be of interest to any student interested in Jewish Studies.

Major Way Stations in Modern Hebrew Literature (Jewish Studies 120/Zaban)

The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the major works of Modern Hebrew literature while exploring their historical and cultural background. The course will highlight themes such as Zionism, the negation of the Diaspora, the Israeli-Arab conflict, the literary response to the Holocaust, individualism vs. collectivity, gender and sexuality, and ethnic tensions. Readings will consist of novels, short stories, and poems in English translation.


The Bible in Western Culture (L&S 120/Hendel)

The ways that people understand the Bible are deeply linked with their ways of understanding and living in the world. We will explore the changes in biblical interpretation over the last 2,000 years as a key to the shifting horizons of Western culture, politics, and religion. Topics will range widely, from the birth of the Bible to ancient heresies to modern philosophy, science, and literature. This will be a genealogy of Western thought as it wrestles with its canonical text.


Music in Israel (Music 74/139/Spagnolo)

A wide-angled perspective on the different cultures voiced through music in Israel, including traditional, popular, and art music, with a specific focus on the role of music in the formation of Jewish national culture in the Middle East from the end of the 19th century to the present. Jews who immigrated to Palestine from the four corners of the world brought with them a host of diverse musical cultures, many of which had never come in contact with one another before. These diverse worlds of sound developed through the 20th century, sharing common traits and joining (and clashing) in shaping “Israeliness.” As heard in Israel, “world music” appears under an unexpected and intriguing light. The study of this complex musical universe requires historical, musicological, and anthropological tools. Topics include: the musical cultures of the Jews throughout the Diaspora and their meeting in Palestine with the rise of Zionism; the creation of national musical institutions (orchestras, opera theaters, musical academies, broadcasting stations, festivals, and army ensembles); the multiple encounters between Jews and Arabic music; the role of music in the politics of conflict and peace; the relationship between sounds and history; music connections between Israel and the Diaspora. Learn more at


Multiculturalism in Modern Jewish Literatures (NES 139/Kronfeld and Levin):

This course will engage the diversity of voices in modern Jewish literature, and the rich interplay between the multiple languages and cultures that they express. We will focus on close reading of poems, short fiction, and folklore, translated into English from Jewish languages such as Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, and Yiddish by authors of Eastern and Central European as well as Middle Eastern and North African extraction. In addition to canonical Hebrew writers such as Yehuda Amichai, Dahlia Ravikovitch, and A.B. Yehoshua, we will read works by Erez Bitton, Sami Chetrit, Shelley ElKayam, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, Itzik Manger, Anna Margolin, and Ishaq Shami, and selections from the oral traditions of Moroccan, Kurdistani, and Yemeni Jews. Graduate students (or undergrads) who know any of the languages can sign up for Independent Studies to receive extra credit for doing the readings in the original. Reading List: Ammiel Alcalay,Keys to the Garden; Course Reader.

Jewish Thought, Culture and Civilization (NES 190C/Duarte de Oliveira)

This course aims to study one of the civilizations that deeply marked and inspired Western culture. The Jewish tradition, one of the cornerstones of European and American culture, belongs to the group of ancient cultures originated in the Fertile Crescent, which throughout time crystallized in evolving oral and written references, around which fundamental moments of the relation between God and humanity have been condensed and preserved. In this introductory course, we will delve into the thought of Jewish authors that dedicated themselves to the study of their tradition in a particularly creative mode. Following a brief historical introduction to the sociocultural context of Jewish life in the Biblical, Post-Exile, and Second Temple periods, we will approach moments and topics considered crucial for the development of this living tradition.

Contemporary Israeli Culture (NES 190H/Aronson-Lehavi)

This course will offer an overview of contemporary artistic creativity in Israel by studying works of worldly renowned Israeli authors and artists. The class will compare prominent works in drama, art, film, and dance. It will foster an understanding of contemporary Israeli arts and culture, and will focus on the interrelations between the universal and local dimensions of these works. Themes include representations of the Holocaust; religious and secular identities; intergenerational relations; immigration; individualism and collectivism; militarism and war; and feminist identities. All texts will be available in English.


Freshman/Sophomore Seminar: “Representations of the Holocaust in Theater” (TDPS 39D/Aronson-Lehavi)

This course deals with the challenge of representing and performing Holocaust-related materials in contemporary theater and with the ways in which such materials have been used to explore complex questions of the past and the present. We will study plays and theater performances that employ experimental, thought-provoking, and often unsettling modes of representation in order to create powerful theatrical experiences, and analyze the aesthetic, social, and ethical issues that such performances evoke. The course will also engage with theories of documentary theater, total theater, cultural memory as performance, trauma and performance, and relations between the arts and the Holocaust more generally. Classes will be accompanied by DVD recordings of the performances discussed. Translations of non-English texts will be provided.


Topics in Yiddish Literature (Yiddish 103 [German Dept]/Chaver):

Yiddish Literature in America.

Graduate Courses Fall 2013


Advanced Biblical Hebrew Texts: Samuel

A close reading of selected chapters of 1-2 Samuel in conjunction with the Qumran manuscript 4QSam-a and the Septuagint.  Grammatical, textual, and exegetical issues will be emphasized.


Advanced Late Antique Hebrew Texts



Stylistics and the Critique of Ideology in Modern Hebrew Literature.

This advanced course is taught in Hebrew.