Master Course List

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Descriptions of some courses offered by the Department of Jewish Studies.


Advanced Modern Hebrew

hebrew 150px01:563:210 and 01:563:211
(cross-listed with 01:013:352 and 01:013:353)

Improve your proficiency in reading and writing skills by reading short essays, newspaper, and magazine articles.

This course is designed to develop fluency and increase proficiency in reading and writing skills. The course provides an intensive training in Hebrew Grammar and syntax through the reading and analysis of short essays, and newspaper and magazine articles. Reading and writing assignments as well as creative writing and oral presentations are part of the course work.

01:563:210 Prerequisites: 01:563:132 / 01:013:253 or Hebrew placement test.

Click to learn more about the Hebrew Placement Exam


American Jewish Culture

(cross-listed with 01:050:332)

American Jewish Culture reflects the tension between tradition and acculturation in the American Jewish experience. This course also explores the remarkable influence that Jews have had on American writing, film, and television and on our nation’s social and cultural mores. 

American Jewish History

American Jewish History01:563:231
(cross-listed with 01:512:231)

This course traces the dynamics of a religious and ethnic minority in North America from the colonial period to the present. In so doing, it surveys crucial events and developments in the Jews’ encounter with North America and explores what these have meant for both Jewish and American cultures. Topics to be covered include: migration, communal and religious innovation, acculturation, ethnicity, and politics. The course will also explore the ways in which Jews have been represented by popular American cultural forms, including fiction and films.

This course fulfills Core requirement HST.

Ancient Egypt (mini-course)

Ancient Egypt01:563:266 - 1.5 credits
(cross-listed with 01:013:302)

Introduction into ancient Egypt. Topics include a historical overview, religion, art, archaeology, interconnections between ancient Egypt and ancient Israel, and Hieroglyphic Egyptian language and literature.

Ancient Near Eastern Religions

Ancient Near East Religion01:563:324
(cross-listed with 01:840:301)

Religious patterns in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Canaan, Israel, and Egypt from texts in translation; their impact on cultural development of the Near East.


(cross-listed with 01:510:269)

This course invites students to think deeply about contemporary discourses of and about antisemitism in light of their historical precedents and resonances. Throughout, attention will be devoted to the wide-ranging contexts and content of antisemitism; the functions that anti-Jewish animus has served in different societies; the roles of religion, science, and politics in anti-Jewish ideologies and actions; factors that have intensified and mitigated anti-Jewish ideologies and their expressions; and the relationships that have existed between hatred of Jews and other forms of prejudice. Students will ponder continuities and turning points in the history of antisemitism as well as the significance of antisemitism as an analytic category. They will also consider the dangers of focusing on antisemitism at the expense of other dynamics in Jewish history. Addressing urgent questions in historical perspective, students will emerge better equipped to navigate the challenges of the contemporary world.

This course fulfills Core requirements CCD and HST.

Between Nazism and Communism

Exile under Nazism and Communism01:563:270
(cross-listed with 01:510:263)

This course will examine the experience of several minority groups in Poland: Jews, Ukrainians, and ethnic Polish peasants under Nazi and Communist rule in the modern period through primary historical documents, memoir literature, poetry, and film. These populations were part of a historically rich multicultural, multifaith, and multilinguistic region that was homogenized in the 20th century due to war, genocide, political nationalism, and population transfers. 

In order to understand the complexity of Nazi and Soviet control over Polish territory in the 20th century, and the experiences of Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians—including their sense of belonging, their reactions to dislocations, and the memory of their extermination—this course will introduce students to the history of Poland, beginning in its “Golden Age,” which saw the expansion of Jewish settlement throughout the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—which included Ukrainian lands—and continuing to the effects of the partitions in the late eighteenth century, in which Poland and its peoples became subjects of the Russian, Habsburg, and Austrian Empires. In the “long” nineteenth century, the “national” principle prevailed in East Central Europe, affecting Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish national aspirations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The course will investigate the dislocations caused by World War I, the exhilaration of the reestablishment of Polish statehood in the interwar period, and then focus on the catastrophic invasion and occupation of western Poland by the Nazi Third Reich in 1939 (and then of Soviet-occupied eastern Poland in 1941), and the subsuming of Polish sovereignty under Communism in 1946. 

Jews lived in Polish lands for a millennium and by the eighteenth century comprised 10% of Poland’s urban population. However, the almost total destruction of Polish Jewry in World War II made the Jews a ‘phantom limb,’ a shadowy non-presence, in the post-war period. Post-war Poles and Ukrainians also experienced devastating dislocations due to the war and to the Communist takeover. All three peoples have produced a wealth of memoir literature and fiction that explores the meanings of home, exile, longing, and the human need for connection to place that is shared, in this case study, by Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians. The paradox of this literature is that these nations appear unaware of the similar themes that their memoirs employ and evoke. 

Students are required to read the materials in advance of our sessions. We will pay careful attention to the primary sources—all of which are available on Canvas—in class. Additional readings, in the form of articles and book chapters, have also been uploaded on Canvas. The secondary sources will allow you to a) deepen your understanding of the history we’re engaging and b) enter into the contemporary scholarly conversation about the meaning of that history. Films, a bi-lingual reading by a Polish poet exiled in 1969, and two guest lectures (one on Nazi architecture, the second on an Israeli graphic novelist’s exploration of the memory of Poland) will enhance students’ understanding of the intertwined histories of the assault on minority groups in the Polish borderlands under the Nazis and the Soviets. 

This course fulfills Core requirement HST-1.

Bible in Aramaic, The

Bible in Aramaic01:563:146
(cross-listed with 01:013:111)

Introduction to Aramaic through biblical literature, including Aramaic Bible passages and vernacular translations into various Aramaic dialects, with a focus on Syriac version.

Biblical Hebrew

Biblical Hebrew01:563:141 and 01:563:142
(cross-listed with 01:013:154 and 01:013:155)

Part I - 01:563:141

The aim of this course is to introduce students to Biblical Hebrew, especially the variety known as Standard Biblical Hebrew, used to write the narrative prose texts of the Bible during the period of the 10th-7th centuries B.C.E. These prose texts are to be found most prominently in Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and Kings.

Part II - 01:563:142

This course serves as a continuation of Biblical Hebrew I. This course maintains the same goals and structure of the previous semester. In addition to providing students with basic knowledge of Standard Biblical Hebrew (that is, the language of narrative prose), this course will introduce students to the working of biblical poetry. In addition to continuing with the reading of prose texts, students also will read and analyze some basic poetry as found in the books of Psalms and Proverbs, as well as in the various prophetic books.

Binding of Isaac (mini-course)

TOPICS COURSE - 1.5 creditsEnglish Course

This course offers a close study of the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac and the later development of the biblical story. Our course is completely online, in keeping with the public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Along with the obvious health issues, this situation means we are all adjusting to new situations in our personal lives and in our classroom, so I urge everyone to communicate with me if you are experiencing difficulty either with the material/format of the class or with life outside the classroom.

Classical Jewish Philosophy

(cross-listed as 01:730:311)

Did you know that the first Jewish theology was written in Arabic? That medieval Jewish philosophers wrestled with the same questions about evil, ethics and God’s existence as we do today? In this course, we examine some great works of philosophy in their historical settings. We will do a select reading of four fascinating thinkers: Philo of Alexandria, Saadya Gaon, Judah Halevi, and Moses Maimonides. We will address the “meaning of life,” of the nature of God, and the problems of suffering and injustice. We will also see how Jewish thinkers were in conversation and conflict with the Christian and Islamic cultures of their days, how politics influences philosophy, and how philosophy was used as a practical tool for “virtuous living.” You don’t have to be Jewish—or a philosopher!—to appreciate classical Jewish philosophy.

Contemporary Politics in the Middle East

God and the Gods01:563:351
(cross-listed with 01:685:351 or 01:790:351)

Contemporary politics of the Middle East through scholarly literature and documentary-type films dealing with socioeconomic and cultural influences on politics.

Culture of Ladino: An Introduction

(cross-listed with 01:013:289, 01:617:289, and 01:940:289)

Introduction to Ladino language and culture, with reference to the unique Spanish variety used by Sephardic Jews (Jews from Iberia and across their Mediterranean diaspora their expulsion from Spain in 1492), along with its parallel culture.

This course fulfills Core requirement AHQ.

Culture of Yiddish: An Introduction

(cross-listed as 01:470:280:01)

Did you know
•    There were once 11 million Yiddish speakers worldwide?
•    There are neighborhoods in Brooklyn where the ATMs offer a Yiddish option?
•    There are 300-year-old alternate prayers especially for women written in Yiddish?
•    There was a Jewish Autonomous Region, with Yiddish as its official language, established in the Soviet Union
      in the 1930s?
•    There are more than a dozen different words for “Christmas” in Yiddish?
•    You can visit an organic farm in upstate New York where only Yiddish is spoken? 
•    You can watch online videos in Yiddish produced in New York, Montreal, and Stockholm?

Explore the thousand-year history of Yiddish, key to centuries of Jewish folklore and politics, great works of modern literature and traditional spirituality.  Learn how a language thrives in diaspora and endures a genocide, and how it has enriched the lives of fundamentalists, revolutionaries, avant-garde performers, and others—including many people who aren’t Jewish—around the world. 

This course fulfills Core requirement AHq.
No prerequisites.  All readings are in English. 
No prior knowledge of Yiddish or other languages required.

Dead Sea Scrolls

(cross-listed as 01:840:340)

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls represents one of the most dramatic archaeological finds of the 20th century. Since their discovery in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of intense study and debate, and have profoundly influenced the way in which we understand the Jewish sects of the Second Temple period, the origins of Christianity, and the rise of Rabbinic Judaism. In this class we will examine all of the major Dead Sea Scrolls, along with many of the more fragmentary ones, as we attempt to understand their historical context, in addition to their significance for later Jewish and Christian traditions. All readings are in English.

Elementary Modern Hebrew

hebrew 150px01:563:101 and 01:563:102
(cross-listed with 01:013:152 and 01:013:153)

Acquire basic competence in reading, writing and speaking Hebrew.

Introductory Hebrew: This course develops primary language skills through extensive practice in reading and writing. Since emphasis is put on the sentence as a unit of language, students are engaged from the very beginning in creative writing and speech as well as in achieving basic competence in grammar. Communication skills are enhanced by engaging in conversations based on everyday situations. No previous knowledge of Hebrew required.

No prerequisites.

Click to learn more about the Hebrew Placement Exam


Elementary Modern Yiddish

Yiddish01:563:103 and 01:563:104

Big Ten Academic Alliance
Distance Learning Course

Course Goals
By the end of the course, students should have Yiddish skills to do the following:

  • Understand and participate in a simple conversation on everyday topics.
  • Read edited texts on familiar topics, understand the main ideas, and pick out important information from more complex texts with the aid of a dictionary.
  • Write short compositions on a variety of everyday topics; answer interpretive questions related to class readings.
  • Use basic grammatical forms, including the present, past and conditional tenses, periphrastic verbs, articles, and adjectives, pronouns, the negative, and word order.

The course will also introduce students to the history of the Yiddish language and the breadth of Yiddish.

For more information on options to study Yiddish, please contact Prof. Jeffrey Shandler (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

English Bible, The

English Bible01:563:326
(cross-listed with 01:358:398, 01:840:387)

The English Bible, its literary variety, and the evolution of its text. Special attention will be given to problems of interpretation and translation and their Hebrew and Greek origins.

Evolution of English (mini-course)

01:563:382 - 1.5 creditsEnglish Course

For many of us, a native language is both intimately familiar and profoundly foreign. We can speak it, but we do not know how it came to be. This course offers a survey of the one thousand years of English and its development. The focus of the class is on the ways in which encounters with other languages have shaped and enriched the English language, ultimately creating the language we know today. No prior knowledge is required or assumed.

German Jewish Culture

German Jews01:563:380
(cross-listed with 01:195:380 and 01:470:380)

The course surveys German-Jewish culture from the eighteenth century to 1935.  A wide range of philosophical, theological, autobiographical, literary, poetic, and dramatic texts will be studied, including works by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Rahel Varnhagen, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Moses Hess, Franz Kafka, Hermann Cohen, Else Lasker-Schüler, Sigmund Freud, and Martin Buber. Topics to be covered: Enlightenment and "Bildung"; salon culture; autobiography and romanticism; socialism and assimilation; “Anti-Semitism” and Zionism; theology and redemption.

Taught in English. 

God and the Gods

God and the Gods01:563:313
(cross-listed with 01:840:383)

This course examines three core issues in the way religious communities conceive of the divine: whether there are many gods or just one, whether the divine has a physical form, and what gender it should be assigned. Each of these questions is addressed through analysis of written and visual sources drawn from Judaism, Christianity, and Ancient Greek religion. In doing so, the course highlights the complexity of fundamental issues in the history of religion, including and especially issues that are commonly presented as uncontroversial: God’s masculinity, God’s incorporeality, and the superiority of monotheism to polytheism.

Hebrew Review and Continuation

hebrew 150px01:563:121
(cross-listed with 01:013:156)

Enhance your basic Hebrew language skills through a review of grammar and by practicing reading, writing and speaking.

This course is designed for students with previous exposure to Hebrew (e.g. heritage speakers, Jewish day school students, etc.), who are in need of a thorough review in order to enhance their basic language skills. Upon completion of this course, students will be placed into Intermediate Hebrew (01:563:131). The course emphasizes cognitive academic language proficiency as well as communication skills. Competence in the four areas of language (comprehensive reading, creative writing, grammar, and speech) is acquired through practice of grammar, reading of various Hebrew texts, class discussions, and composition writing.

Prerequisite: 01:563:101 / 01:013:152 or Hebrew placement test.

Click to learn more about the Hebrew Placement Exam


Hieroglyphic Egyptian

hebrew 150px01:563:421 and 01:563:422
(cross-listed with 01:013:421 and 01:013:422)

Part I - 01:563:421

Students will learn to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and analyze the grammar of the ancient Egyptian language. They will gain familiarity with the literature of ancient Egypt (especially the prose tales), including its relationship to biblical literature.

No prerequisites.

Part II - 01:563:422

Students will learn to read ancient Egyptian narrative prose tales. They will advance beyond the basic level of Hieroglyphic Egyptian grammar and writing and will continue to build their vocabulary and learn additional more complicated grammatical features.

History of Jewish Art

(cross-listed with 01:082:255)

An overview of Jewish engagements with visual art from ancient times to the present in communities around the world, including synagogue architecture, ritual objects, fine art, photography, and public monuments. Topics addressed include the role of art in addressing communal ritual, personal spirituality, modernity, immigrant life, revolution, anti-Semitism, Holocaust remembrance.  

No prerequisites.

History of Jewish Women

History of Jewish Women01:563:373

Gender as a category of analysis has revolutionized the study of history. This course will apply the category of gender to the history of the Jewish people, beginning from the early medieval period until the present. Until recently, Jewish history has largely been told through the experience of Jewish men and the texts they penned and preserved. This course will expand our understanding of Jewish history and self-understanding by studying and analyzing the role of Jewish women in relationship to the development of Judaism, Jewish economic life, Jewish politics, and to Jewish culture broadly defined. What was the relationship between formal religion and daily life, and how has this relationship changed over time? How did Jewish women contribute to the family economy and what was their relationship to the non-Jewish societies in which they lived? What do Jewish traditions teach about the relation of women to God, to prayer and liturgy, and to human relationships? How have the modern phenomena of immigration, assimilation, religious denominationalism, and feminism shaped Jewish women’s thinking and experience? How does the inclusion of women and issues of gender change the understanding of the Jewish past?

Topics to be covered include: spirituality, marriage, motherhood, the body and sexuality, and women’s activities in work, spirituality, and political and religious leadership. The course materials will cross temporal and geographic boundaries, and we will utilize diverse genres to explore our topic, including primary and secondary historical sources, fiction, poetry, and film. 

History of the Holocaust

Auschwitz gate01:563:261
(cross-listed with 01:510:261)

This course is a detailed examination of the programs of persecution and mass murder carried out by the Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945. Several themes will be prominent throughout the semester. First, we will examine when and how policies of exclusion can be transformed into a systematic program of murder. In this regard, we will examine not only the development of Nazi Germany as a "racial state," but also the role of ideologies, such as anti-Semitism, nationalism, and racism, in shaping policies of exclusion in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Second, we will focus on the place of the Holocaust in European, and not only German, history. The events we associate with the Holocaust took place across the continent of Europe and were shaped by local histories; throughout the course we will pay close attention to the interaction between Germans, Jews, and non-German native populations. The mass murder of European Jews will be the central focus of this course. We will, however, also discuss programs of discrimination and murder carried out against other groups (e.g. Roma, the disabled, homosexuals, and Poles) and attempt to place these phenomena within the context of Nazi German racial policy.

This course fulfills Core requirement HST.

History of Zionism

History of Zionism01:563:343

This course explores the development of Zionism from nineteenth-century Europe to twenty-first century Israel. An analysis of speeches, personal essays, newspaper articles, and film will reveal the evolution of the Zionist idea across centuries and continents. In examining the work of Zionist precursors, the critiques of non-Zionists and anti-Zionists, the development of Jewish nationalism in the United States, the ideological beliefs of Christian Zionists, and the political determination of the founders of modern Israel, students will interrogate how this movement has shaped modern history. 

Holocaust Literature in Translation

Holocaust Literature in Translation01:563:365
(cross-listed with 01:195:395 and 01:470:390)

Some of the most compelling works of Holocaust literature are in Yiddish, the first language of the majority of Jews living in Europe before World War II. In this course we examine the distinct engagement of Yiddish speakers with the Holocaust in memoirs, short stories, poetry, song, video, and film, from works created on the eve of the war through the turn of the twenty-first century. As we examine the role of Yiddish in relation to the Holocaust, we discover the radical transformation of the language as a result of the mass murder of its speakers in Europe. We explore how Yiddish has been used to respond to the genocide, both to remember those who were killed, and to recall their prewar way of life, and we will consider the significance of translating these works into English.

All course materials are in English. This course has no prerequisites.

This course counts toward fulfilling the Holocaust Studies minor.

NOTE: Students who have basic reading knowledge of Yiddish have the option to register for an additional, one-credit “add-on” course, in which we will read selected works that are assigned for Holocaust Literature in Translation in the original. This add-on course will meet synchronously, once a week, at a time to be arranged.
Please contact Prof. Shandler for more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Intermediate Modern Hebrew

hebrew 150px01:563:131 / 01:563:132
(cross-listed with 01:013:252 / 01:013:253)

Part I - 01:563:131

Improve your Hebrew conversational skills and start to read texts in classical and modern Hebrew.

The objectives of this course are twofold: development of language skills and preparing the students to approach Hebrew literature in an analytical and comprehensive manner. Students develop conversational skills by regular participation in class presentations and discussions of current events and cultural issues. Advanced grammatical forms are integrated into the reading material, based on a variety of modern Israeli literature.

Prerequisites: 01:563:121 / 01:013:156 or Hebrew placement test.

This course fulfills Core requirement AHq. 

Part II - 01:563:132

Achieve proficiency in reading and speaking modern Hebrew.

The objectives of this course are twofold: development of language skills and preparing students to read and analyze Hebrew literature. Students develop conversational skills by regular participation in class presentations and discussions of current and cultural events.  Advance grammatical forms are integrated into the discussion of reading material, which is selected from various Hebrew sources.

Prerequisites: 01:563:121 / 01:013:156 or Hebrew placement test.

Click to learn more about the Hebrew Placement Exam


Intermediate Yiddish Language

Yiddish Language01:563:133 and 01:563:134

Develop conversational abilities in Yiddish, read works of Yiddish literature in the original. Class activities also include reading the Yiddish press, singing Yiddish folksongs, screening classic Yiddish films, and trips to the Yiddish theater. Prerequisite: Two semesters of Elementary Yiddish or its equivalent.

Introduction to Ancient Judaism

(cross-listed with 01:840:242)

This course will investigate the historical development of Jewish beliefs and practices in ancient times, spanning the Biblical and post-Biblical periods. Issues to be studied include Sabbath, festivals, circumcision, dietary laws, sacrifice, prayer, monotheism, covenant, and eschatology. Our sources will include both classical texts, such as the Bible and the Mishna, and information forthcoming from archaeological discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and excavated synagogues.

We will study ancient Judaism against the backdrop of ancient Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean literature, history, religion, mythology, law, and culture. Our view is that no civilization develops in a vacuum, and this is certainly true of Judaism. Thus a basic knowledge of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel will be important for understanding the development of ancient Judaism.

Finally, while our efforts will concentrate on Judaism in its early historical period, we will have occasion to reflect on how the beliefs and practices of ancient times are continued to the present day in modern Judaism.

Introduction to Bible I: Torah and Prose

Dura Europos fresco Jews cross Red Sea01:563:220
(cross-listed with 01:840:201)

This is the first course of a two-semester sequence.  The main goal is to introduce students to the literature of the Bible – by which is meant the Bible as defined by the Jewish canon, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament.  This course focuses on the early biblical books, that is, the Torah or Pentateuch, plus Joshua-Judges-Samuel, covering the period of Israel’s origins through the reign of King David.  Emphasis is placed on literary, historical, and theological matters.  Special use is made of the numerous archaeological discoveries that have advanced our knowledge of ancient Israel.  As such, the Bible is studied against the backdrop of ancient Near Eastern literature, history, religion, mythology, and law.

This course fulfills Core requirements HST and AHp.

Introduction to Bible II: Prophets and Poetry

(cross-listed with 01:840:206)

This is the second course of a two-semester sequence.  The main goal is to introduce students to the literature of the Bible – by which is meant the Bible as defined by the Jewish canon, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament. This course focuses on the Prophets, the historical backdrop of the prophetic message as revealed mainly through the book of Kings, and other relevant poetic material (Psalms, Job, etc.), which provide additional theological insights. Emphasis is placed on literary, historical, and theological matters. Special use is made of the numerous archaeological discoveries that have advanced our knowledge of ancient Israel. As such, the Bible is studied against the backdrop of ancient Near Eastern literature, history, religion, mythology, and law.

This course is open to senior citizen auditors.

This course fulfills Core requirements HST and AHp.

Introduction to Modern Middle East

Intro to Modern Middle East01:563:100
(cross-listed with 01:685:100)

This is the foundational course for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. The course introduces students to Middle East Studies as an interdisciplinary academic field. Throughout the semester, we study key debates, events, and literature in several of the disciplines that constitute the field. Three major “modules” comprise the course but history is a defining discipline. The first module introduces Middle East Studies as a professional academic field in Euro-American universities by focusing on the relationship between power and knowledge. The second module explores major debates in the field from the vantage point of three major disciplines - History, Political Science, and Anthropology – as well as the key interdisciplinary framework of Political Economy. The third module provides a curated overview of major events, ideologies, and encounters that continue to shape the Modern Middle East: colonialism, nationalism, war, the nation-state system, and political Islam.

Introduction to the Modern Middle East is an intensive undergraduate level course meeting Core Curriculum learning goals and requiring 25-35 pages per session. The classes are a mixture of lectures and discussions. Students are expected to come to classes having prepared the reading(s) for the day and ready to discuss them in detail.

This course fulfills Core requirements CCO, HST or SCL, AHo.

Israeli Politics

Israeli politics01:563:352
(cross-listed with 01:685:352 and 01:790:352)

Israeli Society through Film

The Syrian Bride - Israeli film 01:563:393
(cross-listed with 01:175:377 and 01:685:393)

Israeli cinema has become increasingly diverse, critical, and multicultural and is often at the cutting edge of the Israeli cultural scene. Films provide an interesting lens to explore questions about Israeli life and identity: What was the experience of growing up in post-independence Israel? How were Holocaust survivors and new immigrants from Arab countries received during that period? What made kibbutz life distinct and how has it changed overtime? How is the impact of war and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict depicted in film? What is the role of gender in the construction of Israeli identity and how has the portrayal of Israeli men, women, and LGBT identities changed overtime? What are the distinct issues facing Orthodox and Ultraorthodox Israelis? How are marginalized groups (Israeli Arabs, Middle Eastern Jews, Russian Jews and Ethiopian Jews) portrayed in film?

Knowledge of Hebrew is not a requirement; all films have English subtitles. Films will be viewed at home and in class. Through readings, responses to films, and class discussions we will explore these issues and the way cinema works as an art form and as a medium for social critique.                    

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Arab Israeli Conflict01:563:282
(cross-listed with 01:508:212 and 01:685:282)

This course is an overview of the hundred-year old Arab-Israeli conflict, the controversies it has generated, the attempts to resolve it, and how we as outsiders to the conflict learn about it and experience it. During the first unit of the course, we will work to understand key historical moments of the conflict through multiple perspectives and interpretations. In the second unit, we will evaluate attempts for peace. Throughout these units, we will seek to analyze conflicting claims of truth, justice, history, and ownership. During the third unit, we will examine media coverage of the conflict so as to evaluate how the media shapes our perception of the stakes, the players, and the history. At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to discuss events in the last century that have contributed to the conflict, analyze different narratives among Israelis and Palestinians, evaluate attempts for peace, and engage in sophisticated, critical debates about the conflict both in and outside the classroom.

This course fulfills Core requirements CCD and HST.

Jerusalem Contested: A City’s History from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives

(cross-listed with 01:508:209, 01:685:280)

Learn about the significance of Jerusalem to Muslims, Christians and Jews by exploring the history of this key city, as well as current tensions and controversies.

No prerequisites.

This course fulfills Core requirement HST.

Jesus the Jew (online)

Jesus the Jew01:563:341
(cross-listed with 01:840:310)

This course explores the historic figure of Jesus within the context of first century Palestinian Judaism. Toward this end, we will study the main groups and institutions of Judaism at the time of Jesus, using them as a backdrop against which to “map” out Jesus and his teachings, thus gaining familiarity with Second Temple, rabbinic, and early Christian traditions. Among the topics to be covered: Jesus and the Law, Jesus and the Temple, the problem of religious authority and types of religious leaders, the Sermon on the Mount, the “Parting of the Ways” and more. 

Jewish Historical Fiction (mini-course)

The World To Come by Dara Horn01:563:336 - 1.5 credits

This course will explore the genre of Jewish historical fiction and its relationship to the historical periods the novels purport to represent, starting from the medieval period and continuing into contemporary times. The course will investigate the differences and similarities between two kinds of writing: historical and fictional narrative. Readings will include primary and secondary historical sources, as well as several novels. Topics to be covered include: Medieval Jewish life--particularly marriage, sexuality, and economics; mysticism and heretical Sabbatianism; revolution and art in the Soviet Union.

Jewish History I: Ancient & Medieval

Jewish History I01:563:201
(cross-listed with 01:506:271 and 01:685:208)

Explore the history of Jews and Judaism from ancient Israel’s earliest origins to the late Middle Ages. Learn about archaeological findings, analyze ancient and medieval texts and works of art, and examine how one of the world’s oldest religious traditions evolved in a global context. 

No prerequisites.

This course fulfills Core requirement HST.

Required of all Jewish Studies majors and minors.

Jewish History II: Modern

(cross-listed with 01:506:272:01)

Explore how modernity shaped Jewish life in Europe and the Americas from the sixteenth century through late twentieth centuries. Learn about the consequences of the Spanish Inquisition, Jews’ political emancipation, the birth of Reform Judaism, modern anti-Semitism, the impact of World War I and Jewish life on the eve of World War II. This course will pay special attention to regional diversity and questions of gender.

This course fulfills Core requirement HST.

Required of all Jewish Studies majors and minors.

Jewish Humor


Known historically as the “People of the Book,” the Jews are perhaps better known today as the “People of the Joke.” This course explores the development of Jewish humor as a cultural phenomenon during the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on the history of American Jewish comedic output, but also delving into material from Eastern Europe, the USSR and Israel. Come learn about how Jews and their cultural backgrounds have shaped the American comedy industry and about how humor participates, more generally, in processes of acculturation as well as in the maintenance of cultural distinctiveness.

No prerequisites.

Jewish Messiahs (mini-course)

TOPICS COURSE - 1.5 creditsMessiah Course

The course examines the concept of the messiah from its biblical roots through various historical figures identified as Jewish messiahs. These include Jesus of Nazareth, Shimon bar Kokhba, Shabbtai Zevi, and Menahem Mendel Schneerson, as well as messianic elements in Zionism. No prior knowledge is required or assumed.

Jewish Mysticism

Tree of life bahir Hebrew01:563:250
(cross-listed with 01:

Our course offers a historical survey of Jewish mystical traditions from the Bible and early rabbinic traditions through formative works such as Sefer Yetzirah and the Bahir, the classical statement of kabbalistic theology the Zohar. The course emphasizes primary sources, that is, reading the relevant texts (in English) and working together to understand them as fully as possible. In the course of our reading we will cover a number of topics, including: God’s image, the evolution of the doctrine of Sefirot, the erotic dimension of Kabbalah and more. Though the literature in question was composed and often engaged in religious settings, our class will approach these topics from an academic perspective.

Jews in the Islamic World

Jew and Muslim playing chess01:563:308

This course will survey the main lines and themes of the history of the Jews living in the Muslim world, from the rise of Islam in the 7th century to the present day.

Kafka and World Literature

(cross-listed with 01:195:382 and 01:470:354)

The course will provide an introduction to Kafka's work and its impact on World literature. Kafka’s texts constitute a new level and quality of literature that has triggered innumerable responses in many languages, media, and discourses. He is generally recognized as an "international" author of a new type of "world literature." While the quality of the work is clear, it nevertheless tends to defy all attempts to approach it through traditional means of interpretation.  In an effort to forge new ways of addressing the challenges posed by Kafka's work, the course seeks to locate it in a number of related contexts: at the crossroads of European modernity; within debates about Jewish languages, culture, identity, and music in the early twentieth-century and beyond; at the center of current controversies concerning the politically charged notion of "minor literature;" and perhaps most importantly as the source of inspiration for new works of art, literature, film, and music. Among the works to be considered are the introduction to his writing in “comix” form by Mairowitz and Crumb; the fiction of Haruki Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges, Achmat Dangor, JM Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, and Philip Roth; the music of Philip Glass; and philosophical works by Kierkegaard and Derrida.  Readings also include canonical texts by Ovid, Homer, and Kleist, and critical/biographical works by Wagenbach, Canetti, Butler, Benjamin, Brod, Pawel, and others. 

This course fulfills Core requirement AHo, AHp.

Taught in English. No prerequisites.

Love and Sex in American Judaism

Research and Writing01:563:394

In this course, we will explore the history of love, sexuality, and desire within Judaism, with a particular focus on twentieth-century American Jewish history and American Jewish cultures. For each major topic, we will briefly discuss key Biblical and rabbinic texts through which Jews have commonly related to the topic at hand. We will then dive in to the history of twentieth-century Jews and sexuality in the U.S. Topics include: marriage and the family; gender diversity; homosexuality; abortion and contraception; anti-semitic discourses of Jewish sexual deviance; the erotic in Jewish sacred and secular literature; Jews, pornography, and obscenity; prostitution and human trafficking in historical perspective; sexual violence in Biblical texts; feminist activism around sexual abuse and the #MeToo movement’s impact on the Jewish communal world.

Modern Israeli Culture

(cross-listed with 01:790:389)

This course looks at Israel from the perspective of the various cultural, religious, ethnic, gender, sexual, and racial identities that live in the state. Drawing on ethnographies of Israel, we will explore the intersections, similarities, and differences among these groups. How do cultures develop in opposition to each other? How do different cultures respond to the Arab-Israeli conflict? How has the conflict created new allegiances? What are the many religious identities in Israel and how do they each find religious meaning in the same space? How do peace-niks interact with a military society? What does women's activism look like? What is it like to be queer in a religious country? And how does music bring different people together?

This course fulfills Core requirement SCL.

Modern Jewish Culture: Key Texts and their Afterlives

Modern Jewish Culture01:563:230 
(cross-listed with 01:195: 230)

This course examines four key texts, written between 1894 and 1944:  Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Dairyman” stories, Sh. Ansky’s play “The Dybbuk,” Samson Raphaelson’s short story “The Day of Atonement” (the basis of the 1927 film The Jazz Singer), and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. These works have become fixtures not only of modern Jewish culture but also of world culture, primarily through adaptations and remediations in stage, film, broadcasting, music, and visual art.  Students will read these four texts, discuss the complex histories of their original composition, and examine their “afterlives,” as these works have been revisited over the years in diverse forms by various communities.

No prerequisites.  All readings in English.

This course fulfills Core requirement AHq.

Modern Jewish Philosophy

01:563:312 ModPhilosophy
(cross-listed with 01:730:312)

Is modern Reason compatible with biblical Revelation? Is “Jewish philosophy” an oxymoron? Learn about the giants of Jewish thought—religious reformers, philosophers and theologians—and the ways they wrestled with the challenges of modernity, politics and multiculturalism. Topics will include the essence of Judaism, the nature of law, religion and state, God and evil, the status of women and non-Jews and the legacy of the Holocaust. We will read Baruch Spinoza, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Judith Plaskow, Emmanuel Levinas and others.

No prerequisites.

Modern Jewish Religious Movements

(Topics course offered Spring 2022)

Unlike many of their ancestors, Jews today choose whether, how, when and to what degree to connect with religion. This course will explore those choices -- the wide range of movements, personalities, and theologies that have emerged over the past two centuries that seek to respond to the novel realities of modern and contemporary times.

Modern Yiddish Literature and Culture

Yiddish Language01:563:386

Read classic works of Yiddish literature, including Sholem Aleichem's "Tevye" stories, S. Ansky's play "The Dybbuk," works of fiction by I.L. Peretz, Sholem Asch, and Isaac Bashevis Singer, as well as avant-garde poetry and drama from writers in Eastern Europe and America. Learn how "Yiddish modernism" influenced 20th-century Jewish artists (including Marc Chagall), music, theater, cinema, and politics. (All readings in English translation; knowledge of Yiddish not required.)

Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain

13th c Jew and Muslim play chess Al andalus01:563:307
(cross-listed with 01:510:313)

This course examines how Christians, Jews, and Muslims interacted in medieval Latin Christendom, especially focusing on the twelfth through fifteenth centuries. Throughout the course students will engage with the complex views religious groups held about each other and explore how beliefs translated into exchanges on the lay and elite level, as well as between religious and political leaders. Central themes in the course will include otherness, religious conversion, types of cross-cultural influence, religious debate, and power and authority. The course aims to also teach students how to closely read and analyze primary documents.

This course fulfills Core requirements HST-2 and WCD.

Rabbis, Rebels, and Rationalists: The Jews of Eastern Europe

hebrew 150px01:563:385
(cross-listed with 01:510:385)

Economic, legal, and political conditions of Jewish life from the 16th century to World War II. Forms of Jewish response: autonomism, messianism, Hasidism, emigration, and socialism.

This course counts toward the Minor in Holocaust Studies.

Readings in Biblical Hebrew Poetry


Prerequisite: a reading knowledge of ancient or modern Hebrew. 

Note: this course is open to undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Readings in Biblical Hebrew Prose

01:563:433 BiblicalHebrew
(cross-listed with 01:840:427)

Prerequisite: a reading knowledge of ancient or modern Hebrew. 

Note: this course is open to undergraduates as well as graduate students.

Readings in Modern Hebrew

Part I - 01:563:371
(cross-listed with 01:013:354)

Enhance your ability to speak Hebrew and improve your reading comprehension through the analysis of popular Israeli literature and texts from Israeli magazines and newspapers. Note: this course is conducted in Hebrew and all readings are in Hebrew.

Prerequisites: 01:563:131 / 01:013:252 or 01:563:132 / 01:013:252 or Hebrew placement test.

Part II - 01:563:372
(cross-listed with 01:013:354)

Enhance your ability to speak Hebrew and improve your reading comprehension through the analysis of popular Israeli literature and texts from Israeli magazines and newspapers. Note: this course is conducted in Hebrew and all readings are in Hebrew.

Prerequisites: 01:563:131 / 01:013:252 or 01:563:132 / 01:013:252 or Hebrew placement test.

Click to learn more about the Hebrew Placement Exam


Religion and Reproduction: Jewish and Christian Experiences

Religion and Reproduction01:563:264
(cross-listed with 01:840:263, 01:988:220, and 01:790:264)

Religion plays a large role in shaping reproductive practices, norms, and policies. This course explores the intersection of religion and reproduction in the United States and Israel. During the semester we will focus primarily on pronatalism and abortion as two key aspects of reproduction. For each of these issues we will focus on how Jews and Christians, as well as Judaism and Christianity, in the US understand these issues, and wrestle with them internally. A few themes will continually arise: how religious ideas about kinship, women’s sexuality, and concern for demographic continuance are applied through forms of reproduction and reproductive interruption. For comparison, this class will also explore how religion shapes reproductive norms and practices in another national context. Looking at these issues within Israel, students will come to appreciate that religious positions are not monolithic but rather arise from particular cultural contexts. Furthermore, they will see how religion and reproduction intersect differently elsewhere. The course will be centered around ethnographic case studies of reproduction while drawing occasionally on historical analyses and philosophical commentaries. Gender and religion will form the two primary modes of analysis for the study of reproduction. At the end of the semester we will also consider how class and race shape reproductive ideas and practices in the US.

This course fulfills Core requirement CCD.

Remembering the Holocaust: Holocaust Memory

holocaust 01:563:360
(cross-listed with 01:510:370) 

This course explores works of Holocaust remembrance produced in the Americas, Europe, and Israel in an array of forms, including documentary and fictional film, radio and television broadcasting, museum displays, tourist practices, monuments, and visual art. As a Contemporary Challenges course, Remembering the Holocaust examines how remembrance of this genocide figures in contemporary social and cultural practices as a paradigm for deriving lessons from the past in order to respond to traumatic losses, address present social injustices, and prevent future acts of intolerance.

This course fulfills Core requirement CCD.

Remembering the Shtetl

Yiddish Language01:563:260
(cross-listed with 01:510:260)

Discover how the shtetl-the kind of small town in Eastern Europe that was once home to most of the world's Jews-has become a key site of Jewish memory over the past century, through works of Yiddish literature, memoir, film, art, photography, and travel. (All readings in English translation; knowledge of Yiddish not required.)

Research and Writing in Jewish Studies

Research and Writing01:563:464

This course explores a major theme in Jewish studies and allows students to pursue their own scholarship, culminating in a major research paper. It is required of Jewish Studies majors and is usually taken in the junior or senior year.

This course fulfills Core requirement WC.

Revolutionary Jews

Research and Writing01:563:331
(cross-listed with 01:510:378)

This course will engage the modern Jewish involvement in the major revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: The United States in 1776, France in 1789, Western Europe in 1848, Russia in 1917, and the global student “revolts” of 1968. Focusing on revolutionary activity, the course will examine the political relationship of the modern Jewish community to the gentile authorities among whom they lived, investigate the differences among Jewish political options with the rise of mass politics, and explore topics such as nationalism, patriotism, socialism, communism, liberalism, and citizenship as lived and articulated by modern Jews. 

Sephardic History and Culture

Sephardic Jewish History - Rutgers Jewish Studies course01:563:344
(cross-listed with 01:510:391)

Explore the history and culture of the Jews of Spain and Portugal from the fifteenth century to the present. Learn about Sephardi food and music as well as about the development of early modern mercantile networks, colonial expansion, and the evolution of Sephardic community and identity in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas.

No prerequisites.

Topics in Rabbinic Literature

01:563:315rabbinic literature

This course offers an introduction to rabbinic literature. Each part of the rabbinic corpus will be introduced and discussed, along with relevant non-rabbinic sources (the Dead Sea Scrolls, contemporary Christian and Pagan literature, and so on). Readings from the rabbinic sources will focus on the rabbinic conception of the relationship between the human and the animal world. All texts are in English and no prior exposure is required. 


Research and Writing01:563:405
(cross-listed with 01:013:405)

An introduction to Ugaritic, the ancient Semitic language most closely related to Biblical Hebrew.

Students will learn to analyze the grammar of Ugaritic, especially in comparison to Hebrew and/or Arabic. They will gain familiarity with the myths and epics of ancient Ugarit, including their relationship to biblical literature.

Prerequisites: Knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic, or Aramaic

Women in the Bible (mini-course)

BibleIintro01:563:265 - 1.5 credits

The role of women in the Jewish Bible/Old Testament stories; also addresses the question of the role of women in ancient Israelite society.