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Jewish Studies | Special Topics Courses

Every year the Jewish Studies Program offers "special topics" courses, which focus on particular aspects of Jewish culture, history, politics, and religion. These courses offer students in all programs an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to Jewish Studies. Here are some of our most recent special topics:

Spring 2014

SOCY-396.004/ LIT-346.002/COMM-396 Israeli Identities through Film

SISU-475.005OL/SIS-631-002OL Bridging the Great Divide

Fall 2013

HIST-496/696.001 Selected Topics: Zionism and the Establishment of Israel

SOCY-340.001/SISU-365.003 Israeli Society

GOVT-432.003/SISU-475.005 Political Institutions and Processes in Selected Countries: Politics and Public Policy in Israel

SISU-330.004 Topics in National Security and Foreign Policy: U.S./Israel Relations

Spring 2013

JWST-296.001 Modern Jewish Civilization

JWST-296.002 Divided Cities in the 21st Century

JWST-320.001 Israel & Palestine: History and Culture

Fall 2012

JWST-320.001 Introduction to Judaism

Spring 2012

JWST-396.001/HIST-319/619.001 Holocaust
JWST-396.002/HIST-396.004 Jerusalem Through the Ages

Spring 2011

HIST-344/644.002/AMST-396.004 Topics in Jewish Culture: American Jewish Popular Culture
HIST-344/644.003 History of Zionism

Fall 2010

SOCY-396.002/GOVT-432.001/SIS-319.014 Selected Topics: Israeli Politics

Spring 2010

JWST-320.001/HIST-344/644.003 Topics in Jewish Culture: Museums & Memory:Israel & U.S.
JWST-320.002/HIST-344/644.002 Topics in Jewish Culture: American Jewish Popular Culture

Spring 2009

JWST-320/HIST-344/644.002 Jews, Culture, and Empire

Fall 2008

JWST-320/HIST-344.002 Topics in Jewish Culture: Modern Jewish Politics
COMM-549.001/095.004 Topics in International Media: Comparing Media Systems in Democracies - Israel and Europe
RELG-371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: Changing Face of Jewish People

Spring 2008

SIS-396/696.003 Ethnicity & the State: Israel in Comparative Perspective
HIST-344/644.001 Topics in Jewish History: American Jewish Women's History

Fall 2007

RELG-371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: What Today's Jews Think About
JLS-596.001 Israeli Law and Legal System

Fall 2006

RELG 371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: Women and Judaism


Spring 2014

SOCY-396.004/ LIT-346.002/COMM-396 Israeli Identities through Film

Dan Chyutin, Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor
This course provides a broad overview of Israeli cinema, taking as its focus the various ways through which the filmic medium has portrayed Israel's complex matrix of social identities. Oscillating between considerations of social history and film aesthetics, the course addresses the major factors shaping Israeli identity: war and the demands of battlefield heroism; the trauma of the Holocaust; the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi ethnic divide; the Ethiopian and Russian immigration experience; the challenge of Judaism to Israeli secularity; engagements with the Palestinian Other; gender politics; heteronormativity, queer culture, and the threat of "pink washing"; kibbutz life and the decline of collectivism; and the effects of globalization on local social practices.

SISU-475.005OL/SIS-631-002OL Bridging the Great Divide

Akbar Ahmed, Professor, School of International Service
No two religions are closer together than Judaism and Islam, and yet ironically, no two religions are further apart. This innovative on-line course creates an interfaith dialogue necessary for understanding critical issues in today's world. It explores the history, culture, and theology of Muslims and Jews, reflecting both on similarities and differences, as well as the major challenges. Assisted by leading scholars in the United States and Europe, the course also offers strategies for building bridges between the communities and thus for bridging the political divide in world affairs.

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Fall 2013

HIST-496/696.001 Selected Topics: Zionism and the Establishment of Israel

Michael Brenner, Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies
This course considers the evolution of Zionism in Europe as a national political movement, its various expressions, and the road to the establishment of the State of Israel.

SOCY-340.001/SISU-365.003 Israeli Society

Moran Stern, Adjunct Instructor, Department of Sociology
This course explores the emergence of Israeli society and its changes over time. It reviews Israel's ideological and political foundations, the centrality of immigration, the emergence of Arab minorities and Jewish ethnic divisions, and assesses political, economic, religious, and family patterns within the broader Jewish and Palestinian communities.

GOVT-432.003/SISU-475.005 Political Institutions and Processes in Selected Countries: Politics and Public Policy in Israel

Dan Arbell, Scholar in Residence in Israel Studies
Israel's parliamentary democracy is a mosaic in which ethnic, class, religious, nationalist and migration considerations play a dynamic part in the intricacies of the political system. The course is divided into two main sections: (1) An overview of the geopolitical history of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict from the pre-state era until today; (2) An introduction to the principles that guide Israel's political system and the cleavages in Israeli society which greatly affect developments and trends in politics and policy.

SISU-330.004 Topics in National Security and Foreign Policy: U.S./Israel Relations

Guy Ziv, Assistant Professor, School of International Service
This course explores the evolution of U.S. relations with Israel, from the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 to the present day. It will examine key milestones in U.S.-Israel relations, and the factors which have led to the formation of a wholly unique bilateral relationship characterized at once by both tight bonds and inherent tensions.

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Spring 2013

JWST-296.001 Modern Jewish Civilization
Jerome Copulsky, Director, Jewish Studies Program
Surveys Jewish responses to the challenges of modernity. Examines the creation of new Jewish communities in America and Israel, shifts in Jewish political status, and innovations in Jewish religious and intellectual history such as Zionism and Hasidism.

JWST-296.002 Divided Cities in Twenty-first Century
Dana Hercbergs, Abensohn Postdoctoral Fellow in Israel Studies
Divided cities embody complex consequences of nationalism, war, migration and economic disparities in the last century. Focusing on salient cases like Jerusalem, Beirut, Berlin, and Dubai, this course studies historical, cultural, and geographic accounts of the impact of divisions on residents' daily lives and their sense of local identity.

JWST-320.001 Israel & Palestine: History and Culture
Dana Hercbergs, Abensohn Postdoctoral Fellow in Israel Studies
This course approaches the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through historical, ethnographic, and cultural perspectives. Beginning with the Zionist and Palestinian nationalist movements in the late nineteenth century, the course traces their interactions to explore the complexities of national and communal identities, and notions of home and return in Israeli and Palestinian society.

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Fall 2012

JWST-320.001 Introduction to Judaism
Jerome Copulsky, Director, Jewish Studies Program
This course introduces students the diverse ways Judaism changed as it responded to modernity. The class covers the evolution of and distinctions among the three major religious movements of Judaism -- Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform--and other expressions of Jewish religious life.

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Spring 2012

JWST-396.001/HIST-319/619.001 Holocaust

Piotr Kosicki, Instructor, History Department

Traces the history of anti-Semitism and the development of racism that led to the Holocaust. Examines the historical development of the Final Solution. Considers the variety of responses to Jewish persecution by the Nazi perpetrators, the Jews, and the nations of the world.

HIST-396.004/JWST-396.002 Jerusalem Through the Ages
Randall Geller, Professorial Lecturer, History Department
This course covers the history of the city of Jerusalem from David's conquest ca. 1,000 B.C.E. through to the present day, focusing especially on the site as a holy city to Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and its status as a point of contention in the long-running Arab-Israeli conflict.

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Spring 2011

HIST 344.002/644.002 Topics in Jewish Culture: American Jewish Popular Culture
Nina Spiegel, Adjunct Professor, Department of History

This course examines the history of American Jewish popular culture in the twentieth century through the prisms of film and TV; food and leisure; music, theater, art and dance. The class analyzes the interplay between American and Jewish cultures, exploring topics such as urbanization, immigration, suburbanization, and globalization.

HIST 344.003/644.003 History of Zionism
Nina Spiegel, Adjunct Professor, Department of History

This course investigates the development of the Zionist movement, focusing on its European context in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It explores the influence of European nationalisms, central works of Zionist thinkers, and the variety of approaches, as well as debates within the movement.


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Fall 2010

SOCY-396 Selected Topics: Israeli Politics
Fred Lazin, Abensohn Visiting Professor at the Center for Israel Studies
This course provides an overview of current issues, topics, and controversies affecting Israeli politics. It considers the Israel political system in the context of major political and social developments, in a comparative context.

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Spring 2010

JWST-320.001/HIST-344.003/644.003 Topics in Jewish Culture: Museums & Memory: Israel & U.S.
Nina Spiegel, Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies

This seminar focuses on how museums interpret history and shape public and collective memory. Exploring topics in the modern Jewish experience, the course analyzes the process and politics of cultural creation. Themes will include nationalism, immigration, and conflict as they appear in museums in both America and Israel.

JWST-320.002/HIST-344.002/644.002 Topics in Jewish Culture: American Jewish Popular Culture
Nina Spiegel, Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies

This course examines the history of American Jewish popular culture in the twentieth century through the prisms of film and TV; food and leisure; music, theater, art and dance. The class analyzes the interplay between American and Jewish cultures, exploring topics such as urbanization, immigration, suburbanization, and globalization.

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Spring 2009

JWST-320.002/HIST-344 Jews, Culture, and Empire
Tatjana Lichtenstein, Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies

This course examines the development of modern East European culture within the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires since the late nineteenth century; includes urbanization, secularization and immigration; the politics and cultural revolution; Yiddish literature, theater, and film.


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Fall 2008

JWST-320.002/HIST-344 Topics in Jewish Culture: Modern Jewish Politics
Tatjana Lichtenstein, Schusterman Teaching Fellow in Jewish Studies

Examines the emergence and development of modern Jewish politics since the early nineteenth century focusing on the relationship between politics, culture, and society; topics include the Jewish encounter with major political ideologies; the relationship between Jews and the state; and the role of modern philanthropy in transforming Jewish societies.

COMM-549 Topics in International Media: Comparing Media Systems in Democracies - Israel and Europe
Yoram Peri, Schusterman Visiting Professor of Israel Studies

Students in this seminar learn about the media and the important political roles they play in key states in Europe and in Israel. The Mediterranean, North European, Post-Soviet and the Liberal models will de discussed. A special emphasis will be on the Americanization process of the media, on tabloidization, and on the new political role that they have acquired – culminating with the formation of "mediapolitik", that is politics that has adopted the "media logic".

RELG-371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: Changing Face of Jewish People
Leila Gal Berner, Scholar-in-Residence, Department of Philosophy and Religion

Is being Jewish today a national, ethnic or faith-based identity? We will use texts from the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, Jewish philosophy, rabbinic literature and contemporary sociology to explore issues surrounding Jewish identity including: membership, conversion, citizenship, Israel and Zionism, gender, antisemitism, exile, and Diaspora. Geographic location, position in society, external and internal definitions of Jewishness, oppression, and acceptance all impinge on definitions of individual and collective identity.


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Spring 2008

SIS-396/696.003 Ethnicity & the State: Israel in Comparative Perspective
Calvin Goldscheider, Polinger Scholar in Residence

This course analyzes recent case studies on ethnic/immigrant groups in various regions. The focus is on Israel with systematic comparisons to the United States, countries within Europe, and the third world. Students will compare ethnic, national origin, and religions within and between countries over time while developing focused independent comparative research projects.

HIST-344 Topics in Jewish History: American Jewish Women's History
Pamela Nadell, Director, Jewish Studies Program

A rich tapestry of diverse colors woven across time and space—that is the history of America's Jewish women. We will especially focus on gender refracted through the prisms of religion, politics, education, and economic life, and compare America's Jewish women with Jewish women elsewhere in the modern world.


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Fall 2007

RELG-371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: What Today's Jews Think About
Leila Gal Berner, Scholar-in-Residence, Department of Philosophy and Religion

This course will explore what today's Jews are thinking about concerning new theological approaches, issues of gender and sexuality and bioethics and much more. We will examine traditional views in light of new Jewish conversations and perspectives, looking at both ancient and contemporary texts as our source materials.

JLS-596 Israeli Law and Legal System
Naomi Gale, Schusterman Visiting Scholar in Israel Studies

The course covers: history of the legal system and its legal sources (legislation, case law, analogy, Israel's heritage and custom); absence of a constitution; the Declaration of Independence; structure of the judicial system (the regular three instances and specialized judicial bodies. Special attention will be given to the religious courts, and to the complexities of the position of women under both religious and civil laws. The course will also include discussion of human rights, and the use of basic laws like Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) as part of the gradual emergence of a constitution.


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Fall 2006

RELG 371/671.001 Topics in Jewish Religion: Women and Judaism
Leila Gal Berner, Scholar-in-Residence, Department of Philosophy and Religion

Beginning with an exploration of Jewish women's history and legal status, we will focus on feminist theological perspectives and Jewish women's spirituality as reflected in personal writings, ritual, liturgy, and midrash (biblical interpretation and commentary). In this regard, the dialectic between tradition and innovation will be examined. We will together explore underlying meta-issues such as how the female and the feminine find their place within Judaism, and how Jewish women engage with, challenge, and embrace Judaism.


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