Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

NEJS Fall 2023 Courses

NEJS 5A - How Did Biblical Judaism Evolve into Modern Judaism?

Reuven Kimelman - T/Th 7:05 - 8:25 PM in Shiffman 201

A survey of the Jewish experience and thought, focusing on the varieties of historical Judaism, including its classical forms, its medieval patterns and transformations, and its modern options. Usually offered every year. [hum]

NEJS 6A - Jewish History: From Ancient to Modern Worlds

Eugene Sheppard - M/W/Th 10:10 - 11:00 AM in Shiffman 201

Surveys ideas, institutions, practices and events central to critical approaches to the Jewish past and present. Dynamic processes of cross-fertilization, and contestation between Jews and their surroundings societies will be looked, as well as tradition and change, continuity and rupture. No background in the subject matter is required. Usually offered every second year. [hum nw] FLYER

NEJS 10A - Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Texts

Lynn Kaye - M/W/Thu 11:15 AM - 12:05 PM in Rabb Center 333

Prerequisite: HBRW 20b or the equivalent as determined by placement examination. This course may be used to satisfy the World Languages and Cultures requirement (WLC).

An accelerated grammar course in Biblical Hebrew. Students engage with biblical Hebrew texts from the first class. They build from words and phrases to a literary translation and grammatical analysis of a student’s choice of biblical Hebrew narrative. Topics include: phonology and the Tiberian pronunciation tradition, syllables and stress patterns, nouns, articles, conjunctions, pronouns, adjectives, possession, prepositions, the prefix and suffix conjugations, derived stems, tense and aspect, volitives, infinitives, and irregular roots. The class uses music and digital tools to aid memorization. It builds students’ vocabularies and understanding of the unusual features of biblical grammar and syntax compared with other semitic languages and modern Hebrew. [hum dl fl]

NEJS 104B - Islam: Civilization and Institutions

Carl Sharif El-Tobgui - M/W 8:30 – 9:50 AM in Abraham Shapiro Academic Center 209

Provides a disciplined study of Islamic civilization from its origins to the modern period. Approaches the study from a humanities perspective. Topics covered will include the Qur'an, tradition, law, theology, politics, Islam and other religions, modern developments, and women in Islam. Usually offered every year. [hum nw]

NEJS 107A - Biblical Prophecy

Madadh Richey - T/F 9:35 – 10:55 AM in Brown 115

This course studies ancient Israel and Judah’s early prophetic literature in translation, focusing on prophecy's ancient Assyrian context and the books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Nahum. [hum]

NEJS 122A - Magic and Witchcraft in the Ancient Near East

Madadh Richey - T/F 12:45 – 2:05 PM in Brown 115

Examines magical literature, rituals, and beliefs in the ancient Near East. Topics such as demonology, illness, prayer, and exorcism are covered; special attention is paid to witchcraft. This course is organized around the close reading of ancient texts. Usually offered every third year. [hum nw]

NEJS 125B - Midrashic Literature: Sifre Deuteronomy

Reuven Kimelman - T/Th 2:20 – 3:40 PM in Abraham Shapiro Academic Center 209

Prerequisite: A 40-level Hebrew course or the equivalent. An analysis of the midrashic method of the Sifre Deuteronomy. Emphasis will be placed on a close reading of the text, with a view to developing in the students the capacity to do independent analysis. Usually offered every fourth year. [hum]

NEJS 128B - Gender, Multiculturalism, and the Law

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe - T/F 11:10 AM – 12:30 PM in Rabb Center 236

Can the state determine what children must learn in schools run by religious minorities? Should the state intervene to prevent forced or underage marriage if these practices are based on religious traditions? Can the state accommodate religiously-based demands to provide separate but equal public services to men and women, in prayer, on public transportation or at universities? These are some of the issues we will explore in this class through reading texts in law, political philosophy and modern Jewish thought. Usually offered every second year. [hum wi]

NEJS 136A - Israeli Popular Culture: Language, Gender, and Politics

Shayna Weiss - M/W 2:30 – 3:50 PM in Shiffman 202

Ever wondered why Israeli television is all over Netflix, or why Sabra hummus came to dominate your supermarket shelves? In this course, we will examine multiple forms of popular culture, including television, music, cookbooks, social media, fashion, and more, to understand contemporary Israeli society, with a focus on debates over language, gender, and politics in a global context. Special attention will be paid to cultural production from Israel's minorities, including Israeli Palestinians, Orthodox Jews, and Mizrahim (Jews from Arab and Islamic lands.)

Course readings will combine theory, primary sources, and popular criticism. No previous knowledge of Israel, Judaism, or the Middle East is required, and all materials will be provided in English translation. Usually offered every second year. [hum]

NEJS 136B - Revenge, Justice, and Reconciliation: Mass Atrocity Trials in the Long Shadow of Nazi Crimes

Laura Jockusch - T/F 9:35 – 10:55 AM in Brown 224

Can crimes of the magnitude of the World War II and the Holocaust be redressed by legal means? This course explores the complex history of prosecuting Nazi crimes and how the political contexts and the legal frameworks have changed over time. It also studies the extra-judicial implications of mass atrocity trials: the societal discourse they stir, the educational lessons they teach, and historical records they create.

Moreover, the course analyzes how the history of prosecuting Nazi crimes has impacted the legal redress of other gross human rights violations in the more recent past and whether the lessons learned from prosecuting Nazi crimes can be applied to the quest for racial justice in America today. Usually offered every second year. [hum djw]

NEJS 137B - Dreams and Dream Interpretation in Jewish Thought

Lynn Kaye - M/W 2:30 – 3:50 PM in Shiffman 120

Jewish culture has had traditions about the origins of dreams, how to interpret them, and even how to control them, for millennia. This course takes students into sources of Jewish thoughts on dreams, answering these questions: Do dreams come from the dreamer or somewhere outside the dreamer – what happened to them, from forces beyond their control, gods, demons, angels? Do dreams tell the future? Can dreamers control their dreams? Can dreams be harnessed for good, or to do harm? Who is a trustworthy dream interpreter? How do dreams manifest in the body?

The texts will include guidance for dream-healing from the Dead Sea Scroll community, a handbook on dream interpretation in the Talmud, texts from medieval Europe, and a handbook on dream interpretation by a Turkish rabbi, which gained immense popularity across the Jewish world in the 16th century. Dreams open big topics in Jewish thought including prophecy, God’s power and effect in the world, free will, time, and the soul, and big ideas in human inquiry – our connections to others, our sense of self, and the mystery of our minds. Usually offered every third year. [hum dl]

NEJS 157B - Arab Jewish Modern Thought and Culture

Yuval Evri - T/F 12:45 - 2:05 PM in Schwartz 110

Against the backdrop of the partition of the 'Jew' from the 'Arab' in the modern national era, this course focuses on the Arab-Jewish borderland cultural world which simultaneously embodies Arab and Jewish histories, traditions, and identities. It traces different manifestations of Arab-Jewish culture from the early 20th century to today and explores the complex relationship between culture and politics in relation to questions of language, identity, nationality, borders, exile and memory. Usually offered every second year. [hum djw]

NEJS 160B - Legal Controversies in Israeli History

Alex Kaye - T/Th 2:20 – 3:40 PM in Shiffman 202

Investigates Israeli history, politics, and culture through the lens of major legal controversies including the tension between "Jewish" and "democratic," the Shoah in Israeli history, the Occupied Territories, legislation of family life and religious practice and more. Usually offered every second year. [hum nw djw]

NEJS 171A - Teaching and Learning Modern Jewish History, the Holocaust, and Israel

Jonathan Krasner - T/F 12:45 - 2:05 PM in Abraham Shapiro Academic Center 204

Examines why we teach history, how students learn history, the uses of public history, and what history means within a Jewish context. Special emphasis is placed on teaching with primary sources, digital resources, and oral history. Includes an oral history project in cooperation with the Jewish Women's Archive and Keshet (a Jewish LGBTQ organization), and an introduction to Holocaust education with Facing History and Ourselves. Usually offered every third year. [hum]

NEJS 171B - Tikkun Olam/ Repairing the World

Jon Levisohn - T/F 11:10 AM – 12:30 PM in Abraham Shapiro Academic Center 204

What does tikkun olam mean? What is a life of service? What should one learn from service-learning? Does "social justice" actually do any good? This is a service-learning course, and includes a service component in the field. Usually offered every third year. [hum]

NEJS 172A - Accelerated Talmud

Lynn Kaye - M,W 7:15 PM–8:35 PM in Lown 201

Prerequisite: NEJS 25a  AND NEJS 126a. Advances students’ abilities to navigate the legal concepts and argumentation of the Babylonian Talmud in its original languages, using an unvocalized, unpunctuated text. Students will improve their skills analyzing, discussing, and clarifying Talmudic statements, which are composed in technical, abbreviated form. They will consider the relation between laws and narratives, and explain how the Talmud develops legal concepts through dialogue, proofs and other methods. The course draws on a traditional form of Talmudic study, interested in broad-based expertise, called “beqiut.”

Students learn an array of concepts through steady progression through one chapter of a Talmudic tractate, deepening their knowledge by acquiring familiarity with additional Talmudic and Biblical texts as they arise. The Talmudic tractate and chapter vary depending on the year and semester offered. Students will be expected to prepare course material in its original languages with the aid of dictionaries before class and be able to discuss it in class; partnered preparation is strongly encouraged and will be facilitated by the instructor. Usually offered every year. [hum]

NEJS 194B - Sufism: Mystical Traditions in Classical and Modern Islam

Mariam Sheibani - T 2:20 – 5:10 PM in Rabb Center 333

This course introduces the mystical and spiritual beliefs and practices in Islam, commonly known as Sufism. Often taken as an offshoot of, or an alternative to, “orthodox” representations of Islam, Sufism and its histories provides a unique look into the ways in which Islam was experienced by its adherents on a more popular, often non-scholarly, “unorthodox” basis throughout centuries. In this class we will examine this fascinating devotional and social element of Muslim life through the literature, arts, music and dance (yes, music and dance!) that it inspired. 

Roughly the first half of the class will be devoted to the historical study of Sufism, its origins, its most well-known early practitioners and the phases of its institutionalization. In the second part we will examine the beliefs and practices of Sufis, the literature they produced, the popular expressions of Islam they generated and, finally, their effects in the modern world. Study of Sufism will also provide a window for contemporary students of Islam to examine the devotional practices of unprivileged members of the Islamic world, in particular women. 

Usually offered every second year. [hum nw] FLYER
NEJS 195B - Early Islamic History from Muhammad to the Mongols

Mariam Sheibani - W 2:30 PM–5:20 PM in Rabb Center 335

This course explores the history of early and medieval Islamic societies, from the rise of Islam in the seventh century up to the Mongol invasions (c. 1300). The course will trace the trajectory of the major Islamic dynasties (i.e.: Umayyads, Abbasids, Saljuks, Fatimids, and Ayyubids) and also explore the cultural and literary developments in these societies. Geographically, the course spans North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia.  Usually offered every second year. [hum nw] FLYER
NEJS 196A - Cultural Contact Zones in Israel/Palestine

Yuval Evri - T/F 11:10 AM - 12:30 PM in Schwartz 110

Explores the different ways in which boundaries have been constructed and imagined in the cultural scene in Israel/Palestine from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. It traces different cultural arenas that emerged during this period using examples from literature, cinema, music and visual arts – exploring the Hebrew-Arabic contact zones, religious and secular borderlands, the national divide between Jews and Arabs, and the fluid borderland across the gender divide. Usually offered every second year. [hum djw]

NEJS 288A — Dissertation Writing Seminar for PhD Students

Madadh Richey - Th 2:20 PM–5:10 PM, Remote

A writing seminar for NEJS PhD students drafting and editing their dissertations or dissertation proposals. Students will regularly submit substantial writing and constructively critique one another's work, and they will explore and discuss traditional and digital writing and researching strategies. Usually offered every year.