Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

NEJS Spring 2023 Courses

NEJS 10A- The Western Canon

Reuven Kimelman

T/R | 3:55 PM - 5:15 PM

The foundational literature of Western Civilization: Greek and Hebrew heritage. Designed to introduce students to some of the Western classics that deal with the impact of evil on human destiny. Suffering, justice, and death are studied in their relationships with God, the world, and history.

NEJS 23A -Scripture and Script: The Bible and Contemporary Arts, Literature and Film

Lynn Kaye

T/F | 9:35 AM - 10:55 AM

The Bible is a foundational text for contemporary art, literature, and political discourse as well as a sacred text in some religious traditions. This course examines Biblical reflections in cultural production, in global perspective, drawing on artists and writers from Eastern and Western Europe, the US, the Middle East and Latin America. It also gives students opportunities to see their own cultural contexts anew, and to explore the Bible's possible relevance to our time. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 26B- NEW: Jewish Environmental Ethics

Yehudah Mirsky

M, W 2:30- 3:50

Explores the ways in which Jewish ethics can inform contemporary discussion of environmental issues, teaches how to read texts from a regularly distant and unfamiliar past in light of burning questions today, and in so doing offers an overview of Jewish Ethics as a whole. The readings will be a mix of primary sources (e.g., Bible, philosophers), and secondary readings by contemporary scholars and thinkers. Among the contemporary issues we will deal with are the consumption, biodiversity, animals, environmental justice, and how we can hopefully add Jewish ideas and historical experience to our toolkit. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 37A- The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry

Laura Jockusch

T, F 11:10 AM - 12:30 PM

Why and how did European Jews become victims of genocide? A systematic examination of the planning and implementation of Nazi Germany's 'Final Solution to the Jewish Question' and the Jewish and general responses to it. Usually offered every year.

NEJS/WGS 110A- Sexual Violence in Film and Culture

Ilana Szobel

T, TH 2:20 - 3:40 PM

Explores the effects of sexualized violence in society. While exploring representations of gender-based sexual violence in documentaries and features, stand-up comedy, memoirs, poetry, and visual art, this course will offer a critical discussion on Rape Culture in the 21st century, with particular attention to the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, and disability in the construction of sexual violence. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 113A- Biblical Aramaic in Context

Madadh Richey

M,W 4:05 PM–5:25 PM

Prerequisite: HBRW 122a or b, NEJS 10a, or permission of the instructor.

A study of the Aramaic of the Bible (Daniel and Ezra), with contemporary papyri and inscriptions from ancient Egypt and Syria. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 116A- Mesopotamian Mythology

Madadh Richey

M,W 2:30 PM–3:50 PM

Open to all students.

An introduction to the religion, mythology, and thought of the ancient Near East. Usually offered every third year.

NEJS 123b Gender, Species, and Ethnicity in Early Judaism

Professor Lynn Kaye

T, F 11:10 AM - 12:30 PM

Being "human" is defined by distinguishing between and ordering different beings according to race, gender, disability and species. This privileges some in society while diminishing the value of others. This course introduces the main texts of rabbinic literature around fundamental questions of what is a legal "person" and what is not. Usually offered every year.

NEJS 126B Agadic Literature: The Ethics of the Fathers with Avot d'Rabbi Nathan

Professor Reuven Kimelman

T, Th 7:05 - 8:25 PM

A study of the Mishnah Avot and its classical commentaries. Focuses primarily on literary and historical questions.

NEJS 127a Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism

Professor Reuven Kimelman

T, TH 2:20 - 3:40 PM

A survey course of the Second Temple and rabbinic periods focusing on the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writing of Josephus and Philo, the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash. Usually offered every third year.

NEJS 146a World Jewry since 1945

Professor Jonathan Sarna

M, W 4:05 - 5:25 PM

Open to all students.

Examines the post war Jewish world with special attention to Jewish communities beyond Israel and the United States. Topics include demography, the emergence of new centers, antisemitism, identity, and assimilation. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 157a Spinoza Now

Professor Eugene Sheppard

T, F 11:10 AM - 12:30 PM

This seminar has a double aim. First, students will be introduced to Spinoza’s Ethics and the philosophical method he employed in facing fundamental challenges of religion, science, and politics. Second, students will be following Spinoza’s work alongside a set of 20th-21st century re-interpretations and responses that emerged first in France by Marxists and constituting the “New Spinoza,” one which prompted a re-evaluation of the fundamental problems raised when seeing aspirations for liberation and more adequate knowledge of God or nature have morphed into the emergence of deeper forms of human subjugation and the pernicious rule of will of the few in the name of the multitude. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 157b Arab-Jewish Modern Thought and Culture

Professor Yuval Evri

T 2:20- 5:10 PM

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.

NEJS 166a Carnal Israel: Exploring Jewish Sexuality from Talmudic Times to the Present

Professor ChaeRan Freeze

T, TH 2:20 - 3:40 PM

Explores the construction of Jewish sexuality from Talmudic times to the present. Themes include rabbinic views of sex, niddah, illicit relations, masculinity, medieval erotic poetry, Ashkenazi and Sephardic sexual practices, and sexual symbolism in mystic literature; the discourse on sex, race, and nationalism in Europe; debates about masculinity, sexual orientation, and stereotypes in America and Israel. Usually offered every third year.

NEJS 173a Trauma and Violence in Israeli Literature and Film

Ilana Szobel

T, Th 3:55 - 5:15 PM

Taught in Hebrew.

Explores trauma and violence in Israeli Literature, film, and art. Focuses on man-made disasters, war and terrorism, sexual and family violence, and murder and suicide, and examines their relation to nationalism, Zionism, gender, and sexual identity. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 189a The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Professor Alex Kaye

T, F 11:10 AM - 12:30 PM

Consideration of Arab-Jewish relations, attitudes, and interactions from 1880 to the present. Emphasis on social factors and intellectual currents and their impact on politics. Examines the conflict within its international setting. Usually offered every third year.

NEJS 189B Formative Moments in a Disputed Land of Israel/Palestine

Yuval Evri

Th 2:20-5:15 PM

Examines the history of Israel/Palestine during the 20th century by focusing on several formative moments that took place pre and post 1948. It reexamines key issues that emerged around each of those events and explores the implications they had on the formation of Israeli and Palestinian societies. Usually offered every second year.

NEJS 192a Islamic Ethics: Theory and Applications

Professor Carl El-Tobgui

T, Th 3:55 - 5:15 PM


Explores Islamic thinking and practices related to ethics by examining relevant discussions and debates in Islamic law, theology, Sufism, philosophy, and literary works. We answer broad questions such as the nature of moral obligation, the provenance of moral and ethical norms, and the practical means for living an ethical life. The final month of the course applies these theoretical foundations to practical ethical questions including contemporary debates surrounding economic justice; reproduction, end of life, and abortion; race and racism in Islam; and animal rights and the environment. Special one-time offering, spring 2023.

NEJS 192b Power, Morality, Identity: Jewish Political Thought

Professor Yehudah Mirsky

M,W 5:00 - 6:30 PM

Though Jews were stateless for centuries, they had political institutions and thought deeply about basic questions of politics, authority, ethics and power. In modernity, the age of emancipation, revolution, democracy, nationalism, Holocaust and Zionism, those ideas and institutions were put to new, shattering tests. We will study Bible, Talmudic, Medieval and Modern works of political thought - what they meant in the past and what they might mean to us now, in our own thought, and practice. 
Cross-Listed With Politics. All readings are in English with a HEBREW option for those who would like.