NEJS Spring 2021 Courses

A Menorah
NEJS 5a, The Transformations of Judaism from the Bible to Modernity

MW 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Reuven Kimelman

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.     

The Temple of Jerusalem
HUM 10a, The Western Canon: How Did the Bible, the Iliad, and Plato, Create Western Literature?

MW 12 – 1:30 PM

Professor Reuven Kimelman

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.

A pile of passports in a diversity of colors and languages
NEJS 85a, Defining Status in the Modern State: Citizens, Nationals, and Refugees

MW 8 – 9:30 PM

Professor Maham Ayaz

Examines terms like “citizen,” “national,” “refugee,” “stateless,” and “indigenous” using theory, law, and historic case studies to understand the different relationships between states and people. From voting, to travel, to social security, our basic rights are determined by how a state views our legal status. In the current era of border control, refugee crises, and resurgent nationalism, a critical study of citizenship is more relevant than ever. This course will help students understand the legal terms used to categorize humanity and appreciate the complexities and limitations of those definitions in practice. 

NEJS 110b, Readings in the Hebrew Bible: Deuteronomy

TTh 8 – 9:30 AM

Professor David Wright

This is a Hebrew Bible text course, focusing on the book of Deuteronomy. It looks specifically at how Deuteronomy revised laws from the book of Exodus. Students will get to see the ancient Hebrew scribal mind and school in action by understanding the questions scribes asked of texts they read and the answers they set out in their own new texts.

NEJS 111a, The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

TTh 4 – 5:30 PM

Professor Jillian Stinchcomb

Biblical books will be compared to other ancient Near Eastern compositions; individual books and the history of the formation of the canon will be examined from various perspectives. No knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is presumed.

A surrealistic painting of a Pomegranate tree                                                                                                   growing out of a Torah scroll, in a desert
NEJS 124b, Divinity, Difference and Desire: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism

MW 8 – 9:30 AM

Professor Yehudah Mirsky

A study of Jewish mysticism through history. While investigating the nature of mysticism and the idea of mysticism itself and the transformation of key motifs of Judaism into a mystical key, the course will also be concerned with how to read a Jewish mystical text. All readings are in English with a HEBREW option for those who would like.

First chapter of Mishnah Avot.
NEJS 126b, Agadic Literature: The Ethics of the Fathers with (Pirkei Avot) in its Historical Context

MW 6 – 7:30 PM

Professor Reuven Kimelman

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

A portrait of Jesus showing him as the Good Shepherd
NEJS 129b, Debating Jesus: Diverse Beliefs in the Early Church

MW 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Darlene Brooks Hedstrom

This is an undergraduate and graduate course on the nature of Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian scripture in the first four centuries of Christianity. Together we will establish a visual and textual history of early Christianity through the analysis of documents and material culture related to a wide array of diverse Christian voices related to the New Testament, the Apocryphal Gospels, the Gnostic Gospels, and efforts by dominate voices to suppress and quell different perspectives in late antiquity. We will explore the nature of white, European collectors in their pursuit of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament and shaped early Christian studies. We will also explore scandals, heresy, and dissension along with points of unity and changing alliances with a new religious community seeking to forge an identity separate from the religious landscape around it.

(Fulfills the wi requirement)

A person holding out their hand with the words, "I refuse to be a bystander to genocide" written on their palm.
NEJS 138a, Genocide and Mass Killing in the Twentieth Century

TTh 10 – 11:30 AM

Professor Laura Jockusch

An interdisciplinary seminar examining history and sociology of the internationally punishable crime of genocide, with the focus on theory, prevention, and punishment of genocide. Case studies include Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, Stalin's Russia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda. 

Ottoman Jewish Family
NEJS 144a, Jews in the World of Islam

TTh 8 – 9:30 AM

Professor Jonathan Decter

Examines social and cultural history of Jewish communities in the Islamic world. Special emphasis is placed on the pre-modern Jewish communities.

Scholars, from the Maqamat of al-Hariri of Basra
NEJS 149a, Jews of Muslim and Christian Spain

TTh 10 – 11:30 AM

Professor Jonathan Decter

A survey of Jewish political, intellectual, and social history in the Islamic and Christian spheres from the beginnings of Jewish life in Spain until the expulsion in 1492. Students develop skills in reading historical, literary, and philosophical texts. 

"You Are As You Are -- Blessed". Collaged letterpress prints on handmade abaca and       somerset papers,  by Milcah Bassel  Brandeis Post-Baccalaureate '2011
NEJS 160a, Jewish Feminisms

TTh 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Lisa Fishbayn Joffe

This course examines the impact of feminist theory and activism on Jewish thought, law, ritual practice and communal norms in the 20th and 21st century. We will explore classic feminist critiques and transformations of traditional Judaism and examine contemporary controversies involving issues such as women’s right to vote, to re-interpret Jewish texts, and to be treated as equals under Jewish ritual and family law. The course also explores the complex relationship between the American and Israeli feminist movements and the ways in which both movements have responded to the demands of intersectional feminism.

(Fulfills the deis-us requirement)

Gavel in front of Israeli flag
NEJS 160b, Legal Controversies in Israeli History

MW 4 – 5:30 PM

Professor Alex Kaye

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.

(Fulfills djw requirement)

American flag with a Jewish star.
NEJS 164a, Judaism Confronts America

MW 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Jonathan Sarna

Examines, through a close reading of selected primary sources, central issues and tensions in American Jewish life, paying attention to their historical background and to issues of Jewish law.

(Fulfills the wi requirement)

A painting of "Alios Itzhak" by the Black queer artist Kehinde Wiley. It depicts an Ethiopian-Israeli man posing in a bright purple t-shirt and jeans against a pink background inspired by a Jewish ceremonial papercut. The painting is framed in a mizrah (a Jewish plaque that indicates the direction of Jerusalem for prayer).There are decorative vines and animals in yellow all around the man.

A painting of "Alios Itzhak" by the Black queer artist Kehinde Wiley. It depicts an Ethiopian-Israeli man posing in a bright purple t-shirt and jeans against a pink background inspired by a Jewish ceremonial papercut. The painting is framed in a mizrah (a Jewish plaque that indicates the direction of Jerusalem for prayer).There are decorative vines and animals in yellow all around the man.

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

TTh 10 – 11:30 AM

Professor ChaeRan Freeze

Themes include:

  • Rabbinic views of sex
  • Niddah
  • Illicit relations
  • Masculinity
  • Medieval erotic poetry
  • Ashkenazi and Sephardi sexual practices
  • Sexual symbolism in mystical literature
NEJS 173a, Trauma and Violence in Israeli Literature and Film (in Hebrew)

TTh 4 – 5:30 PM

Professor Ilana Szobel

Please join us in exploring man-made disasters, war and terrorism, sexual and family violence, murder and suicide and their relation to nationalism, Zionism, gender, and sexual identity.

(Taught in Hebrew)

(Fulfills the Text-Intensive Requirement and Hebrew Language Requirements for both the Judaic Studies Track and the Hebrew Language Track.)

Advice and Dissent (2002)
NEJS 181a, Jews on Screen: From "Cohen's Fire Sale" to the Coen Brothers

TTh 12 -1:30 PM

Professor Sharon Rivo

Course focusing on moving images of Jews and Jewish life in America. Since the creation of moving images at the end of the 19th century Jewish characters, themes, life and customs have been depicted in a wide range of films. This course explores depictions of Jews in fiction and documentary films, including early silent films made in New York City, Hollywood blockbuster features and independent productions.

A still from the music video for “Put the Spoon to My Mouth” by Sweetmeat, featuring Wobbly Dance (Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson). Yulia and Erik are sitting on a pile of feathers, facing each other, against a backdrop of a voile canopy. There is a ventilator tube they share, each with an end in their mouths.

A still from the music video for “Put the Spoon to My Mouth” by Sweetmeat, featuring Wobbly Dance (Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson). Yulia and Erik are sitting on a pile of feathers, facing each other, against a backdrop of a voile canopy. There is a ventilator tube they share, each with an end in their mouths.

NEJS 184b, Disability Cultures: Art, Film, and Literature of People with Disabilities

TTh 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Ilana Szobel

This course explores how disability is represented within Israeli, Europe, and American film, literature, dance, and visual art. We will discuss physical, mental, intellectual, neurological, and emotional disability experiences, and their relations to gender, race, sexuality, nationalism, and creativity. By discussing representations of people with disabilities, the course will provide in-depth analysis of the roles and stereotypes of disabled figures, women with disabilities in film, people with disabilities as artists and performers, disability and the Holocaust, the intersectionality of sexuality and disability, and Crip and alternative self-representations by artists with disabilities.

(Fulfills the djw and deis-us requirements)
Early 20th century Jewish woman labor activists, wearing protest sashes in Hebrew and Yiddish
NEJS 192b, Power, Morality and Identity: Jewish Political Thought

MW 12 – 1:30 PM

Professor Yehudah Mirsky

Though Jews were stateless for centuries they had many 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. All readings are in English with a HEBREW option for those who would like.

black and white photo of people holding signs in protest. One sign reads, "Stop Repression of Jewish Religion in U.S.S.R."
NEJS 236a, Seminar on Modern Jewish and Israeli History and Historiography

MW 6 – 7:30 PM

Professor Alex Kaye

Aims to introduce students to the emergence of history as an academic discipline in the nineteenth century and to provide some acquaintance with the classics of historical scholarship. It will also examine the emergence of Jewish historiography and analyze critically the works of the major Jewish historians.
 
Undergrads: Email Professor Kaye to request a permission code.

NEJS 247b, The Craft of Holocaust Research: Questions, Sources, Interpretations, and Debates

TTh 2 – 3:30 PM

Professor Laura Jockusch

This seminar provides an introduction to the emergence and development of Holocaust studies as an academic discipline. It will acquaint students with the main questions and sources of historical scholarship and teach them to critically analyze the works of the major historians of the Holocaust.

Radical Zionist thinkers and activists from the early 20th century. From the Left: Yosef Hayim Brenner, Rachel Bluwstein, Rav Kook

Radical Zionist thinkers and activists from the early 20th century. From the Left: Yosef Hayim Brenner, Rachel Bluwstein, Rav Kook

NEJS 259a, Renaissance, Revolution, Redemption: Readings in Early Zionist Thought

TTh 8 – 9:30 AM

Professor Yehudah Mirsky

The first two decades of the 20th century  were in retrospect a, and perhaps the, heroic period of Zionist thought, when long-lasting battle lines were drawn by a fascinating group of figures poised on the hinge between traditional Judaism and the Zionist revolution.  Their passionate, provocative debates and writings plumbed the depths of ethics, nationalism, return to nature and spiritual renewal and still reverberate and challenge today.  We will read, among others, Brenner, Kook, Rachel, Gordon, Katznelson - as they think, imagine and argue social justice, national identity, the death and rebirth of Judaism and much more. Usually, the texts are all studied in Hebrew.

Undergrads: Email Professor Mirsky to request a permission code.