REL 315

Modern Jewish Thinkers

This course acquaints students with major Jewish thinkers in the modern and contemporary periods. The course begins by asking what makes a thinker Jewish? What makes a Jewish thinker modern? After a brief overview of pre-modern thinkers, students begin their exploration with a study of Baruch Spinoza?s rationalist challenge to Judaism that results in the quintessential modern question, who is a Jew? Students then turn to Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, emancipation, nationalism, and new forms of antisemitism. These responses include a variety of Zionists, socialist Jews, extentialists such as Martin Buber, and mystics and social activists such as Abraham Joshua Heschel. The course then studies post-Holocaust Jewish ethicists, Jewish feminists, contending views on Jewish liberation, and concludes with Jewish reflections on the concerns and experiences of American Jews.