This course introduces students to some important themes, histories, and ideas in the study of Judaism. It poses the question, "What does it mean to be Jewish?" And it provides multiple, contested answers. It begins with modern American Judaism. In the first weeks, we will study the forms of Jewish religiosity, culture, and art that arose in 20th century America. Then, we will take a giant leap back to study the Hebrew Bible, the Rabbinic traditions, and medieval Jewish philosophy and mysticism. We will pay special attention to themes of sexuality and gender, food, and ritual, particularly as they relate to identity formation.
We will study the relationships between Jews and religious others. As we move into the early modern and modern periods, we will focus on the lived experience of Jews in Europe. Then, we will study the rise of nineteenth and early twentieth century Zionism, anti-Semitism, Nazism, and the Shoah (Holocaust). Before we end, our penultimate stop will be texts on the creation of the State of Israel and theology in the wake of the Shoah. Finally, we will return to America, where we will study the histories and cultures of African American Jews.