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 major themes in Jewish ethics, 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, existentialists such as Martin Buber, and mystics and social activists such as Abraham Joshua Heschel. The course then studies post-Holocaust Jewish ethicists, Jewish feminists, and contending views on Jewish liberation.