Winter 2012

Judaism:  Religion 106


Through a variety of sources, including Talmudic debate, fiction, drama, liturgy, memoirs, film, and history, this course introduces the main concepts, literature, and practices of the classical forms of Judaism that began in the first centuries C.E., and then examines how Judaism has changed during the past two centuries, in modernist movements (Reform, Neo-Orthodoxy, Zionism) and contemporary fundamentalist movements (Ultra-Orthodoxy, messianic settler Zionism), as well as current ideas and issues. Readings include works such as Singer’s memoir, In My Father’s Court, Wiesel’s play, “The Trial of God,” and Rosen’s novel, Joy Comes in the Morning.  Films may include Kadosh, Uzhpizin, and Novia que te vea.


Required Books

Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism, Wylen

Joy Comes in the Morning: A Novel, Rosen

In My Father’s Court, Isaac B Singer

The Trial of God, Elie Wiesel


Course-pack [CP]

Course Requirements

*  Final cumulative essay test  (26%)

*  Essay test on Classical Judaism (26%)

*  In-class test on Kabbalah and Modern Judaism (6%)

*  Three quizzes, covering all reading assignments since the last quiz, including assignments on day of quiz (7%)

*  Introduction to readings, as assigned (3%)

*  Long paragraphs (9 total) about daily assignments – group A or B as assigned (12%)

*  Attendance of classes and informed discussion of reading assignments (13%)

*  Visit to a synagogue service on a Friday night or Saturday morning, with 2-page report (7%)


Meetings and Assignments


  9        Introduction to course; the theory of religion as “story”; what Jews believe: the Sh’ma


Classical Judaism


11        Religious Life: Daily Rituals and Rites of Passage;  class study of Sh’ma, continued

                        Read:  Selected Prayers from the Siddur   

                        “Prayers of Gratitude”  

                        Traditional Wedding Blessings

                        Settings Chap. 1, pages 15-17 of Chap. 2, and Chaps. 5-6


13        Religious Life:  the Jewish people;  Eschatology

                        Read:  “Aleinu”          

                        Settings Chaps. 4, 7


16        Religious Life:  Passover, Shabbat, and the High Holy Days

                        Settings Chaps. 10, 8, 9

                        Blessing over Wine on Shabbat Evening  

                        Selected prayers from the Yom Kippur service  

* Quiz


18        Rabbinic Judaism:  history and challenges; the Mishnah

                        Settings, pages 185-220

                        Selections from the Mishnah  


20        Rabbinic Judaism: the Mishnah, cont.

                        Review:  Selections from the Mishnah  

                        Read:  “The Oven of Akhnai"  


23        Rabbinic Judaism: the Talmud

                        Settings Chap. 14

                        “Example of a Mishnah and its Gemara: Eye for Eye”   


25        Rabbinic Judaism: the Talmud, cont.

                        Neusner, “The Talmud Speaks to Us about Beliefs and Deeds” (Yoma 87a-b)  

            * Quiz



27        Why Study Talmud in the 21st Century: Contemporary Women’s Voices *{A}

                        Elizabeth S Alexander, “Studying Talmud as a Critical Thinker”   

                        Jane Kanarek, “Ancient Voices”   <I>

                        Devorah Zlochower, “An Opened Book”   <I>


30        Rabbinic Judaism:  Midrash and Torah

                        Settings Chap. 2

                        Five Examples of Midrash/Underlying Assumptions of Midrash  

                        “Midrash” (Mekilta on the Ten Commandments, with explanatory Notes)  


  1        Rabbinic Judaism:  Midrash, cont.

                        “The Death of Moses”  

            * Quiz


  3        Class review;  Work on essay test


  6        * Essay test due in class

Class discussion: what’s classical Judaism about?  differences from Christianity?  how might it change in the modern world?


  8        Kabbalah:  an introduction to Jewish mysticism

                        Settings 273-84, 301-309

Buber, “Kavana” from Hasidism And Modern Man

                        “The Kabbalah Centre”   <I>


10        Mock Convention: classes suspended.            


Modern Judaic Ideologies


13        An early-20th century memoir:  traditional Lithuanian Judaism and modern challenges

                        Singer, In My Father’s Court  pp. 3-86 <I> <I> {B}


15                    In My Father’s Court 95-101, 109-15, 130-68, 175-94 <I> <I>  {A}


17                    In My Father’s Court 201-212, 225-47, 254-80, 286-307<I> {B}


27        European Modernist Reforms {A}     

                        Settings Chap. 19

                        Decisions of the Grand Sanhedrin (1807)   

                        Moses Mendelssohn, “Judaism as Revealed Religion” (1878) <I>

                        “The Pittsburgh Platform, 1885”  


29        Modernist Judaisms:  Reform, Neo-Orthodox, and Conservative {B}

                        Settings Chap. 20

                        “A Woman Orthodox Rabbi” by Breger <I> 


  2        Zionism {A}

                        Settings Chap. 22 (380-396 only)

                        Herzl, “A Solution to the Jewish Question” (1896) 
                        Declaration of the Establishment of The State of Israel, May 14, 1948‎  <I>

                        David ben Gurion, “On the Law of Return” (1950) 


5          Fundamentalist Judaisms: the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) {B}

                        David Landau, “Keeping Kosher,” from Piety and Power   <I>

Karen Armstrong, on the Haredim, from The Battle for God  

Selections by Haredi rabbis, from Blackwell Reader in Judaism   

“Israelis Clash Over Strict Religious Codes,” Garcia-Navarro, NPR, Dec. 2011  


  7        Fundamentalist Judaisms: the Neo-Zionist Settlers (Gush Emunim) {A}

“Religious Zionism: the Politics of Redemption” by Gadi Taub   <I>

Excerpt from “Fundamentalists and the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse,” Lustick  


  9        *Test on Kabbalah and Modern forms of Judaism


Contemporary Visions of Judaism


12        A secular Israeli film against Ultra-Orthodox Judaism <I> {B}

                        View before class:  Kadosh =Holy (1998, 115 min.); screening on Sunday March 11, 7pm


14 [Adjusted class schedule, 10:45] 

            An Israeli film by an Orthodox (Hasidic) script-writer and actor <I> {A}

                        View before class: Ushpizin =Guests (2004, 90 min.); screening on Tuesday March 13, 7 pm
Read “Nachman of Breslov” [CP]  and Settings 172-74
(on the festival of Sukkot)


16        A Mexican film about modernist Jewish women  <I> <I> {B}

                        View before class: “Novia que te vea” =Like a bride (1994, 115 min.); screening March 15, 7pm


19        The Holocaust: Jewish theological responses {A}

                        “A Shattered Witness,” Marc Ellis  <I>

                        Selections from Night by Elie Wiesel 

                        Settings Chap. 21 on Anti-Semitism, and Jewish and Christian theological responses

                        Excerpt from “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (1902)   <I>

                        “Protocols and Holocaust Denial” “Protocols in Arab Media”   


21                    Trial of God, Wiesel - Act 1 <I> {B}  (Please don’t read the book’s introduction by

                                    Robert Brown until after you read the play.)

                        Selections from the Book of Job; 

                        On Purim, and Selections from the Book of Esther


23                    Read: Trial of God - Act 2 (no class meeting)


26                    Trial of God - Act 3 <I> <I> {A}


28        A contemporary novel: an American modernist interpretation of Judaism

                        Joy Comes in the Morning, pp. 3-102 <I> <I> {B}

                        Interview with Jonathan Rosen  


30                    Joy Comes in the Morning, pp. 103-214 <I> <I> {A}


  2        Lecture on Jewish Music

                        Read:  Joy Comes in the Morning, pp. 215-304


  4                    Joy Comes in the Morning, pp. 305-88 {B}


  6        Concluding discussion:  Judaic responses to modernity, modern variations in the Jewish “story”