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Jewish Studies

A Tradition of Reflective and Persistent Questioning

Overview   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study    |   Courses  

 

Jewish Studies is a particularly appropriate area of study within a liberal arts education. The history, religion and literature of the Jewish people form a complex, yet intellectually coherent, field of concentration. Jewish culture is beautiful and has been immensely influential. Familiarity with it is required for any significant understanding of Eurasian, North African and Middle Eastern history, of Christianity and Islam, and of European and American literature. The Jewish tradition of reflective and persistent questioning of the most enduring human issues offers unique challenges to Earlham students, whatever their major fields and religious backgrounds.

Students who have recently completed minors in Jewish Studies majored in a variety of disciplines: English, Religion, Psychology, History, Computer Science, Philosophy, Politics, Women's Studies and Music. All of them have found ways to sustain their interest in Jewish culture. Some have taken jobs in Jewish community organizations. Some have entered rabbinical programs and Christian divinity schools; one is training to be a cantor. Still others are concentrating on Jewish subjects as they pursue doctorates in history, politics and literature.

Our Faculty

Emily Filler
Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies; Chair, Jewish Studies Program; Jewish Life Coordinator

Elana Passman
Associate Professor of History

Cheri Gaddis
Administrative Assistant
Plan of Study

General Education Requirements

The Program offers two courses that fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement, JWST 155 and 304; four courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement: JWST 155, 286, 304 and 344; one courses that fulfills the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement: JWST 204; and two courses fulfill the Language component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, JWST 101 and 102. The Program also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Minor

Students may complete the Jewish Studies Minor in either of two ways:

  • Biblical Hebrew I and II (or demonstrate proficiency in Yiddish or Modern Hebrew) and at least 9 hours of additional course work in Jewish Studies,

OR

  • 18 hours of course work in Jewish Studies.
Courses

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*JWST 101 BIBLICAL HEBREW I (5 credits) (D-L)

*JWST 102 BIBLICAL HEBREW II (5 credits) (D-L)

JWST 144 BIBLE IN POLITICS (3 credits)
The Bible is the foundational sacred text for more than 2 billion people — and a source of political conflict, ethical dispute and cultural inspiration. This introductory course focuses not only on the historical and geographical contexts in which the Bible arose, but on its "afterlives" as well. This course will consider the variety of ways in which the Bible is employed in contemporary political and geopolitical conflicts, and its influence on modern literature. Also listed as REL 144.

JWST 145 READINGS IN JEWISH TEXTS I (1-2 credits)
Provides hourly study sessions once a week on important passages in key texts in Jewish culture. Recent classes have studied Torah portions, Talmudic tractates, selected Midrash, medieval poetry, Yiddish stories and Israeli poetry.

*JWST 150 EARLHAM SEMINAR (4 credits)
Offered for first-year students. Topics vary. (ES)

*JWST 155 HEBREW SCRIPTURES (4 credits)
An examination of the religion of Israel expressed in selected portions of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in light of the results of modern critical study and within the context of ancient Near Eastern culture and history. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as REL 155. (WI, D-I)

*JWST 204 NEW PROMISED LAND (3 credits)
The first Jews set foot on American soil in 1584, and Jewish understanding of the United States and its non-Jewish majority have been complicated ever since. This course explores the history, sociology and theology of American Judaism from the colonial period to the present day with a particular focus on the Jewish minority experience and the evolution of Jewish-Christian relationship. Students also will consider themes of Jewish activism, the rise of the congregational denominations, the appeal of nostalgia, and the development of a particularly Jewish-American culture and cuisine. Also listed as HIST 204 and REL 204. (D-D)

*JWST 232 WOMEN, GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THE JEWISH TRADITION (3 credits)
How has the Jewish tradition weighed in on issues of gender and sexuality, and how have issues in gender and sexuality shaped and challenged the Jewish tradition? This course explores issues of sexuality, gender norms, marriage and divorce, feminism, and queer activism in the context of the Jewish tradition from antiquity to the present. This course will focus particularly on the relationship between Jewish sacred texts and the communities who read them; the rise of Jewish feminism and LGBTQ civil rights; and ethnographic accounts of contemporary Jewish communities in the U.S., Israel and Palestine, and North Africa. Also listed as REL 232 and WGSS 232. (DI)

JWST 245 READINGS IN JEWISH TEXTS II (1-2 credits)
Furthers study begun in JWST 145. Prerequisite: JWST 145.

*JWST 286 JUDAISM (4 credits)
An introduction to the major texts, themes, ritual practices, and holidays of the Jewish tradition from its inception to the present. The course is divided up into three main sections: 1) the Jewish textual tradition; 2) the Jewish liturgical calendar; and 3) Jewish life-cycle events and daily practices. By looking at a variety of accounts of the tradition – textual, theological, autobiographical, ethnographic - we will examine the similarities and differences between Judaism as it is presented “on the page” and the way it is understood and practiced by Jews today. We will also consider some themes and events in twentieth-century Jewry including the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel, and Jewish participation in the feminist movement. Also listed as REL 286 (D-I)

*JWST 304 JUDAISM, THE OTHER AND STATE: ENCOUNTERS IN MODERN JEWISH THOUGHT (3 credits)
What does it mean to be Jewish in the modern world? This seminar considers the political and theological challenges of modern Judaism, from European Jewish emancipation to the present day. The class will discuss the rise of Jewish voices in the public sphere; the complex relationship between modern Jewish and Christianity, conflicts over history, science and biblical interpretation and the rise of Jewish nationalism. Students also will consider how the Jewish minority experience compares to experiences of other religious and cultural minorities in the modern West. Also listed as GER 304 and REL 304. (D-I, WI)

*JWST 344 NEW VOICES: GERMAN JEWISH WRITERS (2 credits)
Examines issues of Jewish identity in postwar Germany and Austria and what it is like to live there as a Jew today. This seven-week seminar studies the prose, poetry and essays of German Jewish writers. Also listed as GER 344. Course offered in German (first seven weeks) and English (second seven weeks). (D-I) (AY)

JWST 345 READINGS IN JEWISH TEXTS III (1-2 credits)
Furthers study begun in JWST 245. Prerequisite: JWST 245.

JWST 347 EUROPE AND THE WORLD WARS (4 credits)
Research Credit. Explores the tumultuous era of European history spanning from the outbreak of the First World War to the conclusion of World War II. Topics include the causes and legacy of the “Great War,” the outbreak of postwar revolutions, modernist culture in the interwar Europe, the rise of Fascism and Stalinism, ethnic cleansing during the Second World War, and the Holocaust. Attention to the relationship between class, gender, and race in interwar European culture. Prerequisite: A Comparative Practices course, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 347. (AY)

JWST 445 READINGS IN JEWISH TEXTS IV (1-2 credits)
Furthers study begun in JWST 345. Prerequisite: JWST 345.

JWST 484 FORD/KNIGHT RESEARCH PROJECT (1-4 credits)
Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

JWST 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive report prepared in the style of a thesis or research paper.