Spring 2021 Jewish Studies Courses

Introductory Courses

World Cultures of the Jews
CAS JS 100 (4 Credits)

Introduces students to the study of Judaism in its many forms by exploring Jewish communities across the globe today, their different historical origins and cultural contexts, and strategies of preserving cohesion and transnational solidarity. BU Hub areas: The Individual in Community, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration

CAS JS 110 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 216

Systematic and historical introduction to doctrines, customs, literature, and movements of Judaism; biblical religion and literature; rabbinic life and thought; medieval mysticism and philosophy; modern movement and developments. BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship, and Intercultural Literacy, Critical Thinking.

History of Judaism

CAS JS 352 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 322

Major trends in post-biblical Judaism; academy and synagogue; Mishna and Talmud; Babylonian diaspora; medieval poetry, philosophy, and mysticism; codes of law; organization of the Jewish community “in exile”, the land of Israel; Jewish, Islamic, and Christian civilizations. BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Critical Thinking

Instructor: Professor Steven T. Katz

Syllabus: Click HERE.


Sacred Texts and Comparative Traditions 

Biblical Fakes and Forgeries 
CAS JS 416 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 406

This course examines issues regarding forged documents and artifacts relating to the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Examples of forgeries (alleged and certain) include: book of Daniel, Letter of Aristeas, Gnostic Gospels, Secret Gospel of Mark; forged Scrolls in museum collections. Proposed Edit: Examines forged documents and artifacts relating to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, probing historical and ethical questions they raise. Examples (alleged and certain forgeries) include: book of Daniel, Gnostic Gospels, Secret Gospel of Mark, and forged Dead Sea Scroll fragments. Effective Fall 2020, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Ethical Reasoning, Historical Consciousness, Critical Thinking.

Instructor: Professor Jonathan Klawans

Jewish Literature and Thought

Jewish Literature
CAS JS 136 (4 Credits) Mts w/  CAS EN 126 / CAS XL 236

How do changing notions of ethnicity and race, religion, gender, and geographical place define Jewish family and community? Topics include immigration, diaspora, national culture; patriotism, antisemitism, multiculturalism; Jewish identities and gender; conversion, assimilation, and acculturation. Effective Fall 2019, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Aesthetic Exploration, Global Citizenship, and Intercultural Literacy.

Jewish Mysticism
CAS JS 246 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 326

Major trends of Jewish mystical thought and practice from late antiquity to today, including Kabbalah, Hasidism, and modern messianic movements. This course includes close readings of Zohar and covers theories and practices of mystical ascent, neo-Platonic trends in religious thought, and messianic speculation.

Instructor: Dr. Yair Lior

CAS RN 420 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS PH 409

A study of major aspects of the thought of Maimonides. Primary focus on the Guide of the Perplexed, with attention to its modern reception in works by Baruch Spinoza, Hermann Cohen, Leo Strauss, and others. Also offered as CAS RN 420. Effective Fall 2019, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings, Oral, and/or Signed Communication.

Instructor: Professor Michael Zank

History and Holocaust

Holy City: Jerusalem in Time, Space, and Imagination
CAS JS 250 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 220

Transformation of an ordinary ancient city into the holy city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims; and development of modern Jerusalem, as shaped by British rule, Zionism, and Palestinian nationalism. Jerusalem’s past, present, and meanings are considered through analyses of religious and secular rhetoric. Effective Spring 2020, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Aesthetic Exploration, The Individual in Community, Critical Thinking.

The Holocaust Through Film 
CAS JS 367 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS XL 387

An examination of film using the Holocaust as its central topic. What are the political and cultural effects when genocide is represented through film? Can feature films portray history, and if so, what are the consequences for an informed society? Effective Spring 2020, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship, and Intercultural Literacy, Writing- Intensive Course.

Archaeology in the Holy Land
CAS RN 390 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS AR 342

In Israel, archaeology is part of current events. The study of remains from the Israelite to the Muslim conquests (c. 1200 BCE — 640 CE) teaches how material evidence was created and still plays a role in a broader historical drama. Also offered as CAS AR 342. Effective Fall 2020, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Digital/Multimedia Expression, Ethical Reasoning, Teamwork/Collaboration.

Seminar on the Holocaust
CAS JS 460 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 460

This course will examine historical, ethical, and religious issues arising from the Holocaust. We will discuss antisemitism and ideology; what communities were considered “other”; human motivation regarding collaborators, perpetrators, and bystanders; the role of individuals, organizations, and governments; the treatment of women; the ethics of resistance; the behavior of the Jewish Councils; and attitudes to the existence of God during and after the Holocaust. We will also compare the Holocaust to contemporary crises now occurring around the world. Effective Spring 2021, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Oral and/or Signed Communication, Ethical Reasoning, Historical Consciousness.

Jews in Modern Culture
CAS HI 550 (4 Credits)

Examines the role and impact of Jews as producers and brokers of modern culture, with a focus on fields ranging from psychoanalysis to movies. Considers whether Jews’ cultural activities were distinctive and, if so, how and why. 

Instructor: Professor Charles Dellheim

Sample syllabus: Click here.

Contemporary Jewish Societies and Cultures, incl. Israel Studies

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
CAS JS 286 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS HI 393

History of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, analysis of conflicting narratives through primary sources and film. Students present their reflections on the conflict and debate possibilities of resolution. Counts toward majors and minors in History, International Relations, Middle East & North Africa Studies, and Jewish Studies. BU Hub areas: Historical Consciousness, Global Citizenship, and Intercultural Literacy.

Israeli Popular Music
CAS JS 280 ( 4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS LH 330

Advanced-intermediate Hebrew language and culture course for those who have completed at least four semesters’ college Hebrew or equivalent. Introduction to Israeli cultural history through music. Students expand vocabulary and further develop writing, reading, listening, and conversational skills in Hebrew. BU Hub areas: Global Citizenship, Intercultural Literacy, Digital Multimedia Expression, and Creativity/Innovation.

Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism

CAS JS 379 (4 Credits) Mts w/ CAS RN 249
Exploration of historical and contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Students use various theoretical approaches to examine a wide range of relevant texts (written and visual) from late antiquity to modern America. This course includes active learning and fieldwork.

Co-instructors: Professors Adam Seligman and Kecia Ali

For more on this course, please see this video!

A Democracy in the Middle East: Israel as a Case for Comparative Analysis.
CAS PO 330 (4 credits)
Special Topics in Comparative Politics Section A1:

Examines how Israel compares to other societies, especially the US, as a democracy, focusing on immigration, refugee, security, and human rights issues. May be of interest to Americanists as well as comparativists.

Comparative Constitutional Law: US and Israel
LAW JD 993 (3 Credits)

The seminar will explore American and Israeli constitutional and political design through a comparative lens. It will use constitutional design and fundamental constitutional principles obtaining in the U.S.A. as a platform against which Israel’s constitutional system will be compared and examined. Students will get an understanding of different approaches to the implementation of political power in democratic regimes and be encouraged to assess the costs and benefits of each system. Issues to be covered include constitutional design, national identity, separation of powers, judicial review and the rule of law, political and civil rights, immigration and citizenship, national security, the establishment of religion, and the right to free exercise of religion. The American constitution, basic Israeli laws, American and Israeli statutory law, and court cases will be read and compared. Secondary materials drawn from the literature of law and political science will also be assigned. Knowledge of Hebrew is not necessary.

For Political Science majors, LAW JD 993 counts for a 200-level course with approval of the PO advisor. If you are interested, please check with your PO adviser and contact the instructor, Prof. Pnina Lahav directly at plahav[at]bu.edu.

Writing Seminars Related to Jewish Studies**

American Conversations: Jews and Blacks
CAS WR 151

The experiences of Jews and blacks have had a unique and at times intimate interrelationship in modern American culture. The appropriation of the Biblical story of Exodus from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement is just one prominent example. This interdisciplinary seminar will examine this interrelationship from the specific perspective of Jewish Americans. Classes will be integrated with a companion WR section focusing, in turn, on the African American experience. Students will collaborate across sections to both engage in critical conversations on the course material and on their writing as well as respond to and incorporate differing disciplinary perspectives in their research. Through these conversations, we will promote democratic dialog across differing Diasporas but within a shared American cultural experience. Texts, such as Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain and Alan Crosland’s film The Jazz Singer, will be considered in their historical context and as potent examples of American religious studies.

After Auschwitz: The Search for Ethics in Post-Holocaust Thought
CAS WR 151

In this course, we will examine the problem of ethics after the Holocaust as it appears in literature, philosophy, theology, political thought, graphic novels, and film. We explore the innovative ways in which writers, thinkers, and artists create new approaches to ethics in spite of undeniable evidence of humanity’s propensity for brutality. We will read texts by Elie Wiesel, Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Levinas, Loung Ung, Paul Resusabagina, and others. Films will include The Act of Killing. Graphic novels will include Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Joe Kubert’s Yossel, 19. April 1943.


* Students may count up to two courses in the Hebrew language toward the degree in Jewish Studies. These may include any JS, or LH course taught in Hebrew. For a full list of Fall 2020 Hebrew Language courses, please see the course planner.

**Writing seminars do not count towards Jewish Studies Minor Requirements.