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Jewish Studies



As part of the Five College Consortium, Smith's own Jewish studies curriculum is complemented by courses at Amherst, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke colleges and the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts. The resources of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst further enhance educational opportunities.

Additional opportunities for the study of language or topics of academic interest to students may be available through Special Studies at Smith or within the Five College consortium. Please see an adviser.

Other courses at Smith that touch on Jewish Studies may count as an elective toward the major with the prior approval of an adviser. Students must write one of their assignments for such courses on an appropriate Jewish Studies topic. For examples of such courses, please see the sample list published under explanation of the major.

Smith College reserves the right to make changes to all announcements and course listings online, including changes in its course offerings, instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and degree requirements.

Smith College Courses

Fall 2014

FYS 117 The Bible and the Public Square

We will examine what the Bible (and to some extent the broader Jewish and Christian traditions) have to say about controversial issues that have divided Americans in the past (e.g., slavery) and present (e.g., abortion). The aim is to give students the skills to assess critically various arguments that invoke the Bible or religious tradition and authority, wherever they come from on the political spectrum. Students will be introduced to the Bible and biblical scholarship, as well as learn about different understandings of biblical authority and views of applying the Bible to contemporary political and ethical debates. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {H}{L}{WI} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:30

FYS 186 Israel: Texts and Contexts

What is the role of the writer in the construction of a nation’s founding myths and interpretation of its present realities? Explores the relationship between Zionism as the political movement that established the State of Israel and Zionism as an aesthetic and cultural revolution. Focuses on efforts to negotiate tensions between sacred and secular; exile and homeland; language and identity; Arab and Jew; and Israel’s self-definition as a democratic and Jewish state. Reading of fiction and poetry complemented by discussion of historical documents, popular culture, and landscape. Intended for students with an interest in the relationship between literature and politics. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {L}{WI} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 2:40-4:00 PM

JUD 100y Elementary Modern Hebrew

A year-long introduction to modern Hebrew language and culture, with a focus on equal development of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. By the end of the year, students will be able to comprehend short and adapted literary and journalistic texts, describe themselves and their environment, and express their thoughts and opinions. Learning will be amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. This course will involve regular collaboration with students from the Introduction to Modern Hebrew course at Mount Holyoke College. No previous knowledge of Modern Hebrew is necessary. Enrollment limited to 18. May only be taken S/U with approval of the instructor and the director of Jewish Studies. JUD 100y is required for students wishing to study abroad in Israel. {F} Credits: 5 per semester, 10 for yearlong course
Joanna Caravita
MWF 9:00-10:20 AM

JUD 201 Intermediate Hebrew

For intermediate Hebrew language in fall 2014, see Mount Holyoke JWST 250 among the Five-College courses listed below.

CLT 218 Holocaust Literature

Creative responses to the destruction of European Jewry, differentiating between literature written in extremis in ghettos, concentration/extermination camps, or in hiding, and the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust. How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy. Selections from a variety of artistic genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, film, monuments, museums), and critical theory of representation. All readings in translation. {L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 1:10-2:30 PM

REL 162 Introduction to the Bible I

The Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh/Old Testament). A survey of the Hebrew Bible and its historical and cultural context. Critical reading and discussion of its narrative and legal components as well as an introduction to the prophetic corpus and selections from the wisdom literature. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 11:00-12:10 PM

REL 221 Jewish Spirituality: Philosophers and Mystics

The rise of Jewish philosophy and mysticism (Kabbalah) in the Islamic world and in medieval Spain, and the development of these theological and intellectual trends as decisive influences upon all subsequent forms of Judaism. Analysis of Jewish philosophy and mysticism as complementary yet often competing spiritual paths. How did Jewish philosophers and mystics consider the roles of reason, emotion and symbols in religious faith and practice? What interrelations did they see between the natural and divine realms, and between religious, philosophical and scientific explanations? Expressions of philosophy and mysticism in religious texts, individual piety, popular practice, and communal politics. Readings drawn from the works of the great philosopher Maimonides, the mystical classic the Zohar, and other thinkers, as well as personal documents of religious experience and thought. All readings in English. {H} Credits: 4
Lois Dubin
TTH 3:00-4:40 PM

SPN 245 Topics in Latin American and Penisular Studies:Jewish Women in the Muslim Mediterranean

Topic: Jewish Women of the Muslim Mediterranean
This course examines the experiences of Jewish women in al-Andalus and North Africa from the Middle Ages until today. Discussions will focus on Jewish women’s literary and cultural contributions to predominantly Muslim societies, primarily in the western Mediterranean. Students will also be invited to think critically about concepts such as "tolerance" and "dhimma," as well as what it means to be a woman and a religious minority in mostly-Muslim countries.  Course taught in Spanish.  Prerequisite: SPN 220 or above, or permission of the instructor. Cannot be repeated for credit. Enrollment limited to 19 students. {A}{F} Credits: 4
Ibtissam Bouachrine
TTH 1:00-2:50 PM



Interterm January 2015

JUD 110j Introduction to Yiddish

An introduction to the culture of Yiddish, the 1000-year old language of European Jews and their global diaspora. Discussion of short stories, drama, film, and manifestations of Yiddish popular culture with an eye on ethnic performance, translation, and Yiddish as portable homeland. Classes are held daily at the Yiddish Book Center on the campus of Hampshire College, where students engage directly with the resources of the largest Yiddish book collection in the world. Enrollment limited to 20 students. No prerequisites. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy


Spring 2015


JUD 100y Elementary Modern Hebrew

Continued from fall semester. Completion of this course (or its equivalent) is REQUIRED by Smith College for any student planning to study abroad in Israel.
Joanna Caravita
MWF 9:00-10:20 AM

JUD 125 Jewish Civilization

Same as REL 225. An introduction to Jewish civilization from a variety of perspectives (religion, history, politics, philosophy, literature, and culture) organized around different themes; the theme for Spring 2015 is Food and Foodways. Consideration of core ideas, texts, and practices that have animated Jews and Judaism from antiquity to the present, with attention to both classical and modern formulations. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Lois Dubin
TTH 3:00-4:20 PM

JUD 284 The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1750-1945

The modern history of the largest Jewish community in the world, from life under the Russian tsars until its extermination in World War II. Topics include Jewish political autonomy under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; the shifting effects on Jews in Russian, Soviet and Polish society of Partition, tsarist legislation, Revolution, Sovietization, and the emergence of the modern nation-state; the folkways and domestic culture of Ashkenaz; competition between new forms of ecstatic religious expression and Jewish Enlightenment thought; the rise of mass politics (Zionism, Socialism, Diaspora Nationalism, Yiddishism) and the role of language (Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish) in the creation of secular Jewish identity; and the tension between memory and nostalgia in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Concludes with a discussion of the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Enrollment limited to 18. {H} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 2:40-4:00 PM

JUD 362 Punchline: the Jewish Comic Tradition (Seminar in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture)

Topics course

Topic: Punchline: The Jewish Comic Tradition
What makes a Jewish joke? Is it about self-deprecation? The deflation of majority culture? Finding humor in tragedy? Explores the evolution of modern Jewish humor, from Yiddish folk types to the influence of Jewish standup comedians, writers, and performers on post-war American popular culture. What do contemporary American comic masters such as Philip Roth, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman, Larry David and the Coen Brothers have in common with European precursors such as Sholem Aleichem and Kafka? Also includes critical theories of humor by Freud and Bergson. Sophomores welcome to apply for admission. {L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
T 1:00-2:50 PM

REL 213 Prophecy in Ancient Israel

A survey of the institution of prophecy and the individuals who functioned as prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Emphasis on the following issues: What types of people became prophets? What did prophets speak about? What role did prophets play in society? Did prophets deliver different or even conflicting messages? Can one tell a true from a false prophet? {H}{L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:30 PM

REL 310 Seminar: Hebrew Bible

Sibling Rivalries: Israel and the Other in the Hebrew Bible
This course examines the biblical idea of divine election, the notion that God specially favors certain individuals and nations, a notion that sits at the heart of ancient Israel's theological self-understanding. Beginning with the narratives of sibling rivalry in Genesis and then turning to other relevant texts from the Hebrew Bible (read in English), as well as on occasion from the New Testament and rabbinic literature, we will explore how the Hebrew Bible conceives of election, what it entails for those chosen, and what this implies about the three-way relationship among God, Israel, and the nations of the world. Prerequisite: REL 162, REL 215, any other college-level Bible course, or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 12. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
T 3:00-4:50 PM



Five College Courses

The following is a sampling of additional courses in Jewish Studies offered in the Five Colleges in Fall 2014. As part of the Five College Consortium, we encourage our students to study with our colleagues. If a course on a particular topic is offered at Smith in 2014-15 we have not listed a course on the same topic offered elsewhere. Consult the online catalog for a full listing of available courses and class times.

Amherst College
HST 294 The History of Israel (Gordon, MW 12-1:20)
REL 263 Ancient Israel (Niditch, MWF 11-11:50)

Hampshire College
LS 103 Beginning Yiddish (Schulman, MW 9-10:20, at the Yiddish Book Center)
*HACU 240 Music of Immigrant America (Miller, TTh 2- 3:20)

Mt Holyoke College
JWST 232 Contemporary Jewish Ethics (Fine, MW 2:40-4)
JWST 250 Intermediate Hebrew (Caravita, TTh 10-11:15)
JWST 256 What Didn’t Make It in the Bible (Penn, MW 2:40-3:55)
REL 225 Sabbath in Jewish History and Culture (Fine, W 7-9:50)
*GNDST 333 Feminist Theologies (TTh 11:30-12:45)

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Judaic 101 The Jewish People I
Judaic 102 The Jewish People II
Judaic 350 Jewish Law and Society (Berkovitz, TTh 11:30-12:45)
Judaic 374 Culture and Immigration in Israel (Gershenson, TTh 2:30-3:45)
Hebrew 361 Modern Hebrew Literature I (in Hebrew, Bolozki, TTh 11:30-12:45)
German 697j  Jews and German Culture (Skolnik, T 1-3:30)
*German 443 20th Century Prose (TTh 1-2:15)
*MidEast 377 Popular Culture in Israel and Palestine (Gershenson, W 4-6:30)


* May not be taken for credit towards the minor. If taken for major credit one of the significant assignments for the course must focus on a Jewish studies related topic.