Jewish Studies (JWST)

JWST-103 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course provides a critical introduction to the writings contained in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament). It investigates the social and historical context of the ancient Israelites, examines a range of ancient Near Eastern literature, and introduces the principal methods of biblical studies. Participants will read much of the Hebrew Bible as well as select non-Israelite sources. Examples of recent biblical scholarship will provide additional information for better understanding these writings and will present different methods for approaching and interpreting ancient texts.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-103
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
M. Penn

JWST-104 Introduction to the New Testament

Spring. Credits: 4

Introduction to the New Testament investigates the social and historical context of first- and early second-century Christianity, examines New Testament and select non-canonical documents, and introduces you to the principal methods of New Testament studies. In the course of the semester you will read the works that make up most modern collections of the New Testament, a number of early Christian documents that did not make the final cut, and several ancient non-Christian sources.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-104
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department

JWST-112 Introduction to Judaism

Spring. Credits: 4

Judaism is a 3,500-year-old tradition that has developed over time as Jewish communities all over the world creatively interacted with the different cultural and historical milieus in which they lived. This course explores the ways in which Judaism has sought to transform ordinary life into sacred life. What are the ways in which Judaism conceives of God, and what is the meaning of life? What roles do study, prayer, ethics, sex, marriage, family, rituals of the life cycle, and community play in Judaism? These and other questions will be taken up through study of diverse types of religious literature and historical evidence.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-112
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department

JWST-138 Modern Jewish History

Fall. Credits: 4

A history of the Jews from the 16th century to the present. Jews--a small group, lacking a stable geographical or political center--played a remarkably central role in world events. Jewish history exemplifies questions of tolerance, intolerance, and diversity in the Modern Age. From Europe to the Americas to the Middle East, Jewish history witnessed constant interchange between the non-Jewish world and its Jewish subcultures. We will examine a variety of Jewish encounters with the modern world: integration, assimilation, anti-Semitism, and Jewish nationalism. The course will also contextualize the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as contemporary Jewish life.

Crosslisted as: HIST-138
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
A. Gordon

JWST-150 Introduction to Modern Hebrew

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

An 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 Elementary Modern Hebrew course at Smith College. No previous knowledge of Modern Hebrew is necessary.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
J. Caravita

JWST-151 Introduction to Modern Hebrew

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

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 Elementary Modern Hebrew course at Smith College. No previous knowledge of Modern Hebrew is necessary.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
J. Caravita
Prereq: JWST-150.

JWST-225 Topics in Judaism

JWST-225LF Topics in Judaism: 'Love, Friendship, and Interpersonal Relations in Judaism'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores teachings and practices having to do with interpersonal relations in Jewish religious tradition, including notions of 'spiritual friendship,' relations between parents and children, teachers and disciples, and loving partners. Drawing broadly on the many varieties of Jewish religious literature, with a special interest in the mystical traditions of Judaism, the course also addresses diverse ethical questions such as the nature of forgiveness, responsibility towards the needs of others, and sexual ethics.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-225LF
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department

JWST-232 Contemporary Jewish Ethics

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course will explore issues of contemporary ethics from the point of view of Jewish religious thought and tradition. Topics will include medical and genetic ethics, death and dying, family and sexual ethics, ethics of war, poverty, and the environment. The course will explore these issues in the context of theoretical approaches to questions of religion and ethics.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-232
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department
Prereq: 4 credits in religion or Jewish studies.

JWST-235 Introduction to Jewish Mysticism

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Mysticism refers to a type of religious life in which individuals seek intimate and personal, direct and intense experience of the Divine. There exists a rich and fascinating Jewish mystical tradition with hundreds of books of diverse kinds. This course examines the Kabbalah of thirteenth-century Spain, focusing upon the seminal work of this period, the Zohar; the synthesis of mysticism and messianism that occurred in the city of Safed (in the Land of Israel) in the sixteenth century; and the popular pietistic movement of Eastern Europe from the eighteenth century forward, Hasidism; and various expressions of mystical spirituality in our own time.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-235
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department

JWST-250 Intermediate Hebrew

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course emphasizes skills necessary for proficiency in reading, writing, and conversational Hebrew. It presents new grammatical concepts and vocabulary through texts about Jewish and Israeli culture and tradition, as well as popular culture and day-to-day life in modern Israel. Course material includes newspapers, films, music, and readings from Hebrew short stories and poetry. Starts a transition from simple/simplified Hebrew to a more literate one, and sharpens the distinction between different registers of the language.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
J. Caravita
Prereq: JWST-150 and JWST-151.
Advisory: At least one year of college Hebrew or equivalent or permission of instructor
Notes: Attendance will be required at a weekly Hebrew language table at either Mount Holyoke College or Smith College.

JWST-256 What Didn't Make It in the Bible

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Hundreds of ancient religious texts did not make it into the Hebrew Scripture (aka the Old Testament). This course examines some of these excluded writings. In particular, we will focus on works found among the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, We will read an ancient Harlequin romance, tour heaven and hell, hear of the adventures of fallen angels who sired giants (and taught humans about cosmetics), and learn how the world will end. In critically examining such texts, we will better appreciate the diversity of Judaism, better understand the historical context of early Christianity, and explore the politics behind what did and did not make it into the bible.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-256
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
M. Penn

JWST-265 Holy Feast, Holy Fast: Sacred Food and Eating in Judaism

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course explores the role of food and eating in Jewish religious culture, but will also include a significant comparative religious dimension. Topics will include the ritual, religious, and social significance of the dietary laws in Judaism, the symbolic foods of Passover and other festivals, fasting and ascetic attitudes toward food, as well as food culture as a marker of Jewish identity.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-265
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department

JWST-270 Jewish Religious Art and Material Culture: From Ancient Israel to Contemporary Judaism

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Despite the biblical prohibition against 'graven images,' there exists a rich history of Jewish religious art and aesthetics. This course will study ancient Israelite art and archeology, including the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the extraordinary mosaic floors and frescoes of early synagogues throughout the Mediterranean world, medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscripts and printed book culture, synagogues of later periods, including the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe, and Judaic ritual objects of many types. Jewish art, architecture, and visual representation will be explored in the context of the ancient Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Christian, and Islamic settings in which they evolved.

Crosslisted as: RELIG-270, ARTH-290JR
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Multicultural Perspectives
The department

JWST-276 Mapping Jewish American Generations

Spring. Credits: 4

This course sets canonical Jewish American literature in creative dialogue with contemporary Jewish American writers, filmmakers, and performance artists to explore how early twentieth-century figures (Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, and Henry Roth) continue to influence --inspire--a rising generation of authors. The key mediating figure in this generational dialogue is Philip Roth, whose work we will examine as well. Topics to be explored include "immigrant" writing then and now; the uses of nostalgia; genealogies of standup comedy and popular culture in general; the emergence of "hipster" Judaism and its various modes of expression (above all via websites).

Crosslisted as: ENGL-274
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
D. Weber
Prereq: 4 credits in English, religion, Jewish studies, history, sociology, or film studies.

JWST-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

JWST-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.