Fall 2023 Undergraduate Course Descriptions


HIST 207 Jewish History 400 BCE – 1000

Professor Gershon Hundert
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:

https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This is a survey course that highlights the encounters between Jews and Hellenistic Civilization in late antiquity and Islamic Civilization is the early Middle Ages. The "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism will be an important sub-unit in the course. Because this is a first-year History course, emphasis is placed on introducing students to the modes of inquiry associated with the discipline.

Texts: John Efron, Steven Weitzman, Matthias Lehmann, Joshua Holo, The Jews: A History, Pearson-Prentice-Hall,3rd ed. 2018.
Coursepack and assigned online readings.

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation in all class meetings.
Completion of required reading assignments on time.
Short Paper 10%
Class Tests 50%
Term Paper 40%


JWST 211 Jewish Studies I

The Biblical Period

Instructor Dr. Deborah Abecassis
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course is an introduction to the history and literature of the biblical period, the earliest era of Jewish Studies. Its primary goal is to familiarize the student with the text of the Hebrew Bible, the historical context in which it came it be and the academic disciplines that contribute to its analysis, such as linguistics, archaeology, comparative literature and comparative religions. All texts will be examined in translation, and no prior knowledge of the Bible or its languages is required.

Texts:
Hebrew Bible in English translation. Other primary texts and secondary readings will be available on MyCourses or on reserve in the library.

Evaluation: Grades will be based on three short written assignments, a series of short “thinking questions” that emerge from the lectures as well as regular readings for each class from the Bible itself, attendance and participation.


JWST 220 D1&2 Introductory Hebrew

Professor Lea Fima | Professor Rina Michaeli
Fall 2023 and Winter 2024 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to master basic communication in Modern Hebrew language. Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of basic structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and compositions will be assigned regularly, in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language. 

Texts: Shlomit Chayat et al. Hebrew from Scratch, Part I

Evaluation:
60% 4 class tests
15% essays
20% oral presentation
5% class participation


JWST 240 The Holocaust

Professor Ula Madej-Krupitski
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The Nazi assault, organized robbery of rights and possessions, and eventual genocide of European Jewry is one of the most consequential events in both Jewish and world history. This course will provide an overview of the context, crimes of the perpetrators, and nightmarish experiences of the millions that fell victim to this Khurbn (Yiddish, “catastrophe”). Starting with the early 1930s, we will analyze how it was possible for the Nazis to come to power, what the first policies of persecuting Jews in Germany were, and how those policies escalated to expulsion, ghettoization, and mass murder across Europe. Towards the end of the semester, drawing on examples from Europe, Israel, Canada, and the United States, we will discuss contemporary cultural representations and the often-intricate politics of Holocaust memory.

Texts:

  • Doris Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust, Third Edition
  • Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
  • Course Reader

Course Evaluation:
Attendance and participation: 15%
Primary Source Analysis: 25%
Midterm: 30%
Final Take-Home Exam: 30%


JWST 245 Jewish Life in the Islamic World

Professor Christopher Silver
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: From the seventh century until the early modern period, most Jews spoke Arabic and called the Islamic world home. This course explores the Jewish experience among Muslims from the rise of Islam through the eve of colonialism. By engaging close readings of primary sources and historical scholarship, students will learn how Jews under Islam indelibly shaped Judaism and Jewish practice, how engagement with Arabic in Islamic Spain led to the revival of Hebrew, and how the Jewish-Muslim relationship fared along the way. Through film and music, this course also probes themes of history and memory. Students with a particular interest in the modern era, especially the 20th and 21st centuries, are advised to continue on to JWST 334 (Jews and Muslims: A Modern History) in Winter 2024.

Texts:
Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: the Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Schocken Books, 2011); Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book (The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979).

Evaluation: Reading responses, midterm, book review, and final exam.


JWST 261 History of Jewish Philosophy and Thought

From Philo to Spinoza

Professor Lawrence Kaplan
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: “What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem!” the great church father Tertullian exclaimed. This question of the relationship, whether harmonious or discordant, between “Jerusalem” and “Athens,” that is, between revelation and reason or between religion and philosophy, is the key issue of religious philosophy in the Middle Ages. In this course, we will first examine the various attempts to bring Judaism and philosophy together, beginning with Philo of Alexandria in late Antiquity, and reaching its culmination in the High Middle Ages in the writings of Saadya Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakudah, Judah Halevi, and, above all, the towering philosopher and jurist, Moses Maimonides. We will conclude with the writings of Benedict Spinoza, the great philosopher and fierce opponent of Judaism, who seeks to sever the connection between Judaism (and more generally revealed religion) and philosophy, thereby bringing to an end the grand, centuries-old attempt at harmonizing them.

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation: 10%
In Class Mid-Term: 20%
Take home Final: 35%
Research paper: 35%


HIST 307 Jews in Poland

Professor Gershon Hundert
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course will survey the history of Jews in Poland from the beginnings of Jewish settlement to the present. The course will include analyses of primary sources (in translation) related to the social, economic and institutional history of the Jews in Poland and their place in the East European Jewish community. Topics include: Jews during "The Flood'' (1648 - 1667), the Frankist movement and Hasidism, and the last European “expulsion of the Jews” in 1968.

Texts: Coursepack and assigned online readings.

Evaluation: 
Attendance and participation in all class meetings.
Completion of required reading assignments on time.
3 Book Reviews: 60%
Class Tests:  40%

Format: Lecture


JWST 309 Jews in Film

The Jewish Documentary

Instructor Garry Beitel
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course will explore the world of Jewish-themed documentary films. We will see how filmmakers in Canada, the US, Europe and Israel have used the lived reality of Jewish experience as a canvas for their documentary explorations. We will examine how Jewish identity is depicted across a wide spectrum of perspectives – related to variations in religious and national affiliations, cultural experience, the attachment to Israel, the connection to the Holocaust and the politics of gender and sexual orientation. We will try to understand how documentary films as “the creative treatment of actuality” function as an interface between reality “out there” and the original, personal perspectives of filmmakers. Students are encouraged to developed individual responses to the films as triggers for personal explorations of identity, Jewish or otherwise.

Texts: Course pack (available at McGill Bookstore)

Films may include: The Lady in No. 6 / Bonjour! Shalom! / Jews and Money Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream Night and Fog / Dark Lullabies / Baghdad Twist Trembling before G-d / Waltz with Bashir /Promises / The “Socalled” Movie

Evaluation:
6 film reflections 500-750 words each: 60%
Final Paper 2500 - 3000 words: 25%
Class participation / Presentation: 15%


JWST 320 D1&2 Intermediate Hebrew

Instructor Dr. Rina Michaeli
Fall 2023 and Winter 2024 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to master communication in Modern Hebrew language.

Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of basic structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and article analysis will be assigned in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language and the diversity of the Israeli society.

Texts: Shlomit Chayat et al. Hebrew from Scratch, Part I + CD

Evaluation: 
48% - 4 Class Tests (6%, 10%, 14%, 18%)
12% - Quizzes
12% - 2 In-Class Essays
10% - Compositions
10% - Oral Presentation
​8% - Class Participation


JWST 337 Jewish Philosophy and Thought

Ethics in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy

Professor Carlos Fraenkel
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: In this course we will focus on three topics: (i) the moral and political conditions that medieval Muslim and Jewish philosophers argued must be in place to enable us to live a happy and flourishing life; (ii) the tools they offer to comfort us when bad things happen and make us suffer; (iii) how they interpreted Islam and Judaism as guides to the best life and as resources for consolation.

On the Muslim side we will read the short treatise On the Art of Dispelling Sorrow by al-Kindî (ca. 800-870 CE) and the Selected Aphorisms by al-Fârâbî (ca. 870-950). The Art of Dispelling Sorrow is an intriguing Muslim contribution to the genre of philosophical consolation; the Aphorisms are one of the most influential statements of moral and political philosophy in the tradition of Plato and Aristotle in medieval Islamic thought.

On the Jewish side we will focus on Maimonides (1138-1204), the most famous medieval Jewish Aristotelian who was a keen student of Greek and Arabic philosophy and was especially fond of al-Fârâbî. We will look at how Maimonides incorporates the moral theory of the philosophers into a Jewish ethics. Like Greek and Muslim philosophers, Maimonides argues that the best life is one that is both virtuous and happy. But the best guide to such a life, he contends, is the Torah, the Law of Moses, whose prescriptions embody the practical wisdom we need to flourish. Contemplation, the theoretical grasp of the natural order, which the philosophers take to be the pinnacle of virtue and happiness, is for Maimonides at the same time the fulfillment of the commandment to love God. Finally we will examine Maimonides' discussion of the Biblical Job to learn how he proposes to deal with human suffering from a philosophical and Jewish angle.

At the end of the class we will have familiarized ourselves with core themes in medieval Islamic and Jewish ethics: from virtue and happiness to contemplation and consolation.

Course Materials:

  • Al-Kindî, On the Art of Dispelling Sorrow
  • Al-Fârâbî, Selected Aphorisms
  • Maimonides, Eight Chapters
  • Maimonides, Ethical Writings of Maimonides
  • Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (excerpts)

Course Requirements:
Active course participation: 10%
Presentation: 15%
Short paper: 20%
Presentation of final paper project: 15%
Final comparative paper on a core theme in medieval Islamic and Jewish ethics: 40%


JWST 340 D1&2 Advanced Hebrew

Instructor Lea Fima
Fall 2023 and Winter 2024 | *Please note this is a yearlong course
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The objective is to communicate on familiar topics in Modern Hebrew language. Students will develop the four language skills of understanding, speaking, reading and writing through the acquisition of the advanced structures of the language, i.e., grammar, syntax, vocabulary, as well as idiomatic expressions, in order to be able to communicate in Modern Hebrew orally and in writing. Communicative activities, oral practice, written exercises and compositions will be assigned regularly, in order to help integrate skills and reinforce learning. In addition, because the acquisition of a modern language also entails awareness of the culture of its linguistic community, the students will become aware of cultural elements associated with the language.

Texts: Edna Amir Coffin. Lessons in Modern Hebrew: Level II (2) Publisher: University of Michigan Press 

Recommended Text: Hebrew Dictionary (Oxford, Eng-Heb, Heb-Eng Dictionary, Kernerman – Lonnie Kahn)

Evaluation: 
48% - 4 Class Tests (6%, 10%, 14%, 18%)
12% - Quizzes
12% - 2 In-Class Essays
14% - Compositions 
10% - Oral Presentation
4% - Class Participation 


JWST 346 Modern Jewish Studies

The Twentieth Century: Transnational Jewish History

Professor Ula Madej-Krupitski
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: Looking beyond the borders of empires and nation states, this course aims to study the experience of Jews in Europe, vis-à-vis those residing in the Middle East, North and South America, as well as Australia. While studying the key developments of the twentieth century, arguably the most transformative period in Jewish history, this course will pay particular attention to patterns of social and cultural exchange(s) between European Jews and their coreligionists elsewhere, along with the themes of migration, diasporas, memory, and material culture.

Texts:

  • John Efron, et. al., The Jews: A History 3rd edition
  • Ava F. Kahn and Adam Mendelsohn ed., Transnational Traditions: New Perspectives on American Jewish History, 2014 (selections)
  • Course Reader

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation 15%
Weekly Reading Responses 50%
In Class Presentation 35%


JWST 358 Jewish Philosophy and Thought

Law Versus Spirituality: Abraham Heschel and Joseph Soloveitchik

Professor Lawrence Kaplan
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: Abraham Heschel and Joseph Soloveitchik were the two major theological exponents of traditional Judaism in North America in the second half of the twentieth century. Both emphasized the need to combine the objective study and of the Law with cultivating an internal subjective spiritual life, but while Heschel emphasized the latter, Soloveitchik stressed the former. This course will look at their major works, namely. Heschel’s Man is Not Alone and God in Search of Man and Soloveitchik’s Halakhic Man, And From There You Will Seek, and The Lonely Man of Faith. In addition, we will examine their contrasting views regarding such issues as interfaith dialogue, prayer, the land and people of Israel, and the Sabbath.


JWST 365 Modern Jewish Ideologies

The Making of Modern Jews

Professor Ula Madej-Krupitski
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: The modern period, starting in the eighteenth century, brought with it far-reaching intellectual, cultural, social, and political developments across Europe and beyond. How did Jews interpret these new concepts? Which of them did they embrace and adapt to, in order to correspond with their modern Jewish identities? Some of the topics covered are the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), new Jewish religious movements, and the rise of modern Jewish politics. We will examine each of them by studying their conceptual framework, but we will also look at these ideologies as imagined and lived practices. Beyond focusing on the pivotal figures behind these movements, such as Moses Mendelssohn, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Vladimir Medem, and Theodor Herzl, this course will address the significant and often overlooked Jewish women, including the Maiden of Ludmir, Rosa Luxemburg, Sarah Schenirer, and Puah Rakovsky.

Texts:

  • John Efron, et. al., The Jews: A History 3rd edition
  • Course Reader

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation 15%
Primary Source Analysis 25%
Research Essay 30%
Final Exam 30%


JWST 367 Learning Hebrew through Israeli Cinema

Hebrew Language and Israeli Culture

Instructor Lea Fima 
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: This course offers an opportunity to watch films from different periods of Israeli cinema spanning 1948 to the present. Conducted primarily in Hebrew with some assignments in English, students in this course will be invited to engage with the social, political, psychological and aesthetic dimensions of Israeli films. (This is primarily a language class and advanced Hebrew is required to enrol in this course; if you are unsure about your level of Hebrew please consult with the instructor.)

Texts: Hebrew Dictionary

Evaluation:
40% - Essay (1500 words min.)
10% - 2 Take-Home compositions  (300 words each)
30% - 2 In-Class Essays  (300 words each)
10% - Text Preparation Assignments  (to be marked at random)
10% - Class Participation

Format: Seminar


JWST 386 Jewish American Literature

Instructor Dr. Emily Kopley
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: In 1654, twenty-three Jewish refugees fled from the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazil and arrived in New Netherland (later called New York). At the time of the American Revolution, in 1775, there were about 2,000 Jews in the US, most of them Sephardic. In 1880, there were 250,000, most of them from Germany and Alsace, and many of them bankers and businesspeople. Then came the huge wave: because of pogroms throughout Eastern Europe, 23 million Jews came to the US between 1880 and 1920. From this wave onward, America has seen abundant and vibrant literature that deliberately engages with the histories and literary traditions of both the Jews and the Americans.

This course surveys that literature, with many questions in mind. How have Jewish writers crafted their cultural role in a mostly white, Christian nation? How and why do our authors respond to American literature by non-Jewish voices? How do left-leaning politics inform fiction, and to what aesthetic effect? What status can English hope to achieve as a “Jewish” language, in relation to Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages? America is the birthplace of Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism; how does literature respond to these and other strands, to Orthodox practice, and to the Hebrew Bible and Hebrew liturgy? What is the aesthetic and moral affect of blending autobiography and fiction, particularly in work concerned with the Holocaust, or of writing about trauma one has not witnessed? Now that immigration is no longer a common experience among Jewish Americans, what concerns unite them or their literature? How are new media transforming historical Jewish forms of communication such as the print newspaper and the rabbinical sermon? Reading widely among genres and voices will help us approach these questions.

Text:

  • Jewish American Literature, Ed. by Jules Chametzky, John Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum, and Kathryn Hellerstein (Norton, 2000).
  • Emma Wolf, Heirs of Yesterday (1900) (Wayne State, 2020, ed. Barbara Cantalupo and Lori Harrison-Kahan)
  • Anzia Yezierska, Hungry Hearts (1920) (Penguin Random House, Intro by Blanche Gelfant)
  • Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (1979) (Vintage, 1995)
  • Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl (1980) (Vintage, 1990)
  • Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1992; Revised and Complete Edition, Theatre Communications Group, 2013)
  • Lore Segal, Her First American (1985) (The New Press, 2004)
  • Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Harper Perennial, 2007)

Evaluation:
Attendance, preparation, participation: 25%;
Five 500-word responses on readings: 25%;
Short midterm: 20%;
Final paper: 30%

Format: Lecture and discussion


JWST 501 Jews and Music

Professor Christopher Silver
Fall 2023
To check the times and locations for these courses, please go to:
https://horizon.mcgill.ca/pban1/bwckschd.p_disp_dyn_sched

Full course description

Description: Over the last two decades, there has been an explosion of scholarship on the relationship of Jews to music around the globe. This seminar will come to a focus on the cutting-edge literature defining the field. In doing so, we will ask new questions about Jews, music and sound––as well as the interplay between tradition and modernity and the sacred and the secular.

Texts:

  • James Loeffler, The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2010);
  • Maureen Jackson, Mixing Musics: Turkish Jewry and the Urban Landscape of a Sacred Song (Stanford University Press, 2013);
  • Edwin Seroussi, Sonic Ruins of Modernity: Judeo-Spanish Folksongs Today (Routledge, 2022).

Evaluation: Reading responses and research paper.

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