Winter 2022 Undergraduate Course Descriptions


JWST 202 Introduction to Jewish Music

The interactivity of Jewish Folk Music Across History, Cultures and Musical Styles

Course expert in ethnomusicology and musical performance
Winter 2022
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: A survey of Jewish and non-Jewish contexts in which Jewish music has developed since ancient times in the East and in the West. The course will emphasize the artistry of Jewish musicians that we currently hear today.

Texts: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


JWST 205 Intro to Jewish Literature

The Gathering Storm 1918-1939

Professor David Aberbach
Winter 2022
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: An introduction to the period 1918-1939 as reflected in literature from a variety of sources, in German, French, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and English. Among topics to be discussed are: the effects of World War I, the Russian Revolution, transformations in Jewish life, the rise of anti-Semitism. and forebodings of the Holocaust, Socialism, Zionism, Yiddish and Hebrew literature, and American-Jewish culture.

Texts: These vary but include works by Ansky, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Feuchtwanger, Babel, Fitzgerald, Greenberg, Henry Roth, Hemingway, Singer, Agnon, Werfel, Joseph Roth, Schnitzler, and Stefan Zweig. Emphasis in this course is on the experience, through reading literary texts, of entering societies and a period in history far different from our own.

Evaluation: Four in-class exams, each consisting of an essay and commentaries on course texts and one long essay. Essay questions are normally given out in advance of exams.

Format: Round-table seminar


HIST 219 Jewish History 1000 – 2000

Professor Christopher Silver​
Winter 2022
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 the states and cultures of Europe from the medieval period to the present. The focus is on the effects of the encounters between Jews and their neighbours. The course pays particular attention to communal organization, patterns of migration, and cultural developments.

Texts:

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

Evaluation:
Attendance and participation: 15%
Primary Source Analysis (3-4 pg.): 25%
Research Essay: 30%
Final Exam: 30%


JWST 220 D1&2 Introductory Hebrew

Professor Lea Fima | Professor Rina Michaeli
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *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 282 Introductory Yiddish 2

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin​
Winter 2022
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 second part of the introduction to the millennium-old language of Ashkenazic Jews. This course will continue covering the fundamentals of Yiddish grammar and vocabulary and will include further practice in speaking, reading, and writing. The course materials draw on Yiddish literature, songs, and films, allowing students to combine the acquisition of practical language skills with an exploration of Yiddish culture—from its beginnings in medieval Germany through its past and present in Central and Eastern Europe, the Americas, Israel, and all over the world. An important component of the course is the opportunity students will have to pursue Yiddish-related artistic or research projects (individually or in small groups), combining exploration of Yiddish with creative writing, translation, acting, filmmaking, religion, anthropology, history, painting, and journalism, to name just some of the options. While this course is the direct continuation of JWST 281 Introductory Yiddish 1, it may also be taken independently by students with adequate prior knowledge. With any questions, please email the instructor.

Texts: Course Pack; online resources

Evaluation:
Attendance and Homework (40%)
In-Class Quizzes (20%)
Final Project (20%)
Final Exam (20%)


JWST 309 Jews in Film

The Jewish Documentary

Professor Garry Beitel
Winter 2022
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: 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 318 Judaism and the Environment

Moral Dilemmas from the Hebrew Bible to Modern Literature

Professor David Aberbach
Winter 2022
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: An exploration of moral dilemma in Environmental Studies as reflected in literature from the Bible to the present.

Texts: Apart from the Hebrew Bible, readings from the late 18th century to the present, from Goethe to Coetzee, concerning the environment and moral issues.

Evaluation: Four in-class exams, each consisting of an essay and commentaries on class texts, and a long essay relating to course texts.

Format: Round-table discussion


JWST 320 D1&2 Intermediate Hebrew

Professor Rina Michaeli
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *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 330 Topics in the Hebrew Bible

R-rated Stories of the Bible (the chapters skipped in school)

Professor Deborah Abecassis
Winter 2022
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: Many stories of the Bible are taught to children from a very young age, but the Bible was not written as a book for children.  Tales of incest, rape, adultery, murder, mutilation and deception are found throughout the texts, conveniently skipped or censored for innocent ears.  In this course, we will examine narratives such as Lot’s daughters, the rape of Dinah and of Tamar, Bathsheba and David, Jephthah’s daughter, the traveller’s concubine and others.  In addition to reading the texts in detail, we will explore the social, political and historical contexts of the stories, as well as consider traditional commentaries and modern biblical scholarship.  Why are these stories in the Bible?  How were they understood by ancient audiences?  How have centuries of commentators addressed the questions the texts present and what light can modern academic disciplines shed on the meaning of these narratives?

All texts will be examined in English.

Texts:
English translation of the Hebrew Bible – any edition.

All other readings will be available online.

Tentative Evaluation Method: Grades will be based on 4 short writing assignments, weekly “thinking questions” on the readings and participation.  


JWST 334 Jews and Muslims

A Modern History

Professor Christopher Silver​
Winter 2022
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: We tend to think of Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa as enemies, not neighbours. This course examines the modern history of Jewish-Muslim relations beyond just conflict. Students will explore the interconnected and entangled worlds of Jews and Muslims––from Morocco to Iraq––as the two communities navigated colonialism, nationalism, war, and decolonization. Through close readings of a wide variety of primary sources (including letters, memoirs, fiction, music, and film) and historical scholarship, we will approach Jewish-Muslim relations from a number of vantage points––including those of politics and culture. In doing so, we will seek to challenge our assumptions about the ways in which Jews and Muslims lived together in the not too distant past.

Texts:

  • Edward Hallet Carr, What Is History? Vintage, 1967
  • Joëlle Bahloul, The Architecture of Memory: A Jewish-Muslim household in colonial Algeria 1937-1962, Cambridge University Press, 1996

Evaluation: Midterm, paper, and final exam.


JWST 337 Jewish Philosophy and Thought

Ethics in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy

Professor Carlos Fraenkel
Winter 2022
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.

Texts:

  • 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)

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


JWST 338 Jewish Philosophy and Thought

Moses and Muhammad: (Aristotelian) Philosophers?

Course expert in Islamic and Jewish philosophies
Winter 2022
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:

Middle Ages witnessed the emergence of fruitful, tolerant intellectual exchanges between Jewish and Muslim thinkers (here, “thinkers” is an umbrella term to include both theologians and philosophers). They shared, among other things, one principle that bring them together: commitment to intellectual reasoning. Serious engagement with Arabic (and later Hebrew) translations of Greek philosophy alongside continuous study of their respective sacred scriptures posed common challenges to both Islamic and Jewish camps bringing about unprecedented intellectual proximity between them–– even to the extent of eclipsing their theological disparities. Central to their commitment to both reason and revelation became the challenge to re-define the concept of prophecy. Only second to the unity of God, prophethood constituted the fundamental tenet of faith in both religions and, as such, medieval Jewish and Muslim thinkers devoted considerable time and effort to developing a rationally sound formula that would explain sacred, transcendent experience of prophets (most notably, that of Moses and Muḥammad). This concern to ground an intellectual foundation for prophecy went hand in hand with their corresponding attempt to utilize allegorical interpretation as a hermeneutical means to reconcile inconsistencies found between words of the scripture and their intellectual insights. These two themes (i.e., the concept of prophecy and allegorical interpretation), therefore, constitute the backbone of heated theological/philosophical debates in Medieval Jewish and Islamic thought.

Having an eye to explore these two closely correlated themes, this course deals with examination of major works of four Jewish and Muslim prominent medieval thinkers: Avicenna (d. 1037), Ghazzālī (d. 1111), Maimonides (d. 1204), and Hasdai Crescas (d. 1410). While Avicenna and Maimonides are best known as being “philosophers” and defenders of the Arabic medieval falsafa, Ghazzālī’s and Hasdai Crescas’ subsequent theological disapproval (and hence their critiques) of formers’ intellectual agenda were received as a “theological” backlash against Islamic and Jewish religious philosophy. We will examine how the two themes have been dealt with in these two “revival” intellectual movements.

The course will proceed in a chronological order. After a quick background survey of the themes in Greek and pre-Avicennian Islamic literature, we will begin our main discussions by reading passages from Avicenna’s sections on “Metaphysics” and “On the Soul” of The Healing and also the treatise he specifically wrote on the topic: On the Proof of Prophecies. We will then move on to his ardent critic, Ghazzālī. Examination of his theological as well as mystical works will help us to put to the test whether Ghazzālī, as had been argued for long, “put an end to the falsafa” in the Muslim world or his appropriation of Avicennian philosophy, in specific regarding the topic of our course, did actually introduce philosophy into Islamic theology. Our readings on this section will include passages from Moderation in Belief, Deliverance from Error, Revival of Religious Sciences, and The Niche of Lights. The second section of the course will be dedicated to our study of selections from Maimonides’ magnum opus, Guide of the Perplexed, and His Commentary on the Mishnah where he offered two seemingly contradictory accounts of the prophethood. Hasdai Cresca’s response to Maimonides and his attack on the latter’s Aristotelianism, in Light of the Lord, constitutes the last, but not least, primary source which we will discuss.

Evaluation:
10% Attendance and active participation
30% Ten reading responses (3% each)
20% Mid-term paper of ca. 1400 words
40% Final paper of ca. 2500 words


JWST 340 D1&2 Advanced Hebrew

Professor Lea Fima
Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 | *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 368 A Taste of Hebrew Literature in Hebrew

Hebrew Language and Israeli Culture

Professor Lea Fima
Winter 2022
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 introduces students to short literary forms in Hebrew written from the mid-20th Century to the present. We will discuss short stories and poems in terms of their literary qualities as well as in relation to their cultural, social, political and historical contexts with the ultimate aim of fostering an improved ability to read, write and speak in Hebrew. (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 385 Intermediate Yiddish 2

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin
Winter 2022
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 continues helping students improve their knowledge of the Yiddish language and to further explore the culture behind it. Further development of speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills, with a particular emphasis on expanding vocabulary and mastering grammar. Drawing inspiration from Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who in his Nobel Lecture described Yiddish as "the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful humanity [which possesses] treasures that have not been revealed to the eyes of the world,” this course introduces students to selections from Yiddish literature, songs, and films of Jewish life past and present. An important component of this course is the opportunity students will have to pursue Yiddish-related artistic or research projects (individually or in small groups), combining exploration of Yiddish with creative writing, translation, acting, filmmaking, religion, anthropology, history, painting, and journalism, to name just some of the options. While this course is the direct continuation of JWST 384 Intermediate Yiddish 1, it may also be taken independently by students with adequate prior knowledge. With any questions, please email the instructor.

Texts: Course Pack; online resources

Evaluation:
Attendance and Homework (40%)
In-Class Quizzes (20%)
Final Project (20%)
Final Exam (20%)

Format: Seminar


JWST 387 Modern Jewish Studies

The Novel as Family Saga

Instructor Esther Frank
Winter 2022
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 twentieth century has produced a range of novels in Yiddish recounting family histories. Although this genre developed in European literature at the end of the 19th century it received a special character in Yiddish because of the historical period in which it took shape. In this course we will examine several novels of the interwar period. Some are set in Europe, some in the former Soviet Union, and some in America. Focusing on close readings of novels we will attempt to analyze various ways historical events shape literary texts. Attention will be paid to analysis of themes, characters, plots, and events.

Texts: I.B.Singer Satan in Goray, The Family Moskat, I.J. Singer.The Brothers Ashkenaz Esther Singer Kreitman. Deborah. Der Nister.The Famiiy Mashber, Sholem Asch T.B.A.

Evaluation:
Class Participation 10%
Short paper 20%, (7 pages)
Mid- term paper 20% (15 pages)
Final paper 50%. (20 pages)
Papers are to be double-spaced.

Due dates to be announced.


JWST 480 Advanced Yiddish 1

A Taste of Yiddish Literature in the Original

Professor Yuri Vedenyapin
Winter 2022
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: Would you like to experience reading, discussing (and even creating) Yiddish literature in the original? Whether it be Isaac Bashevis Singer's stories of rebellious daughters, love-stricken yeshiva students, heretical rabbis, disillusioned magicians, and evil spirits; Sholem Aleichem's sidesplitting monologues; Celia Dropkin's erotic poetry; or Itzik Manger's affectionate and irreverent retelling of the Bible––studying Yiddish literature in Yiddish opens up endless opportunities for both improving your Yiddish skills and immersing yourself in a world of great historical, artistic, and moral significance. Singer's description of Yiddish in his 1978 Nobel speech as a language that "has not yet said its last word [and] contains treasures that have not been revealed to the eyes of the world" still holds true today. To take this course, you need to either have taken Intermediate Yiddish I and II or have acquired an equivalent level of Yiddish elsewhere. If you are unsure whether this course is the right fit for you, please email the instructor. 

Texts: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

Format: TBA

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