Please note that room locations and courses are subject to change. Please see the Class Schedules for updates.
JDS103: Introduction to Judaism
How do we build communities? How do we negotiate difference? How do we respond to change? This course draws on a rich collection of Jewish sources to help us think through three questions central to our experience as humans. By surveying a broad range of sources from the Bible to contemporary films and by considering the experiences of Jews from Baghdad to Berlin, students will become familiar with fundamental aspects of Jewish religion, history, and culture. Through this introduction to Judaism, students will gain resources with which to think through how they personally build communities, negotiate difference, and respond to change.
JDS199: UB Seminar
Human and Animal
The course will examine various depictions of human-animal relationship in Western literature and culture, from classical times to modern times. By looking at these texts, we will chart the emergence of a figure that occupies a borderline state between human and animal, and explore its implications for our understanding of Jewish and Christian relationships as well as human and animal nature. Readings include: Ovid, Marie de France, Hobbes, Shakespeare, Heine, Baudelaire, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Kafka, and more.
JDS199: UB Seminar
Origin of Good and Evil
Determining the origin of our moral beliefs and values is one of the central debates that has animated Western philosophers and theologians across time. One culture may consider a certain action morally correct and another culture may consider the same action morally incorrect. Why is that? How do we know what is good and evil, right and wrong? Is there one standard that unites different value systems or are all systems equally correct and variable? This course will not directly tackle the specific beliefs themselves (whether it be the ethics of war and peace, euthanasia, suicide, abortion or any such issue), but will seek to examine the different reasons that groups may arrive at diverse answers. We will read selections of classical works such as Platos Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Hebrew Bible, Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, Martin Buber’s I and Thou, and view a movie: Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.
JDS 199: UB Seminar
"A law that is not just is not law" said recently a protester against racial discrimination. This argument exemplifies a problem we will address in this course through reading, discussing, theatrically staging, and critically applying the work of the best writers and thinkers, both ancient and contemporary, who addressed the problem of justice in relationship to equality, law, and freedom. In that way, we will conduct a comparative study of the relationship between justice, law, and society in pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Thought.
JDS 199: UB Seminar
Violence & Religion
From the Crusades to current warring in the Middle East, tremendous violence has been committed in the name of religion. But what is the relationship if any between religious beliefs and practices and violent acts carried out in the name of religion? Has religion contributed to greater peace or to greater violence in society? To answer these questions, we will examine religious sources, films, political texts, and historical documents from a variety of religious traditions and geographical contexts. Through our exploration of the interrelationships between violence, religion, and peace, students interested in international politics, history, religion, and gender and sexuality will gain critical insight into dynamics which continue to shape twenty-first century societies and cultures.
JDS 199: UB Seminar
Modern Revolutions: Industrial, Political, Social
Hardly any other events in human history have contributed more greatly to the transformation of humanity and its self-understanding after the rise of modern science, than the industrial revolution (steam engine, railroad, factory line), the spread of democracy (American and French revolutions) and the spectre [BS1] of socialism (Russian revolution). They opened prospects such as the universal spread of democracy, the liberal transformation of religion, the growth of a worldwide metropolitan culture, and the prospect of general prosperity. Seeking to better understand these ends by examining their beginnings, we will explore the old and the new in the prose and poetry of such thinkers and artists as Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Dostoyevsky, Darwin, Bergson and Nietzsche, among others.
JDS 208: The Holocaust: History, Culture, and Memory
How did the Holocaust happen? How was the ¿Final Solution¿ developed and executed? How have victims, perpetrators, and bystanders written and re-written the accounts of what happened? And how do we remember this today? This course places the Holocaust in the broad context of Western history, thought, and culture by focusing on a variety of sources that include survivor testimonies, novels, and political theory. We will study classic texts such as Elie Wiesel’s Night, Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. We will also view selected films, among them Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, and Alain Resnais Night and Fog.
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis
The Honors Program in Jewish Studies offers students the opportunity to develop a substantial thesis based on primary source research. Students enjoy the reward of finishing a prolonged, independent project mentored by a faculty member. It can be on any subject area within the academic study of Judaism, as long as one of the faculty members agrees to supervise the student’s project. Upon admission to the program, junior or senior honors students are responsible for arranging with a faculty mentor to guide their thesis research and writing, normally completed in the senior year. Honors students may, at the discretion of their mentors and upon approval of the directors of undergraduate and graduate studies, participate in a relevant graduate seminar or seminars.
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis Richard Cohen Class #19377
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis Sergey Dolgopolski Class #19373
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis Alex Green Class #20768
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis Noam Pines Class #19379
JDS 497: Special Honors Thesis Alexandra Zirkle Class #19378
JDS 526: Special Topics
Post-Truth & Biblical Law
Location: Clemens 708
This seminar will explore the most recent and older concepts and practices of “Post-truth” and “Alternative Facts.” The main path of inquiry will move through Modern Subjectivity to the Biblical Law today.
The guiding question of the course will be the role of the Biblical, Jewish, Christian and Muslim conceptions of truth and new truth in connection with the current reemergence of post-truth. To address this question, the course will situate the current horizon of “post-Truth“ and “alternative facts“ by a double-move (1) upstream of the unfolding history of the paradigms or horizons of thinking and practicing truth and (2) downstream to the horizon that the newest version of post-Truth is threatening to unveil. The work in the seminar will proceed from post-Cartesian horizon of truth as “certainty“ back to the medieval Arabic and Western Christian horizon of truth as “correspondence“ between intellect (divine and human) on the one hand and “things“ (res) on the other; to late medieval Rabbinic horizon of truth as “refutation;“ to the medieval Eastern Orthodox-Christian horizon of truth as divine presence and existence (hupostasys and huparxis), to the late-ancient Rabbinic and Christian horizons of the truth of a testament/testimony/witness in New Testament, in the Mishnah, and in the Palestinian Talmud; to Philo of Alexandria‘s invention of huparxis as the truth of the engagement of the Biblical G-d in the world; to the Aristotelian notion of truth before logos, to the archaic Greek and archaic Biblical horizons of truth as a position of resistance to the powers of oblivion, of the impossible, of the lie, and of the unsayable. This moving back from Descartes will allow to see what the currently unfolding sense of post-truth both opens up as a possibility and precludes moving forward.
In addition to readings in the relevant primary texts in translation, the theoretical component of the course will include a selection of Heidegger’s Being and Time, his lectures, courses and notes between 1933 and 1942, as well as Alain De Libera‘s theoretical and methodological works in what he calls “archeology of modern subjecti(vi)ty.“
JDS 426/526: Special Topics
Nietzsche did not wish to be understood. “I am no man,” he wrote of himself, “I am dynamite.” Not one of a kind, but one without kind, a “solar solitude,” the “loneliest of all men.” To be sure, there is a better-known Nietzsche, whom we will examine, the critic, polemicist and iconoclast. The Nietzsche who shatters the fundamental pillars of the West, the tripod or trinity of Christianity, science and morality, which he exposes for the sickness, weakness, slavishness, herd mentality, in a word, the nihilism they would mask. These foes counterattacked, to be sure, dismissing Nietzsche as mad or mendaciously falsifying him as Christian, Moralist or Scientist. We shall waste no time on such supercilious nonsense. But we shall study and explicate his incendiary “doctrines,” Will to Power, Eternal Return, Genealogy, Nihilism, Übermensch, Revaluation, without mistaking them for Nietzsche. In this course, covering all of Nietzsche, we will pursue two traces without hope of catching him, or catching our own breath: Nihilism, devastated battlefield he left behind; Greatness, the future beyond all understanding.
HEB 101: Elementary Modern Hebrew 1
The beginning course of Modern Israeli Hebrew. Essentials of grammar, syntax and conversational practice; elementary reading and writing. Note: Students with other previous experience in Hebrew must take a placement exam.
HEB 201: Intermediate Hebrew 1
Further development of language skills: listening comprehension, oral efficiency, intermediate grammar and syntax, reading and writing. Note: Students with other previous experience in Hebrew must take a placement exam.