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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 2015

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

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 200 Intermediate Modern Hebrew

Continuation of JUD 100y. Emphasizes skills necessary for proficiency in reading, writing and conversational Hebrew. Transitions from simple Hebrew to more colloquial and literary forms of language. Elaborates and presents new grammatical concepts and vocabulary, through texts about Israeli popular culture and everyday life, newspapers, films, music and readings from Hebrew short stories and poetry. Prerequisite: one year of college Hebrew or equivalent or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 18. Offered at Smith in alternate years. {F} Credits: 4
Joanna Caravita
TTH 9:00-10:20 AM

JUD 235 Perspectives on the Arab Israeli Dispute

Explores key issues in the political, social and cultural history of Zionism and the State of Israel, as examined through a specific topic of current interest. Discussions over controversies in historiography may be amplified by exploring a series of turning points in the Conflict and the quest for peace, and the ways in which public memory is consistently reshaped through film, museums, and/or literary texts that challenge existing historical narratives. No prerequisites.
  {H} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 1:10-2:30


CLT 214 Literary Anti-Semitism

How can we tell whether a literary work is anti-Semitically coded? What are the religious, social, cultural factors that shape imaginings of Jewishness? How does the Holocaust affect the way we look at constructions of the Jew today? A selection of seminal theoretical texts; examples mostly from literature but also from opera and cinema. Shakespeare, Marlow, Cervantes, G.E. Lessing, Grimm Brothers, Balzac, Dickens, Wagner, T. Mann, V. Harlan; S. Friedlander; M. Gelber, S. Gilman, G. Langmuir, Y.H. Yerushalmi. {L} Credits: 4
Jocelyne Kolb
T TH 10:30-11:50AM

CLT 231/ENG230 American Jewish Literature

Same as ENG 230 Explores the significant contribution of Jewish writers and critics to the development of American literature, broadly defined. Topics include the American dream and its discontents; ethnic satire and humor; literary multilingualism; crises of the left involving Communism, Black-Jewish relations, and '60s radicalism; after-effects of the Holocaust; and the aesthetic engagement with folklore. Authors include Mary Antin, Henry Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow, Cynthia Ozick. Yiddish, Canadian and Latin-American writers provide transnational perspectives. Must Jewish writing in the Americas remain on the margins, "too Jewish" for  the mainstream yet "too white" to qualify as multicultural? No prerequisites. {L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 2:40-4:00 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 223 Modern Jews: A Global Diaspora

A thematic survey of Jewish history and thought from the 16th century to the present, examining Jews as a minority in modern Europe and in global diaspora. We will analyze changing dynamics of integration and exclusion of Jews in various societies as well as diverse forms of Jewish religion, culture, and identity among Sefardic, Ashkenazic, and Mizrahi Jews. Readings include major philosophic, mystical, and political works in addition to primary sources on the lives of Jewish women and men, families and communities, and messianic and popular movements. Throughout the course, we will explore tensions between assimilation and cohesion; tradition and renewal; and history and memory. {H} Credits: 4
Lois Dubin
TTH 3:00-4:20 PM

REL 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History

An exploration of Jewish women's changing social roles, religious stances, and cultural expressions in a variety of historical settings from ancient to modern times.  How did Jewish women negotiate religious tradition, gender, and cultural norms to fashion lives for themselves as individuals and as family and community members in diverse societies?  Readings from a wide range of historical, religious, theoretical, and literary works in order to address examples drawn from Biblical and rabbinic Judaism, medieval Islamic and Christian lands, modern Europe, America, and the Middle East. {H} Credits: 4
Lois Dubin
TTH 1:00-2:20 PM




Spring 2016


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 2016 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 260 Yiddish Literature and Culture

Why did Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jews and millions of immigrants to America, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? Explores the Yiddish novel as a forum for political engagement and creative expression in the differing contexts of tsarist and revolutionary Russia, interwar Poland, Weimar Berlin, and immigrant America. How have post-Holocaust writers memorialized not only a lost civilization but also a murdered language? All texts in translation. Enrollment limited to 18. No prerequisites {L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
TTH 9:00-10:20 AM


JUD 287 The Holocaust

The history of the Final Solution, from the role of European anti-Semitism and the origins of Nazi ideology to the implementation of a systematic program to annihilate European Jewry. How did Hitler establish a genocidal regime? How did Jews physically, culturally and theologically respond to this persecution? {H} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy and Ernest Benz
TTH 1:00-2:50 PM

JUD 288 History of Israel

Israel from the pre-state origins of Zionism in the late 19th century to the present.  Historical perspectives on ongoing challenges, such as the place of religion in civil life and Israel's relation to world Jewry.  The tension--real or imaginary--in the state's definition as both Jewish and democratic.  Special attention to contested identities, highlighting differing visions of a Jewish homeland, traditions of dissent and critical self-reflection.  Sources include documents, fiction and films.  Credits: 4
Adi Gordon
MW 2:40-4:00 PM

HST 243 Reconstructing Historical Communities

How much can historians learn about the daily lives of the mass of the population in the past? Can a people’s history recapture the thoughts and deeds of subjects as well as rulers? Critical examination of attempts at total history from below for selected English and French locales. The class re-creates families, congregations, guilds and factions in a German town amid the religious controversy and political revolution of the 1840s.  {H}{S} Credits: 4
Ernest Benz
MW 7:30-9:00

REL 211 What is the Good Life: Wisdom from the Bible

Critical reading and discussion of Wisdom texts in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha (Job, selected Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.) as well as some of the shorter narrative and poetic texts in the Writings such as Ruth, Esther and Song of Songs. {L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:30 PM

REL 214 Women in the Hebrew Bible

This course focuses on the lives of women in ancient Israelite society through close readings of the Hebrew Bible. We will look at detailed portraits of female characters as well as the role of many unnamed women in the text to consider the range and logic of biblical attitudes toward women, including reverence, disgust, and sympathy. We will also consider female deities in the ancient Near East, women in biblical law, sex in prophetic and Wisdom literature, and the female body as a source of metaphor. (E) {L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 11:00-12:10PM

REL 320 Seminar: Jewish Culture and Religion

Topic: Judaism, Feminism, and Religious Politics in the U.S.
A critical examination of the impact of contemporary feminism upon Jews across the spectrum – traditional, modern, and radical. We will explore new approaches to the Jewish tradition evident in the study of Jewish women’s history and experience; the critique and reinterpretation of classical texts; changing conceptions of God, Torah, community, ritual, and sexuality; and new roles for women as religious leaders, scholars, and activists. We will discuss theoretical, interpretive, and polemical works, as well as novels, poetry, newspapers, and films, focusing on the tensions between continuity and innovation and between inclusion and transformation. Prerequisite: a course in Religion, Jewish Studies, Women’s Studies, or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 12. {H}{S} Credits: 4
Lois Dubin
T 1:00-2:50 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.