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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 2016

FYS 143 The Secret Worlds of Fiddler on the Roof

The Broadway musical and then Hollywood film Fiddler on the Roof launched the age of American ethnic revivals in the 1960’s, and is still among the most widely performed and beloved musicals in the world. How did a series of Yiddish stories by Sholem Aleichem featuring a traditional father and his rebellious daughters become an international hit? The course introduces cultural studies by demonstrating how interdisciplinary approaches enlarge a key text. We explore Sholem Aleichem’s original writings through the prism of gender, class, ethnicity, religion, language, radical politics, trauma and collective memory, and then chart their migrations from Eastern Europe to America through translation and performance. An excursion to the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst exposes students to material book culture and the imagining of lost worlds, while a trip to New York City offers sites of immigrant culture. Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 1:10-2:40

JUD 100y Elementary Modern Hebrew

A yearlong 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 are able to comprehend short and adapted literary and journalistic texts, describe themselves and their environment, and express their thoughts and opinions. Learning is amplified by use of online resources (YouTube, Facebook, newspapers) and examples from Hebrew song and television/film. No previous knowledge of modern Hebrew is necessary. Enrollment limited to 18.{F} Credits: 5 per semester, 10 for yearlong course
Joanna Caravita
MWF 9:00-10:20 AM

Advanced Hebrew at UMASS

The Program in Jewish Studies at Smith College partners with the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts to offer Smith students a full complement of courses to bring them to advanced proficiency in modern Hebrew. Normally, students who have completed JUD 100y at Smith College will enter UMass Hebrew 301 in the fall and follow it with Hebrew 302 in the spring. In fall 2016 Hebrew 301 will be taught by Joanna Caravita. Smith students will not have to travel to UMass if they enroll in this course. They will be able to participate in the class through videoconference at Smith. For more information on the Hebrew program, or if you have a question about language placement please contact Joanna Caravita.

JUD 229 Judaism and Environmentalism

Explores the relationship between environmentalism and ecological thinking in Jewish religious, philosophical, mystical, and ethical texts and practices. How has religion, both historically and now, encouraged or impeded ecologically mindful lives? Can an intellectual, spiritual, and activist vocabulary invest environmental awareness with religious meaning and purpose? Includes guest lectures by leading local figures in the Jewish environmental movement. Students interested in other religious or secular traditions are welcome to pursue a comparative final project. No prerequisites. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 2:40-4:00


GOV 248 Arab-Israeli Dispute

An analysis of the causes of the dispute and of efforts to resolve it; an examination of Great Power involvement. An historical survey of the influence of Great Power rivalry on relationships between Israel and the Arab States and between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Consideration of the several Arab-Israeli wars and the tensions, terrorism, and violence unleashed by the dispute. No prerequisites. Credits: 4
Bozena Welborne
MW 9-10:20

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 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 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 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) {H}{L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 1:10-2:40

REL 223 The Modern Jewish Experience

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 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 explore tensions between assimilation and cohesion, tradition and renewal, and history and memory. {H} Credits: 4
Zachary Schulman
TTH 9-10:20




Interterm January 2017

JUD 210j Jewish Studies in the Field

Enables students to focus on the intersection of Jewish Studies and a topic of regional, national, or global concern through intensive field study. The topic for January 2017 is Environmental Challenges in Israel. Explores pressing environmental problems in Israel such as the future of the Dead Sea, waste disposal, access to potable water, sustainable desert living, and wildlife conservation. How do ongoing disputes over borders and the built landscape, so sated with historical, religious and political meanings, complicate the kinds of cooperative or transboundary environmental projects that can bring peoples together? Enrollment limit of 10. Instructor permission only. (E) Credits: 2
Justin Cammy
Offered Interterm 2017
Course taught January 9-24 in Israel.


Spring 2017


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 2017 is Text and Tradition. 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
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:20

JUD 201 Readings in Modern Hebrew

In this course, we will spend the semester reading an abridged, simplified edition of the novel "Scapegoat" by Iraqi-born Israeli author Eli Amir. On top of advancing and refining your knowledge of Hebrew, we will use the novel as a jumping-off point to discuss broader issues relating to immigration, assimilation vs multiculturalism, racism, family, tradition, and more.
This course will be suitable for students who have taken intermediate or advanced Hebrew at the college level. Students who have studied Hebrew prior to college or who have had significant exposure at home should contact the instructor. All class readings and discussions will be in Hebrew.
Joanna Caravita
Friday 1:10-2:30

JUD 288 History of Israel

Israel, from the pre-state origins of Zionism in the late 19th century to the present. Analysis of ongoing challenges, with special attention to competing identities, the place of religion in civil life, political conflict, and traditions of critical self-reflection. Interpretation of Israeli political and cultural history through discussion of primary sources and documentary film. {H} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
M W 2:40-4:00 PM


CLT 218 Holocaust Literature

Creative responses to the destruction of European Jewry, differentiating between literature written in extremis in ghettos, concentration/extermination camps, or in hiding, and the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust. How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy. Selections from a variety of artistic genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, graphic novel, film, monuments, museums), and critical theories of representation. All readings in translation. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy
MW 1:10-2:40

REL 221 Philosopher and Mystics

The rise of Jewish philosophy and mysticism (Kabbalah) in the Islamic world and in medieval Spain, and the development of these theological and intellectual trends as decisive influences upon all subsequent forms of Judaism. Analysis of Jewish philosophy and mysticism as complementary yet often competing spiritual paths. How did Jewish philosophers and mystics consider the roles of reason, emotion and symbols in religious faith and practice? What interrelations did they see between the natural and divine realms, and between religious, philosophical and scientific explanations? Expressions of philosophy and mysticism in religious texts, individual piety, popular practice and communal politics. Readings drawn from the works of the great philosopher Maimonides, the mystical classic the Zohar and other thinkers, as well as personal documents of religious experience and thought. All readings in English. {H} Credits: 4
Instructor: TBA

REL 310 Seminar in Hebrew Bible

Why do the Innocent Suffer?
Many biblical texts question whether God consistently rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Prominent examples include Job, Ecclesiastes, and certain Psalms, but similar ideas occur in the Torah and the Prophets. While focusing most deeply on Job, this course will introduce students to an array of biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, as well as some post-biblical and even modern literature, to illuminate the Hebrew Bible's discourse surrounding this issue. {H}{L} Credits: 4
Joel Kaminsky
TH 7:00 PM

THE 241 Staging the Jew

Intensive study of selected plays and film from the U.S., Israel and the Jewish diaspora, examining the ways in which Jewish identity is rendered on stage. Particular focus is given to texts by Jewish authors, and their treatment of issues of authenticity and identity. We draw on texts which challenge or interrogate prevailing intragroup definitions, as well as those which offer positive and reinforcing viewpoints. We look at religious and communal life in Yiddish plays from Eastern Europe; plays of the Holocaust, with emphasis on the ways rendering catastrophe has evolved; assimilation and modernization in the U.S. Black-Jewish relationships explored on stage; and selected texts on the Israeli experience, as depicted from within Judaism. {L} Credits: 4
Ellen Kaplan

Five College Courses

Five College Courses

The following is a sampling of additional courses in Jewish Studies offered in the Five Colleges in Spring 2017. If a course on a similar topic is also offered at Smith we have not listed the course below. Consult the online catalog for a full listing of available courses and class times.

Amherst College
COLQ 242 Jews at Amherst College
ENGL 417 Holocaust Literature
REL 266 Why Do the Innocent Suffer

Mount Holyoke College
JWST 246 Mapping American Jewish Generations
JWST 112 Introduction to Judaism
IR 222 US, Israel, and the Arabs

University of Massachusetts
JUD 101 The Jewish People 1
JUD 102 The Jewish People 2
JUD 363 Negotiating Religion and State
JUD 397B Modern Jewish Art
JUD 390J Will Eisner and the Jewish Graphic Novel
HIST 387 The Holocaust

* 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.