Introduction to Judaism

**JANUARY 2018 COURSE DESCRIPTION** The course provides a general introduction to Judaism in its many ancient and modern expressions. Students are introduced both to the historical narrative of the Jewish people and the beliefs and practices of the Jewish religion. We begin our story of Jewish history by examining the emergence of Judaism from the world of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and ancient Israel and then explore encounters between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the medieval world. We then turn to the impact of modernity and the Enlightenment on Judaism and the dramatic transformations that have shaped Judaism in the modern period. We address the questions of “what do Jews believe?” and “what do Jews do?” through close analysis of different forms of Judaism across time and space. We seek to address the issue of what unites these diverse forms of Judaism and marks them all as Jewish. The central ideas and motifs of Judaism to be addressed include: the Bible in Judaism, rabbinic literature, theology, Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) and philosophy, Jewish law, Jewish nationalism, anti-Semitism, messianism, Jewish culture and identity, the synagogue, ritual and worship, life cycle, festivals and calendar. We will take advantage of the many resources in New York City for understanding Jewish history and culture. This will include visits to the Jewish Museum, The Center for Jewish History, the Eldridge Street Synagogue and Lower East Side, and the second cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Community (in use 1805-29). These visits compliment our in-class topics of study. There are no prerequisites for this course. It is intended to provide students with a general introduction to Judaism and stimulate interest in exploring further aspects of Jewish history and civilization and Religious Studies.

This class is intended as a basic introduction to Judaism—its history, beliefs, traditions, and ritual practices—as a living religion from its roots in the biblical, intertestamental, rabbinic, and medieval periods until their appearance in the modern world. The course is open to students of all backgrounds and all levels of familiarity (or unfamiliarity) with Judaism. Diverse data from various epochs in Jewish religious history will be drawn together in such a way that the student will be able to assess Jewish beliefs, institutions, and practices throughout the centuries. The aim here will not only be to indicate the seminal role that the Bible and rabbinic writings play in Judaism, but also to explore how these texts have been interpreted and applied over the centuries. Furthermore, continuity and discontinuity will be highlighted so that the student will gain an appreciation of how the Jewish religious tradition has evolved and grown in history.






January 2019

Alexander Paul Jassen
MWR: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM 45W4 B06
Ilana Ben-Ezra
MWR: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM 45W4 B06