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Courses

Intensive Text Courses during the 2018-2019 Program

Torah: At the Beginning, Genesis 1-12, Prof. Israel Knohl, 27 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Israel Knohl is Y. Kaufmann Professor of Bible at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He earned his Ph. D. at the Hebrew University and did postdoctoral studies at Princeton. He has taught as visiting professor at Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. His first book, The Sanctuary of Silence won the  Z. Shkop Award for Biblical Studies. His second book The Messiah before Jesus was published in eight languages. His third book The Divine Symphony was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

The course will deal with the different views which are contained in Genesis 1-12 with regard to major issues such as The way of creation: creation ex nihilo or primordial entities. Was evil created by God, and what for?  What is the role of man in the cosmos? Why was Abraham elected?

Midrash and Aggada: Texts on Rabbinic Judaism, Prof. Marc Hirshman, 12 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Professor Marc Hirshman teaches Midrash and Rabbinic Thought in the Melton Centre for Jewish Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His last book The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture: Texts on Education in their Late Antique Context (Oxford) appeared in 2009 and his critical edition of Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1-6 with commentary and introduction in November 2016.

The course serves as an introduction both to Midrashic literature and to Rabbinic Thought. Many of the texts focus on Rabbi Akiva’s approach to Midrash and to religious thought. Comparisons are also drawn to late antique texts.

Jewish Culture in the Medieval period, Dr. Roni Weinstein, 21 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Dr. Roni Weinstein graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Department of Jewish History. He has focused on the history of Jews in Italy during the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early Modern Period. During 2000-2001 he has been Fellow at Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti (Florence). During 2004-2006 he had a research and teaching scholarship at Pisa University, History department. He published three books: Marriage Rituals Italian Style: A Historical Anthropological Perspective on Early Modern Italian Jews, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003; Juvenile Sexuality, Kabbalah, and Catholic Religiosity among Jewish Italian Communities. “Glory of Youth” by Pinhas Baruch b. Pelatya Monselice (Ferrara, XVII Century), Boston and Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2008; Kabbalah and Jewish Modernity (in Hebrew), Tel-Aviv: Tel-Aviv University Press, 2011.

The course will present the main characteristics of and currents of Jewish heritage during the Middle Ages, roughly from tenth to the fifteenth century.

Reading the Bible with Medieval Eyes, Dr. Eran Viezel, 24 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Eran Viezel graduated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at the Bible department. He teaches at the department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Beer Sheba). His main field of research is Jewish exegesis to the Bible. His list of publication contains the books, The Commentary on Chronicles Attributed to Rashi (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2010), To Settle the Plain Meaning of the Verse: Studies in Biblical Exegesis (Jerusalem: The Bialik Institute, 2011; with Sara Japhet), tens of academic articles, and in addition two books of poems and two novels.

We will dedicate the lessons to discuss interesting and essential aspects in the work of some of the most important medieval Jewish exegetes. We will analyze their exegetical motivation and methodology; discuss their attitude and contribution in fundamental questions and their role in the history of biblical exegesis. In addition to basic knowledge in Jewish biblical exegesis, we expect the students to manage with primary sources (translated to English).

Cultures of the Jews, Prof. David Biale, 30 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

David Biale is Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis.  He was educated at UC Berkeley, the Hebrew University and UCLA.  His most recent books are Hasidism: A New History(with seven co-authors), Gershom Scholem: Master of the Kabbalah and Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought.  Earlier books are Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History, Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, Eros and the Jews and Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol Between Jews and Christians. He is also the editor of Cultures of the Jews: A New History and the Norton Anthology of World Religions: Judaism.  His books have been translated into eight languages and have won the National Jewish Book Award three times. Professor Biale has served as chair of the Department of History at UC Davis and as Director of the Davis Humanities Institute.  He also founded and directed the UC Davis Program in Jewish Studies.  In 2011, he won the university’s highest award, the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.  He also founded the Posen Society of Fellows, an international doctoral fellowship for students of modern Jewish history and culture.

This course surveys Jewish history from its origins to modern times. Over the last 3000 years, the Jewish people have developed a wide variety of different cultures, both adapting and resisting the cultures of their neighbors.  At the same time, they also developed a textual tradition of laws, legends, philosophy and mysticism that has united them over their great geographical dispersion.  In this course, we will examine the varieties of Jewish culture and the textual tradition that has held them together.  While the focus will be on cultural history, we will situate Jewish culture in terms of political and social developments. Among the cultures we will consider are the biblical, hellenistic, Judeo-Arabic, Sephardic and Ashkenazic and, in modern times, the Jewish cultures of Western and Eastern Europe, the State of Israel and the United States. We will read essays by some of the leading contemporary scholars of Jewish Studies and we’ll also study original texts from the Bible, Talmud, and medieval and modern Jewish thought.  Every class session will involve study of relevant primary sources and discussion of a different Jewish culture.

Jews and Words: A Secular, Cultural Perspective, Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger, 24 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Fania Oz-Salzberger is Director of Paideia and Professor of History at the Faculty of Law and Center for German and European Studies, University of Haifa. She previously also taught at Monash University and at Princeton University. Fania was raised in Kibbutz Hulda on modern Hebrew culture and the kibbutz movement’s creative understanding of the Jewish legacy. Her Oxford University thesis became her first book, Translating the Enlightenment: Scottish Civic Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Oxford, 1995). Her main field is the history of political ideas in Europe, especially their transfer between cultures and languages. She also researches Jewish ideas in historical perspectives – from early modern political Hebraism (Grotius to Hobbes) to her current work on Jewish textual nationhood. Her most recent book, Jews and Words (Yale, 2012), co-authored with Amos Oz, has been translated into 13 languages. Fania is deeply engaged with public and current affairs, and takes part in an ongoing Israeli-European dialog. Her book Israelis in Berlin first appeared in Hebrew and German in 2001, with a new edition in 2014.

If we respectfully leave divine providence out of Jewish history, how can we explain the unique continuum beginning with ancient Hebrews or Israelites, and proceeding along a textual line all the way to 21st-century Jews? Does “Judaism”, a modern term, refer to a religion, an ethnic group, a culture, or a nation? What is “textual nationhood”? Can one be secular and remain Jewish? Such questions, and many others, will be discussed in this course as we read ancient and modern texts.

Four Medieval Andalusi Poets and Their Wonderful Complications, Dr. Ariel Zinder, 15 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Ariel Zinder lives in Jerusalem and teaches at the Literature department at Tel Aviv University. He received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His primary research interests are Hebrew liturgical poetry (Piyyut), Hebrew poetry from Muslim Spain, and the dialogue between contemporary literary theory and medieval texts. He is also a published poet and translator. Recently he has published (with Lyor Sternberg) a first Hebrew collection of the poetry of Seamus Heaney.

A golden age of poetic and intellectual activity took place within the Jewish community of medieval Andalusia during the 11th and 12th century. One of the gifts this age has left is an immense body of Hebrew poetry, hundreds of poems by dozens of poets, written both for the synagogue and for social circles. Our course will approach this vast sea of poetry through brief encounters with four major poets of this age: Isaac Ibn Mar Shaul, Shmu’el Hanagid, Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Moshe Ibn Ezra. These encounters will serve as an introduction to the history and poetics of this unique era. Special attention will be given to the tensions and contradictions that these poets addressed and sought to resolve in their poems: the tension between the individual and society, between the secular and the sacred, and between exile and homecoming.

Perspectives on the Jewish Calendar, Barbara Spectre, 15 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Barbara Lerner Spectre is the Founding Director of Paideia.  She was formerly on the faculty of the Hartman Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where she taught Jewish Thought. She was among the founders of the Seminary of Judaic Studies in Jerusalem. Her area of research is in models of inference in Christian and Jewish post-Holocaust theology, for which she received a research grant from Yad V’Shem Institute. Barbara’s publications include “A Theology of Doubt” (Hebrew) and, together with Noam Zion of the Hartman Institute, the two-volume “A Different Light: The Hannukah Book of Celebration.” In 2007, she received the prestigious Max M. Fisher Prize for Jewish Education in the Diaspora.

How a people organize its calendar, what it celebrates and mourns, how it understands time, are signposts that can serve as indicators of a cultural perspective. These indicators can then serve as a platform by which to build an understanding of the celebratory and ritualistic aspects of Judaism. This course has a two-fold purpose. It is designed to analyze various holidays within the Jewish calendar cycle and uncover their historic and conceptual underpinnings. The underlying concepts are then available for the understanding of the development of observance and ritual. The course will analyze a series of concepts that stand in a paradoxical relationship one to another, for example: accident/fate; obedience/responsibility; faith/doubt. The ways in which these paradoxes are expressed in the Jewish calendar will be studied, utilizing a wide variety of sources, including the Bible, Midrash, Talmud, Maimonides, Kabbalistic sources, and contemporary literature.  Comparisons will be made with various philosophic and religious traditions.

Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations: From Sour Grapes to Sacrament, Prof. Jesper Svartvik, 12 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Jesper Svartvik holds the Krister Stendahl Chair of Theology of Religions at Lund University. His teaching and research include interreligious studies, especially Jewish-Christian relations, and biblical studies, especially the New Testament in its contemporary Jewish contexts. He has authored ten books: Mark and Mission (2000); a commentary in Swedish on the Gospel of Thomas (2002, 2nd ed. 2004); Skriftens ansikten (“The Visages of Scripture,” 2001, 2nd ed. 2005); Ordet (“The Word,” 2004); Bibeltolkningens bakgator (“The Back Alleys of Biblical Interpretation,” 2006); Textens tilltal (“The Address of the Text,” 2009); a trilogy on three key concepts in Christian theology (creation, reconciliation, and grace) in the light of Jewish-Christian relations: Förundran och förväntan (“Amazement and Expectation,” 2012), Försoning och förvandling (“Reconciliation and Transformation,” 2014; English and Spanish translations 2018), Förunderligt förtroende (“Amazing Trust,” 2016); his most recent book is Konsten att bli vän med nåden (”The Art of Befriending Chesed”; forthcoming in August 2018). He has co-edited several other books, among them Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today (2011; Italian translation 2012); Religious Stereotyping and Interreligious Relations (2013); Enabling Dialogue about the Land (forthcoming in 2018); and Krister [Stendahl] among the Jews and Gentiles (forthcoming in 2018). From 2005 to 2009, Dr. Svartvik served as the President of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism.

It is often said that the twentieth century contained both the worst and the best moments in Jewish-Christian relations. On the one hand, the Shoah besmirches not only the European Continent and Modernity, but also Christendom. On the other hand, the post-war European dialogue between Jews and Christians—characterised by an unsurpassed mutual respect and candour—belongs to the most promising phases ever in European religious history. The course From Sour Grapes to Sacrament (an expression coined by Dr. Peter Pettit at Muhlenberg College) surveys the most important phases of Jewish-Christian encounters in history (Antiquity, Middle Ages, Reformation, Modernity, the Shoah and Postmodernity), seeks to identify stumbling blocks in the past and present, and also presents how a growing number of Jews and Christians define and describe their religions no longer over against each other but as two authentic expressions of faith.

“O People of the Book”: The Relationship between Islam and Judaism as seen through Classical Sources, Prof. Shari Lowin, 15 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Shari Lowin is Professor of Islamic and Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, in Massachusetts (USA). She received her doctorate from the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on comparative aspects of early Islamic and classical rabbinic intellectual thought, particularly regarding Qur’ānic exegesis and midrash aggadah. Her most recent book, Arabic and Hebrew Love Poetry of al-Andalus, follows these narratives as they travelled into the Arabic and Hebrew desire poetry of Muslim Spain. She is the editor of the Review of Qur’ānic Research.

While many are aware that Jews are the “People of the Book,” few are aware that this title was bestowed by Islam. But, was it a compliment, as it is generally taken to be? In this course, we will investigate the relationship between Islam and Judaism, beginning from Islam’s very founding. We will look at the attitude of the Qur’an to Jews and Judaism; the portrayal of Jews in the classical and later Islamic sources; the relationship between Muhammad and the Jews of Medina; the relationship between Muslim and Jewish exegetical materials; and, Islamic legal rulings on Jews and Judaism. We will end with a discussion of the medieval polemics between Muslims and Jews, from both the Muslim and Jewish perspectives.

Jewish Law from the Ancient Near East to the Israeli Supreme Court, Prof. Phillip I. Lieberman, 15 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Law, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Affiliated Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and History, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. A social, economic, and legal historian of Jewish life in the medieval period in the lands of Islam, his 2014 book The Business of Identity: Jews, Muslims, and Economic Life in Medieval Egypt (Stanford University Press) was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His current research examines and challenges the received wisdom regarding Jewish urbanization under early Islamic regimes and subsequent migration of Jews from Iraq to the Islamic Mediterranean.

In this course, we will survey the development of Jewish law from its origins in the Ancient Near East to its flowering in the contemporary period. As we explore the history of Jewish law, we will pay particular attention to the literary genres of Jewish legal writing and the interplay between these genres. By the end of the course, students should have a clear understanding of how rabbis bring positive law and precedent to bear in offering their opinions, as well as the distinctions to be drawn between Jewish law as one might find it in classical legal materials and as it is actually lived on the ground–including within contemporary Jewish reform movements. Finally, we will discuss the effect that renewed Jewish political sovereignty with the founding of the State of Israel has had on Jewish law, and how Israel’s place as a Jewish state has brought it into dialogue with Jewish law. At the end of our course, we will have a short take-home written exam.

Introduction to Talmud, Dr. Yedida Eisenstat, 15 teaching hours, equivalent to 2 ECTS

Dr. Yedida Eisenstat is a visiting assistant professor at Colgate University, where she teaches in the Jewish Studies program and in the Department of Religion. She researches the reception of Rashi’s Torah commentary and the ways in which Rashi adapted earlier rabbinic material for inclusion in his commentary. She was the first graduate of the Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation program at the Graduate School of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

This course inductively introduces students to the study of the Talmud, the canon of rabbinic texts central to Rabbinic Judaism. Through the study of specific texts, students will become familiar both with the details of particular rabbinic debates—such as the biblical source(s) for prayer and the regulations surrounding the lighting of Hannukah lights—as well as more generally with modes of talmudic argumentation and logic. The course will also address questions of history, historical context, and textual development as they arise.

From Messianism to Nationalism: Major Trends in Jewish Culture, 1666-1914, Prof. Israel Bartal, 30 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Israel Bartal is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History, and the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2006-2010). He served as the Chair of the Historical Society of Israel (2007-2015). Since 2016 he is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences. Professor Bartal taught at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, McGill, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, as well as at Moscow State University and the Central European University in Budapest. He is the author of The Jews of Eastern Europe. 1772-1881 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005, 2006. Published also in Hebrew, Russian and German.

From Messianism to Nationalism will draw a broad picture of the emergence of modern Jewish culture.  Beginning with intellectual and religious movements that emerged in the 17th century, it will trace the   lesser -known roots of the cultural renaissance of Jewish creativity that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Mysticism, pietism, radical messianism, Western Enlightenment, Romanticism, critical scholarship, social reform and modern nationalism have simultaneously shaped a multifaceted culture, full of contradictions and loaded with tensions. “West’ and ‘East”, “scientific” and “mystical”, “conservative” and “radical” – all have merged together into a plethora of Jewish modernist movements.  The course breaks with the outmoded dichotomies inherited from the   19th century Wissenschaft des Judentums (the Science of Judaism). It presents a nuanced image of more than two centuries of heterogeneous culture, by bringing into view a Jewish past more varied, more vital, and free from the yoke of ideological contours or political dictates.

Modern Jewish Philosophy, Dr. Yael Lin, 30 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Dr. Yael Lin teaches at both Ben-Gurion University and Achva Academic College, and is the pedagogical consultant for the Department of Learning Technologies at Ben-Gurion University. She is the author of The Intersubjectivity of Time: Levinas and Infinite Responsibility (Duquesne University Press, 2013), Time and Human Existence: Aristotle, Bergson, Heidegger, Levinas (Resling Publishing, forthcoming), and the editor of Levinas Faces Biblical Figures (Lexington Books, 2014).

The notable events of the 20th century, among them the Holocaust, the growth of Zionism as a cultural and political movement, the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the development of philosophical streams such as existentialism have influenced and shaped the thoughts of prominent 20th century Jewish philosophers. We will examine existential themes such as temporality, death and the relation with the other person; consider the affect of the Holocaust on the problem of theodicy; revisit the notion of the banality of evil; explore the relation between Judaism and ethical responsibility; and conclude by examining the relation between ethical responsibility, Judaism and the State of Israel.

The Oedipal Figure in Modern Hebrew Literature: A Historical Introduction, Professor Michael Gluzman, 30 teaching hours, equivalent to 3 ECTS

Michael Gluzman is the head of the Laura Schwartz Kipp Center for Hebrew Literature and Culture at Tel Aviv University. Among his publications are The Politics of Canonicity: Lines of Resistance in Modernist Hebrew Poetry (Stanford 2004), The Zionist Body: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Hebrew Literature (Hebrew, 2007) and The Poetry of the Drowned: The Melancholia of  Sovereignty in Hebrew Poetry of the 1950s and 1960s (Hebrew, forthcoming in 2017). He is the founding co-editor of Ot: A Journal of Hebrew Literature and Theory.

This course will focus on the oedipal metaphor in modern Hebrew literature. The “invention” of the Oedipus complex in Freud’s self-analysis coincides with the emergence of a power oedipal narrative in modern Hebrew culture. We will read a variety of texts which rework the oedipal figure from the late 19th century to the 1960s and beyond. Freudian and post-Freudian formulations of the Oedipus complex will be read alongside literary texts which “theorize” the oedipal question. Why is this figure so central in Hebrew literature and what are its implication vis-à-vis gender and nationalism? How did this figure evolve over the course of the 20th century? Although we shall read a limited number of texts, this perspective will prove useful for future readings of modern Hebrew culture.

Kabbalah Mysticism and early Hasidism, Prof. Rachel Elior, 30 teaching hours

Rachel Elior is John and Golda Cohen Professor Emerita of Jewish  Philosophy and Jewish Mystical Thought at the Hebrew University of  Jerusalem.  She has been the Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she studied and got her PhD Summa Cum Laude (1976) and where she taught between 1977-2014. She is the author of numerous works on Jewish Mysticism and Hasidism, including: The Paradoxical Ascent to God: the Kabbalistic Theosophy of Habad Hasidism (Albany: SUNY 1992); The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism (Oxford: Littman 2004); The Mystical Origins of Hasidism (Oxford: Littman 2006); Jewish Mysticism: The Infinite Expression of Freedom (Oxford: Littman 2007) and Dybbuks and Jewish Women in Social History, Mysticism and Folklore (NewYork: Urim 2008).  Men and Women: On Gender Judaism and Democracy (ed. R. Elior), Van Leer Institute and Urim Publications, Jerusalem 2004; Memory and Oblivion On the Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Van Leer Institute 2009)[Hebrew] ; Israel Ba’al Shem Tov and his Contemporaries (Jerusalem : Carmel 2014) [Hebrew]. She was a research fellow and visiting professor at University College London, The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Oberlin College, and The Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Case Western University, Yeshiva University-New York, Tokyo University, Princeton University and Doshisha University in Kyoto. Chicago University and Lomonosov Moscow State University. Prof. Elior is the recipient of many honors, among them the Fridenberg Excellence Award of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Yigal Alon-Brecha Fellowship, Rothschild-Geneva Award, Lucius Littauer Prize, Memorial Foundation Fellowship and Warburg Prize. She was awarded the 2006 Gershom Scholem Prize for the Study of Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism by The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. She was honored with Doctor honoris causa by Hebrew Union College at Cincinnati and Jerusalem at 2016.. She has written 15 books (seven of them were translated into English, Spanish and Polish) and edited 10 others on Jewish Mysticism in various periods.

The course will explore the development of the medieval mystical thought known as Kabbalah and its connection to exile and redemption.  The students will reflect on the origins of Kabbalah and will discuss the major historical and theological turn points along the second millennium and the groundbreaking innovations that were created by Kabbalists, Sabbateans (teachers of Sabbateanism), Hasidim and Misnagedim.

Year Long Paideia Courses

Parashat Hashavua, Rabbi Eiran Davies, 45 teaching hours

According to the Talmud (Berachot 8a), one should always complete the weekly Torah reading for oneself, twice in Hebrew and once in translation. This custom achieves a real fluency in the language of the Torah, and an intimate acquaintance with its content. Each week we will be following the traditional sequence of readings and examining them from a variety of perspectives. We will be developing tools for responding to the text of the Torah as a consistent literary form with a view to each of us presenting a short talk on one of these responses.

Methodology of Talmud, Rabbi Ute Steyer, 45 teaching hours

This course teaches the student how to undertake the critical study of selected talmudic texts. The course focuses on texts from the Mishna, Tosefta and Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sukkah. The course introduces the student to the tools necessary for the study of these texts and guides the student in the explanation and analysis of selected pericopae with attention to the Talmudic reasoning and methodology in the Babylonian Talmud. Prior knowledge of Aramaic is not necessary, relevant terms and phrases will be explained.

Modern Hebrew, Frida Schatz, 120 teaching hours
Intensive Ulpan studies in Modern Hebrew on three different levels geared towards a deeper understanding of the Hebrew language and its literature.