Exam: No Exam
Today in America what does it mean to be Jewish? Does it require a religious or spiritual commitment? Or some notion of cultural solidarity? In contemporary America is one’s religious or ethnic identity simply a matter of individual choice? Today Jews are broadly accepted to an unprecedented degree in all facets of American life. Intermarriage is commonplace. All of this contrasts with the situation even in the recent past.
Through a set of readings we will explore: (1) To what extent is being Jewish in America different from being Jewish in Israel or in Europe? (2) Within America, how has the treatment and circumstances of Jews changed over time? In what ways, because of the First Amendment, has the experience of Jews in America always been different than in Europe and other parts of the world? (3) To what extent does the existence of Israel and its policies have an impact on the Jewish identity of Americans? (4) What are the choices faced by young people today in terms of religious identity? (5) What are the challenges facing the American Jewish community?
Any interested student, irrespective of his or her own religious commitments or ethnic background – is welcome.
In addition to attendance, class participation is a requirement and during the course of the semester each student will be given special responsibility for helping lead the discussion on one topic. The course will require three brief response papers (about two pages each), on the assigned readings and a 10-15 page term paper on a topic approved by the instructor.
Lecturer Gilead Sher will participate during the first five seminar sessions.