Who are the Jews? While this may seem like a straightforward question, in this course you will find out that Jewish identity can be a bit complicated. To clarify the issue, we will have a look at the history, religion, and culture of the Jewish people, with a special emphasis on the role played by each of these elements in defining “the Jews.” The major literatures of the Jews that have shaped their sense of peoplehood are discussed throughout. No prior knowledge of Hebrew or Jewish culture is required.
This course fulfills General Education requirements in Content Areas I (Arts and Humanities) and IV (Diversity and Multiculturalism). One of its main goals is to enable students to develop a keen understanding of who the Jews are and an appreciation of the diverse cultures and traditions that comprise Jewish civilization. The emergence of Judaic ideas and their influence on Christianity and western civilization will be especially emphasized. The so-called “Judeo-Christian” tradition is broken down so that students understand the values and ideas that both Judaism and Christianity share as well as their distinctiveness. Students get a taste of how the earliest, ancient rabbis thought and how they succeeded in transforming a biblical religion into Judaism as we know it. Along the way, you will be challenged to think “talmudicly/midrashicly,” a critical form of analysis that may very well enable you to appreciate literary traditions belonging to other peoples and cultures in an entirely different light.