J S 304M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

39575 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 304
(also listed as HIS 306N, MES 310, R S 313M)
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This course is a survey of Jewish civilization from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E.  All materials are in English translation. The course is taught primarily from the standpoint of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, in the sense that the course will address both the history of Jews during this long period, and the most influential writings produced during that time.  There will be some focus on the persons and writings that have been most influential for Jewish Civilization over time, including into the modern world.  This course is the first half of a two-semester sequence, and another course taught regularly in Spring semester addresses Jewish Civilization from 1492 to the present. 

The course will be organized according to an overarching thematic image of “Crisis and Response.”  Jewish Civilization over the time period we study, from origins in the later part of the second millennium B.C.E., to the end of the 15th century C.E., encountered key crises including a memory of enslavement in its sacred sources, the need for sovereignty, the loss of sovereignty and a state of exile, and then continued existence only within larger empires for over two millennia.  Responses to these crises were varied. 

In early legends, centuries of slavery were followed by liberation as The Exodus and the establishment of covenantal law (addressed in Unit 1). 

Later, the need for sovereignty brought the establishment of monarchy and centralized worship at a temple by the kings David and Solomon, and then a continuous period of sovereignty for over four centuries.  This sovereignty ended in 587 B.C.E. and initiated the need for continued existence in exile as well as in Persian and Hellenistic polities (addressed in Unit 2). 

The first century C.E. brought a new crisis with the end of Temple worship due to Roman conquest, and then the most enduring and productive response for Jewish Civilization was the legal and other innovations of Classical Rabbinic Judaism (addressed in Unit 3).  

In the Middle Ages, the rise of Christian and Muslim empires brought new contexts for Jewish communities, but also new degrees of persecution, and these crises were intimately connected with responses in intellectual and religious life, including the development of philosophy and the mysticism of Kabbalah (addressed in Unit 4).  



  • Three short papers, 2 pages each; each 15% of the course grade (45% total)
  • Midterm exam, closed-book, in-class (20%)
  • Final Exam, closed book, in-class (20%)
  • Class Participation (15%)


Required Books: (available at the University Co-Op Bookstore):

  • Alexander, ed., Textual Sources for the Study of Judaism
  • Jewish Publication Society (JTS), TaNaKh: The Holy Scriptures
  • Robert Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought

J S 311 • Intro To The Old Testament

39582 • Wells, Bruce
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CBA 4.326
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J S 311 • Israeli Pol/Socty: Past/Pres

39577 • Grossman, Jonathan
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CBA 4.332
(also listed as GOV 314)
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J S 311 • Jewish Studies: An Intro

39580 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM MEZ 2.124
(also listed as ANT 310L, MES 310, R S 313)
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Course Description:

This course introduces students to major themes in Jewish Studies and to the UT faculty who work in the field. It has three thematic units: “Exile and Diaspora,” “Jewish Identity,” and “Jewish Ethics.” On Mondays and Wednesdays faculty offer lectures related to one of the themes. Fridays are dedicated to discussion.

Grade Distribution:

  • 25% Attendance and Participation
  • 15% Discussion leadership and memo
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 1: Exile and Diaspora
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 2: Jewish Identity
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 3: Jewish Ethics

Course Readings:

Selections from Jewish Studies: A Theoretical. Introduction (Key Words in Jewish Studies), by Andrew Busch (Rutgers University Press, 2013).

Selections from The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford Handbooks), Edited by Martin Goodman, Jeremy Cohen, David Sorkin (2005).

Selections from The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality (Oxford Handbooks), Edited by Elliot N Dorff and Jonathan N. Crane (Reprint edition 2016)

Other readings and films as supplied by guest lecturers

J S 363 • Debating Genesis

39592 • Wells, Bruce
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.302
(also listed as R S 353)
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J S 363 • Imagining Genocide

39595 • Abzug, Robert
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM RLP 0.124
(also listed as LAH 350)
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Imagining Genocide in Post-1945 American Culture

            The Holocaust, a single word used to describe one of the most horrific and complicated set of events in history, has by now become a byword for ultimate evil and a lens through which we view genocidal acts that have occurred all too frequently since the end of World War II in 1945. So shocking were accounts of Nazi actions that led to the murder of more than five million European Jews and close to one million Roma and Sinti, as well as newsreels and photographs taken at the liberations of various concentration camps, that only after a decade or more did historians and popular writers and filmmakers attempt to make sense of all that had happened.

            Our course will track the development of Holocaust memory and interpretation in a unique manner, tracking two major themes from 1945 on directly related to American culture. First, in a more traditional manner, we will see the ways in which an American vision of the Holocaust emerged and the ways the ways in which it has been depicted in novels, the arts, feature film, documentaries, and television. In doing so, we will see the ways in which those representations challenged and reflected American cultural values.

            As important, we will see the ways in which study of the Holocaust has shaped and been shaped by events in American history, e.g. the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the liberalization of book and film censorship, and questions of American policy during World War II. At the same time, more recently, we will track the ways knowledge of Holocaust history has raised questions about the relationship of pre-Holocaust events in America can be related to the development of Nazi racial doctrine, e.g. how the wars of decimation against Native Americans, the rise of Eugenics, and most of all the treatment of African-Americans, were seen as precedents and examples used in Nazi thinking.   

Reading and Viewing Assignments:

Required Books:

Robert Abzug, Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration         Camps.

Robert Abzug, America Views the Holocaust: 1933-1945 (supplied for free as a pdf).

Philip Roth, The Ghostwriter 

Other Required Readings: Various articles and creative works posted on Canvas or presented in class, including complete films or excerpts from films, dance, painting, and other visual arts. 

Evaluation of Student Work:

Faithful attendance and participation in class discussions

Weekly short papers about the reading or viewings

Term paper on topic of choice (12-15 pages)

J S 363 • Jewish Folklore

39600 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GDC 5.304
(also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, R S 357)
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Dybbuks, golems, evil eye are just some of the more well-known aspects of Jewish folklore, but this course will also examine the folklife of the Jews, their world view, their folk beliefs and fears. Call it folk religion if you will; many of these practices were dismissed by the "offical" Jewish religion as unJewish, but the "folk" persisted and eventually the practice became Judaized and accepted. The influence of the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, also led to the introduction of many customs.

Using literary sources, ethnographic memoirs, historical documents, films (among them "The Dybbuk" 1939), folkore collections and field trips (among them - to the oldest Austin Jewish cemetery), we will focus on what makes Jewish folklore Jewish. For example, the high literacy rate among Jews over the centuries and the people's close connection to the written word led to the development of specifically Jewish interpretations of internationally disseminated beliefs. Folklore genres -folktale, legend, folksong, folkmusic, custom, belief and, of course, Jewish humor will be included.


Grading Policy

  • Attendance, homework and class participation: 30%
  • Four short papers 30%
  • Midterm and final paper: 40%


Reading List

  • Joshua Trachternberg   Jewish Magic and Superstition
  • Joachim Neugroschel   Great Tales of Jewish Fantasy and the Occult
  • Moses Gaster    Maaseh Book
  • I. B. Singer    The Satan in Goray
  • Elizabeth Herzog/Mark Zborowski   Life is With People

J S 364 • Intro To The Holocaust

39610 • Lichtenstein, Tatjana
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM JGB 2.216
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G, REE 335)
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Please note: “Introduction to the Holocaust” is an upper-division history course with a substantial reading and writing component.

This course on the Holocaust examines the mass killing of Jews and other victims in the context of Nazi Germany’s quest for race and space during World War II.  Using sources that illuminate victim experiences, perpetrator perspectives, and bystander responses, we investigate the Nazi racial state, the experiments in mass killing, the establishment of a systematic genocidal program, collaboration and complicity, resistance and rescue, as well as the memory of the Holocaust in western culture.

Doris Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (2nd edition)

Marion Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

Lianna Millu, Smoke over Birkenau

Gitta Sereny, Into that Darkness: An Examination of Conscience

Attendance and Participation: 20%

Tests incl. final exam: 35%

Essays: 45%

J S 364 • Ut Jews In Civil Rights Era

39607 • Seriff, Suzanne
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM SAC 4.120
(also listed as AMS 321, ANT 325L)
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Course Description:

Segregation protests, sit-ins, free love, flower power—Revolution was in the air on 1960’s college campuses—UT included. Where were the Jews? In/out? Right/Left? Greek/geek? Activist/Pacifist? Gay/Straight? White/Other? Students will learn the art of oral history and digital storytelling to uncover the untold tales of UT’s Jewish students in the Age of Aquarius.


Course Assessment:

Weekly reading, online posting, class discussion, and attendance (25%)

Archival research and analysis (20%)

Oral Historical audio/video interview, transcription, production, and analysis (20%)

Final Project/Presentation (35%)


Oral History Resources:

Donald A Ritchie, Doing Oral History: Practical Advice and Reasonable Explanations for Anyone. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Barbara Sommer and Mary Quinlan. The Oral History Manual. 2nd edition (2009)

Alessandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History, Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1991) pp. 1-26 (“The Death of Luigi Trastulli,”).

Martha Norkunas “Teaching to Listen: Listening Exercises and Self-Reflexive Journals,” Oral History Review v. 38, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2011): 73-108.


Content Resources:

Michael E. Staub, ed. The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life. 2004

Richard Flacks, “The Liberated Generation: An Exploration of the Roots of Student Protest,” Journal of Social Issues 23 (July 1967): 52-75.

Martin Kulhman, “Direct Action at the University of Texas During the Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1965,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 98 (1995): 551-566.

Beverly Burr. History of Student Activism at the University of Texas at Austin (1960-1988). Unpublished Thesis

Goldstone, Dwonna, N. Integrating the 40 Acres: The Fifty Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006).

J S 365 • Spatializing Culture

39615 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM MEZ 2.122
(also listed as LAH 350)
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This course focuses on Jewish communities throughout the globe and over time, including, but not limited to: Jewish life in Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Europe. The conceptual frame for understanding the multiple migrations and settlement of Jewish populations is the “Spatial Turn” emerged in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century which has transformed the understanding of the way space, place and landscape is produced, perceived, and experienced. In order to illuminate each of these conceptually, in the first unit of the course, we will consider global Jewish culture is spatialized. In the process of learning about spatializing culture, students will also see how it may be applied to Jewish spatial experiences at diverse geographic scales. These are included, but not limited to: spatial components of assimilation, exclusion, and antisemitism resulting in ghettoization, expulsion, migration, exile, “wandering,” and genocide; Enduring ideas of Israel as Holy Land, homeland, and realized in the construction of nationhood, territory and return, and the State of Israel; Global support and global critiques of Zionism, and the spatial components of settlement, dispute and occupation the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first 8 weeks, or 50% of the course is dedicated to the spatialization of Global, Jewish culture.

Readings will be drawn from a combination of The People Space and Place Reader, edited by Jen Jack Gieseking and William Mangold, with Cindi Katz, Setha Low, and Susan Saegert (Routledge, 2014), and A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People by Eli Barnavi (Schocken 2003). In-class activities will involve small teams of students considering in greater depth historical and contemporary role of various non-US Jewish communities around the globe, their social and spatial relationships to one another, and how they have shaped (or are not recognized as shaping), Jewish culture as a whole. Each team's research and reflection will culminate in short in-class presentations.

During weekly, in-class, free-writing and sharing assignments over the course of the first two units, students will be given writing prompts that involve considering their own cultural beliefs, practices, and experiences in relation to those of non-U.S. Jewish communities. Prompts might include questions such as: “Local place-making practices are evident in Jewish homes, houses of worship, community centers, neighborhoods, and cultural enclaves. What local place-making practices represent the values of your community?”; “What are the spatial components of assimilation, exclusion? How have you witnessed them in your own life? Describe them, and how they are similar or different to than those in the reading?” “The importance of Jewish community spatial cohesion in preserving identity was argued throughout the text. Are you part of a religious, cultural or political community that requires spatial cohesion? What activities or events enable this cohesion to take place? What threatens the cohesion?”