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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Martin S. Jaffee
HIST 250
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Jewish Cultural History

Introductory orientation to the settings in which Jews have marked out for themselves distinctive identities as a people, a culture, and as a religious community. Examines Jewish cultural history as a production of Jewish identity that is always produced in conversation with others in the non-Jewish world. Offered: jointly with JSIS C 250.

Class description

Students will leave the course with a cogent picture of the broad sweep of the cultural history of the Jews from roughly the mid-first milennium BCE till the 20th century. Key creative epochs of this history will be explored in depth: e.g., the emergence of rabbinic culture, the interaction of rabbinic culture with Christian and Islamic cultures, the development of the Sephardic diaspora, the modernization of Jewish cultures in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Ottoman Empire, the creation of distinctive Jewish cultures in North America and the State of Israel.

Student learning goals

correlate the periodization of Jewish cultural history with that of world history from ancient till modern times.

understand the difinitive role of diasporic conditions in shaping the cultural history of the Jews

use anthropological theory to explore various elements of the self-other distinction within the various efforts of Jews to distinguish their culture from those of surrounding peoples.

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion. In one unit, lectures will be supplemented with recorded music.

Recommended preparation

RELIG 210 would be excellent preparation for this course, but there are no prerequisites. Students are encouraged to keep up with reading assignments.

Class assignments and grading

Reading assignments are, for the most part, in the range of 20-30 pages per class section.

There will be two mid-terms and a final exam. All will be take home exams and will involve manageable, reportorial (NOT research) projects. And each will constitute 1/3 of the final grade. Late papers will not be accepted without forewarning of at least 3 days.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Martin S. Jaffee
Date: 01/19/2009