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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

History (HIST)

HIST 115 (GH;US) (J ST 115, RL ST 115) The American Jewish Experience (3) Examination of the history, culture, social tensions, and contributions of Jews and Judaism in America.

HIST (J ST/RL ST) 115 American Jewish History and Culture (3)

Throughout American history, Jewish presence on American soil has compelled Americans to re-think the meaning of religious and ethnic diversity. As one of the earliest non-Christian immigrant populations, American Jews struggled to explain how they could nonetheless fit into American cultural, political and social life. At the same time, many Jews have been concerned with their own survival as a distinctive group, unwilling to cede those practices, behaviors or traits that designate them as a people apart from other Americans. This course is about how these two seemingly contradictory goals—to integrate into America and to remain distinctive from other Americans—shaped the history and experience of Jews in the United States and influenced the way Americans think about diversity and pluralism.

The student of American-Jewish history must be attuned to the multiple ways that Jewishness has been defined: as a race, a religion, a nationality, and an ethnicity. In this course, far from choosing just one of these designations, we will explore Jewish life from many different angles. Topics to be considered include religious reform, immigrant experience, political activism, popular culture, and struggles over community authority. Readings focus on a number of primary texts, including memoirs, novels, films and philosophical essays. Secondary books and articles will also help deepen students' understanding of trends in American-Jewish history and awaken them to diverse interpretations of history. Students will be encouraged to engage actively and critically with the texts by writing short reading responses, longer essays, and participating in classroom discussion and presentations, all of which will serve as the basis for their evaluation.

This course complements offerings in Religious Studies, Jewish Studies and History. It provides a foundation for an already existing upper-level seminar in American Judaism (listed in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies). In addition, the course strengthens the History department's offerings in American history, serving as a basis for students interested in immigration, ethnicity and religious history. Students who are interested in modern Jewish history will also find this course a worthwhile addition to their program of study, since, unlike other courses, it deals primarily with the story of Jewish life in the United States.

General Education: GH
Diversity: US
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Fall 2015

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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