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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.

Religious Studies (RL ST)

RL ST 405 (IL) (J ST 405) Jews and Food (3) Jewish laws, customs and attitudes with regard to food production, agricultural policy and eating from biblical to modern times.

RL ST (J ST) 405 Jews and Food (3)

This course examines Jewish laws, customs and attitudes with regard to food production, agricultural policy and eating from biblical to modern times. These tenets of the Jewish tradition presently underwrite modern movements concerned with land use and food sustainability, as well as ethical behaviors in food production. The goal of the course is to understand how Jewish tradition can inform and contribute to improvements in the modern food system.
The starting point is the ancient world of the Israelites,. Students will study agrarian interpretations of the Hebrew Bible as well as extra-biblical sources and archaeological data. The biblical attitudes toward food, eating, and agricultural practices are then traced into the post-biblical period and rabbinic periods. The course then jumps ahead to the present day, to shed light on a number of modern Jewish agricultural and food initiatives concerned with issues such as healthy land use, sustainability, and justice in food production and distribution. These movements proceed from various interpretations of Jewish law and custom, and illustrate how some modern Jewish attitudes toward food and eating are responsible for reimagining, and in some cases reinvigorating, biblical ideas and practices.
At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to identify and understand the historical and theological significance of diet and eating practices of ancient Israelites and will understand the development of Jewish food laws and practices in the post-exilic and early rabbinic eras. Students will be able to evaluate the extent to which ancient Jewish thought has influenced modern Jewish attitudes and actions regarding food and social responsibility, and will be able to envision the ways in which Jewish tradition, both ancient and modern, can contribute to current progress and future improvement in our systems of food production, distribution and consumption. While a wide variety of derivative topics will be discussed, this course is particularly appropriate for students pursuing programs of study dealing with the biblical world, the development of early Judaism, Jewish ethics, and/or modern Jewish thought, as well as those studying agriculture and food systems who are interested in how Jewish tradition addresses these universal concerns.
Evaluation will be based on weekly 1-2 page written responses to the assigned readings (45%), a midterm exam (15%), final project (30%), participation (10%). No special facilities are required. Course will be offered each term, enrollment limited to 20 students.

General Education: None
Diversity: IL
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Spring 2016

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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