This course explores the history of Jews in the southern United States from colonial times until the present. Students will learn about Jews’ economic, social, and cultural activities, using them as a case study to explore intersections between race and religion in the region. We will explore some of the key events of southern Jewish history, with a focus on how Jews have confounded, complicated, and conformed to the region’s “peculiar” norms and categories. Students will also acquire tools of critical reading and thinking, culminating in a research project.
Becoming American, College of Charleston Honors College, Fall 2016 (co-taught with with Matthew Cressler)
What is America? What does it mean to be “American”? How does one “become” American? These questions rest at the heart of some of the most popular and provocative debates in the history of the United States, questions ultimately about what binds a nation together and what defines the boundaries of citizenship. In Becoming American, faculty and students will engage these questions from the vantage point of three particular communities. African Americans, Catholics, and Jews have each been characterized as outsiders at various points in American history. And yet, at other moments, each have been heralded as the epitome of the American Dream. This course will situate this seeming paradox in historical and cultural context. Faculty and students will explore these questions through close engagement of a variety of primary sources, ranging from memoirs to court cases. Students will become familiar with significant scholarly work in the fields of African American Studies, American Studies, History, Jewish Studies, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Sociology. Moreover, this course asks students to think through the consequences of these questions for our contemporary moment. Becoming American will be taught in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaigns and our opening questions – which revolve around issues of race, religion, immigration, citizenship, and national belonging – will undoubtedly be debated on the national stage. In collaboration with faculty, students will present and facilitate discussion on how a contemporary source relates to the themes of the course.
Everything happens somewhere. This freshman seminar will analyze those “somewheres” within American religious history, from churches to prisons, mosques to museums. We will read theoretical and historical texts, using particular controversies in order to understand how diverse religious spaces have been shaped by political conflict and how space has been significant to discussions of religion in American public life. Using Judaism as a case study, we will explore: Where does religion happen? What is (and is not) a religious space? How have religious practice and identity in the United States been shaped by their settings? How do spaces reflect religious and moral ideas and distinctions? Students will develop skills of critical analysis, learning to apply the theoretical frameworks of the course to a variety of contemporary examples.
This course will explore diverse expressions of Jewish life and thought in the modern period, from roughly 1700 to the present. We will encounter a wide range of Jews, from the humble and ordinary to the very powerful and influential in order to understand who the Jews are and how they have contributed to and been transformed by the forces of modernity, including the nation-state, global capitalism, war, and migration. We will explore how Jews came to understand themselves politically and religiously in a range of times and places. You will first and foremost learn some of the key themes and events of modern Jewish history. You will also acquire tools of critical thinking, reading, and writing by engaging with diverse sources and participating in active discussion.
This course will introduce students to the history and diversity of Jewish texts, beliefs, and practices. In Part I of the course, we will move chronologically, using primary sources to explore how God and community were understood in various geographical and historical contexts. Part II will proceed thematically, exploring case studies in some central components of Jewish life. Each session will feature primary sources from multiple periods in order to explore the dynamics of continuity and change. Students will learn tools of the academic study of religion, including historical thinking, critical analysis of a range of primary sources, comparison, and the interrogation of categories.