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Robert Abzug, Director CLA 2.402, 305 E 23rd St B3600, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-475-6178

Course Descriptions

J S 311 • Judaism, Christianity, Islam

39267 • Moin, A. Azfar
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GEA 114
(also listed as HIS 304R, ISL 311, R S 304)
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This course will focus on the three related religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which originated in the "near east" and today have a global reach. These religions are sometimes called “Abrahamic traditions” as they all claim a special relationship with the biblical figure, Abraham. We will explore the historical development, belief systems, practices, sacred texts, and cultural influences of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other. By the end of the course, you can expect to have a basic understanding of the essential characteristics of each tradition and the way they manifest in different cultural contexts in the past and present. This class will also provide an introduction to the field of religious studies by exposing students to some of the interdisciplinary methods used to understand religion as a central component of human culture.  These will include historical methods, the study of ritual, and the analysis of ideas. 










Attendance and participation 20%

Quiz 10%

Essay (5 pages) 20%

Mid-term 20%

Final exam 30%

J S 362 • Indep Rsch In Jewish Studies

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May be repeated for credit. Tutorially directed research in Jewish Studies. Prereq: Upper-division standing and consent of instructor.

J S 363 • Israel/Palestine: Cultrl Persp

39274 • Grumberg, Karen
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm PAR 301
(also listed as C L 323, MEL 321, MES 342)
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This upper-division course approaches the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians through a multifaceted cultural lens. The course begins with a consideration of the two major national identities at stake to better understand how they contribute to the collective imagination and to representations of the conflict. To this end, the semester is divided into five sections, each one devoted to a different cultural phenomenon: 1. Visual Culture (Film, photography, art) 2. Literature (Novels, short stories, poetry, theater) 3. Music 4. Spatial Culture (Architecture and Landscape) 5. New Media (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) The goal is for students to be exposed to the multivalent and complex reverberations of the conflict beyond the political and into the everyday lived experience of being Israeli and Palestinian -- in other words, to humanize the conflict through culture.


Texts will include (among others): - films: Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, Eran Riklis’s Zaytoun, and Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention; - photography exhibits such as Bashir Makhoul’s Enter Ghost, Exit Ghost and Noel Jabbour’s Palestinian Interiors; - art such as Sivan Hurvitz’s graphic illustrations; - writings by Amos Oz (Nomad and Viper), Etgar Keret (Cocked and Locked), David Grossman (excerpts from The Yellow Wind), Mahmoud Darwish (poetry), and Ghassan Kanafani (from In the Land of the Sad Orange); - music by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as well as traditional and popular artists; - essays on the importance of particular landscape features (such as olive and eucalyptus trees, forests, and the sea) as well as features or types of built environment (the kibbutz, the Palestinian village); - blog posts and new media campaigns for awareness and activism (Electronic Intifada, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others).

Grading Policy

Partner or Group Presentations: 15%. Students will present either in small groups on one of the five categories outlined above. The topic will be chosen in consultation with the instructor and will entail research. Presentations will be ongoing throughout the semester. - Analytical Paper: 20%. A critical comparative analysis of two texts (4-5 pages). - Essay Exams: An essay-based midterm exam (20%) and a final exam (25%). - Participation (20%): Vigorous, regular participation in class discussion. - Possible Extra-Credit Assignments: A creative project (a short film, work of art, poem, etc., relevant to the class topic); a response or short reaction paper to a relevant text not on the syllabus; a response or short reaction paper to a relevant lecture.

J S 363 • Jewish Folklore

Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GDC 2.402
(also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, R S 357, REE 325)
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FLAGS:  Wr  |  GC 

Course Description

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 363 • Jewish Identities: Americas

39284 • Abzug, Robert H.
Meets TTH 930am-1100am CLA 2.606
(also listed as LAH 350)
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Jews of the Americas comprise 47% of the world’s Jewish population and, though a small percentage of the countries in which they live, have greatly influenced the shape of high and popular culture in the United States, Canada, and Latin America (including both the Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil). In turn, their varied experiences throughout the Western Hemisphere have challenged traditional Jewish identities in many significant ways. This course will compare and contrast aspects of Jewish presence in the Americas—literature, music, art, dance, photography, filmmaking, and journalism—in order to understand the nature and variety of cultural interactions from the nineteenth century through the present. We also examine the work of Jorge Luis Borges, the celebrated non-Jewish Argentine writer known for his highly imaginative use of Kabbalah and magical Jewish folk beliefs.

The course is being offered in Fall 2015 so that students can attend a major symposium on Jewish Life in the Americas sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, scheduled for November 1-2, 2015, here at UT. All non-English sources are presented in translation and, in the case of films, with subtitles.

Some of the artists, writers, photographers, musicians, and filmmakers referred to in the course include:


            Leonard Cohen—songwriter, singer, poet

            A. M. Klein—poet

            David Cronenberg—film director

            Mordecai Richler—novelist

            Robbie Robertson—lead singer of The Band

            and more           

United States:

            Leonard Bernstein—composer and conductor, classical and Broadway

            Bob Dylan—singer-songwriter, poet

            Steven Spielberg, film director

            Regina Spektor—singer—songwriter

            Helen Frankenthaler—abstract expressionist artist

            Michael Chabon—novelist

            Philip Roth—novelist and short-story writer

            Jon Stewart—satirical broadcast journalist

            George Gershwin—composer of both classical and popular music

            and more 

Spanish America and Brazil: 

           Ilán Stavans, Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories by Jewish-Latin American Writers


           Moacyr Scliar, selected short stories

           Jorge Luis Borges, "Death and the Compass," "The Golem," "Emma Zunz" 

           Cao Hamburger, director (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation)

           Daniel Burman, director (Waiting for the Messiah; The Lost Embrace)

           José Judkovski, tango DJ and historian of Jews in Argentine tango. 

Grading Criteria: 

Required ungraded weekly journal entries on readings and class discussions. (all journal entries required on time with penalty for late entries)

Term paper and in-class presentation on term paper topic 40%

first exam 20%

In-class second exam 30%

Faithful attendance and participation in class discussion 10% 

No final examination during finals week. 

J S 364 • Anti-Semitism In Hist & Lit

39290 • Hoberman, John
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GEA 114
(also listed as C L 323, EUS 346, GSD 360)
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FLAGS:   GC  |  Wr  | EL


The origins of Western (Christian) anti-Semitism can be traced to the Gospel of St John in the New Testament, which stigmatizes the Jews as “the children of the Devil.” Anti-Semitism thus originates in the religious feud that gradually intensified between the Jewish community and the followers of Jesus Christ. The early Church Fathers denounced the Jews using the most violent language, and a pattern was established. The first part of the course consists of an examination of the Christian critique of the Jews through the Middle Ages.

The second part of the course focuses primarily on the development of an intensified anti-Semitism in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, culminating in the Holocaust in Europe. Literary texts by Henri de Montherlant, Somerset Maugham, Aharon Applefeld, Ernest Hemingway, and Georges Perec are used to explore the nature of anti-Semitic perspectives on the Jews as a group or “tribe.” The course covers anti-Semitic developments up to the present day.

Selected Readings:

Ashley Montagu, "Are 'the' Jews a Race?" in Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (1974): 353-377.

Léon Poliakov, "The Fateful Summer of 1096," in The History of Anti-Semitism, Vol. 1 (1974): 41-72. 

Léon Poliakov, "Activated Anti-Semitism: Germany," in The History of Anti-Semitism, Vol. 1 (1974): 210-245.

Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (1943): 11-52.

David I. Kertzer, "Introduction," in The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism  (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001): 3-21.

George L. Mosse, "Eighteenth-Century Foundations," "The Birth of Stereotypes," "Nation, Language, and History," in Toward the Final Solution (1978): 1-50. 

John M. Efron, "The Jewish Body Degenerate?" in Medicine and the German Jews: A History (2001): 105-150.

Maurice Fishberg, "Pathological Characteristics," in The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment (1912): 270-295.

Somerset Maugham, “The Alien Corn” (1931).

Henri de Montherlant, “A Jew-Boy Goes to War” (1926).

Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew (1946): 7-54.

Michael H. Kater, “Everyday Anti-Semitism in Prewar Nazi Germany: The Popular Bases” (1984): 129-159.


Examination #1  — 20% of grade

Examination #2 — 20% of final grade

Paper #1 (4 pages) — 10% of final grade

Paper #2 (4 pages) — 10% of final grade

Paper #3 (10 pages) — 40% of final grade

J S 364 • The Spanish Inquisition

39295 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GAR 1.126
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 350L, R S 357)
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The Spanish Inquisition operated for three and a half centuries, and became one of the most notorious institutions in history. It is popularly known for its secret trials, autos-da-fe, and burnings at the stake. But why was it established? Why did it survive even when heresy seemed virtually eliminated? What purposes did it serve that allowed it to survive for so long? These are some of the issues we will explore in this course. Each student will carry out a project “tracing” one (fictitious) personality through the various phases of the inquisitorial process, from the time of arrest (or re-arrest) to the day of the sentencing. By discussing one another’s projects we will get a sense of the great diversity - in time and space, and in motives and aims - of this institution.



Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision

Lu Ann Homza, The Spanish Inquisition, 1478-1614


Attendance and participation (20%), project proposal (20%), draft of project (20%). Final project (40%).

J S 364 • Intro To The Holocaust

39300 • Lichtenstein, Tatjana
Meets MW 430pm-600pm CLA 0.128
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G, REE 335)
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FLAGS:   GC  |  EL

Please note: “Introduction to the Holocaust” is an upper-division history course with an intensive 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)

Thomas Blatt, From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival

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 • Jews Of Eastern Europe

39305 • Lichtenstein, Tatjana
Meets TTH 500pm-630pm GAR 3.116
(also listed as HIS 362G, R S 357, REE 335)
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This course explores the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe.  Focusing on the Jewish societies in the Russian and Austrian Empires, the course seeks to map the Jewish experience from the late 1700s until the first decades of twentieth century through topics such as secularization, urbanization, migration, antisemitism, political movements, and war.  We study the destruction of the Jewish societies in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust as well as Jewish memory and renewal in Eastern Europe since the end of Communism. 


Readings (subject to change):

·    Zvi Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2001).

·    Henryk Grynberg, The Jewish War and The Victory (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2001).

·    Israel J. Singer, The Brothers Ashkenazi (Orig. 1936, New York: Other Press, 2010).


Attendance and Participation                  20%

Midterm                                                      20%

Essay                                                           25%

Final Exam                                                  35 %

J S 365 • Policymaking In Israel

Meets TTH 200pm-330pm JES A207A
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Policymaking is a complicated political and analytical process. In order for policymakers to make new policy, they should map the political environment, put the issue on the decisionmaker's agenda, define the problem, and choose among several possible solutions. A systematic policy analysis on a given subject can assist policymakers to achieve this aim.

The objectives of this course are to familiarize the students with policymaking processes and various policy issues in contemporary Israel using a policy analysis framework and tools. Each stage in the policymaking process will be discussed theoretically and then the theortical aspect will be demonstrated using a case study from Israeli policy. Guest lectures from experts on the subject will present some of the case studies. The case studies suggested here are tentative and may be changed based on the available guest lecturers.

At the end fo the course, the students will submit a policy analysis paper on a subject from Israeli policy by their choice. The paper will include background on the policy topic, the main problem, and alternatives to solve it. The paper will be 60 percent of the final grade. In addition, students will submit two small papers (15 percent each) aiming to examine their understanding of the theoretical framework, as well as monitor their progress on their personal assignment one on problem definition and one on the main problem of the selected issue. The final two classes of the semester will be dedicated to students' presentations of their policy analysis paper.

J S 365 • State And Religion In Israel

Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.216
(also listed as MES 342, R S 358)
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Israel is the “Jewish State.” What is a “Jewish State”? Is it a theocracy? A religious Democracy? What is the role of the Jewish religion and the Orthodox establishment in the day-to-day life of the Israelis? In the Israeli political arena? How affected are Israel's relationship with the world’s Jewish communities because of the status of religion in Israel?

We shall attempt to answer these questions and many others in this course. We shall begin with the new Jewish history of Zionism as the secular Jewish movement vis-à-vis- the Jewish Orthodoxy. We shall try to describe the ongoing tension between the Jewish religion and the Israeli democracy. We shall look at the religious laws enacted in Israel (such as conversion, Sabbath, and marriage). A description of the political arrangements accrued during the years with the religious parties shall be addressed (exemption from Army service, different and separate education systems). We shall look into the variety of religious practices of Judaism in Israel. Court decisions (especially Supreme Court) will also be introduced.

Proposed Readings

1. Perpetual Dilemma: Jewish Religion in the Jewish State [Paperback] [Jun 01, 1979] Abramov, Zalman S. and Gunther, Plaut W.

2. Civil Religion in Israel: Traditional Judaism and Political Culture in the Jewish State, Charles S. Liebman, Eliezer Don-Yahiya ISBN: 9780520048171

3. Articles and other publications that shall be given by me during course.


The course will be in a form of open discussions with the students.

Grades shall be given based upon 3 parameters: Class attendance and participation (40%), a mid-term short paper (20%) and final exam (40%).

J S 365 • Israel: Society And Politics

Meets TTH 930am-1100am CLA 0.104
(also listed as GOV 365N, MES 341)
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Israel is a democracy quite unique in its political structure and institutions. In this course we shall cover the political institutions and political structure in Israel. How does the Israeli democracy function? What are its political institutions? What are their roles? In this course we shall try to give a through and detailed review of these topics.

We shall start with the Israeli legislator, i.e.: the Knesset. We shall learn its way of operation, its duties and responsibilities. We shall study how the Knesset committees operate: what are the relationship between the opposition and the coalition, what are the by-laws of the Parliament, and how do these by-laws affect the day to day work of the Parliament?

We shall then discover and explore the Israeli political parties and their influence on the political system, as well as NGOs and other civil society groups (such as “Peace Now,” “Constitution for Israel,” the Settlers Movement, etc.)

Further we shall review the executive branch of the Israeli government. We shall learn about the departments and offices of the government as well as the relationship between the government and the Knesset.

Last, but not least, the judicial branch: the powers and status of the courts vis-à-vis- the other branches of the Israeli political system. We shall mainly focus on the “Constitutional Revolution” created by the basic laws (semi-constitution) and the power granted to the Israeli Supreme Court to vacate or amend laws which do not comply with the basic laws. We shall discuss the tension between the Supreme Court and the other branches and the scope of the Israeli judicial review of the government's actions.

We shall use Israeli official websites of the various Israeli bodies and entities learned. I shall also attempt to bring to class one or several authentic representatives of the Knesset and/or Government.

Proposed Reading

  1. "Politics In Israel: The Second Republic, 2nd Edition" by  Prof. Asher Arian
  2. "Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State" by Gregory S. Mahler
  3. Supreme court precedents, given to students during classes.

Grading and Requirements

Grades shall be composed of class attendance and participation (40%), a short midterm paper (20%), and final exam (40%).

J S 679HA • Honors Tutorial Course

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Supervised individual reading and research for one semester, followed by writing substantial honors thesis during the second semester. Restricted to Jewish Studies majors. Prereq: For 679HA, admission to the Jewish Studies Honors Programs, and for 679HB, Jewish Studies, 679HA.

J S 679HB • Honors Tutorial Course

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Supervised individual reading and research for one semester, followed by writing substantial honors thesis during the second semester. Restricted to Jewish Studies majors. Prereq: For 679HA, admission to the Jewish Studies Honors Programs, and for 679HB, Jewish Studies, 679HA.

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