"The Jewish People ll: Jewish History from Medieval Times to the Present"

Judaic 102
Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Fall 2001

Professor: Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur
Tuesday and Thursday 11:15-12:30 p.m.
Classroom: SOM (School of Management) 116
Office: Herter Hall 731
Office Telephone: (413) 577-0649
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 9:00-11:00 and by appointment
E-mail: aben-ur@judnea.umass.edu

Course Description

 Jews have always comprised a fraction of the world population.  Why are they worthy of study?  One of the reasons is their enormous and disproportionate impact on the non-Jewish world.  Another is the fascinating internal diversity of the Jewish people, both ideologically and ethnically.  This course will explore Jewish civilization through the often overlapping lenses of religion and ethnicity.  Throughout the course, the Jews will also be considered as a culture and a civilization, with the gendered experiences of both Jewish men and women emphasized.  We will also consider the impact of Jewish communities on the non-Jewish host societies in which they settled. Through primary and secondary source readings, lectures, film clips, slide shows, and class discussions, this course will cover the medieval through modern eras of Jewish history (315 CE to the present), and both the western and eastern hemispheres.

Course Requirements


While there are no prerequisites for this course, "The Jewish People l" is recommended as preparatory background.  This is a university course--you need not be of Jewish ancestry or religion to take and/or succeed in this class.  For those seeking a basic understanding of the Jewish religion, recommended reading is Rabbi Milton Steinberg's Basic Judaism ("the essential book for both Jews and non-Jews eager to know more about one of the world's great religions), San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1975.

Reading Load

This is a reading-intensive course.  Readings average 60 pages per week.  Some readings are lighter or "easier" than others.  Be sure to check the syllabus for the option to skim or read selectively.  Keep in mind that some pages need not be read since they include only footnotes.  To find the reading selections in the course packet, follow the page numbers listed in bold in this syllabus.  Example: (CP: pp.1-3)

Quizzes and Exams

Students will take five in-class quizzes on the readings and lectures covered since the previous quiz.  These quizzes are composed of terms to identify and short questions.   Students are permitted to drop one quiz (the lowest grade).

Students will also take an in-class midterm and a final exam.

The T.A. will hold review sessions for quizzes and exams two days before the quiz or exam.

Succeeding in this Class

Think of this class as a job you love.  Just as missing work days and neglecting to complete office work efficiently will harm your chances of promotion, so too will missing classes and not completing the assignments adversely affect your grade for this class.  Likewise, regular attendance and high quality performance on quizzes and assignments will bring you the results you have earned.

Lectures are as important as readings.  Lectures reinforce the readings, and also add new material for which students are responsible.

If you have questions about your final grade in this class, you should first approach the T.A.   in order to ensure that your grades were not improperly recorded.  If such a mistake did occur, the T.A. will contact me immediately.


Students may volunteer to make a 10-15 minute presentation on a topic of their choice that must be relevant to the class.  These topics must be approved at least two weeks in advance.  For example, during the Holocaust lecture, a student from one semester gave a 15-minute presentation on his recent experiences on the "March of the Living", a program that brings young Americans and Canadians to Poland and Israel for historical tours of concentration camps and Holocaust museums/memorials.  Students volunteering to make such presentations will have 3-5 additional points added to their final grade.  Students may present alone or in pairs.  Each presentation may have no more than 2 presenters.

As determined by the professor and T.A., one quiz will be selected from each batch as the outstanding quiz.  Thus, five times per semester, one student will be awarded 3-5 additional points to his/her final grade.  Quizzes will be evaluated based on both grade and content (e.g. originality, eloquence, clarity).

See also under "Articles of Interest Submitted by Students", below.
Missed Classes, Quizzes, Exams and Assignments

Students are expected to attend all class meetings.  Students with lab exams or students involved in University-sanctioned activities (such as athletics and field trips) that may require them to miss class, must submit notes from their professors.  Students arriving late to class, after attendance is taken, are required to alert the T.A. to their presence at the end of class.  Otherwise, they will be marked absent.  Students are responsible for the classes they miss.  In case of absence, a student should request the notes from another student.  Due dates are listed in the syllabus; it is the students' responsibility to keep track of them.  If a student falls ill or has a personal emergency that requires him/her to ask for an extension, h/she must submit to me a letter from his/her doctor or from the Dean of Students Office.  In the case that a student cannot avoid missing a class, that student is still responsible for the material covered and for changes in the class schedule announced during that class.  If a quiz is given during a student's unexcused absence, the student will receive a "0" for that quiz.

Important note: there are no make-up quizzes or exams, nor can a quiz or exam be given early because of a special circumstance.  Students may drop one quiz (of the lowest grade).  Any student with a written University-sanctioned excuse can earn credit for a missed exam by writing a research paper on an assigned topic.  If you think you may miss quizzes or exams, you should seriously consider dropping the course.

Course Outlines and Other Class-Related Material

Course outlines will be posted to the class website the evening before each lecture.  The website address is: http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~juda102/

See the website for other pertinent information, such as date, time and place of review sessions, the syllabus, a course description, etc.

Receiving Extra Assistance

Teaching Assistant (T.A.)

Please refer to the course website for information on the T.A.

"Ask the Professor"

Students are encouraged to ask questions in class.  Students should also feel free to submit questions to me via email or in handwritten form.  The website for this course has an "ask the professor" section, inviting students to raise questions which will then be addressed in class.

"Articles of Interest Submitted by Students"

Students are encouraged to share with the professor articles or books relevant to this class.  Synopses of these readings will be posted on the website and will acknowledge the student for his/her submission.

Outstanding submissions, as determined by the professor, will guarantee 3-5 extra points added to the student's final grade.

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities should contact:

Learning Disabilities Support Services
321 Berkshire House
telephone: 413-545-4602
fax: 413-577-0691
Tutor Coordinator: Kathy Weilersterin
323 Middlesex House

LDSS will evaluate and diagnose students, and then contact the professor.  The professor will not accept claims about learning disabilities unless they are documented by LDSS.

Students with learning disabilities must submit a form to the professor at least a week before the quiz, midterm, or final exam if they would like an untimed quiz or exam.

Required Texts

Aviva Ben-Ur, ed.  Course Packet for The Jewish People ll.  Amherst, MA: Collective Copies, 2001.  (Available at the Collective Copies).  A copy of the Course Packet is also available on reserve.  In this syllabus, the Course Packet is designated as (CP)

Collective Copies
71 S. Pleasant St., Amherst
(413) 256-6425

The following is available at Food for Thought Bookstore:

William Hallo, David Ruderman and Michael Stanislawski, eds.  Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Source Reader.  New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984.  In this syllabus, this book is designated as (H)

Food for Thought Bookstore
106 N. Pleasant St., Amherst
(413) 253-5432

Several copies of this book are available on reserve.

Calculation of Grades
Five quizzes      30%
Attendance      20%
Mid-term examination     25%
Final exam      25%

Class Schedule With Assigned Readings

Note: readings listed under a date are due on that date!

Tuesday, September 4: Introduction: The Jews: A People, A Religion, A Civilization

No advanced readings required, except to read the syllabus in its entirety.

Assignment: Be sure to pick up, fill out, and return the student information form
Thursday, September 6: Jews in the Roman Empire: Legal Status of the Jews and the Development of the Jewish Community in Exile

Yehoshua M. Grintz, Eli Davis and Raphael Posner.  "Jew", Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1971, pp.21-25.  (CP: pp.1-3)

Note: for those who seek a basic background on Judaism, recommended is: Rabbi Milton Steinberg's Basic Judaism ("the essential book for both Jews and non-Jews eager to know more about one of the world's great religions, San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1975.  (Reserve-optional)

"The Barbarian Invasions of Europe: Fifth Century."  In Haim Beinart, Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, pp.13-top of p.16.  (CP: pp.5-8)

"The Shaping of Traditions (First to Ninth Centuries)"; etc., pp.63-top of 82.  (H)
Tuesday, September 11: Jews in the Islamic World

"Under the New Order"; and "The Koran on the Treatment of The People of the Book", etc.  In Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, pp.22-39; 149-151.  (CP: pp.9-19)

"The Jews of the Arabian Peninsula", etc.  In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, p.18-top of p.21.  (CP: pp.21-24)

"The Koran on the 'Children of Israel'", pp.82-top of p.86; p.87-89.  (H)

Thursday, September 13: The "Golden Age" and Its "Golden Men": Jews in Muslim Spain

"The Golden Era".  In Jane S. Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience, New York: The Free Press, 1992, pp.60-89.  (CP: pp.25-40)

"Muslim Spain".  In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.35-36.  (CP: pp.41-42)

"The Assertion of Spanish Jewry's Independence Under Hasdai ibn Shaprut", etc., pp.95-96.  (H)

Tuesday, September 18: Masters and Mistresses of Their Modest Domain: Jewish Autonomy in Medieval Europe

Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year).  No class.  Students are responsible for the readings and should be able to answer the study questions posted on the web.

David Biale.  "Corporate Power in the Middle Ages".  In Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, New York: Schocken Books, 1986, pp.58-86.  (CP: pp.43-57)

Emily Taitz.  Women's Voices, Women's Prayers: The European Synagogues of the Middle Ages".  In Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, ed. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut, Philadelphia and Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1992, pp.59-71.  (CP: pp.59-63)
Thursday, September 20: Jewish Gender Roles and Ideals in Medieval Europe
Aviva Cantor.  "From Macho to Mentsch: Redefining Jewish Manhood".  In, Jewish Women, Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995, pp.79-98.  (CP: 65-75)

Judith R. Baskin.  "Jewish Women in the Middle Ages".  In Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith R. Baskin, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991, pp.101-108 (footnotes, in case you need them: 120-122).  (CP: 77-83)
Tuesday, September 25: Jews and the Crusades

"Jewish Communities in Ashkenaz", etc.  In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.38-42.  (CP: pp.85-102)

"The Crucible of Europe" and "The Charter of Bishop Rudiger of Speyer", pp.95-96 and bottom of p.122-p.129.  (H)

Thursday, September 27: Oppression and Creativity in Medieval Christian Europe: Blood Libels, Expulsions and Jewish Vitality

Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Atonement).  No class.  Students are responsible for the readings and should be able to answer the study questions posted on the web.

"The Jews of England Up to the Expulsion", etc.  Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.57-top 62; 63-64; 72-top of 74; 111-112. (CP: pp.90-102)

Jacob Rader Marcus.  "The Accusation of the Ritual Murder of St. William of Norwich, 1144", etc.  In The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book: 315-1791, New York: Atheneu, 1975, pp.121-126; 155-158.  (CP: pp.103-110)

"The Ethical Wills of Judah ibn Tibbon and Eleazar of Mainz", etc., pp.139-top of 148.  (H)
Tuesday, October 2: Iberian Jews (Spain and Portugal): Forced Conversion, Expulsion, and Exile

Ren‚e Levine Melammed.  "Sephardi Women in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods".  In Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith R. Baskin, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991, pp.128-149.  (CP: 111-121)

Isaac Abravanel, "Introduction to the Former Prophets","Andr‚s Bernaldez, "How the Jews Were Ejected From Spain", and "The Edict of Expulsion (Spain).  In The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles: An Anthology of Medieval Chronicles Relating to the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, ed. David Raphael, North Hollywood, California: Carmi House Press, 1992, pp.51-54; 69-73.  (CP: pp.123-128)

Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.65-67; middle of p.74-top of p.77; 82-86.  (CP: pp.129-140)

Film clip: "Song of the Sephardi"

Thursday, October 4: New Christians in Exile: The Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam

Quiz #1

Joseph Kaplan.  "From Apostasy to Return to Judaism: The Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam."  In Binah: Studies in Jewish History, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Dan, New York: Praeger, 1989, pp.99-117.  (CP: pp.141-150)

Ibid.  Political Concepts in the World of the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam During the Seventeenth Century: The Problem of Exclusion and the Boundaries of Self-Identity." Menasseh Ben Israel and His World. Yosef Kaplan, ed. pp.45-62.  READ pp.49-62 ONLY!!!  (CP: pp.153-160)
Tuesday, October 9: Jews in the Ottoman Empire: Romaniote, Mizrahim and Sephardim

Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.70-top of p.72; 88-91.  (CP: pp.161-167)

Bernard Lewis.  The Jews of Islam, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, pp.120-top of p.148.  (CP: pp.169-183)

Thursday, October 11: The Kabbalah of Isaac Luria and Shabbetai Zvi
Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp. 93; 113-115.  (CP: 195-198-oops!)

"The Messianic Mood of Sixteenth-Century Safed", pp.180-top of 190.  (H)

Tuesday, October 16: The Jews in Renaissance Italy

The Significance of Leon Modena's Autobiography for Early Modern Jewish and General European History".  In The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena's Life of Judah, trans. and ed. Mark R. Cohen, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988, pp.3-18.  (CP: pp.185-193-oops!)

"A Handbook of Hebrew Rhetoric in the Setting of Renaissance Italy", etc., pp.159-174.  (H)
Thursday, October 18: Midterm Exam

Tuesday, October 23: The Jews of Suriname, South America: Slaves, Sugar and Salvation in the Context of the New World

lecture will include a 10-minute slide show

"Introduction"; and "The Cultural and Intellectual Environment".  In Jews in Another Environment; Surinam in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century, Robert Cohen, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991, pp.1-10 and 94-123.  (CP: pp.199-200)

"Preface", "An Eighteenth-Century Prayer of the Jews of Surinam".  In The Jewish Nation in Surinam, ed. Robert Cohen, Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1982, 1; 75-87.  (CP: pp.201-213)

"Jewish Plantations in Surinam", Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, p.102.  (CP: p.215)
Thursday, October 25: "Here We Stay": The Jews of Poland

Quiz #2

"How Jews First Came to Poland: Three Legends".  In Diane K. Roskies and David G. Roskies, The Shtetl Book, New York: Ktav Publishing House, pp.xi-xiii.  (CP: pp.217)

Isaac Lewin, "The Origin and Rise of the Jewish Community in Poland" (chapter 1).  In The Jewish Community in Poland: Historical Essays, New York: Philosophical Library, 1985, pp.1-17.  (CP: pp.219-227)
"The Beginnings of Jewish Settlement in Poland".  In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.64-65.  (CP: 229-230)

Film clip: "The Jews of Poland" (1988)
Tuesday, October 30: Hasidim and Mitnagdim (Mystics and Anti-Mystics)

Evyatar Friesel, "Sabbateanism, Frankism, and Early Hasidism".  Atlas of Modern Jewish History, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, pp.50-51.  (CP: pp.231-232)

Solomon Maimon, "The New Hasidim", etc.  The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, compiled and edited by Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp.387-393.  (CP: pp.233-239)

Shmuel Ettinger.  "The Hasidic Movement-Reality and Ideals".  In Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present, ed. Gershon David Hundert, New York and London: New York University Press, 1991, pp.226-243.  (CP: pp.241-249)
Thursday, November 1: Enlightenment and Emancipation

Quiz #3

Jacob Katz, "The Portents of Change."  In Out of the Ghetto: The Social Background of Jewish Emancipation, 1770-1870, New York: Schocken Books, 1978, pp.28-41.  (CP: pp.251-257)

"The Process of Political Emancipation in Western Europe, 1789-1871".  In The Jew in the Modern World, pp.112-113 and bottom 118-136.  (CP: pp.259-279)

Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain, pp.229-241.  (CP: pp.281-287)

"Road From the Ghetto (1789-1914)", etc., pp.213-top of p.222.  (H)

Tuesday, November 6: Origins of Jewish Denominationalism

"Religious Tendencies in Modern Judaism".  In Atlas of Modern Jewish History, 52-57.  (CP: pp.289-294)

"Emerging Patterns of Religious Adjustment: Reform, Conservative, Neo-Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism."  In The Jew in the Modern World, pp.155-176; 197-206.  (CP: pp.295-326)

Thursday, November 8: Wissenschaft des Judentums ("Science of Judaism"): A New Way of Looking at Jewish History and Civilization

Michael A. Meyer.  "The Emergence of Jewish Historiography: Motives and Motifs".  History and Theory 27 (1988): 160-175.  (CP: pp.327-334)

Jacob Katz.  "Emancipation and Jewish Studies".  Jewish Emancipation and Self-Emancipation, Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1986, pp.75-85.  (CP: pp.335-340)
Tuesday, November 13: The Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe

Film clip: "Fiddler on the Roof"

Isaac Lewin, "One Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Poland" (chapter 2).  In The Jewish Community in Poland: Historical Essays, New York: Philosophical Library, 1985, pp.1-37.  (CP: pp.341-351)

"The Pale of Settlement", etc., pp.229-top of p.233; 238-240.  (H)
Thursday, November 15: The Jews of Germany and Germanic Lands

Quiz #4

Beth-Zion Abrahams, trans. and ed., "Introduction", "Book l" and "Book ll".  In The Life of Gl?ckel of Hameln, 1646-1724, Written by Herself.  New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1963, pp.vii-xiv and 1-41.  (CP: pp.353-381)

Tuesday, November 20: The Rise of Zionism
Shlomo Avineri, "Herzl: The Breakthrough", "Gordon: Labor and Redemption", "Rabbi Kook: The Dialectics of Redemption".  In The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State. New York: Basic Books, Inc., pp.88-100, 151-158, 187-197.  (CP: pp.383-401)

"The Birth of Zionism", etc., pp.234-240; 263-264.  (H)

Thursday, November 22

Thanksgiving.  No class.
Tuesday, November 27: The Great Wave of Jewish Immigration to the US, World War l, and Restrictive Immigration Laws

"Mass Immigration From Eastern Europe", etc., pp.251-257.  (H)

Alan M. Dershowitz.  Chutzpah.  Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company, 1991, pp.63-74.  (CP: 403-413)

Thursday, November 29: The Holocaust

Quiz #5

Film clip: World at War Series: "Genocide" (part 20)

Film clip: Yehoram Gaon's "From Toledo to Jerusalem"
Jacob Katz.  "Was the Holocaust Predictable?"  Commentary 59 (May 1975): 41-48.  (CP: pp.415-422)

"En Tierras de Polonia"/In Polish Lands" (Ladino and English).  In And the World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust, trans. Isaac Jack L‚vy, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp.209; 212-213.  (CP: pp.423-424)

"Mein Kampf", etc., pp.265-281.  (H)

Tuesday, December 4: The Establishment of the State of Israel

Film clip: "Exodus" (starring Paul Newman, 1960)

H. H. Ben-Sasson, "The Struggle for Independence and the Establishment of the State of Israel".  A History of the Jewish People, ed. H. H. Ben-Sasson, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976, pp.1040-1062.  (CP: pp.425-436)

"Albert Memmi: Portrait of a Jew (1962)".  In The Jews in the Modern World, pp.289-292.  (CP: pp.437-440)

"Out of the Ashes (1914-1945)", etc., p.259-top of p.260; 281-285.  (H)
Thursday, December 6:"The Jews Who Weren't There": Jewish Communities and Individuals Overlooked in Jewish History (non-Ashkenazi Jews, non-Sephardi Jews, "multi-heritage" Jews, "suddenly Jewish", etc.)

Film clip: "Novia Que Te Vea" ("May I See You a Bride")

Film clip: "Chinese Jews on the Banks of the Yellow River"

Ephraim Isaac.  "Hearing the Call: Solidarity with Ethiopian Jews."  In The Narrow Bridge: Jewish Views on Multiculturalism, ed. Marla Brettschneider, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, pp.219-235.  Note: be sure to read footnote 25 on p.235.  (CP: pp.441-449)

Atlas of Modern Jewish History, pp.82-87; 129; 142-144.  (CP: pp.451-460)

Tuesday, December 11: Jews in America Today-Assimilation or Return?

David Biale, "American Jews and Contemporary Diaspora Power".  Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, pp.177-205.  (CP: pp.461-475)

Jonathan D. Sarna.  "The Secret of Jewish Continuity".  Commentary 98:4 (October 1994): 55-58.  (CP: 477-480)

Jack Wertheimer, Charles S. Liebman and Steven M. Cohen.  "How to Save American Jews".  Commentary 101: 1 (January 1996): 47-51.  (CP: 481-485)

Final exam:
Final exam period: December 17-22
Final exam time and place: To be announced
syllabus copyright Aviva Ben-Ur, 2001