CoursesJews, Race, and Religion
RELS 207 / JWST 207

Jews, Race, and Religion

2020 marked what may be a major new chapter in the history of race relations in the United States, with untold numbers of protestors demanding that the country confront abiding race-based injustice. The consequences of this movement are not yet known, but it has forced racism into the public’s consciousness in a way that seems new and potentially transformative.

The aim of this course is to help students deepen their critical and historical understanding of how discourses of race have shaped how Jews have understood their own identity, how they have been understood by others, and how they in turn have understood and related to other groups.

Tues./Thurs., 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM (online synchronous)

2020 marked what may be a major new chapter in the history of race relations in the United States, with untold numbers of protestors demanding that the country confront abiding race-based injustice. The consequences of this movement are not yet known, but it has forced racism into the public’s consciousness in a way that seems new and potentially transformative.

The aim of this course is to help students deepen their critical and historical understanding of how discourses of race have shaped how Jews have understood their own identity, how they have been understood by others, and how they in turn have understood and related to other groups. The topics it will address include: 1) the history of racial thinking, including the concept of race itself and related categories like Whiteness and Blackness; 2) the role of Jews within the larger history of race relationships in the U.S.; 3) the racial diversity that exists within the Jewish community today; and 4) the roles of Jews in the continuing struggle for racial justice. This course involves the study of history, but it aims to incorporate a range of intellectual perspectives and disciplinary approaches from Jewish Studies, anthropology, cultural studies, and other fields, and to reflect on the role of scholarship itself in the effort to overcome racism.

As part of its effort to expose students to a range of approaches and issues in the study of Jews and the intersections with the study of race and religion, this course will be anchored by a series of weekly (online) presentations featuring leading scholars of race and/or religion. One of the main aims of these guest lecture is to help put the study of race as a part of Jewish history and identity with the broader critical and comparative study of race. These talks will occur in tandem with discussion-oriented sessions focused on topics listed in the schedule below. Assignments will include responses to readings and presentations, personals reflection, and a research paper that will allow you to delve more deeply into a particular question or issue.

Please note that while we will be taking a global approach to Jewish identity, considering ancient, medieval and modern topics and touching on the situation in Israel, much of the class is focused on the situation in the United States, which has its own distinctive history of race relations and its own distinctive racialized culture. Students interested in the situation for other societies may use the research paper to explore topics that go beyond what we cover in class.

Example Syllabus

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