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Colby Courses

RE/JS/HI 181 Conceptions of Jews and Judaism      A survey of the history of the Jewish people and the religion called Judaism from the biblical era through the Middle Ages, tracing the development of ideas, texts, beliefs, and practices that continue to influence Jewish life and thought today. Examines Christian and Islamic ideas about Jews and Judaism and the historical impact of inequality, prejudice, and persecution on Jewish society and culture. Students will acquire basic knowledge of the subject matter and will develop skills in the analysis of religious texts both as historical sources and as windows into the ways religious communities make sense of the world. (Offered every fall semester)

RE/JS/HI 182 Jews and Judaism in the Modern World      A survey of the social, cultural, intellectual, and political history of the Jews of Europe, the United States, and Israel/Palestine from the 17th century to the present. Traces the emergence of contemporary Judaism in its various manifestations. In addition to developing basic familiarity with the subject matter, students will learn how to interpret specific ideas, movements, biographies, and works of cultural production within the framework of broader dynamics associated with Jewish life in modern times. (Offered every spring semester)

RE/JS 197 Introduction to Talmud      The Talmud has been the cornerstone of traditional Jewish higher education for over a millenium. How did the Rabbis who created it think? How has this work shaped Jewish culture? This discussion-based course explores these and other questions through close reading of translated texts related primarily to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (One-time course offering, Fall 2009; will likely be offered again in some form)

RE/JS/HI 221 Topics in Maine’s Jewish History      Maine is home to a distinctive yet under-researched Jewish community with deep historical roots. Participants in this civic engagement course will advance scholarly and popular understanding of the experiences of Jews in Maine by producing original works of oral- and document-based historiography. In the process they will learn skills of critical ethnographic historianship and effective oral and Web-based communication. Students will also explore the nature and consequences of popular anti-Semitism and the ways in which American Jews have overcome this prejudice.  (Offered roughly every other January; last offered January 2011; next offered January 2013) See work by students who took this course.

RE/JS/HI 282 The Making of Judaism      Judaism, as we know it, came into being during the period from about 600 B.C.E. through 600 C.E. Its formation results from a complex interplay of internal innovation, external classification, and responses to dramatic political and cultural forces. An exploration of this crucial period in Jewish history, devoting particular attention to the impact of Hellenism, the rise of Rabbinic Judaism, and the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity. (Offered occasionally; last offered Spring 2009)

RE/JS 322 Food and Religious Identity      An examination of the ways in which religiously inspired food practices and food restrictions relate to the establishment and preservation of communal identity. Explores sources from diverse religious traditions and time periods with an eye both to commonalities and to elements found only within specific communities. Students will develop proficiency in the contextual analysis of primary sources and the critical evaluation of secondary literature.  (Offered occasionally; last offered Spring 2010; next offered Spring 2013)

RE/JS 382 Abraham in the Abrahamic Religions      “Tales of ancestors are signposts for their descendants.” For no figure is this Rabbinic aphorism more true than Abraham, revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. A critical examination of the evolution of tales about Abraham within these three traditions from biblical times to the present. What can we learn from these changing stories about the people who tell them? What does it mean to call a religion Abrahamic? (Offered occasionally; last offered Spring 2009; will likely be offered in 2013-14)

RE/JS 384 Jewish Responses to Ethical Dilemmas      An exploration of Jewish responses to genuinely difficult ethical choices and the ways in which Jewish authorities justify their normative opinions. Examines classical and contemporary responses to dilemmas in such fields as business and labor ethics, environmental ethics, and biomedical ethics, enriching Jewish sources with literature from other religious traditions and works by secular ethicists. Students will develop skills in the analysis and critique of ethical argumentation and the ability to examine and defend their own values.  (Offered occasionally; last offered Fall 2008; next offered Fall 2012)

RE/JS 386 Medieval Judaism, Real and Imagined      Ideas about Judaism–those of Jews and also those of Christians–influenced medieval Jewish life in profound and diverse ways. Through a series of case studies, we will explore the development of imagined Jewish identities and their impact on real Jews in Islamic and Christian societies. We will devote particular attention to the impact of prejudice, inequality, and oppression on Jewish society and culture. Students will learn how historians approach the study of medieval religion and will develop their own historiographic skills. (On the books, but this course has not yet been offered.)

RE/JS 398a Exhibiting Maine’s Jewish Experiences      Students in this civic engagement course will curate physical and online museum exhibitions about Jewish life in Maine from the mid-19th century to the present. Students will learn about the experiences of Jewish immigrants to Maine, the impact of national and world events on Jewish Mainers, and Maine’s place within American Jewish history. They will then design and lead guided tours on these subjects for public school students and community members. Through these activities, students will develop communications and teamwork skills while engaging with Mainers and meeting a real need for education about local Jewish experiences. (One-time course offering; may not be offered again.)  See work by students who took this course.