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Colby Courses

Offered annually

RE/JS 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 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)

Offered periodically

RE/JS 120 Personal Writings about God     What do I believe about God or the supernatural? Which values should guide my life, and how do I know? Why is there suffering in this world? How might I make sense of death? Students will learn to reflect upon and express in writing their own answers to these core religious/spiritual questions through critical engagement with the ideas of prominent contemporary thinkers from various traditions as well as those of other members of the Colby community. In the process, students will develop skills as writers and critical thinkers while gaining deeper appreciation for the diversity and complexity of responses to some of life’s fundamental questions. (Offered roughly every other year; last offered Fall 2013)

RE/JS 221 The Jews of Maine      Maine is home to a noteworthy yet under-researched Jewish community with deep historical roots. Participants in this civic engagement humanities lab will advance scholarly and popular understanding of the experiences of Jews in Maine past and present by producing essays and talks based on original archival research or fieldwork. Students will develop research and communications skills and gain a richer understanding of Jewish life in small-town America. They may also help to strengthen Maine’s Jewish communities through their research. Research focus varies.  (Offered roughly every other year) See work by students who took this course.

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 2013)

RE/JS 384 Religious Responses to Ethical Dilemmas      An exploration of religious responses to genuinely difficult ethical choices and the ways in which ethicists justify their normative opinions. Examines and compares both classical and contemporary responses to dilemmas in such fields as biomedical, environmental, labor, and sexual ethics. Students will develop skills in the analysis and critique of ethical argumentation as well as the ability to examine and defend their own values.  (Offered roughly every other year; last offered Fall 2014)

RE/JS 387 Jews and Muslims in Christian Thought     The Christian tradition has a rich history of ideas about both Jews and Muslims. How do these ideas relate to one another? How did these intertwined ideas evolve during the Middle Ages and into modern times? What can we learn from the similarities and differences in these ideas about Christianity itself? Participants in this humanities lab course will together explore these questions, which have yet to receive sufficient scholarly attention. Through collaborative research, we will further the bounds of academic knowledge about Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim relations. (Offered roughly every other year; last offered January 2014 with one-time continuation as “Anti-Judaism, Orientalism, and Islamophobia,” Spring 2014)

One-time course offerings

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? (Spring 2009)

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. (Spring 2011)  See work by students who took this course.

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. (Fall 2009)

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. (Spring 2009)