284 – American Judaism

Ken Koltun-Fromm
Haverford College
Gest 201
Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday 1-2 pm
610-896-1026 (office), 610-645-8324 (home)
kkoltunf@haverford.edu

Fall, 2007
Tuesday/Thursday 11:30-1
Gest 102

Summary

This class will explore the cultural, social, and religious dynamics of American Judaism. We will focus on the representation of Jewish identity in American culture, and examine issues of Jewish material, gender, and social practices in American history. We will study how Jews express identity through their physical and material surroundings, and how persons work with objects to produce religious meaning.

Requirements

Preparation for class discussions is required and necessary. You should be fully prepared to engage the reading material in class, and offer reflective comments upon the reading and the ideas of others. To help in this preparation, you should write a brief account of what you think most central, provocative, or confusing in the reading for that day with the expectation that you will share these thoughts in class (this writing should be a short paragraph – 3-5 sentences – for your eyes only).

You will write three five page, doubled-spaced papers during the semester, and a longer, twelve page research paper for your final, due the last day of finals period. The first of the three papers can be rewritten and turned in for a grade a week after I return the initial paper to you. The due dates for the papers are as follows:

First paper: October 12th, Friday, 4pm
Second paper: November 16th, Friday, 5pm
Third paper: November 30th, Friday, 5pm
Final paper: December 21st, Friday, 5pm

All papers must be turned in on the second floor of Gest building in the appropriate box labeled for this class. If coming to the Haverford College campus proves difficult on Fridays, you may email a copy of your paper to me by the 5pm deadline, but only if you inform me before the deadline that you wish to do so, and I confirm before the deadline. I suggest that you cc a copy to yourself, and seek a reply from me that I have received and can open the document. If I cannot open the document and print it from my computer, I will not consider the paper to be turned in until I can do so. Your paper will be marked down for each day late.

Grading

Your final grade will be based on the above assignments, with significant weight placed on your engagement in class discussions. I do not evaluate each task with percentage accuracy (your final paper is not worth, say, 30% of your grade, for example), but instead examine all your work as a piece, and provide a grade that I hope fairly expresses the work and attention rendered to the class assignments, your peers in class, and your class participation. This process also allows me to take into account improvement over the course of the semester.

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (rwebb@haverford.edu, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible. Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

Texts for Purchase

  • Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America
  • Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks
  • Riv-Ellen Prell, Fighting to Become Americans
  • Steven Cohen and Arnold Eisen, The Jew Within

Material on Blackboard

  • Marc Lee Raphael, “A History of Judaism in America,” 39-73, and “The Synagogue,” 97-114
  • Jonathan Sarna, Timeline of American Jewry
  • Talal Asad, “The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category,” 27-54
  • Andrew Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 1-48
  • Hasia Diner, Hungering for America, 178-219
  • David Stowe, How Sweet the Sound, 171-195
  • Eric Lott, Love & Theft, 3-37
  • Cynthia Ozick, “Envy; or, Yiddish in America,” 41-100
  • Philip Roth, ‘Eli, the Fanatic,” 249-298
  • Bernard Malamud, “The Magic Barrel,”
  • Anzia Yezierska, “Wings,” and “Soap and Water,”
  • Arthur Hertzberg, A Jew in America, Prologue and 1-44

Movies

  • The Jazz Singer
  • Trembling Before God

Syllabus

Introduction

  • September
  • 4 (T) – Introduction to class (Orsi, “Everyday Miracles,” pp. 3-6)
  • 6 (Th) – Raphael, “A History of Judaism in America,” 39-73, Sarna, Timeline (Blackboard)
  • 11 (T) – Asad, “The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category,” 27-54 (Blackboard)

Jewish Material Consumption

  • 13 (Th) – (No class – Rosh Hashanah)
  • 18 (T) – Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 1-48 (Blackboard)
  • 20 (Th) – Joselit, The Wonders of America, 3-54
  • 25 (T) – Joselit, The Wonders of America, 55-88, 135-169
  • 27 (Th) – (No class – Sukkot)
  • October
  • 1 (M) – Movie: Hester Street (4 College Lane @ 6:30 PM)
  • 2 (T) – Joselit, The Wonders of America, 171-218, Diner, Hungering for America, 178-219 (Blackboard)
  • 4 (Th) – Joselit, The Wonders of America, 219-295
  • 8 (M) – Movie: The Jazz Singer (4 College Lane @ 6:30 PM)
  • 9 (T) – Stowe, How Sweet the Sound, 171-195 (Blackboard)
  • 11 (Th) – Movie: The Jazz Singer; Lott, Love & Theft, 3-37 (Blackboard)
  • 12 (F) – First Paper due, 4pm
  • Fall Break

Jewish Race, Gender and Sexuality

  • 23 (T) – Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks, 1-52
  • 25 (Th) – Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks, 53-102
  • 30 (T) – Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks, 103-174
  • November
  • 1 (Th) – Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 1-57
  • 6 (T) – Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 58-123
  • 8 (Th) – Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 124-208
  • 13 (T) – Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 209-252
  • 15 (Th) – Movie: Trembling Before God (and secondary text)
  • 16 (F) – Second Paper due, 5pm

Jewish Identity

  • 20 (T) – Ozick, “Envy; or, Yiddish in America,” 41-100 (Blackboard)
  • 22 (Th) – (No class – Thanksgiving)
  • 27 (T) – Roth, ‘Eli, the Fanatic,” 249-298 (Blackboard)
  • 29 (Th) – Malamud, “The Magic Barrel”; Yezierska, “Wings,” and “Soap and Water” (Blackboard)
  • 30 (F) – Third paper due, 5pm
  • December
  • 4 (T) – Hertzberg, A Jew in America, Prologue and 1-44 (Blackboard)
  • 6 (Th) – Cohen and Eisen, The Jew Within, 1-42
  • 11 (T) – Cohen and Eisen, The Jew Within, 43-99
  • 13 (Th) – Cohen and Eisen, The Jew Within, 155-207
  • Final paper due: December 21st, Friday, 12pm