236 – Blacks and Jews in America

Professor Tracey Hucks
Roberts 202
Tel: 610-896-1486
Email: thucks@haverford.edu
Office hours: Mondays 9-10:15, 4:15-5:30

Professor Terrence Johnson
Gest 205
Tel: 610-896-1027
Email: tjohnson@haverford.edu
Office hours: Mondays 10:30-12

Professor Ken Koltun-Fromm
Gest 201
Tel: 610-896-1026
Email: kkoltunf@haverford.edu
Office hours: Mondays 9-10:30

Fall, 2009, Monday, 1-4 p.m.
Stokes 010


This course offers a constructive, interdisciplinary vision of the ways American Blacks and Jews represent, articulate, enact, and perform their religious and cultural identities.  Using primary, secondary, visual, and material resources, it will explore an array of themes that speak to the religious and social inter-sectionality of the Black and Jewish experiences in America.

Class Structure (not all classes will follow this model)

1-2 p.m.: Introductory lecture by all three professors
2-3 p.m.: Small group textual readings led by each professor (divide class into thirds)
3-4 p.m.: Return to one class to discuss readings together


1. Weekly One page Reflections

  • One page, synthetic, analytical discussion of the assigned readings for each class.  Beginning on September 14th, students will bring to class their one page analysis of the central theses and issues raised by the class readings.  This is a non-graded, pass/fail assignment that will be part of the class participation grade.  Students will turn in their assignments at the end of class, and must be present in class to do so.

2. Two Written Assignments

  • Each student will write two papers, with the second building upon the first assignment.  The first paper will be a five page, double-spaced paper (due at noon on Friday, October 2), and the second a ten page, double-spaced paper that revises and expands the first paper (due at noon on Friday, November 20).  You will turn in your papers electronically via the digital dropbox on Blackboard.
  • If you require an extension on your paper, you must first speak with your dean, and then your dean will contact the professors in this course to discuss granting the extension.
  • All late papers will be marked down one grade for each day late.

3. “Fragments of Bodies: Lynching, Literature and Representation” Symposium (November 12 and 13)

  • Students are expected to participate fully in this Symposium (a 7 p.m. Thursday evening lecture and an all-day (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Friday symposium.

4. Public Forum (grade as part of class participation)

  • Each student will participate in a public forum that brings class discussions to the larger tri-College community.  The content and framework will be worked out between the group of students and the coordinating professor.  No more than five students will be assigned to an individual group.
  • We will divide the class into three groups.  Within those groups, we will create sub-groups to work on the public forum and final project assignments.  If, for example, we have 60 students in the course, each group will consist of 20 students, with four sub-groups of five students.  Each sub-group of five students will present a public forum and a web page for their final project.

5. Final Project Web Page

  • Building on the public forums, students will construct multimedia web pages that offer compelling written and visual analysis of the issues discussed in this course.  These web pages should be thought of as critical resources for the discussion of Blacks and Jews in America. The web sites will be linked to this syllabus.
  • A representative from the computing center will visit the class to explain how to build and maintain web pages using Apple iWeb.

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with one of us 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.

A course like this one requires flexibility and responsive awareness.  We reserve the right to change the syllabus to better reflect the nature and direction of the course as it proceeds through the semester.  We may add readings, remove others, or re-arrange class discussions to suit the goals of the course.

All cell phones must be in the off position, and computers can be turned on only during the first hour (lecture) of the course.

Books to Purchase

Toni Morrison, Beloved
Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus


Weekly Assignments

First Week (August 31): Introduction

Second Week (Thursday 7:30-9 p.m., September 10): No class Monday (Labor Day): Holocaust
Schindler’s List (on reserve)
Art Spiegelman, Maus, 11-159 (Volume 1), 98-100 (Volume 2)
Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl, 3-10
Wendy Zierler, “My Holocaust is not your Holocaust,” in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 46-67

Third Week (September 14):  Slavery
Daniel Mannix, “The Middle Passage,” in Black Cargoes
Jason Silverman, “The Law of the Land is the Law,” in Struggles in the Promised Land, 73-86
Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, 112-113
Arnold Eisen, Rethinking Modern Judaism, 247-251
Traces of the Trade (in class)
www.slavevoyages.org (database on the middle passage)

Fourth Week (September 21): Minstrelsy and Representation
Eric Lott, Love and Theft, 3-37
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies, and Bucks, 3-34
Ethnic Notions (in class)

Fifth Week (September 28): No class (Yom Kippur) Museums and Material Culture
Visit either The National Museum of American Jewish History (website) or The African American Museum (website)
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “Exhibiting Jews,” in Destination Culture, 79-128
Jenna Weissman-Joselit, “Best in Show,” in Imagining the American Jewish Community, 141-155

Friday, October 2 at noon: First paper due

How have Blacks and Jews been represented in American society?  Construct an argument that explores the function and purpose of those representations.

• You want to formulate a question about representation, utilizing two-three texts read for class to help establish a thesis about the ways in which Jews and blacks have been represented.  These texts include written and visual material.
• We will grade the paper by noting the quality of the question, the quality of the thesis that responds to your question, and the quality of the argument in support of your thesis.

Some helpful reminders:

1. Although you should begin with a question, your paper should not do so.  Your paper should begin with a claim and an overview of your argument.
2. We should be able to read your first paragraph and know what you want to argue.  In other words, we should be able to explain your paper and thesis to a friend after only reading the opening first paragraph.
3. Get to the point immediately.  Do not begin your paper with a statement like: “Blacks and Jews have been represented in many ways over the years.”  Rather, begin with your claim: “In Schindler’s List, Spielberg represents Jews as . . . , yet in Lott’s Love & Theft . . . .”
4. You are writing for the professors in this class.  Assume we have read the material (this means you do not need to introduce the material, nor offer a synopsis).
5. Because you are required to write only 5 pages for this assignment, please avoid extensive and lengthy quotations.
6. This is not a group assignment, so please do not discuss your paper with others in the class.  You should, however, feel free to go the Haverford and Bryn Mawr Writing Centers.
7. All rules and guidelines regarding the Haverford and Bryn Mawr Honor Codes apply.

Sixth Week (October 5): Race
James Baldwin and Podhoretz pieces
Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks, 25-52
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 1-14, 171-199

Seventh Week (October 12): No class (Fall break)

Eighth Week (October 19): Biblical Narratives and Black Jews
Al Raboteau, “African Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel”
Jon Levenson, “Liberation Theology and the Exodus,” in Jews, Christians, and the Theology of Hebrew Scripture
Nathaniel Deutsch and Yvonne Chireau, Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism, 15-54

Ninth Week (October 26): Diaspora, Sacred Space, Zionism
Arnold Eisen, The Chosen People in America, 25-52
Elana Bloomfield, “Conceiving Motherhood: The Jewish Female Body in Israeli Reproductive Practices,”  214-255
Charles Long, Signification, 173-184

Tenth Week (November 2): Lynching
James Baldwin, Going to Meet the Man
Amy Wood, “The Spectator has a Picture in his Mind”
“The Lynching of Leo Frank”
Leo Frank on CNN

Eleventh Week: Lynching Symposium (November 12-13)
Symposium website and schedule

Twelfth Week (November 16): Civil Rights
Marc Dollinger, “’Hamans’ and ‘Torquemadas’: Southern and Northern Jewish Responses to the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1965,” in  Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America, 164-190
Nathan Glazer, “What Happened to the Grand Alliance,” and Clayborn Carson, “Blacks and Jews in the Civil Rights Movement,” in Jews in Black Perspectives
PBS Movie (The Jewish Americans) (in class)

Friday, November 20 at 5 p.m.: Second paper due

How have Blacks and Jews been represented in American society?  Construct an argument that explores the function and purpose of those representations.

1. The opening paragraph of your paper should include a brief summary of the argument you made in your previous paper as it related to Blacks, Jews, and representation.  It should then state your new thesis claim, how it engages your previous paper, and what new texts you will be analyzing in order to explore this new claim.
2. The texts analyzed should derive from class readings after the sixth week reading assignment (from “Race” to “Civil Rights”).  This is not a research paper that requires additional sources beyond those listed in this syllabus.  Though you may draw from readings you have encountered in other classes, the primary focus should be on class readings and your analysis of them.
3. You should not discuss or share your paper with anyone.  The only acceptable means of discussing your paper are either with the Haverford and Bryn Mawr Writing Centers or with one of the course professors.
4. You are to use the course readings as the basis for your paper.  The internet is not an acceptable resource for your paper.  All rules and principles from the Haverford and Bryn Mawr Honor Codes apply.
5. All extensions are negotiated through your academic dean. You must first contact your dean about requesting an extension, and then your dean will contact us concerning your request.  Self-selected extensions will result in severe grade penalties and/or a failing grade on the assignment.

Thirteenth Week (November 23): Ethics and Memory
Toni Morrison, Beloved

Fourteenth Week (November 30): Ethics and Memory
Staub, Torn at the Roots, Chapter two
Roth, Eli the Fanatic, 247-298

Fifteenth Week (December 7): Student Presentations of Public Forums and Web Site work

Final Projects Due: Friday at Noon, December 18

In addition to the iWeb web site folder, each group must submit a one-page abstract to help us contextualize your website.  That abstract should contain the following information: goal of web site, identification of an audience, and analysis of the major theme(s) of the web project.

Also, each individual should submit a three-page assessment of the his/her contribution to the web site in the context of the larger web project.

The web project will be graded on accessibility to audience, use of graphics, videos, and text, as well as originality and overall content.

There will be three projects to turn in: 1) the iWeb web site; 2) the one-page abstract; and 3) the three-page individual assessment.

  1. Please upload your iWeb folder to Ken Koltun-Fromm’s storage server “public_readwrite” folder.  You can find his storage folder under “users,” “k”, and then “kkoltunf”.  Label your iWeb folder accordingly (ex. Slavery).
  2. Please upload your one page group abstract as a separate document within Ken’s storage server in the “public_readwrite” folder.  Do not include this abstract within the iWeb folder.  Please label this document accordingly (ex. Slavery abstract).
  3. Please upload the nine three-page individual assessment papers to Ken’s storage server in the “public_readwrite” folder.  These nine assessment papers should be contained within one folder.
  4. In addition to turning in all materials to Ken’s storage server, each group must burn all three projects on a CD/DVD disk to turn in to Andrea Pergolese on the second floor of Gest.