250 – Jewish Images

Ken Koltun-Fromm
Haverford College
Gest 201
Office hours: Monday/Wednesday, 11:30-12:30pm
610-896-1026 (office), 610-645-8324 (home)

Fall, 2012
Monday/Wednesday 12:30-2
Hall 106

The Thing
The Thing



This class will explore the ways in which American Jews work with images to explore identity.  The course will primarily engage 20th century depictions in various artistic mediums, but will focus on five themes: bodies, food, ritual, Israel, and race.  Students will take an active part in constructing the content of the course material by drawing from a wide storehouse of digital and material culture, and employing classroom iPads to navigate through these sources.



Visit the class Twitter Feed Here

Class Preparation and Dynamics

Preparation for class discussions is required and necessary. You should be fully prepared to engage the reading and visual materials in class, and offer reflective comments upon the assignments and the ideas of others.

A feature of this preparation includes the cultivation of additional source material that bears on the issues raised in the class assignments.  As a class we will utilize Moodle as a shared storage sight to upload and download source material.  While reading or reviewing class assignments in class, we will gather related material (articles, images, links to videos on Youtube, music, web links, whatever) and upload it to our Moodle site as a collective storehouse.  And you will continue to upload content as you reflect on class discussion so that we archive this material. At each class meeting we will have three iPads dispersed around the table (purchased through the Haverford Teaching with Technology Grant) so that any one of us can easily grab an iPad, connect it to the materials on Moodle, and wirelessly display the chosen media on a projected screen in front of the classroom.  In this way, we will mix designated class assignments with responsive new media so that we all become active learners together in the classroom.

To help introduce this approach, one or two of you will begin class by relating the assignment to some additional texts that you have stored in Moodle.  By pairing multiple texts in this manner, you should be able to focus the class on a particular issue, image, problem, concern, or question raised by these materials.  This engagement with class material should take no longer than 10-15 minutes, and should be actively designed to spur discussion.  Each of you will sign up for individual class days to present material, and your presentation must include reflective assessment on the use of technology and/or the nature of display. Other students can actively engage your presentation both before and after class by posting other media within the Moodle site. Furthermore, all of us can use the iPads in class to access materials to display on the projected screen as inspiration moves us.

Since this is an experimental process, and one that encourages innovation, exploration, and creativity, we will actively explore the nature and use of new media as we use it in the classroom.  This may take the form of withholding the media for designated classes in order to understand better how we actually use it, or to focus class discussion on new media.  This critical engagement means that we seek to achieve a form of technological literacy, and we will continually discuss our use of technology, critically reflect about it throughout the semester, and be empowered to make changes in class practices to better enhance the goals of the course.  This last point is crucial: we are becoming literate together as a class, and we should be flexible to innovate when appropriate and necessary.

You will also partake in two group projects during the semester (10/31 Cookbooks and 11/14 Ritual) in which you will be assigned to a small group to present materials to the class.  This presentation is similar to the individual one, but you will work closely with other students.

Here is my policy concerning your personal use of technology in the classroom: you cannot use any cell phone or communication device in the class (they must be turned off or silenced), and those who wish to use computers must make an office appointment with me to discuss their use before you bring them to class.

Together with other Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleagues, I am participating in a Teaching Learning Initiative Workshop.  Here I am able to discuss course pedagogy and our use of technology in the classroom.  I also have the great pleasure to discuss class dynamics with the student consultant assigned to this course, Miriam Pallant, and she will visit the course weekly as an observer.


Google Reference Guide
Googling for Images
Judaism in America Resource Page


You will write three four-page, doubled-spaced papers during the semester, create one blog media project (together with an optional reflective report), and produce a final exhibit that draws together your written and digital work.  All three written papers may include digital materials stored in Moodle, but the blog and final projects must include those materials.  Your final work will be a visual, multi-media exhibit of Jewish images that reflects your research throughout the semester.  We will exhibit your work during reading period for the wider Haverford community on December 19th in Zubrow Commons (and perhaps videotape this exhibit), and you will include a reflective assessment of your exhibit when you turn in your final project at the end of finals period. We will talk at great length about the nature of this final exhibit and its scope.  The due dates for the papers and final exhibit are as follows:

First four page paper: September 28th, Friday, 4pm
Second four page paper: November 2nd, Friday, 4pm
Blog Project: November 16th, Friday, 4pm
Third four page paper: November 30th, Friday, 4pm
Presentation of Exhibit: December 19th, 2-4pm (Zubrow Commons)
Final Exhibit: December 21st, Friday, 12pm

All papers should be turned into the Moodle folder labeled for that assignment.  This will enable each of you, if you so wish, to share your work with others in the class.  I will download your assignments and enter my comments, but send this file to you directly via email (so that only you can read my comments and grade).


Your final grade will be based on the above assignments, with significant weight placed on your engagement in class discussions, and the preparation and time you devote to your final exhibit. I have posted a Grading Rubric for Papers that we will review together in class, but it is there for you to refer to when writing your own papers.  I do not evaluate each task with percentage accuracy (your final work is not worth, say, 30% of your grade, for example).  Instead I 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 during 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

  • Greenberg and Silverman, The Jewish Home Beautiful
  • Foer, New American Haggadah
  • Rosenblatt, Social Zionism (download from Google Books)
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

Material on Moodle

  • Roth, “Imagining Jews,” 215-246
  • Itzkovitz, “Passing Like Me,” 38-63
  • Morgan, The Sacred Gaze, 1-47
  • Jay, Downcast Eyes, 1-82
  • Gilman, The Jew’s Body, 169-193
  • Presner, Muscular Judaism, xv-xxiv, 1-12, 155-186
  • Adler, Engendering Judaism, 1-19, 105-167
  • Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith, 1-39
  • Kirshenblett-Gimblett, “Playing to the Senses,” 1-30
  • Weiss, “Packaging Judaism,” 48-61
  • Stolow, Orthodox by Design, 120-132, 150-157
  • Joselit, The Wonders of America, 219-263
  • Katz, The Visual Culture of Chabad, 204-224
  • Bennett, Bar Mitzvah Disco, 9-45
  • Zerubavel, “Desert and Settlement,” 201-222
  • Troen, “Frontier Myths,” 301-329
  • Chireau, Black Zion, 15-54
  • Chevloe, Jewish Identity Project, 1-26
  • Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 171-199
  • Kaye/Kantrowitz, The Colors of Jews, 1-65


Visual Culture

  • 9/5 (W) – Introduction to class, review of  syllabus, and (if time permits) discussion about originality and digital collaboration.  Our goal will be to arrive at a collective understanding of digital production and consumption, creativity, plagiarism, and fair use that we will revisit and refine throughout the course.
  • 9/10 (M) – Roth, “Imagining Jews,” 215-246; Itzkovitz, “Passing Like Me,” 38-63
  • 9/12 (W) – Morgan, The Sacred Gaze, 1-47; visit by librarians on digital searches and websites
  • 9/17 (M) – No Class: Rosh Hashanah
  • 9/19 (W) – McCloud, Understanding Comics, 60-73, 94-161
  • 9/24 (M) – Jay, Downcast Eyes, 1-82
  • 9/26 (W) – No Class: Yom Kippur
  • 9/28 (F) – First four-page paper due

Link to Moodle


  • 10/1 (M) – (Sukkoth) Review of class with student consultant (Miriam Pallant)
  • 10/3 (W) – Gilman, The Jew’s Body, 169-193, (Jewish Nose); Presner, Muscular Judaism, xv-xxiv, 1-12; “The Tribe” (in class)
  • 10/8 (M) – Adler, Engendering Judaism, 1-19, 105-167
  • 10/10 (W) – Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith, 1-39
  • Fall Break


  • 10/22 (M) – Kirshenblett-Gimblett, “Playing to the Senses,” 1-30; Weiss, “Packaging Judaism,” 48-61
  • 10/24 (W) – Greenberg and Silverman, The Jewish Home Beautiful
  • 10/29 (M) – Fishbein, Kosher by Design: Picture-perfect Food for the Holidays & Every Day; Stolow, Orthodox by Design, 120-132, 150-157
  •  10/31 (W) – Cookbooks – Group Projects
  • 11/2 (F) – Second four-page paper due
    • Analyze how visual images or visual language make an argument in one of the texts we have read within the “Bodies” or “Food” section of the syllabus.  You want to make an argument about how images or visual language function in your chosen text.  The implicit claim here is that images and visual language do more than verify or confirm an argument; they can actually take part in or conflict with that argument.  In other words, images do things, and I want you to explore in this paper how they do things.  You may use material from the Moodle or blog posts, but you are not required to do so.  The focus of this paper should be on one text, and a particular section of that text.
    • Examples of Good Writing

Link to Moodle


  • 11/5 (M) – Joselit, The Wonders of America, 219-263
  • 11/7 (W) – Foer, New American Haggadah
  • 11/12 (M) – Katz, The Visual Culture of Chabad, 204-224; Bennett, Bar Mitzvah Disco, 9-45
  • 11/14 (W) – Laurie, Michael, and Cory digital media presentation.  Passover, Bnei Mitzvah, Chanukah – Group Projects
  • 11/16 (F) – Blog Media Project due


  • 11/19 (M) – Presner, Muscular Judaism, 155-186;
  • 11/21 (W) – Zerubavel, “Desert and Settlement,” 201-222; Troen, “Frontier Myths,” 301-329
  • 11/26 (M) – Rosenblatt, Social Zionism
  • 11/28 (W) – Visit to National Museum of American Jewish History
  • 11/30 (F) – Third four-page paper due
    • Choose an image to analyze by using the texts read in class for this unit on Israel.  The image may come from texts read in class, or from some other source (make sure you track and footnote the source), but your analysis should draw from the class material.  So, for example, you might choose to analyze an E. M. Lilien sketch, and you could “read” it by appropriating Presner’s account of muscular Judaism.  You should only discuss one image, but you can use as many sources as you like.

Link to Moodle


  • 12/3 (M) – Chireau, Black Zion, 15-54
  • 12/5 (W) – Chevloe, The Jewish Identity Project, 1-26; Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 171-199
  • 12/10 (M) – Kaye/Kantrowitz, The Colors of Jews, 1-65
  • 12/12 (W) – Be’chol Lashon website: http://www.bechollashon.org


  • 12/19 (W) – Display of Final Projects (Zubrow Commons: 2-4 pm)
  • 12/21 (F) – Final Projects Due at Noon