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A Nation Apart? Jewish Identity in an Age of Nationalism

Course Syllabus

L75 JNE 176 / L22 History 176

Freshman Seminar:

A Nation Apart? Jewish Identity in an Age of Nationalism

Professor Hillel J. Kieval

Spring 2009

Office: Eliot 229

Office Hours: Mon, 3-4 and by appt.

What we have to demand from our Jewish fellow-citizens is simple: that they become Germans, feel themselves simply and justly as Germans, regardless of their faith and their old sacred memories, which all of us hold in reverence; for we do not want thousands of years of Germanic civilization to be followed by an era of German-Jewish mixed culture.

            -Heinrich von Treitschke, 1879.

Course Description

This course invites you to explore the varieties and limits of Jewish identity in a world in which nations appear to be the driving forces of history.  In the "age of nationalism," beginning in the second half of the eighteenth and continuing to the end of the twentieth century, traditional forms of Jewish identity as well as the place of Jews within the social fabric became problematic.  Who were the Jews as individuals and as a collective?  A nation?  A religious group?  Neither exactly?  And what was their relationship to the emerging, modern nations of Europe to be?  Did the process of emancipation resolve the problem?  To what extent was antisemitism a response to the dilemma of defining and situating Jews in the new European order?  How has the existence of a Jewish nation state in the Middle East affected Jewish identity in other parts of the world?  Finally, how has globalization altered the relationship of Jews to the state as well as toward other Jews?


Class Structure, Assignments, Exams

The seminar format means that meetings will be structured around guided discussion of the readings for that session.  Normally, I will suggest questions that you might use to guide you in your reading. My expectation is that everyone will be prepared for discussion.

Weekly Response Papers.  A one- or two-page reaction to a significant portion of the week's reading, which focuses on the arguments, interpretations, or perspectives therein.

Each student will be responsible for introducing and facilitating two class discussions. In this role, you will be asked to give a brief (10-minute) leadoff presentation on the readings for that day and to open the discussion for the week by formulating and distributing your own set of questions.  Students need not submit a response paper for the weeks in which you lead discussion.

Mid-term take-home exam.  An essay exam whose purpose is to encourage you to deploy historical information and interpretation in order to construct a compelling argument.

Final Essay:  A 10- t o 12-page essay on a subject chosen by you in consultation with me.  This is to be an exercise in historical interpretation, relating to the broad concerns of the course and based on outside research.  You will be required to submit a formal paper proposal, structured around a research question, and incorporating a preliminary bibliography, by week 5 of the semester.  The final paper will be due on the date of the final exam.

Grading Procedures:

Response papers:  20%

Participation and Discussion leading: 20%

Midterm exam: 25%

Paper proposal and bibliography: 5%

Final Paper: 30%

Course Calendar and Syllabus

1.         Jewish Identity and Jewish-Christian Interactions before the Age of Nationalism (Jan. 12 thru 28).

§  What did it mean to be Jewish in Christian Europe?

§  How did Jews construct and understand their own identity?

§  What were the nature and limitations of Jewish-non-Jewish interactions in premodern Europe?

§  Were Jews part of the premodern state?

For 1/14: Jonathan Elukin, Living Together, Living Apart, 11-88. (Available for purchase)

For 1/21:  Elukin, 89-138; "Last Supper at Xanten," in J. Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God, 73-90. (Telesis)

For 1/26:  Dean Bell, Jews in the Early Modern World, 93-190. (Available for purchase)

For 1/28:  Bell, 191-239; Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln, Bk. 3, 40-89. (Telesis)

2.         The Emergence of Nations in the Modern World (Feb 2 thru 11)

§  What is a Nation?

§  What is the difference between nations and states?

§  What roles did the Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th century play in the creation of modern nation states?

§  Did Jews constitute a nation?

For 2/2:  Anderson, Imagined Communities, 1-82. (Available for purchase)

For 2/4:  Anderson, 83-162.

For 2/9:  Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 1-56. (Available for purchase)

For 2/11:  The Jew in the Modern World, 10-28, 62-67 (Telesis); Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 334-338, 382-385, 387-394. (Telesis)

3.         The Place of Jews in a World of Nations (Feb 16-Mar 2)

§  Why did the issue of the suitability of Jews to become citizens emerge at this time?

§  How did Europeans debate the question?

§  The Emancipation bargain: What was expected of Jews in return for membership in the modern state?

§  Did Jews succeed in taking part in European nation-building?  In integrating to the national body?

§  Did Jews cease to be their own nation?

For 2/16:  Katz, 57-123.

For 2/18:  Jew in the Modern World, (Dohm et al.) 28-53. (Telesis)

For 2/23:  The French Revolution and Human Rights, pp. 80-108, 119-131. (Telesis)

For 2/25:  Katz, 124-219.

For 3/2:  Jew in the Modern World, 123-152; 177-206. (Telesis)

4.         Modern Antisemitism and Jewish Nationalism (Mar 4 thru 30)

§  What was new about antisemitism in the late nineteenth century?

§  What are pogroms and why do they break out at this time?

§  What is Zionism in its European context? 

§  What is Zionism in its Jewish contexts?

§  What are its political and cultural programs?

§  Have the Jews become a nation?

For 3/4:  Efron, "The Politics of Being Jewish," in: The Jews: A History, 294-333. (Telesis)

For 3/16:  Levy, Antisemitism in the Modern World, 56-93. (Telesis)

For 3/18:  Levy, 104-144. (Telesis)

For 3/23:  Hertzberg, ed., The Zionist Idea, 116-181.

For 3/25:  Hertzberg, 181-230.

For 3/30:  Hertzberg, 248-277; Dubnov, Nationalism and History, 73-115, 131-142. (Telesis)

5.         Israel, the United States, and the Jewish Diaspora (April 6 thru 22)

§  How have Jews formulated their identity in the post-War world, particularly in the U.S.?

§  How has the existence of the State of Israel affected Jewish identity in other lands?

§  Why do the Holocaust and the State of Israel occupy such prominent positions in expressions of American Jewish identity?

§  Globalization in historical context

§  Is there a connection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism?

§  How many loyalties can a person or a group have?

For 4/6:  Freedman, Jew vs. Jew, 13-114. (Available for purchase)

For 4/8:   Freedman, 115-216.

For 4/13:  Sheffer, "Is the Jewish Diaspora Unique?" Israel Studies 10, 1 (2005); Weingrod and Levy, "Paradoxes of Homecoming: The Jews and their Diasporas," Anthropological Quarterly 79 (2006). (Telesis)

For 4/20:  Freedman, 217-337.

For 4/22:  Freedman, 338-359; Sarna, American Judaism, 356-376. (Telesis)