This course traces the historical development of American Jews from their origins as a small outpost in the colonial era to their evolution as the largest Jewish community in the world. It focuses on the centrality of immigration to that history and the significance of several generations of immigrants and their children in mediating the tensions between the demands of American society for adaptation and the requisites of Jewish religion, culture, and ethnic identity. The course looks at how Jews became American and how they redefined what it meant to be Jewish. It examines their social, economic and political choices. The course employs a variety of sources to explore the history of Jews as an American minority group, a dissenting non-Christian religious group, an immigrant and ethnic group, and a cultural group. These sources include first-person accounts and documents and narrative and analytic histories, as well as media artifacts. It will introduce students to visual and aural dimensions of Jewish culture, employing film, photography, music, and radio. Although structured as a lecture course, it will include regular time set aside for discussion. The course does not assume any prior knowledge of Jewish or American history although such knowledge would be helpful.
Intended audience: Sophomores, juniors, seniors
Course Requirements: Five 1-2 page response papers (30%) (250-500 words) to primary documents to encourage students to engage with surviving records of people's experiences and observations. These writing assignments will provide students with an opportunity for critical thinking and allow them to receive feedback on their writing throughout the academic term. There will also be a Midterm Exam (25%), Final Exam (30%) and Attendance and Preparation (15%).