CJH Mini-Courses

Throughout the year, CJH offers courses on an array of subjects. As part of its commitment to purveying the fruits of academic Jewish research to a broader public, these courses are intended for scholarly as well as lay audiences. Courses typically consist of three or four sessions, in which the professor explores a particular sub-topic in European or American Jewish history. The courses are lecture-oriented, but also include the reading of texts and seminar-styled learning. Our visiting scholars, senior fellows, and other affiliated faculty teach these courses in the spring and fall.

Upcoming this winter: NEH Senior Scholar Shaul Magid is teaching Radical Jewish Politics in Postwar America and Israel in February and CJH Visiting Scholar Roberta Rosenberg is teaching What’s So Funny? Jewish Humor from Genesis to Seinfeld and Soloway in March.

To register for one of our mini-courses, please visit donate.cjh.org/CJHCourses.

Radical Jewish Politics in Postwar America and Israel

Taught by: Shaul Magid (Indiana University), CJH NEH Senior Scholar
Time: 7-9 pm on February 6th, 13th, 21st, and 27th, 2018
Tuition: $250 general; $200 for seniors and CJH members; $50 for university students

In this four-part series we will explore four different visions of postwar Jewish radical politics.

As the multi-volume study The Jewish Political Tradition edited by Michael Waltzer and others shows, Jews have had a political tradition in the Diaspora as long as they have lived there. After emancipation, Jews played prominent roles in almost every major political movement in Europe and America, from Marxism to socialism, liberalism, anarchism, and neoconservatism.

In many cases, Jews were especially attracted to radical political alternatives that challenged and contested the liberalism of the societies in which they lived. This course will examine the thinking of four post-war Jewish thinkers, who, different as they may seem on major social and political questions, were united in proposing radical visions of a post-liberal society.

February 6: Arthur Waskow and “Jews for Urban Justice”

Arthur Waskow is one of the oldest living radical Jewish political activists. Beginning his career in the civil rights movement, in the fall of 1967 he and others founded “Jewish for Urban Justice.” This was perhaps the first expression of what became known as “The New Jews,” or Jewish radicals from the New Left who reconnected with their Jewish identity and began applying Jewish principles to radical forms of social justice. Author of the influential “Freedom Seder” in 1968, Waskow retained a radical leftist approach to political change that was refracted through his reading of Judaism as a revolutionary religion.

February 13: Meir Kahane and the call for Radical Jewish Identity

Meir Kahane was an Orthodox pulpit rabbi and journalist until he became increasing radicalized in the wake of the rise of the Black Nationalist Movement in the mid-60s and the dangers it posed to elderly Jews living in transitional neighborhoods. In 1968 Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League to protect Jews from the dangers of urban blight. More than that, Kahane began a radical political and cultural program of re-fashioning American Jewish identity in opposition to the liberal Jewish establishment, including the use of violence as a means to defend Jews and instill in them as sense of pride (hadar). Ostracized by most American Jewish leaders, Kahane remained a popular folk hero to many radical Jews who used the tactics of the radical left toward right-wing ends. We will explore how much of his larger program of Jewish identity remains.

February 21: Yoel Teitelbaum, The Traditional Jewish Battle against Zionism

Until his death in 1979, Teitelbaum, Grand Rabbi of the Satmar dynasty, was one of the most influential Hasidic leaders in the world. Aside from his erudition, he is best known for his vehement anti-Zionist views. Although he is often cited, few have looked closely at his argument in large part because his work remains un-translated. In this session, we will get a close glimpse of Teitelbaum’s religious anti-Zionist position through yet unpublished annotated translations of some of his writings.

February 27: Zvi Yehuda Kook, Fusing Religion and the State in Israel

Son of the first chief rabbi of Mandate Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook, Zvi Yehuda became the architect of what is now known as the settler movement. His interpretation of his father’s romantic and spiritual Religious Zionism led to a messianic fusion of religion and state that has continued to resonate today. We will look at a selection of his work, including a famous sermon he gave on Israel Independence Day in 1967 just weeks before the Six-Day War that suggests that human agency rather than divine fiat is what truly embodies Israel’s messianic vocation. We will conclude with two alternative visions of Religious Zionism built from Zvi Yehuda’s ideology as espoused by two of his student Menachem Froman and Shimon Gershon Rosenberg, (known as Rav Shagar).

Shaul Magid, NEH Senior Scholar at the Center for Jewish History, is the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has published widely on Kabblah, Hasidic thought, and American Judaism. His current project at the center is an intellectual history of Meir Kahane.

What’s So Funny? Jewish Humor from Genesis to Seinfeld and Soloway

Taught by: Roberta Rosenberg (Christopher Newport University), CJH Visiting Scholar
Time: 7-9 pm on March 14th, 21st, and 28th, 2018
Tuition: $200 general; $150 for seniors and CJH members; $50 for university students

This three-part course will look at the nature of Jewish humor from the earliest biblical texts of Genesis to the popular modern television shows Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Transparent. Selections from: Genesis (the Sarah and Joseph stories), Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Art Spiegelman, Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Roz Chast and Jill Soloway.

What are the sources of Jewish laughter? How and why is it funny? In what ways is Jewish humor particular to a certain people, place, and time? How has Jewish comedy responded to the circumstances and relationships of the Jewish people throughout the ages and in contemporary America?

No prior knowledge of the subject is required beyond a good sense of humor.

March 14: Traditional Jewish Humor

This class will explore the nature of traditional Jewish humor, from Biblical times to European Diaspora. How have Jews dealt with adversity and social upheaval from the Bible through European Holocaust, and how is this illuminated in comedic texts?

March 21: American Jewish Humor

This session will examine diasporic Jewish humor and how it has been employed by an empowered American community (Roth, Englander, Auslander and Chast). How have Americans living in a secure America changed the nature of comedy from“fear and trembling“ to rebellious self-assertion?

March 28: Post-Ethnic Jewish Humor

The final session will analyze Jewish humor in a post-ethnic, post-Judaic age (Seinfeld, David, Soloway). How has Jewish humor changed in an era of assimilation, intermarriage and the loss of traditional beliefs?

*Most texts available in PDF and television video available online, some through Netflix and Amazon

Roberta Rosenberg, Visiting Scholar at the Center for Jewish History, is Emeritus Professor of English at Christopher Newport University and a member of the Modern Language Association’s Executive Forum on Teaching and Literature. Her current project at the center relates to the teaching of Jewish American literature.