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Summer 2016 Onsite Seminar

Summer 2016 Onsite Seminar

Sunday, July 10, 2016 to Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Summer 2016 On-Campus Seminar was for students in the Spertus Jewish Studies master's and doctoral programs. It offered core, concentration, and elective courses in Jewish history and thought.

Morning Courses
Sunday 2-4 pm, Monday-Thursday 9 am-1 pm

Women in the Bible [Meets requirements for Masters second-level core, concentration, or elective, and Doctoral text or concentration.]
Taught by Dr. Rachel Havrelock

The focus of this course, on women in the Hebrew Bible, highlights the ways in which women’s roles in Judaism have been understood historically as well as the nature of life in the ancient Near East. Students will investigate the ancient world, asking how women factored in social, political, and religious life.  Biblical texts in translation stand at the center of the course, to be read closely with an eye to the representation of women as communal leaders, family members, and political agents.  As students generate their own interpretations, we will consider how biblical women have been understood historically and the social effects of such interpretations. Finally, the class will consider the impacts of Jewish women emerging as the leading interpreters of women in the Bible and what this means for contemporary Jewish life.

Modern Judaism: A Tale of Creation and Transformation [Masters core course]
Taught by Dr. Alan Levenson

This course explores the central developments in the making of modern Judaism. Topics that will be covered include: Eastern European developments including Hasidism and reinvigorated Traditionalism, modern forms of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) created in Western Europe, forms of secular Jewishness including Zionism and Jewish Socialism as religious surrogates, the exceptional nature of American Judaism, debates over Jewish responses to antisemitism and the Holocaust, and the religious meaning of the State of Israel.

Afternoon Courses
Sunday 4:30-6:30 pm, Monday-Thursday 2-6 pm

It's Only Apocryphal. Or Is It? [Meets requirements for Masters concentration or elective, and Doctoral text or concentration.]
Taught by Dr. Leonard Greenspoon

In contemporary usage, something that is "apocryphal" (as in an apocryphal story) is fictitious, made-up, false. Is this also true for the books of the Apocrypha — including Judith, Tobit, Maccabees, and the additions to Daniel and to Esther found in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not in the Tanakh or Protestant Old Testament? In this course, we will explore these books, each of which was originally composed by Jews for Jews in the last centuries BCE. Are they "biblical” — or not biblical? What difference does it make? Why were they written? By whom? For what purpose? How have they been interpreted? What value do they have today?

Who is a Jew? [Doctoral core course. Open to Masters students with permission.]
Taught by Dr. Joshua Shanes
(DSJS core course)

What makes someone Jewish? Is it descent, and if so, by which side? Is it instead a reflection of religious belief, or specific practices, religious or otherwise? Is it defined by political behavior or social associations? Are Jews a nation, religion, race, ethnicity, or something else entirely? This seminar will consider the changing boundaries of Jewishness—the continuities and discontinuities in Jewish identity and community—from late Biblical times through today.

All Day Seminar Course
Sunday 2-8 pm, Monday-Thursday 9 am-5 pm

Resilience, Vulnerability, and Religious and Theological Leadership [Meets requirements for Masters second-level core, concentration, or elective, and Doctoral text or concentration.
Presented in partnership with 
Meadville Lombard Theological School
Taught by Dr. Dean Bell and Dr. Michael Hogue

This course will include an international cohort of Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist students, among others. The theme is the role of resilience and vulnerability in the enhancement of individuals, communities, lifecycles, and systems.

Using case studies, lectures, discussions, and group work, participants will learn to interpret the sciences of resilience and vulnerability in theoretical and applied perspectives, as well as religious and theological terms. Relevance will be explored at individual, institutional, and systemic levels, with topics including spiritual and moral resilience, resilient leadership, and strategies for developing organizational and institutional resilience. Questions related to the uneven racial and socioeconomic distribution of vulnerability and resilience will be addressed. Topics will be interpreted through the natural and social sciences, through theological, historical, and cross-cultural lenses, and in relation to religious texts, symbols, and rituals. This course has been developed in part with a grant from the Wabash Center.

Short Seminar Course
Sunday 4:30-8:30 pm, Monday-Tuesday 2-6 pm

Evolving Identities of Twentieth-Century American Jews as Seen Through Film [Meets requirements for Masters concentration or elective, and Doctoral concentration.]
Taught by Dr. Elliot Lefkovitz

American Jewish identity has been shaped by the interaction between traditional Jewish beliefs and the values of twentieth-century American society, in a phenomenon termed "the American Jewish transaction." The challenges posed by this acculturation and assimilation are reflected in American film, the most popular twentieth-century art form.

Through the use of a variety of carefully selected excerpts from feature films and documentaries, this course will examine what film tells us about American Jewish identity, with identity defined as shared and distinguishing characteristics, such as behaviors, relationships, worldview, convictions, and virtues. Since cinema is responsive to changes in perceptions of the larger society, it also tells us about American society's perceptions of Jews. Several assigned readings will supplement the visual component of the course.

Message from the Dean

Dear Jewish Studies Students:

This Seminar offers exciting courses with skilled and accomplished faculty. As noted on the course listings, these offerings meet a variety of masters and doctoral program requirements.

Chicago is a beautiful city to visit in the summer, making this a wonderful time to attend a seminar. Participation will give you dedicated time to advance your studies, engage with faculty and your peers, and enjoy five days specifically devoted to your pursuits.

If you have questions or
would like to discuss course
selection, feel free to contact me
directly at
I look forward to seeing you.
Dean Bell
Dr. Dean P. Bell
Provost and Vice President
Spertus Institute

For New Students

Spertus offers graduate programs in Jewish Studies through a unique blend of distance learning and intensive on-campus instruction. Students — from half a dozen foreign countries and more than two dozen US states — come to Spertus for week-long academic seminars. Seminars include a range of courses in Jewish history, thought, and culture, accompanied by study of classical Jewish texts.

Applications for Jewish Studies programs are accepted all year. MORE>