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Jewish Studies Summer Seminar

Jewish Studies Summer Seminar

Sunday, July 8, 2018 to Thursday, July 12, 2018

Seminars offer dedicated time to advance your studies, learn with skilled and accomplished faculty, and engage with your fellow students from around the world. During seminars, courses are offered that meet program requirements for students in our Jewish Studies MA and doctoral programs.

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Registration deadline June 1, 2018

Sunday, July 8, 2:00-4:00 pm and
Monday-Thursday, July 9-12, 9:00 am-1:00 pm

Rabbi Dr. Victor MirelmanIntergroup Relations
Taught by Rabbi Dr. Victor Mirelman
Course 5506 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DSJS Core Course and MAJS Second-Level Core and Elective Course Requirements

In this course, students will explore the interaction between Jews as a minority group and their host communities over extensive periods of Galut (exile) living. How did Jews relate to the majority population and culture? Where and when did dialogue exist, and at what level? When and where was it prejudicial to Jewish integrity and authenticity? Contacts between Jews and the majority groups took place at various levels. At the economic level, contact involved trade, commerce, money lending, and professions, among others. The cultural level was comprised of mutual influence within the arts, aesthetics, ethics, philosophy, theology, and social mores. The legal status of Jews also changed as new ideas permeated their respective worlds. Finally, there is the level of prejudice, racism, and antisemitism, an area in which Jewish communities developed variegated responses throughout history. Interfaith dialogue is another, more recent, aspect of this relationship. All of these dimensions of intergroup relations, and their implications, will be explored.

Dr. Leonard GreenspoonThe Minor Prophets
Taught by Dr. Leonard Greenspoon
Course 4128 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DHL and DSJS Text Course and MAJS Elective Course Requirements

For many Jews, the books of the twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea–Malachi) are little known beyond their names. Even some of their names — Obadiah, Nahum, and Haggai, for example — are practically unknown, to say nothing of their message. This is not entirely surprising since only one of these books, Jonah, is part of the Jewish liturgical cycle. As we will learn in this class, the twelve Minor Prophets—as individual books of prophecy or, as understood in Judaism) as one prophetic book, as understood in Judaism — contain a wealth of insights about beliefs and practices. This includes an emphasis on social justice, a critique of ritual devoid of internal reflection, and the significance of the individual as part of a community encompassing God and other humans.

Dr. Michael ShapiroAntisemitism in English Literary Masterpieces
by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens

Taught by Dr. Michael Shapiro
Course 3334 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DSJS Elective and MAJS Second-Level Core and Elective Course Requirements

Three of the greatest works of English literature are imbued with or reflect antisemitic attitudes of their own time — the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Victorian period. This course will explore the sources of these attitudes, the different strains of antisemitism, and the role of antisemitism in the structure of each work — Chaucer's "The Prioress' Tale" in The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and Dickens's Oliver Twist. The course will also explore the problems such works pose in our own day.

Sunday, July 8, 4:30-6:30 pm and 
Monday-Thursday, July 9-12, 2-6 pm

Dr. Joshua ShanesModern Jewish Experiences
Taught by Dr. Joshua Shanes
Course 3505 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DSJS Prerequisite and MAJS Core Course Requirements

The European Enlightenment dramatically changed the profile of western civilization and had a profound impact on European Jewry. Based on Enlightenment ideas, European states began integrating the Jews into the fabric of the state and society, seeking to eliminate the cultural and religious separateness of the Jews. Jewish elites absorbed the ideas of the Enlightenment and launched social, cultural, and religious reforms, pursuing the rapprochement between the Jews and the gentile society. These internal and external reforms both shaped the process of Jewish modernization, emancipation, and acculturation, and diversified and politicized the Jewish community. Following the socio-political divide in Europe, Jews turned to socialism and nationalism, soon finding themselves caught between the blatantly atheistic Soviet Union and increasingly racist Third Reich. Although the Holocaust annihilated one-third of the then world Jewish population, Jews emerged as a Diaspora nationality. New centers grew in the US and Israel and there emerged a new sense of responsibility for the fate of their brethren elsewhere in the world. This course covers the period from the French Revolution through the fall of the Berlin Wall. It highlights the plurality of models of Jewish integration and acculturation, the formation of new Jewish identities, the split of the traditional community, the rise of Liberal and Orthodox trends within Judaism, and the spread of Jewish political movements. In it, students will examine the problems of interaction between the general society and the Jewish minority that pointed toward the 20th century transformation of modernity.

Dr. Ellen LeVeeSocial Foundations of Judaism:
Revelation and Ritual

Taught by Dr. Ellen LeVee
Course 4363 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DSJS Text and Elective and MAJS Second-Level Core and Elective Course Requirements

In this course, students will explores the unique sociological foundations of Judaism as based in a non-materialistic worldview and as developed through spiritual discipline and moral behavior. The premise of this course is that Judaism offers an alternative to what currently dominates the western sociological tradition. Normative in the western tradition is a dualism between the material and spiritual, where the material world is primary and the spiritual, as an idea that can influence social life, is nonetheless secondary. In contrast, the primacy of the non-material dimension of life in Judaism makes use of the material world to achieve non-materialistic goals. Students will consider this model through themes introduced in Exodus and Leviticus and explored in the literature of the social sciences. We will discuss such topics as human freedom, revelation, idolatry, ritual, and the place of the individual in society. Readings are from anthropologists, such as Clifford Geertz and Mary Douglas, and from sociologists, such as Robert Bellah and Peter Berger.

Dr. Elliot LefkovitzThe American Jewish Immigrant Experience
Taught by Dr. Elliot Lefkovitz
Course 4639 | 3 quarter-hour credits
Meets DHL Core, DSJS Elective, and MAJS Second-Level Core and Elective Course Requirements

The historian Oscar Handlin wrote, "I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America, then I discovered that immigrants were American history." Indeed, the United States has had a great range of nationalities and great numbers of migrating peoples helping to shape its history as a nation. Immigrants have helped to make the country stronger and better. This course will focus on the immigration of some two million Eastern European Jews to this country from 1881 to 1924. The course will begin by transmitting the background of this immigrant wave in both countries of origin and in the United States. The former will focus on immigrants' reasons for leaving their countries of birth and the latter on salient aspects of late 19th and early 20th century American society with which they were about to deal. The course will then center on the Eastern European immigrant experience in America, principally through literature and film. It will investigate their first contacts with "the Promised Land,"the challenges and obstacles faced in building a new life in the new world, the tension between acculturation and assimilation, the interactions between the resident Jewish population and other nationalities as well as between resident Jews and the new immigrants, the relationships between the immigrants and their offspring, the many contributions these immigrants made to their new homeland, and the legacy they left for contemporary American Jewry. The roles of literature and film in shedding light on the Eastern European Jewish immigrant experience offer unique perspectives into this consequential migration.

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Letter from the Dean

Dear Students:

This year’s Spertus Jewish Studies Summer Seminar will be held on campus Sunday, July 8 -Thursday, July 12, 2018. A range of courses will be offered to fulfill core, concentration, and elective requirements in the MA and Doctoral programs.

I strongly encourage you to participate in the Seminar. The experience provides an important opportunity for you to interact with faculty and fellow students in an atmosphere of vibrant intellectual curiosity. You will return home having made significant progress toward your goals, while at the same time having built a network of colleagues pursuing similar paths.

I look forward to meeting you in July and serving as a resource to you in the coming months and years. As you have any questions or want to discuss course selection, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Until then, all best wishes,
Dr. Keren Fraiman

Dr. Keren E. Fraiman

Dean and Chief Academic Officer
Spertus Institute


At Spertus Institute, we embrace the idea that the wisdom of Jewish thought and the richness of Jewish experiences inform Jewish society and Judaism today. Our programs encourage intellectual and spiritual reflection. Students grapple with Jewish ideas in the service of their personal, professional, and communal advancement.

Course Costs for Admitted Students

  • Masters level 
    $350 per quarter-hour credit 
    ($1050 per 3qh course)

  • Doctoral level 
    $400 per quarter-hour credit 
    ($1200 per 3qh course)

A registration fee of $25 is also required.

For New Students

It's not too late!

Considering an MA in Jewish Studies? The Summer Seminar is a great way to kick off your learning experience at Spertus. Admission is on a rolling basis. To be eligible to participate in the Summer Seminar, your application and admission materials must be received by May 15, 2018!

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. LEARN MORE>