Rise of Secular Jewish Culture

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HACU-0190, SS-0190
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Meeting Information
Location: FPH 101
Days: Tuesday, Thursday
Time: 9:00-10:20
Email: rrubinstein
Extension: 5518
Office: ASH 102
Office Hours:
Home Page:
Email: jwald@hampshire.edu
Extension: 5592
Office: FPH G-15
Office Hours:
Home Page: http://helios.hampshire.edu/~jjwSS
Technical Information
Course Level: 100
Course Number: 190
Course Capacity:
Course Website:


Rise of Secular Jewish Culture is a crosslisted Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies/Social Science class taught by Rachel Rubinstein and James Wald.

Course Description

Jewishness has always involved more than religion. Jewish identity, even in the pre-modern world, was expressed through language, work, music, food, and other cultural behaviors. Modernity brought with it even more possibilities, and a sense of radically different political, cultural, and artistic Jewish identities beyond religion began to emerge. This interdisciplinary course draws upon history, literature, political philosophy, and sociology in tracing the rise of a pluralistic, multifaceted modern Jewish culture in Europe and the U.S. between the seventeenth century and the Second World War. We begin with Spinoza, the most significant "heretical." Jewish thinker in the 17th century, and continue through the European Enlightenment, the rise of modern Jewish nationalist movements, and the emergence of secular Yiddish and Hebrew literature. Finally, we will address the crisis of Jewish modernity provoked by the Holocaust, and briefly survey secular Jewish identities today.

Learning Goals

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