Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies
1155 East 60th Street, Room 302A
Chicago, IL 60637

Jewish Civilization Courses

Jewish Civilization 2019–2020

JWSC 12000 (= RLST 22010; NEHC 22010; MDVL 12000) Jewish Civilization I – Ancient Beginnings to the Early Medieval Period
Section 1: Autumn T/Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm  James Robinson
Section 2: Autumn M/W 1:30 – 2:50 pm  Cathleen Chopra-McGowan

JWSC 12001 (= RLST 22011; NEHC 22011; MDVL 12010) Jewish Civilization II – Late Medieval to Modern Period
Section 1: Winter T/Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm  Sarah Hammerschlag

Section 2: Winter M/W 1:30 – 2:50 pm  Cathleen Chopra-McGowan

JWSC 12002 (= ENST 12002, HIST 17205, REES 24424) Jewish Civilization III - Jews and the City: Migration and Urbanization in the Modern Jewish Diaspora
Section 1: Spring T/Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm  Anna Band

Jewish Civilization is a two-quarter sequence that explores the development of Jewish culture and tradition from its ancient beginnings through its rabbinic and medieval transformations to its modern manifestations. Through investigation of primary texts—biblical, Talmudic, philosophical, mystical, historical, documentary, and literary—students will acquire a broad overview of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness while reflecting in greater depth on major themes, ideas, and events in Jewish history. The Autumn course will deal with antiquity to the early medieval periods. Its readings will include works from the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, the Rabbis, Yehudah Halevy, and Maimonides. The Winter quarter will begin with the late medieval period and continue to the present. It will include discussions of mysticism, the works of Spinoza and Mendelssohn, the nineteenth-century reform, the Holocaust and its reflection in writers such as Primo Levi and Paul Celan, and literary pieces from postwar American Jewish and Israeli authors.

In the Spring Quarter students will have the option of taking a third unit of Jewish Civilization, a course whose topics will vary. In Spring 2020, the topic will be Jews and the City: Migration and Urbanization in the Modern Jewish Diaspora

Why are Jews often referred to as “the people of the city,” and how did this ethnic group become one of the most urbanized in the world? This course explores the multifaceted relationship between Jews and cities over the course of the long 19thcentury. Through critical reading of primary sources (in translation) and discussion of modern research, we will investigate the experiences of and connections between two formative processes—migration and urbanization—in the modern Jewish world. The course is transnational in focus, structured thematically around major global urban centers which absorbed Jewish migrants in the late 19thand early 20th centuries. Particular focus will be paid to Jewish encounters with and experience in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Warsaw, Odessa, Kiev, London, New York, and Chicago. We will investigate how modern Jewish identities are produced both in and through urban space, and we will analyze how Jewish migration has in turn shaped urban and city life.

This Jewish civilization sequence may be used to fulfill the College’s general education requirement in civilization studies. It is recommended, though not required, that students take these two courses in sequence. Students who register for the autumn course will automatically be eligible to take the winter segment. In order for the Spring course to qualify as a civilization course for the general education requirement, the student must have completed Jewish Civilization I and II. The Spring course, however, may also be taken as an independent elective.

Note: The Jewish Civilization course numbering system was revised for Academic Year 2018–2019. Students who have already taken one or two courses from the previous JWSC civilization studies sequence—JWSC 20120–20199 and JWSC 20220–20299—and wish to complete the civilization requirement within that system may do so by taking additional courses so numbered, provided that they fulfill the requirement to take one JWSC course in the ancient or medieval period and one in the modern period. Under special circumstances a student may petition the director of the Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies for approval to take an alternate course. In such circumstances the student should contact the Center administrator, Nancy Pardee, at Only students who have taken JWSC courses prior to Academic Year 2018–2019 are eligible to complete the program under the prior system.