Undergraduate Course Descriptions


CJS200H1: Introduction to Jewish Thought

Course Description: It is hard to be a Jew, but the difficulties make for interesting questions. Does God exist? How is God revealed to Moses at Sinai and to the prophets? Are there such things as miracles? Are we free to follow what God commands? What is the nature of faith? If God is good, then why do bad things happen to innocent people? Is faith possible after the Holocaust? What is the role of Israel in modern Jewish life? Who belongs to the Jewish community? How do Jews address inequality and discrimination? How do Jews understand a good and meaningful life? Professors Goldberg and Rosenthal invite students to join them in debating the answers to these questions and others.

Area of Interest: Jewish Philosophy and Thought 


CJS201H1: Introduction to Jewish Culture

Course Description: General introduction to history, literatures and cultures of Jewish people from antiquity to contemporary. A balanced presentation of multi-disciplinary approaches and multi-methodological approaches to Jewish studies, with a special emphasis on Jewish cultural studies and Jewish secularity.

Area of Interest: Jewish Cultures, Languages, and Literatures; Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS290H1-F: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: The Global Migration Crisis is Making Aliyah

Course Description: The amount of internally displaced people and refugees along with the dire need for working hands changed international migration patterns and the legal regimes controlling them. Global, political and economic changes brought this relatively new phenomenon to Israel’s doorstep in the early 1990s creating a growing disjuncture between local practices and national policies regarding incorporation. Israel has joined the growing number of countries experiencing major problems in controlling inflows of unauthorized migrants. In this seminar style module students will analyze the recent trends in international migration and the many political debates that have accompanied them. It begins with seminal readings showcasing theoretical approaches that highlight the legal norms and structures designed to treat irregular migration and present alternative forms of citizenship. The second part surveys Israel’s migration regime and discusses the different aspects that challenge it following the importation of migrant workers in the 1990s, the growing number of visa over-stayers and recent arrival of asylum seekers.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS290H1-S: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: The Angry God: The Bible and Violence

Course Description: This course will examine the very prominent biblical theme of violence and warfare, situating biblical texts in their ancient Near Eastern context.  Over the course of millennia, the ancient Near East experienced countless changes. Empires rose and then fell from dominance, city-states were built and then razed, gods once paramount sank into obscurity. Through these and other changes, however, one thing remained constant in the societies of the region: the centrality of warfare and violence. Whether one looks at the brutal punishments imposed in biblical law codes, the widespread practice of mutilating transgressors and marching them naked into exile, or the biblical statute mandating that conquered groups be completely annihilated, it is more than apparent that violence was not merely present in the ancient Near East, it was widely legislated and viewed as having been commanded by God. The exercise of violence was pivotal to establishing and maintaining the authority of kingship, to the display of masculinity, to the reckoning of justice, and to the forging of political relations. The omnipresence of violent behaviors in these cultures raises many questions, among them: What is violence? Was there an ethics of violence in the ancient Near East? Were there limits on violence? Who benefitted from violent behaviors, and in what ways?  Texts examined in the course will include various books of the Hebrew Bible, including Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and Ezekiel; Hammurabi’s Code; numerous ancient Near Eastern inscriptions; various apocalyptic texts; and a selection of texts from the New Testament.

Area of Interest: Classical Judaism 


CJS390H1-F: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: The World of the Cairo Geniza

Course Description: Before 1500, most Jews lived in the Islamic world; around a thousand years ago, Cairo was that world’s greatest city. In this course, we will explore that world largely through the lens of a large cache of documents discarded in one of the city’s synagogues. These papers have proved a treasure trove for social historians--in many cases, we know more about the lives of some individuals in the eleventh and twelfth century than for any other people in the pre-modern world. Students will themselves be part of the research team in this young field, getting to know how medievalists navigate their rich but always frustratingly scarce records.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS390H1-S: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Religion and Religiosity in Israel/Palestine

Course Description: Focusing on present-day Israel/Palestine, this interdisciplinary course is intended for students interested in exploring a wide range of theoretical questions and examining their applicability to the study of sites, texts, rituals, and politics in the region. We will address the history of the land's consecration from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives. Students will analyze specific sites associated with religious congregations and ritual practices, and study them within their local and regional contexts. Looking at the complex relationships between religious-political movements and institutions within Jewish and Muslim societies, we will delve into various attempts to secularize (and theologize) Jewish and Palestinian communities and their discontents. Rather than providing the typical emphasis on conflict, the course is a journey into the history and present of the land and its diverse communities.

Area of Interest: Jewish Cultures, Languages, and Literatures; Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS391H1-F: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Christian-Jewish Relations and Rivalries from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages

Course Description: From the end of the classical period to late antiquity until the High Middle Ages, Christian authors engaged with the composition of works in which they depicted meetings and conversations between Christians and Jews on matters of their Christianity’s belief and practice. These works constitute collectively the corpus of the Adversus or Contra Iudaeos dialogues, that is dialogues against the Jews. Who wrote these compositions and what type of Christianity did their authors represent? Who were the Jews of these dialogues and did such meetings and conversations occur? What are the reasons for their composition and were the interlocutors, who participated in these discussions, real persons? What are the roles of scripture, paradoxography, and miracles in the rhetoric deployed by the Christian authors? And what is the historical context within which these dialectical compositions were written? In this course, students will gain an understanding of the circumstances that led to the (in)famous medieval disputations in the Latin West, and the role of psōgos (insulting or degrading speech) in them, helping us to understand the correlation between the Christian anti-Jewish disputation tradition and the gradual rise of anti-Semitism that led to Jewish persecutions and modern-era atrocities against the Jews.

Area of Interest: Classical Judaism


CJS391H1-S: Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Israel's Modern Tribes

Course Description: In June 2015, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin gave a speech at the annual Herzliya Conference discussing the social and political schihms in modern Israeli society. Rivlin detailed the changes to Israel’s population makeup and how it could harbinger severe economic and social issues that will threaten the future of the Jewish state and bring about a “new Israeli order”. This course reviews and analyzes the characteristics, political, and social transformation experienced by each group and how it fits into the fabric of Israeli society. As a migrant based nation fulfilling the vision of gathering of Jewish exiles, Israel has always symbolized a diverse and multifaceted society filled with rich cultural influences and competing political agendas, both internally, and with regards to its non-Jewish minorities. Over the years winds of change and collective claims stirred the Israeli “melting pot” and created new realities that exposed early societal cleavages. Throughout the course students will gain a deep understanding of these core issues in modern Israel by reviewing texts, short clips, and participating in guided discussions that will analyze the socio-political cleavages as well as opportunities for integration and compromise between the “new tribes” that make up modern Israeli society.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS392H1-F Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Memory, Home, Family

This course examines how scholars, artists, and ordinary people have investigated their family's history. We will take a closer look at the sometimes-blurry line between scholarly research and personal historical self-reflection. This course's discussion is centered on (but not limited to) questions such as: How do families remember (or forget) their (genealogical, ethnic, racial, religious, and political) histories? How do individuals grapple with competing and contradictory narratives? How have professional historians, community historians, and ordinary people come to terms with their family's past? What do we gain from using different literary genres and forms of media to remember our past? This course is, by its subject matter interdisciplinary. We'll be looking at works from the fields of diaspora studies, history, sociology, memory studies, and literature to help you to think critically about the production of memory at the social and family level. 

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS392H1-S Special Topics in Jewish Studies: Images and Words: Jewish Cultural Producers in Russia and the Soviet Union in the Long Twentieth Century

Course Description: Examining both the twentieth-century experiences of Russian/Soviet Jews and their contributions as cultural agents during the period, this course reflects on the ambivalent outcomes that the Jewish community in Russia faced in the different periods of the last century. This exploration of the “images and words” created by Jewish cultural producers from 1881 to 2021 allows to assess the complex and multiple forms taken by Jewish life in Russia and the Soviet Union. In studying both the “golden age” and the set-backs, this course walks away from the simplistic narrative of the progressive disappearance of Russian/Soviet Jewish identity in the decades following the Revolution of 1917.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS396H1-F: Independent Study

Course Description: A scholarly project on an approved topic supervised by a faculty member affiliated with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. For more information please contact the Undergraduate Director, Professor Adam Cohen, at cjs.undergraduate@utoronto.ca or the Undergraduate Administrator, Ms. Natasha Richichi-Fried, at cjs.events@utoronto.ca.

Area of Interest: TBA


CJS396H1-S: Independent Study

Course Description: A scholarly project on an approved topic supervised by a faculty member affiliated with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. For more information please contact the Undergraduate Director, Professor Adam Cohen, at cjs.undergraduate@utoronto.ca or the Undergraduate Administrator, Ms. Natasha Richichi-Fried, at cjs.events@utoronto.ca.

Area of Interest: TBA


CJS440H1-F The Arab Jew: A History of a Concept

Course Description: This course invites students to explore the debates around the term “Arab Jews.” A cultural, historical, and historiographical designation, the term encompasses a range of experiences for Arabic-speaking Jews. These Jews lived in diverse cultural worlds across the Middle East and North Africa, where they developed deep and enduring relationships with non-Jews, and were instrumental in shaping local, regional and national cultures and politics. Their identities and histories, which vary according to their place of origin, are presented, assessed, and debated in scholarly articles and monographs, political statements, personal testimonies and memoirs, poetry and fiction, music and cinema, as well as on websites and in blogs. This surge in research, which has become a prominent subfield of Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies, is the result of regional changes on the one hand, and growing interest in the history and culture of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa on the other. By engaging with the term “Arab Jews” in its various incarnations, the course offers new perspectives on questions of Zionism and nationalism, colonialism and geography, religion and secularization, as well as historiography and memory.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS490H1-S LEC0101 Advanced Topics in Jewish Studies: Jewish Protest Culture

Course Description: 2020/21 saw mass protests of unprecedented size against police brutality and racism, anti-worker policies or top-down COVID measures from the United States to India – including renditions by Jews. But what makes a protest Jewish? Is there something like specifically Jewish protest cultures? This course investigates an array of protests organized by Jews and for “Jewish causes” in modern times attending to the ways protests are/n’t specifically Jewish and how they become agents of change. Rooted in the anti-lachrymose tradition of Jewish Studies, students will study protests with a view towards how Jewish traditions get mobilized across the Jewish diasporas and the ways in which they take a cue from and/or contribute to, purposefully cross-fertilize with or distant themselves from nonJewish protest movements transnationally. This class interweaves Jewish Studies with diaspora, subaltern, protest and performance studies.

Area of Interest: Jewish Cultures, Languages, and Literatures; Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS490H1-S LEC0201 Advanced Topics in Jewish Studies: The Political Sociology of the Jewish Question: Liberalism, Socialism and Zionism

Course Description: The Jewish Question asks how Jews ought to adapt to the modern world. Seeking answers, Jews formulated competing ideologies and joined social and political movements that, they believed, would help them realize their dreams. This course examines the origins, development, implementation, successes, and failures of the three main secular solutions Jews advocated: liberalism, communism, and Zionism. The liberal, Zionist, and communist dreams succeeded in some respects to live up to the expectations of their advocates. However, like most human endeavours, they failed in other respects, sometimes tragically. It is unlikely that this course will generate compelling answers to the Jewish Question for the 21st century. However, it may raise issues that prompt students to inquire further as they seek their own meaningful values and courses of action.

Area of Interest: Jewish History and Social Sciences


CJS498Y1-Y:  Independent Study

Course Description: A scholarly project on an approved topic supervised by a faculty member affiliated with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. For more information please contact the Undergraduate Director, Professor Adam Cohen, at cjs.undergraduate@utoronto.ca or the Undergraduate Administrator, Ms. Natasha Richichi-Fried, at cjs.events@utoronto.ca.

Area of Interest: TBA


CJS499H1-F: Independent Study

Course Description: A scholarly project on an approved topic supervised by a faculty member affiliated with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. For more information please contact the Undergraduate Director, Professor Adam Cohen, at cjs.undergraduate@utoronto.ca or the Undergraduate Administrator, Ms. Natasha Richichi-Fried, at cjs.events@utoronto.ca.

Area of Interest: TBA


CJS499H1-S: Independent Study

Course Description: A scholarly project on an approved topic supervised by a faculty member affiliated with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. For more information please contact the Undergraduate Director, Professor Adam Cohen, at cjs.undergraduate@utoronto.ca or the Undergraduate Administrator, Ms. Natasha Richichi-Fried, at cjs.events@utoronto.ca.

Area of Interest: TBA