Introduction to Jewish Studies

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HIS 136

       Course Name: Introduction to Jewish Studies

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course offers a general overview of the history of Jews and Judaism, beginning with the    Biblical period and ending with modern times. Course is a multidisciplinary introduction to Jewish Studies.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the major eras covered associated with the history of Jews and Judaism.
  2. Describe the achievements of the Jews in political, cultural, and social terms
  3. Compare representative works of literature and philosophy produced in an introduction to Jewish Studies
  4. Explain the ethnic and cultural diversity of Jews and Judaism and the origins of political, cultural, and ethnic conflict as associated with an introduction to Jewish Studies
  5. Analyze primary and secondary sources associated with the history of Jews and Judaism.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Introduction: the Jews
The Jews and the Non-Western World
The Jews and the Western World
Jewish Culture and Music
Jewish Literature
Jewish Film
Jewish Women
The Holocaust
The Jewish People after 1945
Jews in the 21st Century

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Classes will include a variety of instructional methods such as: lectures, in-class discussions, group activities, document and film analysis and the use of new technologies

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students will be required to:

  1. Read a standard textbook and research materials;
  2. Write outside of class the equivalent of 15-20 double-spaced typed pages in the form of a term paper, book reviews, summaries of journal articles, short research papers, and/or other kinds of writing;
  3. Complete quizzes, worksheets, a midterm, and a final exam;
  4. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources as the foundation of modern historical scholarship;
  5. Interpret primary sources critically by analyzing their historical contexts;
  6. Formulate historical interpretations and defend them critically with reference to primary and secondary sources; and incorporate into historical interpretations as an understanding of historical causation knowledge of important figures and events and their chronological relationship to each other and an awareness of the contingent relationships using several variables;
  7. Participate in in-class and out-of-class activities.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Recommended Textbooks (instructor to select):
Antler, Joyce. The Journey Home: Jewish Women and the American Century. New York: Free Press, 1997.
Baskin, Judith R., ed. Women of the Word: Jewish Women and Jewish Writing. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994.
Brisman, Shimeon. A History And Guide To Judaic Bibliography. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1977.
Brisman, Shimeon. A History And Guide To Judaic Encyclopedias And Lexicons. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1987.
Calof, Rachel. Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains, ed. J. Sandford Rikoon; tr. from the Yiddish by Jacob Calof and Molly Shaw. Indiana University Press, 1995.
Cutter, Charles. Jewish Reference Sources: A Selective, Annotated Bibliographic Guide. New York: Garland, 1982.
de Lange, Nicholas. Modern Judaism. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Feingold, Henry L., gen. ed. The Jewish People in America. 5 v. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Garber, Zev. The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation. Purdue University Press, 2011.
Garber, Zev. The Impact of the Shoah in America and in Jewish American Life, Casden Annual, vol.6, USC, 2008.
Garber, Zev. “Jewish Studies on the American Campus: Yiddishkeit or Scientific Dialect” (in Hebrew), Hadoar 72.2 (December 4, 1992): 21–22.
Gay, Ruth. Unfinished People: Eastern European Jews Encounter America. New York: Norton, 1996.
Herbermann, Nanda. The Blessed Abyss: Inmate #6582 in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp for Women. Wayne State University Press, 2000.
Joselit, Jenna Weissman. The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880- 1950. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.
Kamel, Rose Yalow. Aggravating the Conscience: Jewish-American Literary Mothers in the Promised Land. New York: P. Lang, 1988.
Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz. Simon and Schuster.
Moore, J. F. “Dialogue as Praxis: A Midrashic Reading of Numbers 19–20 and Hebrews 9,” in Maven in Blue Jeans: A Festschrift in Honor of Zev Garber (ed. S. L. Jacobs; Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies; West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2009), pp. 49–55.
Scheindlin, Raymond P.  A Short History of the Jewish People. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Solomon, Colin. Judaism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Sölle, D. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. trans. B. Rumscheidt and M. Rumscheidt;
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.
Stein, Edith. Self Portrait in Letters 1916–1942. trans. J. Koeppel; Washington D. C.: ICS Publications,1993.
Wenger, Beth. New York Jews and the Great Depression: Uncertain Promise. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
Weissmann-Klein, Gerda. All but My Life. Hill and Wang, 1995.

Instructor will either provide other additional handouts or students will be asked to download specific information throughout the course.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

At least two exams will be given in addition to other required papers and assignments.

XI.   Other Course Information

Support Services: Tutoring is available at the Learning Center.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.