View our Fall 2023 Courses!

The Center for Jewish Civilization is pleased to announce its lineup of Fall 2023 courses!

1-Credit Courses

  • The Text is Personal: Writing My Story Through the Jewish Story | Rabbi SchaeferJCIV-1014 
    • The Text is Personal: Writing My Story Through the Jewish Story. What does it mean to be in relationship with Jewish texts? How do these texts help us understand and tell our story? In this course, we’ll read both short and long form writing by rabbis and authors who use the Torah, Talmud, and other Jewish texts, as a mirror, prism, and filter for how they understand their lives and journeys. Over five sessions we’ll study Ilana Kurshan’s All the Seas are Ink, Aviya Kushner’s The Grammar of God, and sermons from modern rabbis, while writing their own reflections and personal essays using text to tell their story.
  • German Catholics in Hitler’s Army | Prof. Suzanne Brown-FlemingJCIV-1031 
    • In 1933 when Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany, the German population was overwhelmingly Christian. In 1933 there were 40 million Protestants, 20 million Catholics, and small numbers of people adhering to other Christian traditions. Germany’s territorial expansion that began in the 1930’s meant millions of people, Christian and Jewish, came to be under the control of the Nazi state. The German Army, or Wehrmacht (1935-1945) became a tool for vast territorial expansion, and, in some cases, for war crimes and murder of civilians and Jews. How did Catholics in the Wehrmacht see and understand their role? Why did some participate while others refused to do so, even at the cost of their own lives? This course will examine the role of Catholics in the Wehrmacht, including its crimes against Jews and other civilians. We will examine photographs, diary excerpts and film to come to a closer understanding of the inner lives and decisions of Catholic soldiers.

Core Courses

  • Intro to Jewish Civilization | Prof. Meital Orr (point of contact) and CJC FacultyJCIV-1990 
    • This course will provide a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding Jewish Civilization, and will be taught by a different faculty member from the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) every week, each of whom will teach the area of their expertise. Students will learn the history of the Jewish people from ancient times to modern-day Israel, including in-depth coverage of the Holocaust and the development of Zionism. Students will learn about Judaism through major Jewish texts, denominations, holidays and life-cycle events – and about Jewish culture, through a global lens on Jewish literature, film and music. Students will learn about historic relations between Islam and Judaism, the Arab world and Israel, as well as how to think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Students will also learn about Jewish engagement with American democracy, and global Jewish realities impacted by increasing antisemitism and white Supremacism in the 20th and 21st centuries. Having learned about the many foundational aspects of Jewish civilization, students will then have the opportunity to pursue further knowledge in any area of the course, through thematically based classes at the CJC by any of the experts from whom they have learned in this course.
  • Jewish Civilization Senior Colloquium | Prof. Anna SommerJCIV-4960 
    • As part of the Minor and Certificate in Jewish Civilization students complete a capstone experience: either a traditional research thesis or a project with a creative component. The capstone project will be a topic related to Jewish civilization, prepared under the supervision of a faculty member associated with the Center for Jewish Civilization, the Visiting Professor of Jewish Civilization, Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor, or if appropriate special permission may be granted by the program director for another Georgetown faculty member to serve as essay advisor. Upon completion, seniors make a presentation of their research at the annual senior thesis colloquium held during commencement week, where a prize is awarded to the outstanding paper.

Hebrew Courses

  • Intensive Beginning Modern Hebrew I | Prof. Sara GraysonHEBR-1001 
    • This course focuses on expanding useful vocabulary, topics and usage of grammatical knowledge in a gradual sequence. It provides a thorough grounding in reading, writing, grammar, oral comprehension, and speaking. It is an interactive program and uses a variety of methods both for teaching and learning. No prior knowledge of the language is required.
  • Intermediate Modern Hebrew I | Prof. Meital OrrHEBR-2001 
    • This course advances students’ knowledge of Modern Israeli Hebrew by developing the skills acquired during the first two semesters of Intensive Beginning Modern Hebrew. Among the many grammar concepts covered are: verb structures in the future tense, impersonal sentences in all tenses, nominal and possessive sentences in the future, the conditional and the subjunctive. The course will enrich student knowledge through textbook lessons, student and teacher conversations, the listening and analysis of textbook readings and newspaper articles, oral presentations, and a variety of audiovisual activities including Israeli songs and films. The course covers the first eight chapters of Hebrew from Scratch, Volume 2. Prerequisite: two semesters of Intensive Beginning Modern Hebrew at Georgetown, or the equivalent on the placement exam.
  • Advanced Modern Hebrew I | Prof. Sara GraysonHEBR-3001 
    • Pre-requisite: HEBR-2002 or permission of instructor. This advanced level course is designed for students who have completed two years of Hebrew study. It will include advanced grammar exercises in the different verb paradigms. Students read and analyze newspaper articles and works by authors and will be engaged in writing exercises. . Students will watch and give a review on movies and Israeli TV programs. Fluency in speaking will be the main goal of the conversational drills included in the course.

Holocaust and Genocide Studies

  • Theological Implications of the Holocaust | Prof. Ori SoltesJCIV-1761 
    • The Holocaust is recognized as one of the traumatic moments in human history. The uniquely systematic depths of human-human interaction it revealed, paired with daring acts of heroism which the period yielded, have raised a range of questions which challenge long-held assumptions about what humanity is, if and what God is, and how to understand the concepts of good and evil. This course will have as its goal to assess the Holocaust as it has been approached by a range of thinkers, and to place it within the larger context of theology, history, art and thought. While our primary backdrop will be theological questions provoked by its narrative — from both Jewish and Christian perspectives — we will inevitably encompass the larger historical picture of Jewish-Christian, Jewish-Jewish, Christian-Christian and human-divine relations. We will also consider the importance, in the later part of the twentieth century, of visual (and other) art as a means of response — both in the expression of anger and in seeking healing –to this trauma.
  • Holocaust By Bullets | Fr. Patrick Desbois and Prof. Andrej Umansky JCIV-2766 
    • While many students are familiar with the main lines of the Nazi extermination of Jews in Western Europe during World War II, few know that a parallel effort was waged in the East. There, Nazis killed Jews methodically, but not in mass camps built for extermination. Instead, the Nazis conceived of mobile killing units which wiped out the Jewish population of small villages, resulting in more than a million and a half more Jewish deaths than is commonly realized. Fr. Patrick Desbois, a forensic anthropologist and author of “Holocaust by Bullets,” will team teach a course that examines the Holocaust in general and this little known chapter in particular.
  • Forgotten Women: Victims of Violence in Mass Crimes and the Holocaust | Fr. Patrick Desbois and Prof. Andrej Umansky | JCIV-4500 
    • Why is violence against women and girls are so frequently forgotten or “silenced” in mass crimes and genocide? Why are acts of violence against women and girls so frequently obliterated from the Holocaust narrative? From the Roma genocide narrative? From Guatemala’s mass violence history? From ISIS’ terrorist narrative before the courts of law? From news emerging from Ukraine? Do ground investigations have the capacity to reveal the crimes against women, or are they choosing not to? This course will investigate these questions, especially taking into account the field investigations of Fr. Patrick Desbois and his team. Students will learn how to conduct forensic investigations of violence against women in the scope of genocide and mass crimes.The course is co-taught by Fr. Desbois, a forensic anthropologist and author of The Holocaust by Bullets and The Terrorist Factory and Dr. Andrej Umansky, a historian and lawyer will teach during this class.

Humanities and Literature

  • Fiction Writing Workshop: What is a Story? | Prof. David EbenbachJCIV-1758 
    • In this class, you’ll answer the question “What Is a Story?” To do that, you’ll immerse yourselves in the art and discipline of story writing. Partly this means acquiring a writer’s critical eye for fiction, so you’ll study the basic elements of successful fiction (character, plot, description, etc.) and use these tools to read and analyze stories. Specifically, we’ll be considering the example of Jewish fiction, surveying the short story tradition in Jewish literature. Because the writer above all learns through doing, you’ll write a great deal of your own fiction (which does not need to be Jewish, of course)—regular exercises as well as more fully developed and revised work. Much of this development will happen as a result of the workshop process, where you’ll give one another extensive feedback on work submitted to the class as a whole.
  • Interfaith Marriage in Lit & Film | Prof. Meital OrrJCIV-1766 
    • This course will examine works of literature and film, from the early 20th century to the present day, which focus on the controversial subject and increasingly prevalent reality of interfaith and intercultural relationships and marriages. The course will begin with a view toward the Jewish perspective on this issue (from Biblical to Israeli) covered in the first three weeks, with the remainder of the semester devoted to the navigation of this complex terrain by different religious and national groups in international literature and film, among them: Christians and Muslims, Arabs, Africans and African-Americans, Asians and Asian-Americans, Indians and Pakistanis, Hispanics and Latinx, the LGBTQ community, and Native Americans. Texts will include primary works of fiction and cinema, and secondary works by literature and film critics, sociologists and anthropologists. Inquiry will focus on ways in which the concerns of each group have intersected, reflecting communal pressures as well as changing realities and norms. The multiplicity of perspectives across all groups, bely both the need to marry within the fold to preserve communal, religious-cultural values, along with a growing admission of the reality of increasing diversity in modern, pluralistic societies and the benefits these bring.
  • Magic and Religion | Prof. Ori SoltesJCIV-1890 
    • The world of the Greeks and Roman was one of endlessly multi-aspected paganism, with its consciousness of a range of gods and goddesses, daimons and spirits moving between their realm and ours. It was also one in which the Hebrew-Israelite-Judaean competed with paganism and continued to struggle to define itself—and ultimately split into what became Judaism and Christianity. This course will focus on the times, places and literatures that reflect the interface between paganism as it has evolved within the Greco-Roman world and nascent Judaism and Christianity. It pushes toward an understanding of how Judaism and Christianity emerged out of the Hebrew-Israelite-Judaean tradition as two forms of faith each claiming to be the proper continuation of that tradition. It considers how their theological relationship—their competition regarding the Truth regarding divinity and its relationship to humanity—is not only affected by their mutual interface and their theological relationships with paganism but by the political context of the pagan Roman Imperium in which they both develop. This is a world of meeting, divergence, convergence, synthesis, embrace and rejection of religious principles and ideas. It is a world in which verbal distinctions that we take for granted—such as those between magic and religion, myth and theology, superstition and true belief, astronomy and astrology—have not yet assumed the place to which they arrived within our vocabulary, over time. Our goal is largely to come to understand what comprises the key elements that distinguish and join these traditions, why and how this vocabulary emerges and evolves, and how the shaping of that vocabulary has affected and continues to affect our sense of what Judaism and Christianity are.
  • History of Antisemitism | Prof. Jonathan RayJCIV-2103 
    • Antisemitism has been a persistent phenomenon in Western (and other) cultures for over two thousand years. This course will examine the nature and historical development of anti-Jewish sentiment and Antisemitic theories, from their roots in the ancient pagan world to their current political and social expressions. We will discuss the texts and ideas that shaped attitudes toward the Jews throughout history, giving special attention to the ways in which they intersected with politics, literature, religion, and popular culture. Finally, we will consider the different ways in which both Jews and non-Jews have responded to Antisemitic behavior and beliefs.
  • Jews on Trial | Prof. Ori SoltesJCIV-2751 
    • This course begins by asking when and how law became separate from religion in the Israelite-Judaean world. It moves on to consider how we might evaluate and understand the narrative of Jesus’ trial and demise in the Gospels in light of information outside those accounts within Judaean, pagan Roman and early Jewish literature. Noting that, regardless of the details that favor or disfavor the Gospel account, many generations of Christians have accept it as unequivocally true, the book goes on with a review that is both concise and extensive of the history of Christian-Jewish relations, examining that relationship through a legal and quasi-legal lens. From medieval Blood Libels to the notorious Dreyfus Affair and from the story of Leo Frank’s trial and eventual murder to that of Adolph Eichmann’s trial and execution to that of Jonathan Pollard’s trial behind closed doors and ongoing incarceration, the narrative suggests that the Jew seems always to be on trial in the courtroom of journalistic and historiographic examination, whether as the accused, the accuser, the jury or the judge.
  • Arguing with God: The Bible as Literature | Prof. Meital OrrJCIV-2761 
    • The Bible is the bestselling book of all time and for millions the word of God, yet its main heroes have no qualms about arguing with their Creator, and they’ve inspired a worldwide artistic and philosophical tradition of doing the same. Profoundly inspired by the narratives of the Bible, some of the greatest artists and thinkers in history have responded by appropriating Biblical stories to their unique places and times, producing enduring works of literature, philosophy, visual art, music and film. In the process, they reveal the universal beauty, power and wisdom of the Bible – its profound insight into the human condition, and the eternal human struggle to understand and accept some of its most difficult messages. This course will explore how different interpreters from various faith traditions, from classical to modern times – and in multiple genres – “argue” or converse with and challenge, the Biblical text, and by extension, God who wrote it. Each week, we will focus on interpretations of a different Biblical text by artists and thinkers such as: John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Mann, Soren Kierkegaard, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Joseph Roth, Yehuda Amichai, Elie Wiesel, Geraldine Brooks, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Marc Chagall and Sigmund Freud. No previous knowledge of the Bible is required. Course also listed as INAF 2761.

International Affairs and Diplomacy

  • Congress & Making Middle East Foreign Policy | Prof. Danielle PletkaJCIV-2758 
    • Congress & the Making of Middle East Foreign Policy – taught by Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). While foreign policy is the constitutional prerogative of the president, for much of recent history, it has been the Congress that has led the way in shaping US foreign policy toward the Middle East. From aid to Israel and sanctions against Iran to the war on terror, the legislative branch has influenced America’s role in the world in ways that few appreciate. Beginning with a detailed overview of the legislative process, this course will explore how Congress has shaped the modern Middle East, looking at key pieces of legislation and historical and contemporary case studies.
  • The Weaponization of Hate: Antisemitism, Racism, Islamophobia, and Xenophobia in the COVID-19 Pandemic era | Prof. Jacob WareJCIV-2768 
    • The Weaponization of Hate: Antisemitism, Racism, Islamophobia, and Xenophobia in the COVID-19 Pandemic era. Over the past several years, the Western world has suffered a dangerous rise in far-right extremism, providing an imminent terrorism and hate crime threat to Jewish communities, as well as Muslims, African Americans, and, in some cases, women. This class will assess the ideological underpinnings of the anti-Semitic far-right, trace the movement’s rise in the Obama and Trump years, analyze the current movement’s tactical and communications preferences, and evaluate ongoing and future counterterrorism and countering violent extremism measures. The aim is to provide an extensive and objective assessment of the current threat to Jewish communities and beyond, and to offer students an introduction to the counterterrorism world and to underscore the importance of understanding and fighting hate in all its forms.
  • The Societal, Political and Security Implications of Israel’s Relations with the Arab and Muslim World | Prof. Jonathan LincolnJCIV-2970 
    • The Societal, Political and Security Implications of Israel’s Relations with the Arab and Muslim World. This course will undertake a broad review of Israel’s relations with the Arab and Muslim World in four modules. The first will review the development of Israel’s relations with Arab and Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa, from the pre-state period through the major military confrontations of 1948, 1957, 1967 and 1973. It will then look the implications of the peace treaty with Egypt as well as Israel’s wars in Lebanon and confrontation with the PLO. The second will look more internally at the implications of Jewish immigration from the Middle East and North Africa on the state formation process, the state’s approaches to its non-Jewish minority populations as well as the Palestinian population in the occupied territories (Gaza and the West Bank). The third module will take a closer look at the development of relations between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Iran. During the last module, students will study the impact of recent political changes in the Middle East. Specifically, they will evaluate what the end of the Cold War, the Arab Spring, and the Abraham Accords have meant for both Israel’s diplomatic relations in the region and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • History of Peace-Making in the Middle East | Amb. Dennis RossJCIV-3751 
    • This course will deal with the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the efforts to resolve it. One basic point to understand about the conflict is that it is not a morality play. One side is not all right and the other all wrong. That is not to say that they are equally responsible for what has happened, but it is to say that both have suffered and both would benefit enormously from ending the conflict and its animating grievances. We will explore why each side tends to see the world the way it does, and why mythologies have taken hold of all sides and made reality hard to grasp. We will examine narratives of the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Arabs more generally. Mindsets must be understood in any negotiation, and we will look at what shaped each side’s approach to the conflict historically as well as its approach to conflict resolution over the periods of the most intensive diplomacy. We will analyze how close the efforts in the year 2000 came to ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Syrian, and will discuss what lessons must be learned from the past in order to shape a different future. We will also consider the American role as well as that of outside parties in trying to resolve the conflict. Ultimately, the purpose of the course is to provide insight into why it has been so difficult to settle this conflict, and what, if anything can be done to settle it in the future.
  • Islam, Judaism and Western Civilization | Prof. Ed HusainJCIV-3890 
    • Governments and non-state actors are fomenting conflicts and wars by perverting religion, history and identity. This course investigates Jewish and Islamic influences that form today’s Western civilisation. It has been designed to equip students with a deeper understanding of the modern West, evaluate the narrative of clash of civilisations, and explore a synthesis of civilisations. With extremism and anti-Americanism on the rise in the Muslim world, and anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment increasing in the West, this course excavates the intellectual roots of the threats ripping apart modern civilisation.
  • Jewish-Muslim Coexistence in the Middle East and North Africa | Prof. Ed HusainJCIV-4447
    • This course will analyze the past, present and future(s) of Jewish-Muslim social, political, and religious relations from the beginnings of Islam until the Abraham Accords. We will traverse through Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Arabia. Drawing on a depth of history and culture, we will study policy implications for the U.S. government, its allies, and the directions to be taken at the contemporary crossroads of Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle East.
  • Memory Wars: Ukraine, Russia & Eastern Europe | Prof. Diana Dumitru JCIV-4630 
    • What is the context of Putin’s bewildering claim of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine in his current war? Why are the European celebrations of May 8 and May 9 – the end of WWII – a constant source of conflict inside societies in Eastern Europe? Why does the history of WWII create tensions in the post-Soviet space, leading to jailed historians, protest movements, and diplomatic expulsions? Why has 20th century history remained such a gripping topic in peoples’ minds today, and how has it shaped contemporary relations between countries in the region? This course will help students to find answers to these and other challenging questions related to the unprecedented weaponization of history and memory in the region.