Are you interested in Jewish Studies? Sign up for one of our terrific course offerings in spring 2023! 

For more information on Jewish Studies at Iowa – including late-breaking additions to our course list – please check this page often or contact one of the co-directors of the Jewish Studies Network:
Ari-Ariel@uiowa.edu
Elizabeth-Heineman@uiowa.edu

Spring 2023 Course Offerings

CLSA 1415: Ancient Origins of Religious Conflict (Cargill)

This Diversity and Inclusion general education course examines the classical and ancient origins of the world’s modern religions and religious traditions, their diversity, and religious conflict worldwide, focusing specifically on flashpoints where different religious traditions intersect in conflict around the world. By understanding the origins and basic tenets of the world’s religions, we can better understand the fundamentals underlying each religious conflict. Each course module examines an area of religious interaction, reviews the backgrounds of present conflicts, and explores ways in which an understanding of the religious aspects of each conflict can potentially lead to conflict resolution. All the while, students learn the basic tenets of the various religious traditions. Special attention is paid to ancient Mesopotamian and Mediterranean religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, international events, fundamentalism, and protest movements.

ENGL:3247: The English Bible (Branch)

This course approaches the Bible, the single most influential book on the Anglophone literary tradition, from the perspective of literary studies and a readership-based approach.  In it we read widely in the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament, gaining familiarity with the biblical stories, figures, and phrases that color English and American literature, reading them with a literary sensitivity to plot and story, narrative and poetic structure, and metaphor. In other words, we will be reading the Bible as literature students, creative writers, and English majors. 

We will also read a range of creative texts by readers of the Bible from the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Christian traditions, seeking to situate our ways of reading the Bible among the variety of communities and interpretive sensibilities that have created the amazing imaginative richness surrounding this text over the last 3,000 years.  Approaching the Bible in this way will give students the ability to understand literary references to the Bible in a variety of meaningful ways and to ponder the significance of these stories, letters, and poems in a secular or postsecular age.

GRMN/WLLC:2675: Politics/Memory: Holocaust-Genocide-9/11 (Heckner)
Meets GE Requirement in Diversity and Inclusion

This course examines how contested legacies of genocide, global violent conflict and 9/11 continue to pose an urgent and generationally mediated challenge for a critical politics of memory. We will discuss various approaches to an effective or failed coming to terms with an injurious and difficult past (e.g., the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide) by analyzing museums, sites of memory and artwork.

GRMN:2620/WLLC:2620: Anne Frank and Her Story (Kumpf Baele)
Meets GE Requirement in Diversity and Inclusion

While in school, many of us read Anne Frank’s diary, see her story staged or watch one of its many movie renditions. Anne and her family’s secret hiding space during the Occupation in the center of Amsterdam—now the well-known Anne Frank House—draws over a million tourists each year. Widely read and translated, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has come to serve as an educational and formative experience for young readers, particularly when explaining the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War. In her biography of Anne Frank, Melissa Müller suggests that Anne’s name is synonymous with "humanity, tolerance, human rights, and democracy; her image is the epitome of optimism and the will to live." She has come to serve as the icon for victims of the Holocaust, but why and how is this the case? After all, there exist a number of other diaries composed by young individuals in hiding, and yet their stories are barely known. Our course centers on the act of storytelling and how individuals represent their personal histories and narratives and celebrate a shared humanity. Today new forms of media allow for innovative ways to express, record, share and consume a story. As we study the various journals, we will discover and exercise our own forms of storytelling and the ways we relate to one another.

HIST/CLSA:2461/RELS:2361: Middle East and Mediterranean from Alexander to Suleiman (Bond)
Meets GE Requirement in Historical Perspectives

This course covers the Middle East and Mediterranean world from the era of Alexander the Great (d.323 B.C.E.) to that of Suleiman I the Magnificent (d.1566). Taking as the beginning and ending points two fabled conquerors who brought together into both symbiosis and conflict the cultures of Asia and the West, students explore the ensemble of Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern societies, cultures, and religions as they intersected in what was once termed "the Old World"--the lands stretching from the ancient Persian Empire in the East to Morocco and Spain in the West. Topics covered include the development and interaction of Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious communities; Greco-Arabic philosophy, science, and medicine in the Islamic world; the experience of the Crusades in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities according to authors writing in Latin, Greek, and Arabic; and the art and architecture of the kingdoms and empires of this region--the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the Romans, Byzantines and Sassanians, the Caliphates of Baghdad and Cordova, the Latin West, and the Ottomans. At the end of the semester, students should be equipped to understand the cultural roots of conflicts in the Balkans, Middle East, and Central Asia in our own times.

RELS/ASP/GHS:2265: Hard Cases in Healthcare/End of Life (Cates) (Asynchronous online)

This course exposes students to some contemporary religious diversity (focusing on forms of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism) and facilitates a level of religious literacy that is required of anyone who wishes to provide excellent personal or institutional care for human beings who are dying. People’s worldviews—including their beliefs and questions about the meaning of life—often have a big impact on how they approach their own death and the death of the people they love.

An important goal of this course is to help students get more comfortable talking about death, beginning with the question of what death really is and how we know for sure when someone has died. It examines first-world clinical contexts in which advanced medical technologies make it possible to keep a person (or is it just the person’s body?) alive long after the person appears to have lost the most basic of brain functions. The course looks also to places and populations that lack access to such technologies, and it considers what it means to die in different cultural contexts.

The course also equips students to work through ethical issues that can arise with the provision of end-of-life care, both for adults and for critically ill newborns. For example, when is it appropriate to judge someone dead and take their organs for the sake of transplantation? When is okay to deliberately speed up or, instead, prolong a person’s dying process? What does justice require in terms of the distribution of scarce resources that are needed to keep people alive and living well? Religion has an impact on the way people ask and seek to answer all these questions.

The course is highly interactive. It includes the option of using an open-source virtual reality program that allows students to practice having difficult conversations about suffering, dying, and death in the guise of an avatar, in imaginative settings where patients and providers alike wrestle with religious and ethical questions.

Assignments include short quizzes, written reflections that help students engage and process course material, informal interviews of friends or neighbors, and logs of exchanges with other students.

RELS/CLSA:2444 Cities of the Bible (Smith) (Asynchronous Online)

For many, the cities of the Holy Land are known merely as the setting for the epic stories and heroic adventures detailed in the Bible. But what if each of these cities and the people who built and inhabited them actually contributed to the very composition of the Bible we know today? This asynchronous, online course provides a tour of key cities and their representative peoples that made the greatest impact on the composition of the Bible. Students will learn about the Phoenician cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos; the remains of Ugarit; the Assyrian center at Nineveh; the ancient powerhouse of Babylon; the strategic crossroads of Megiddo; the Greek intellectual centers of Athens and Alexandria; the Jewish capital in Jerusalem; Qumran and the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Jesus’s towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth; and the new center of Christianity in Rome. Along the way, students examine the intersection of archaeological sites, artifacts, and ancient texts, explaining how archaeology not only illuminates the Bible, but actually contributed to the very production of the Bible itself.

RELS/CLSA:4002: Biblical Hebrew II (Cargill)

This is the second semester of a two-semester course which will cover the basics of Biblical Hebrew grammar and syntax and provide an introduction to the Biblical lexicon.  There will be extensive grammatical exercises, both in class and at home, as well as frequent opportunities to apply grammatical and lexical knowledge to the Biblical text.

RELS:5300: Genealogies of Religion (Dilley)

This course seeks to provide grounding in the three Western religious traditions that are necessary for graduate work in religious studies. It will focus on the history of scholarship as well as on the basic themes and tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The format of each session will be primarily summary and discussion of the reading materials, and short lectures explaining and/or adding to the information presented in the assigned chapters. Ideally, discussions will be the major component as the course progresses. The goals of the course are: to acquaint you with the state of scholarship in this field; to provide bibliographical resources for further study; and to sharpen two forms of scholarly writing: intensive exposition of a primary text, and the academic book review.

SJUS/GWSS:2050/HIST:2150: Jews, Judaism, and Social Justice (Heineman)

What does a Jewish approach to social justice look like?   

Let’s ask the late Jewish Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. On the wall of her office hung a painting with the Biblical passage: “Justice, justice you shall pursue!”  

Here are some other things the Hebrew Bible says: Treat members of your group and other groups alike. Discriminate neither towards the wealthy nor towards the poor. Be impartial in judgment.   
But don’t get too confident (the passage tells us): You’ll have to pursue justice. You'll have to work at it, because justice is an ideal that’s not easily attained.   

Let's list some of the challenges: Confronting ancient traditions of patriarchy, slavery, and violence. Addressing phenomena like racism, nationalism, and colonialism. And the difficult task of looking inward. How do we pursue justice when we're the victim of injustice - when we feel powerless? How do we make sure we're working just as hard when others are suffering?  

This course will take an interdisciplinary look at Jews, Judaism, and Social Justice. We’ll explore key texts and practices, and the ways they’ve been interpreted and reinterpreted as conditions have changed over time. We’ll consider concepts like mitzvah (a good deed performed as a religious obligation) and tikkun olam (which means “repairing the world”). We’ll consider the diversity of Jewish lives and what this has meant for Jewish approaches to social justice, both historically and today. We’ll look at Jews’ roles in modern social justice movements, like the labor movement, the Civil Rights movement, and the battle against antisemitism. And we’ll look at the complexities of engagement today, as Jews and Jewish communities enjoy more power and autonomy than at any time in the last 2,000 years.

The heart of this class will be collaborative learning during class meetings, supported by preparation outside class. We’ll track our growth through written assignments, and students will have opportunities for creative work and group projects. Finally, we’ll organize a secular social justice Seder, because social justice should be a joyful enterprise!


Are you interested in languages relevant to Jewish Studies like Modern Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino? The CourseShare program of the Big 10 Academic Alliance offers online courses in Less Commonly Taught Languages – and you can apply these courses to your World Languages requirement at UI. 

For more information, contact the Iowa CourseShare Coordinator jenna-miller@uiowa.edu

Past Course Offerings

HIST:1000: Shalom! Jewish Life Today
Have you ever wondered what Jewish life is like? Do you have some experience of Jewish life, but wonder what it's like at Iowa? Maybe you have years of Jewish education … or maybe you know nothing about Judaism but would like to learn more. Either way, this course is for you! This class will be 1/3 Judaism 101 and 1/3 Jews and Judaism in Iowa. The last third? We’ll work that out together as we discover our common interests and curiosities. Maybe we’ll learn about Jewish holidays. Maybe we’ll learn about famous Jewish Iowans. Maybe we’ll talk about current events impacting the Jewish world. So many possibilities – could be anything!

RELS:1040: Introduction to Hebrew Bible / Old Testament
History, religion, and thought of ancient Jews as recorded in their scripture.

RELS:2620: Politics, Sex, and the Bible
Click the course link to see an introductory video!
Even in a country in which the Separation of Church and State is a stated goal, it is impossible to completely separate the two. People frequently base their decisions and opinions upon their religious beliefs. However, the debate over exactly how the Bible should influence our culture and laws is not just one between Christian Believers and Atheists. On the contrary, many Christians disagree over exactly how the Bible should be interpreted and applied in any given case. This course will introduce students to the variety of biblical stances presented on major issues influencing our country and help them better understand how so many different positions can be based upon the Bible.

CLSA:2444 / RELS:2444: Cities of the Bible
Click the course link to see an introductory video!
For many, the cities of the Holy Land are known merely as the setting for the epic stories and heroic adventures detailed in the Bible. But what if each of these cities and the people who built and inhabited them actually contributed to the very composition of the Bible we know today? This asynchronous, online course provides a tour of key cities and their representative peoples that made the greatest impact on the composition of the Bible. Students will learn about the Phoenician cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos; the remains of Ugarit; the Assyrian center at Nineveh; the ancient powerhouse of Babylon; the strategic crossroads of Megiddo; the Greek intellectual centers of Athens and Alexandria; the Jewish capital in Jerusalem; Qumran and the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Jesus’s towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth; and the new center of Christianity in Rome. Along the way, students examine the intersection of archaeological sites, artifacts, and ancient texts, explaining how archaeology not only illuminates the Bible, but actually contributed to the very production of the Bible itself.

CLSA:3520 / RELS:3520: Religious Violence and Nationalism
Throughout history religious ideology has justified violent campaigns aimed at removing dangerous “Others.” From the Crusades, Reformation, and Colonialism to ISIS, China, United States, Myanmar, and India, nations or large groups have turned to religious beliefs or differences to support efforts to create or defend an idealized Promised Land. Over the past several decades, we have also seen a rise in this type of violent ideology among smaller sectarian groups, like Aum Shinrikyo, the Branch Davidians, Al Qaeda, Christian Identity Movements, and even Q-Anon. While religious ideology can and has been used throughout history to support humanitarian efforts, this course focuses on those whose ideology leads to violent rhetoric and confrontation as part of a larger quest to create a sacred homeland. Through analyzing many of the similarities that unite the ideologies of these groups, we can better understand the seeming proliferation of apocalyptic violence and nationalism throughout our modern world.

CLSA:4901 / RELS:4001: Biblical Hebrew 1
This is the first semester of a two semester course which will cover the basics of Biblical Hebrew grammar and syntax and provide an introduction to the Biblical lexicon. There will be extensive grammatical exercises, both in class and at home, as well as frequent opportunities to apply grammatical? and lexical knowledge to the Biblical text.

GRMN:2618/WLLC:2618: Film and Literature of the Holocaust
This course introduces students to the film and literature of the Holocaust. We will analyze the origins and development of historical and religious anti-Semitism, the role of Nazi propaganda, the state-sponsored attack on Jewish businesses, homes and bodies in 1938 (Reichspogromnacht), the establishment of ghettos and the concentration camp system across Europe and the role of ‘ordinary Germans’ in the Holocaust. We will examine documentary films—from the liberation of the camps (Nazi concentration camps) to later interview films (Lanzmann, Shoah) —as well as European and American feature films (Spielberg, Schindler’s List) and pay special attention to the function of testimony and witnessing (Renais, Night and Fog; Doron & Sinai, Numbered). We will also discuss representations of Auschwitz, the Auschwitz Sonderkommando revolt in literature and film (Nemes, Sons of Saul), survivor accounts and testimonials (e.g., Jean Améry, Primo Levi), Yiddish poetry written during the Holocaust (e.g., Abraham Sutzkever) and Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel MAUS. We will also examine how Germany remembers the Holocaust by analyzing recent constructions of memorials and museums.

HIST:1040:0001: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel
During this course we will examine relations between Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities in Palestine during the Ottoman and Mandate periods, and between Jewish groups and Arab-Israelis after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. After an introduction to ethnicity, nationality and religious identity from a theoretical perspective, we will focus on three groups of people: Ashkenazi Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, and Palestinian Arabs. Throughout the semester we will problematize these categories, highlighting the heterogeneity of these groups. Lectures will provide the historical and political background for our discussion of themes based on the readings, including Ottomanism in Palestine, Zionist-Arab relations, Middle Eastern Jews as intermediaries between Jews and Arabs, the "melting-pot" approach to immigrant absorption, the Arab population of Israel, the Sephardic/Mizrahi protest movements, and the question of "Arab-Jews." Toward the end of the semester we will also engage important contemporary issues in Arab-Israel relations, for example, the failure of the Peace Process and possible ways forward.

WLLC:3001:0EXH: Beginning Modern Hebrew

WLLC:3001:0EXY Beginning Yiddish I

WLLC:3005:0EXY Advanced Yiddish
The WLLC courses are a part of the BTAA CourseShare program, an opportunity for students from universities across the Big Ten to participate in courses together. Additional language courses may be available through BTAA CourseShare.
Students will attend class via a virtual classroom using ZOOM. Additionally, students will be expected to complete online assignments outside of regularly scheduled class-time. Students will access the course through the host university's Learning Management System (not through Iowa ICON).
The language courses are based on the academic calendar of the host institution. Please click the course listing for the dates.

If a student wishes to have any of these courses applied to their World Languages requirement, contact clasps@uiowa.edu for more information. All other questions can be directed to the Iowa CourseShare Coordinator jenna-miller@uiowa.edu.

RELS:1430:0EXW: The Bible: Studies for Our Modern World (Jordan Smith)
Curious about what the Bible is or how it was created, the biblical character that your friends keep referencing, where ideas like Satan and the apocalypse come from, or how the Bible influences our world today? Introduction to the Bible and its influences on Western culture; course format organized by question types to allow flexibility in learning.

SJUS:2050 / GWSS:2050 / RELS:2250: Jews, Judaism, and Social Justice (Elizabeth Heineman)
Jewish frameworks for grappling with justice and ethics from ancient world to present day; emphasis on internal diversity of Jewish experience as well as interactions with dominant and other minority cultures.

RELS:2122: The Place of Animals in the Hebrew Bible (Jay Holstein)
Why the biblical God permits humans to eat other animals' flesh, fundamental dietary differences between humans and the beasts.

RELS:2620: Politics, Sex, and the Bible (Jordan Smith)
Examination and analysis of the role of the Bible in contemporary culture; how different groups can read the exact same passages yet reach different conclusions about how they and others should live.

GRMN:2620 / WLLC:2620: Anne Frank and Her Story (Kirsten Kumpf Baele)
Analysis of the Diary of Anne Frank, its media adaptations, and related materials (e.g., fictionalizations, additional first-hand accounts); examination of Holocaust in the Netherlands, Belgium, and other countries outside Germany; anti-Semitism, discrimination, tolerance, resistance, identity formation, human aspiration and belief.
Note two sections of this course will be offered at two different times: Anne Frank and Her Story Section 1 and ;Anne Frank and Her Story Section 2.

GRMN:2676: Politics/Memory: Holocaust-Genocide-9/11 (Elke Heckner)
How contested legacies of genocide, global violent conflict, and 9/11 continue to pose an urgent and generationally mediated challenge for critical politics of memory; various approaches to effective or failed coming-to-terms with injurious and difficult past (e.g., Holocaust, Armenian genocide); analysis of museums, sites of memory, and artwork.

RELS:2775:0EXW: The Bible and the Holocaust (Jay Holstein)
Religious and philosophic implications of the Holocaust viewed through survivors' writings.

HIST:4478: Holocaust in History and Memory (Elizabeth Heineman)
Origins and implementation of Holocaust; experience of perpetrators, victims, accomplices, and bystanders; impact of Holocaust on post-World War II world. Students will do original research with historical materials held in local archives as well as web-based resources.

Independent studies on Jewish Studies themes may also be available. Feel free to contact Prof. Ariel, Prof. Heineman, or a professor you’ve worked with for further information.