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Social Studies Courses
Wanderings: The World through the Jewish Experience

Some central questions we will examine are: How was Judaism a revolutionary religion? How did the Diaspora affect the Jewish people and the religion? What was the nature of the reciprocal relationship in which Judaism took, learned, and borrowed from the civilizations of other peoples while simultaneously contributing to those civilizations? Considering the minute Jewish global demographic, why have there been so many Jewish geniuses from Einstein to Kafka to Freud? What accounts for the rise of anti-Judaism and its modern counterpart, political and racial anti-semitism? We will also look at the diversity of the Diaspora, ranging from Iraqi and Ethiopian Jews to the Jews of Central Asia.

We will also look at contemporary issues: Why is America’s Jewish community so divided today? How have issues such as feminism, homosexuality, intermarriage, assimilation, and Zionism created great fault lines within American Jewry? What constitutes Jewish identity today? We will also look at Jewish humor, learn a bit of Yiddish, explore grandma’s recipes for chopped liver and schmaltz, listen to klezmer music, and read the stories of the Jewish literary masters such as I.B. Singer, Bernard Malamud, Isaac Babel, and Philip Roth.  

One of the highlights of the course is our visit to the historic Lower East Side to bear witness to the vibrant, dynamic community that Jewish intellectuals, bankers, factory workers, anarchists, socialists, and gangsters created over a hundred years ago. We will compare and contrast different synagogues’ architectural styles, marvel at the beauty of the Yiddish Forward building, and eat salty pickles and greasy pastrami at Katz’s Deli. We may also visit the Jewish Museum, The Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Center for Jewish History, and Satmar Williamsburg. This is a senior elective.  Juniors may also register but seniors will get priority.