You are here: American University College of Arts & Sciences Jewish Studies Program

Jewish Studies at AU

From the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research archives: A man digs through rubble

Do you want to know more about antisemitism, the Holocaust and its film and literature, Jewish comedy, Fiddler on the Roof, politics (American, Jewish, and Israeli), the Bible, Jesus, and how to order a falafel in Hebrew? If so, then American University’s Jewish Studies Program has courses for you.

Our prize-winning faculty explore these topics and many others in our classrooms. Our students pursue internships at the world-class US Holocaust Memorial Museum, at the many Jewish communal agencies headquartered in the nation’s capital, and on the Hill. Our campus hosts outstanding guest scholars and artists to deepen our understanding of Jewish life and culture. Our majors and minors graduate with a deeper understanding of the civilizations of the Jewish people and go on to careers in public service and the for-profit sector.

Why Take a Course in Jewish Studies?

Through the Jewish Studies Program, students may train for a career in the Jewish community or in Jewish education, learn about Jewish issues and opportunities for Jewish public service, and develop a deeper understanding of American and world Jewry. Moreover, since dynamic contact with many other religions and cultures influenced the development of Jewish civilization, students study Jews and Judaism within the broader context of dominant societies and the spectrum of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Even after a course ends, students continue to apply their classroom knowledge in a variety of experiential learning settings.

Courses

HIST 419/619-001: Holocaust

W 11:20am- 2:10pm

Pamela Nadell, Director, Jewish Studies Program

Tracing the histories of antisemitism and racism that led to the Holocaust. Examines the historical development of the Final Solution. Considers the variety of responses to Jewish persecution by the Nazi perpetrators, the Jews, and the nations of the world.

HIST 496/696-001: Pop Culture & the Holocaust

T/F 12:55- 2:10pm

Kathryn Huether, Postdoctoral Fellow

From X-Men’s Magneto, to Jojo Rabbit’s imaginary friend, the Holocaust permeates pop culture. This course places the popularization of the Holocaust in conversation with key historical, philosophical, and aesthetic questions.

HIST 245: Modern Jewish Civilization

M/Th 9:45-11:00am

Lauren Strauss, Scholar-in-Residence

Fulfills AU CORE Integrative Requirement: Diversity and Equality. This course explores Jewish political, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual history from the early modern period to the mid-twentieth century, covering Eastern and West/Central Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and America. Students use primary documents and secondary literature to analyze such topics as religious reform, political emancipation, gender and class differences, the rise of Zionism, and antisemitism.

JWST 210-001: Voices of Modern Jewish Lit

M/Th 9:45-11:00am

Lauren Strauss, Scholar-in-Residence

Fulfills AU CORE Habits of Mind requirement: Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry. This course explores the development of modern Jewish literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. It moves in time and space from Eastern Europe to immigrant-era New York, to pre-State Palestine, Holocaust-era Europe, the dispersion of Jews from Arab lands, and back to present-day Israel and America. We encounter the most significant developments of modern Jewish history: the mass migration to the West, the Holocaust, modern Zionism and Israeli culture, and the challenges of living in America's diverse society. By reading works that were originally written in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and other languages (all assigned readings are in English), we confront issues of identity, persecution, wandering, and belonging that characterize the Jewish encounter with modernity. We engage with literature - which includes short stories, poems, memoirs, songs, and novels - as a way for human beings to communicate the urgency of the times in which they live. 

HEBR 117: Hebrew Elementary Modern II

M/Th 8:10-9:25am

Sarit Lisogorksy, Adjunct Professor

HEBR 217: Hebrew Elementary Modern II

M/Th 9:45-11:00am

Sairt Lisogorsky, Adjunct Professor

PERF 450 ISR 400: Israeli Theater 

Roy Horovitz

We will look at theatre as an art form and as an arena in which cultural myths, memories and histories are constructed and deconstructed. By a close reading of some key plays in Israeli theatre, and by placing them in their historical and theatrical contexts, we will try to understand some of the fundamental conflicts and tensions that characterize the Israeli society and its local theatrical activity.

SISU 319: Arab-Israeli Relations

Tu/F 11:20am-12:35pm

Dan Arbell, Scholar-in-Residence

A survey of Arab-Israeli relations from their origins to the present. Includes an account of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the history of the British mandate, the Arab-Israeli wars, the involvement of external powers, and the quest for peace. The emphasis is on conflict resolution.

SISU 419-001: Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace

W 11:20am-2:10pm

Guy Ziv, Assistant Professor

This senior capstone provides students with a deeper understanding of the problems that have confounded the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in particular the "final status" issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and security. Students then partake in a simulation in which they attempt to constructively address the final status issues as well as other sticking points, such as settlements and terrorism, in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

JWST 491: Internship in Jewish Studies

JWST 481: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies I

JWST 482: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies II

JWST 490/690: Independent Study

HIST 396: 1990s Decade of Hope

M/Th 4:05pm-5:20pm

Michael Brenner, Director Center for Israel Studies 

The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, symbolized by the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, ushered in a new age of optimism, which found its iconic expression in Francis Fukuyama’s essay “The End of History”. In the Middle East, the Oslo Accords raised the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. While the focus of this class is on political developments in Europe and the Middle East, this class will also look at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the rise of a new class of young and progressive politicians from Tony Blair to Bill Clinton, and trends in popular culture.

HIST 418/618: Nazi Germany

T 5:30pm-8:00pm

Andrew Demshuk, Associate Professor

The political, social, and economic conditions that made it possible for Hitler to take power. The nature of Nazi rule. Emphasis on World War II and the Holocaust.

HIST 419/619: Holocaust

T/F 12:55pm-2:10pm

AU- U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Postdoctoral Fellow

Traces the history of anti-Semitism and the development of racism that led to the Holocaust. Examines the historical development of the Final Solution. Considers the variety of responses to Jewish persecution by the Nazi perpetrators, the Jews, and the nations of the world.

HIST 443/643 & ISR 443: History of Israel

M/Th 11:20am-12:35pm

Michael Brenner, Director Center for Israel Studies

Traces the development of modern political Zionism in nineteenth-century Europe; the historical background leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948; and the history of Israel since then.

HIST 473/673: American Jewish History

M/Th 12:55pm-2:10pm

Pamela Nadell, Director Jewish Studies Program

This course traces its historical development by examining the waves of Jewish immigration to the United States and the institutions that American Jews created to sustain their community.

JWST 320 & HIST 344: Jews in American Pop Culture

Th 5:30pm-8:00

Lauren Strauss, Scholar in Residence

Focuses on Jews involved in American popular culture from early 20th century to the present. Includes Jewish songwriters, artists, comedians, musicians, fashion designers, filmmakers, and others. Explores questions of ethnic identity and social change, and the influence of politics, gender, race, and sexual identity on the production of culture.

JWST 396 & AMST 396: New York and the Jews

W 8:20pm-10:50pm

Lauren Strauss, Scholar in Residence

Six Week Course: Oct 6- Nov 10

The colorful relationship between Jews and New York is explored through history, urban studies, and ethnic studies. Jewish food, theater, religious life, and politics influence the city and vice versa. Consider how Jews in architecture, media, business and culture impact the city and beyond, helping to shape a multicultural America.

JWST 481: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies I

JWST 482: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies II

JWST 490/690: Independent Study

JWST 491: Internship in Jewish Studies

CORE 107: Jerusalem: Myth Hist Modernity

T/F 12:55pm-2:10pm

Martyn Oliver, Director of Arab World Studies

The course proceeds thematically, beginning with the role of Jerusalem in the mythic imagination of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students then turn to writings reflecting the history of Jerusalem as a physical place and a source of contention for the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the empires of medieval Europe and the Ottomans, the British, the Arabs and the modern State of Israel. Finally, the course turns to the modern era and examines Jerusalem as a modern city and a proxy for disputes over identity, culture, language, and religion. Students visit different places of worship in Washington, DC and invite guest speakers representing a diversity of cultures to class.

CORE-105.006 Antisemitism Enduring Hatred

M/Th 9:45-11:00am


Pamela Nadell, Director, Jewish Studies Program

Hatred of the Jewish people and Judaism appeared in antiquity and continues to this very day. The phenomenon puzzles scholars, pundits, politicians, Jews, and people around the world. This course studies this complex problem, focusing on specific episodes of this hatred in the past and present, emphasizing its long history in the United States. Students read different genres of literature--history (secondary and primary sources), fiction, and nonfiction--to grapple with the multifarious dimensions of antisemitism, the world's oldest and longest hatred.

HEBR 116: Hebrew, Elementary Modern I

M/Th 9:45am-11:00am

Sarit Lisogorsky, Adjunct Professor

Focuses on the acquisition of basic vocabulary and grammatical structures in culturally authentic contexts through speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension. Designed for students with no prior experience with Hebrew.

HEBR 216: Hebrew, Intermediate Modern I

M/Th 11:20am-12:35pm

Sarit Lisogorsky, Adjunct Professor

Refinement of basic language skills in a cultural context. Expansion of vocabulary and grammatical structures and development of communicative skills.

ISR 396 & GOVT 317: Israeli Politics

T/F 11:20am-12:35pm

Dan Arbell, Scholar in Residence

This course is divided into two main sections: (1) an overview of the geopolitical history of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict from the pre state era until today. (2) An analysis of the principles that guide Israel’s political system and the cleavages in Israeli society which greatly affect developments and trends in politics and policy.

SISU 330: U.S.-Israel Relations

T/F 4:05pm-5:20pm

Scott Lasensky

This course explores the evolution of U.S. relations with Israel, from pre-1948 American Zionism to President Truman’s decision to recognize the Jewish state in 1948 to America’s role as Israel’s greatest supporter in the world today.

SISU 419: Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace

W 2:30pm-5:20pm

Guy Ziv, Assistant Professor

This senior capstone provides students with a deeper understanding of the problems that have confounded the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in particular the "final status" issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and security. Students then partake in a simulation in which they attempt to constructively address the final status issues as well as other sticking points, such as settlements and terrorism, in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Student News

Congratulations to our 2021-2022 Estelle Seldowitz scholarship winners!

  • Avi Gold
  • Shayna Goldstein
  • Talia Rasiel
  • Kathryn Ross
  • Halle Shumate

News and Events

Pamela Nadell (Jewish Studies program director) was featured in Set the World on Fire: How Antisemitism Fuels White Nationalism from PBS.

Pamela Nadell (Jewish Studies program director) spoke to BYU Radio on antisemitism in the real world and online.

"Jews of Color: American Jews, Race and History" Event: If you missed it, check out this amazing virtual event held via Zoom! Thank you to Laura Leibman, Kelly Whitehead and Lewis Gordon, and Lauren Strauss for an amazing conversation about the American Jewish community's relationship to race.

Pamela Nadell (Jewish Studies program director) published America’s Jewish Women: A History From Colonial Times to Today, which won the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year in the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards.

Michael Brenner (History, Israel Studies), published his new book in German on Munich's rise as the capital of antisemitism and the testing ground for Adolf Hitler after World War One. It will be published in English by Princeton University Press in 2020.

Lauren Strauss is a featured speaker in this fall’s Texts and Traditions series, along with faculty from the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

Lisa Leff has been appointed Director of the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Geraldine Gudefin's latest publication, "Entre loi juive et loi française : le divorce et le droit de garde des enfants juifs russes au début du XXe siècle", appears in the French journal Archives Juives (2019/2 Vol. 52). 

Sarit Lisogorsky has joined the Jewish Studies program as our new Hebrew instructor.

Daniel and Helen Sonenshine

Announcement ·

AU’s Center for Israel Studies Receives $1.5 Million Gift

Read More