322 Modern Jewish Thought | The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies

322 Modern Jewish Thought


Course Description:

An old joke has it that every three Jews have (at least) four different views. Students will come to appreciate the kernel of truth in that joke during the semester, as we will examine the multifaceted spectrum of ideologies, movements, parties, and individuals that constituted the emerging Jewish politics during their formative years. Focusing primarily on three centers – Eastern Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East – we will look at how those different movements sought to solve what was called “The Jewish Question”. We will look at how the various forces on the Jewish street sought to settle that question, where did they think Jews should live, what language(s) should Jews speak, with which political and cultural movements in the Gentile world did they empathize, and what political tactics did they favor.

Moreover, the questions and situations faced by Jewish ideologies and political movements were often, quite literally, a matter of life or death: among other topics, our discussion would turn to patterns of collaboration and resistance under Nazi rule, or the fierce internal Zionist debates about the use of force in the increasing Jewish-Arab conflict in the Land of Israel. Those crucial dilemmas generated profound intra-Jewish controversies and divisions, some of which have continued to this very day.


Course Syllabus

Course Prerequisites: 

None but recommended are two courses from Tier One or JUS 301 Jewish Civilizations: A Gateway Course.

Course Objective: 

Student Learning Objectives:


1. The students will familiarize themselves with the geography of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.


2. The student will learn about geographical and demographic developments in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, and how those developments had affected, in turn, the emergence of modern Jewish politics.


3. The students will become conversant with the political spectrum within Jewish societies (Zionism, other Jewish national movements, socialism, Orthodoxy, etc.) in the aforesaid regions, and how they both reflected and influenced Jewish interaction with their non-Jewish surroundings.


4. The students will examine the range of Jewish politics during the Holocaust that ran from collaboration to armed resistance, and the political behavior of American Jews and Jews in the British-ruled Land of Israel during those years.


5. The students will learn key facts about the origins of the Israeli-Arab conflict, leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. 

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