10569 Jewish Identities in an Era of Multiple Modernities 1

Credits: 6 advanced credits in Sociology & Anthropology or in Political Science

Prerequisites: 36 credits, including Introduction to Sociology. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

Recommended: Trends in Israeli Society

Author: Eliezer Ben-Rafael

The course deals with Jewish identity and focuses on the numerous answers that have been given to the question “What and who is a Jew?”. It examines whether these answers still reflect a certain degree of historical-cultural continuity, or perhaps a tendency towards fragmentation and separation of Jewish identity, and relates to the approach of sociologists to collective identity as something open to different interpretations that can be formulated differently in different circles and in different periods.

The course examines whether it is still relevant to speak of one Jewish identity, or whether it is more appropriate to refer to the “family” or “families” of Jewish identities, and perhaps even to developments leading to the creation of different Jewish “nations.” Examining contemporary Jewish identities from this perspective requires, among other things, attention to changes in the cultural symbols that played a key role among Jews for centuries, for example, the religious dimension, the attitude towards ‘the Jewish bookcase’, and the linguistic aspect. The course also deals with “identification” with identity, the extent to which individuals who view themselves as part of the Jewish collective consider their Jewish identity to be a significant factor in shaping their lives. The course covers the different periods and circumstances that Jews have experienced in the modern era, from after the Emancipation until the 21st century.

1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required.