Judaic History

The Study of Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary Historical Periods

Ancient Israelites, Judeans, and the Making of a People

(Formerly Biblical History and Civilization: Part 2)

How did we go from ethnos to religion? How well do such categories work to explain our history from the time of King Saul in the 11th century BCE to the ascendancy of the rabbis in the 6th century CE? What was “Judaism” before the rabbis became the power brokers of Jewish life? These key questions will help us discover ancient Israelite (and Judean) identity, practice, and beliefs and ask what they can teach us about who we were and who we remain — even in our own time.

Cantorial: ALEPH Required
Rabbinic: ALEPH Required
RP: ALEPH Required

Anti-Judaism and Antisemitism

For philosophers and clergy, playwrights and politicians, the Jew has been a subject serving multiple ideological and polemical purposes. Why did (and do) cultures around the world adopt the figure of the Jew to address theological, social, political, and economic concerns that have, in actuality, little to do with Jews or Judaism? We will explore the multifaceted use of the figure of the Jew over the past two millennia and ask how we, as Renewal clergy, can meet the challenges of this difficult legacy.


Defining Identity, Belonging, and Community

(formerly Jewish Life in the Middle Ages: Cross and the Crescent)

The rabbinic project emerges with force beginning in the 6th century, and it becomes the defining system for Jews across much of the globe. Why is medieval Judaism pivotal in defining what American Jews know of as “traditional Judaism”? Our goal will be to ask what the philosophical, mystical, and historical legacy of the medieval world is and can be for Jewish Renewal.

Rabbinic: ALEPH Required

Journey Through Histories of Israel and Palestine

This introductory course explores the complex history, sociology and anthropology of pre-state Ottoman Palestine, including traditional understandings of home and sacred place, the emergence of Israel as a modern nation-state, and its relationship to the wider, shifting geopolitics of the Middle East.


Judaism Confronts Modernity

(formerly Jewish Emancipation Period)

The Haskalah (Enlightenment) transformed Jewish life in Central and Western Europe. The search for “rational” religion recreated Jewish practice, Jewish ritual, and Jewish communities and led to defining European Jews according to denomination. We will explore the modern age’s answers to the rabbinic project, the impact of rewriting that project on the life of Jews in the modern era, and the implications for Jewish Renewal.

Rabbinic: Content Required

Transformation, Reformation or Retrenchment

(formerly The History of Hasidism).

The history of Hasidism is filled with salient questions: Who (and what) birthed Hasidism, and how much does it owe to previous Jewish experience and thought? Were founders and leaders transforming or reframing Jewish thought and practice or were they reinscribing existing structures, theologies, and hierarchies? Students will also explore the place of women and Queer Jews in the Hasidic world and ask how institutions and communities of uncompromising separatism emerged from its roots. Finally, we will ask how Hasidism reinvented itself after the Holocaust in forms so myriad that they included Jewish Renewal among them.



(formerly Survey of Jewish History)

Jews have adjusted, integrated, and reinvented what it means to be Jewish for thousands of years.  Jews have experienced the world as a tiny and vulnerable nation, as prosperous and thriving minority communities, and as the threatened (and threatening) “other.” We will ask how our ancestors imagined and created community in diverse settings, how they defined their ideas, practices, and beliefs, and what the legacy of our diverse history is for our own work as Jewish Renewal leaders.

Cantorial: ALEPH Required
RP: ALEPH Required