Current Courses

Course Offerings

As always, check BU Brain for the latest updates, course descriptions, details and registration.   


Hebrew | Israel Studies | Judaic Studies | Religious Studies | Yiddish


HEBR 102 - Hebrew II - Gen Ed: FL2

Cross listed: HEBR 502
Time: M/W 9:40-10:40 a.m.| T/R 10:05-11:05 a.m.
Instructor:  Orly Shoer
Second semester of the communicative introduction to the language and its culture. Provides a thorough grounding in reading, writing, grammar, oral comprehension, and speaking. Prerequisites: HEBR 101 with a grade of C- or equivalent or permission of instructor. 

HEBR 204 - Intermediate Hebrew - Gen Ed: FL3

Cross listed: HEBR 504
Time: M/W/F 10:50-11:50 a.m.
Instructor:  Orly Shoer
Intermediate-level language and culture course with emphasis on the reading of literary and non-literary texts, grammar and writing. Prerequisite: HEBR 103 with a grade of C- or equivalent or permission of instructor. 

HEBR 312 - Texts and Conversations II - Gen Ed: FL3

Cross listed: HEBR 506
Time: M/W/F 1:10-2:10 p.m.
Instructor:  Orly Shoer
In this course students will advance their Hebrew language skills through reading, discussing and writing about a variety of short fiction and nonfiction texts and visual material. Writing practice and reviewing of grammar will be incorporated through the presented materials. Taught in Hebrew. Prerequisites: HEBR 204 with a grade of C- or equivalent or permission of instructor.


ISRL 205 - Becoming Israeli – Gen Ed: H

Cross listed: JUST 205 / COLI 280G
Time: T/R 11:40-1:05
Instructor: Lior Libman
At the center of Becoming Israeli stands a protagonist in the process of becoming: a youngster being educated, learning about themselves, about the world, and about life, overcoming obstacles, maturing, forming their identity. In this class, we will explore the thematic and structural characteristics of such narratives, focusing on Israeli examples in their historical and cultural contexts. We will look at tensions between the individual and their society in the moral and psychological development of the protagonist, and will delve into questions of national affinities, class, gender and sexuality in their passage from childhood to adulthood. The course is an Area Course in Literature for the Minor in Israel Studies, a Literature Course for the Major/Minor in Hebrew, and an Area Course in Israel Studies for the Major/Minor in Judaic Studies.

ISRL 315 – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Gen Eds G, N 

Cross listed: JUST 315 / ARAB 385C / HIST 385J
Time: M/W/F 10:50 - 11:50 a.m.
Instructor: Shay Rabineau
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Israel-Palestine comprises the territory that lies between the Mediterranean Sea (on the west), Lebanon (in the north), the Gulf of Aqaba and the Sinai Peninsula (on the south) and the Jordan River (on the east). Although it covers a small geographic area and includes a relatively small population (compare present-day Israel's 8 million citizens with Egypt's 90 million), the dispute between the two rival sets of nationalisms which claim the sole right to control this territory has remained at the forefront of international attention for more than half a century. This course will examine the origins of the Arab-Israeli dispute from the mid-nineteenth century through the founding of the state of Israel and expulsion/flight of three quarters of a million Palestinians from their homes till the present day. Among the topics to be examined: the social history of Palestine up to Zionist colonization, the origins of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, varieties of Zionism, Zionism and colonialism, seminal events and their consequent symbolic connotations (the 1936 "Great Revolt," the 1948 "Nakba" [disaster]) and creation of the state of Israel, the construction of a national consensus in Israel, 1967 and its aftermath, the intifada, and the redefinition of the conflict as a result of Oslo, the second intifada, the security fence, HAMAS, Hizbollah and the Lebanon War. 

ISRL 324 - The Kibbutz in Israeli Culture – Gen Ed: H

Cross listed: JUST 385B
Time: T/R 2:50-4:15
Instructor: Lior Libman 
The course focuses on representations of the kibbutz, a unique Israeli social formation which aimed at combining Zionism and Socialism, nation-building and the construction of a new, just society. Throughout the past hundred years, the kibbutz has been portrayed in countless literary texts and visual images. In this class, we will analyze and discuss selected literary and cinematic works from different genres and periods to examine the history of the kibbutz-image and the relationship between it and the kibbutz’s history, while also asking, in a broader context, how social and political visions are shaped in, and are shaping, images. Texts will be read in translation. No previous knowledge is required, but for students who took Intro to Israeli Lit. this course will be a continuation of their studies. The course is an Area Course in Literature for the Minor in Israel Studies, a Literature Course for the Major/Minor in Hebrew, and an Area Course in Israel Studies for the Major/Minor in Judaic Studies.


JUST 140 - Survey of American Jewish Lit - Gen Ed: C, H

Cross listed: COLI 180R / ENG280I
Time: T 4:25-7:25 p.m.
Instructor: C. Beth Burch
Through the Golden Door: Survey of American Jewish Literature: This course traces through literature the realities and challenges of being Jewish in America from after the Civil War to the present. We will read in all genres, exploring topics such as the immigrant experience, acculturation and assimilation, anti-Semitism, generational conflicts and differences, gender issues, and continuing themes in the body of work. Quizzes, short pieces of writing, mid-term examination, and final examination.

JUST 202 - Jewish History 1500 to Modern - Gen Ed: G

Cross listed: HIST 285E
Time: T/R 1:15-2:40
Instructor: Allan Arkush
This course surveys the major historical developments encountered by Jewish communities beginning with the Spanish Expulsion in 1492 up until the present day. We will first explore the features of the “early modern” period, such as mercantilism and large-scale demographic shifts, and chart the ways in which they transformed the traditional position of the Jew in society. We will then shift to the modern period, which saw a dramatic reordering of political, social, economic, and cultural life. We will study the various ways in which Jews across the world engaged with emerging notions of nationality, equality, and citizenship, as well as with new ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, nationalism, imperialism and antisemitism.  We will examine differing patterns of acculturation and assimilation, as Jews adopted numerous ways to negotiate the tension between the “particular” and the “universal.” By focusing both on European Jewry as well as the Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa, we will chart not one all-encompassing model of Jewish modernity, but a more complex story that unfolded from Marrakesh to Berlin, from Istanbul to Vilna and beyond.

JUST 248 - Antisemitism in History – Gen Ed: G 

Cross listed: ISRL 280M / HIST 285D 
Time: W 4:40-7:40 
Instructor: Allan Arkush
This course will begin with an examination of the roots of Jew-hatred in ancient times and the Middle Ages. It will concentrate on the emergence of modern antisemitism in 19th century Europe and the ways in which it spread throughout the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. The course will focus on antisemitic ideologies as well as antisemitic mass movements. This course meets Judaic Studies major/minor survey requirement.

JUST 343 - Post Holocaust Lit - Gen Ed: C, H

Cross listed: ISRL 386K / COLI 331F / ENG 380J
Time: M 4:40-7:40 p.m.
Instructor: PW Burch
This course addresses primarily fiction and memoir written after the Holocaust by second- and third-generation descendants of survivors of the Shoah.  Central to our reading will be issues of representation, authenticity, the role of memory, the problems and limits of language, questions of trauma, the phenomenon of post-memory, and the development of post-Holocaust Jewish identities.  Note: Not appropriate for first-year students.

JUST 345 ​- The Holocaust​ - Gen Eds N, W
Cross listed: YIDD 345 / HIST / GERM / GMAP
Time: T 4:40 - 7:40 ​
Instructor: Sarah Snyder  
A Victims’ History of the Holocaust: How did the Jews of Europe respond to German occupation and its machinery of death during the Second World War? What does it mean to consider a history of the Holocaust where its victims - not architects – take centre-stage? Our class will grapple with questions like these concerning the possibilities, as well as frustrations, of this kind of historical enterprise in relation to the experiences of Eastern European Jewish society during the war. Our effort will be aided by recent historiography and by contemporary, first hand testimony - including diaries, chronicles and the spoken word. Documentary cinema, will also frame our effort to chronicle the effects of Nazi genocide through the surviving record of the murdered and the dead. All material is in English.

JUST 380G - Christ & Jews in Islamic Spain - Gen Ed: 

Cross listed: AFST 370 / MDVL 382H / ARAB 386H / WGSS 383B / RELG 380G
Time: 11:40 - 01:05 
Instructor: Moulay Ali Bouanani
This course acquaints students with the contribution of Muslims, Christians and Jews to Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain & Portugal), from the eighth century to the 1400's.   In the Islamic far west, Andalusian society was different from what existed in the Arabic-Islamic East and far more developed and sophisticated than any civilization Europe had known. During this time period, Al-Andalus was the most materially advanced area of Europe. Ethnic (Arabs, Iberians, North Africans) and religious minorities such as Christian Muwallads and Mozarabs enjoyed a high degree of tolerance and, like the Jews, formed prosperous and erudite communities. Women were, with the exception of those of Baghdad, the envy of even other Arabic-Muslim women. Cordoba was the most splendid city on the European continent with magnificent buildings, gardens, libraries, baths. There was a stable political system that facilitated opulence, education, beautiful homes, well-designed cities and towns, art and scholarship. This course will examine the civilization and culture of Islamic Spain and the contribution of each of the religious groups to its greatness.

JUST 380U - Jews, Family & Sex in Early Modern World – Gen Ed: G

Cross listed: HIST 381Q 
Time:  T/R 2:50-4:15  
Instructor: Jonathan Karp                   
This course surveys the entirety of the early modern Jewish world, particularly Christian Europe and the Ottoman Mediterranean and Middle East, discussing the family as an institution within Jewish law, the promulgation of sexual norms and deviations from them, and the institutions of marriage and child rearing, as viewed within the framework of gender and patriarchy. We will consider the perception of continuity in Jewish family structures over long periods of time as measured against the palpable influence of the institutions and practices of the non-Jewish communities among which Jews lived. We will also look at the impact of kabbalah, aestheticism, and messianic movements on sexual practices. The course will utilize rabbinic legal literature, including responsa, ethical musar texts, mystical writings, and the handful of surviving memoirs, among other sources. No previous knowledge of Jewish history is assumed or required. This course meets Judaic Studies major/minor survey requirement.

JUST  384C - Kafka and His Readers – Gen Ed: 

Cross listed: COLI 380U
Time: T/R 04:25 - 05:50 
Instructor: Neil Pages 
Course examines the life, work and reception of Franz Kafka (1883-1924), arguably the most famous writer of European Modernism and the inspiration for the slippery idiom “Kafkaesque.” Kafka died one hundred years ago, having published just a few hundred pages of prose, but his life and work have had an abiding impact on how we think about art, interpretation and representation. Indeed, Kafka’s writing and his image have influenced not only writers (W.G. Sebald, J.M Coetzee, Jorge Luis Borges) and critics (Benjamin, Adorno, Derrida), they have also inspired illustrators and cartoonists (R. Crumb), filmmakers (Orson Wells, Michael Haneke, Steven Soderbergh) and visual and acoustic artists (Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Jeff Wall). While considering Kafka’s literary legacy, his academic function, his impact on thinking about representation, and the debates about the translation of his work, we will also reflect on the process of reading and interpretation generally and think about what literature does and the ways in which literary criticism works.

JUST 384G- Blockchain, Crypto & Jewish History – Gen Ed: H

Cross listed: ISRL 385A / HIST 385L
Time: T/R 11:40-1:05             
Instructor: Michael Kelly  
In this course, students will learn what blockchain, crypto and the decentralization movement are and what they can mean for History and the Humanities, with Jewish History as our historical case study. The next stage in the development of the Digital Humanities is its integration of distributed ledger technology in the form of blockchain. The Humanities are only beginning to think about how to productively communicate with and deploy the world of blockchain and its decentralized technology and political mission in its profession. But what is already clear is that blockchain and its array of tools will force the Humanities and Higher Education as a whole to rethink and transform or face becoming outmoded and disconnected from the public, becoming historical relics instead of historical agents. But, how precisely will blockchain decentralize History and the Humanities, and what will this mean for Jewish History?

JUST 385C - Jews in US Pop Music – Gen Ed: N, P

Cross listed: HIST 380G        
Time: T/R 10:05-11:30
Instructor: Jonathan Karp
American Jews have played a prominent if not predominant role in the development of twentieth-century popular music. What distinguishes the Jewish contribution is that it was divided almost equally between the creative and business sides of the music industry. This course broadly surveys the history of modern American popular music, from ragtime to hip-hop, and examines how producing music for sale offers insights into key dimensions of American life, including ethnic and race relations, shifts in the realm of fashion and style, in gender identities and sexuality, and the transformative force of American capitalism. No technical background or specific knowledge of pop music history is assumed or required. But we will listen to a lot of it!

JUST 441 - Holocaust Fiction - Gen Ed: C, H

Cross listed: ISRL 385B / COLI 480T / ENG 450J
Time: W 4:40-7:40 p.m.
Instructor: PW Burch
Issues of memory, representation, and voice are addressed in the reading of Holocaust fiction. The class reads through the prism of the literature of witness novels and short stories—most by Holocaust survivors—including works by Appelfeld, Fink, Borowski, Grynberg, Lustig, Nomberg- Przytyk, Rawicz, Kosinski, and Wiesel. Several short papers, mid-term examination, and final examination are required. Accompanied by a speaker/lecture series. Notes: prerequisite, sophomore standing; not appropriate for first-year students. Required texts may include: Lawrence Langer, Art from the Ashes (Anthology), Piotr Rawicz, Blood from the Sky, Jerzy Kosiński, The Painted Bird, Elie Wiesel, Gates of the Forest, Hans Keilson, The Death of the Adversary, David Grossman, See Under: Love, André Schwarz-Bart, The Last of the Just.


RELG 101 - Religions of the World - Gen Ed: G, H

Cross listed: JUST 100 / AFST 180E / ANTH 180C
Time: M/W/F 10:50-11:50
Instructor: Douglas Jones
What does it mean to study various religions from an academic perspective? How do we, as outsiders at a public university, discuss different traditions responsibly? Answering questions like these and developing our skills as scholars of religion is of no small importance in an increasingly global society. This class will take a thematic approach to a number of traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Prominent themes include the history of Religious Studies as a discipline, religion and popular culture, religion and violence, the history of utopian thought, and the status of new and controversial movements across the globe. ​

RELG 180B - Islam: Texts and Contexts - Gen Ed: G, H, W

Cross listed: ARAB 150 / AFST 180L / COLI 180C / ENG 280E / HIST 180A / MDVL 180T
Time: T/R 08:30 - 09:55 am
Instructor: Omid Ghaemmaghami
This course is a textual survey (in English or English translation) of religious currents in the Islamic world, past and present. We will begin by looking at the origins of Islam, and placing the most salient textual expressions of its principles, practices, and beliefs in their historical context. In an attempt to explore the enduring ties that bind the myriad interpretations of Islam across time and space to their universal foundations, each week will be devoted to a different theme. Topics include the origins of Islam; the life of the Prophet Muḥammad; major themes of the Quran; Tradition (Ḥadīth) in the making; the Imamate in Shīʿī Islam; Sufism and the aesthetics of Islamic mysticism; Islamic messianism; the Islamic world in the 19th century; and Islam in America: From African Slaves to Malcolm X. This course has no prerequisites, and no prior knowledge of Islam is required or will be assumed by the instructor.

RELG 280B - Islamic Cultures in Africa - Gen Ed: W 

Cross listed: AFST 251 / COLI 280J / SOC 280B / ANTH 280V / ARAB 281E
Time: T/R 10:05-11:30 a.m.
Instructor: Moulay Ali Bouanani

Islam has a rich cultural and artistic heritage in Africa. With a history that goes back to the seventh century, it is now a vital part of the African cultural landscape. This introductory course explores a range of Islamic cultural productions from the advent of Islam to modern times by Muslim men and women in different regions of Africa from North to South and from East to West. It will focus on religious didactic writings, literature, music, architecture and documentary films in studying the syncretism of Islam and indigenous African religions and/or cultures, and in highlighting the unifying cultural influences of the religion. The course will also attend to the distinctive character of the vast contemporary post-colonial cultural productions in music (religious & profane), film, architecture and literature in large African metropolises with significant Islamic populations, and it will devote attention to the underlying factors and issues of artistic production of Muslims of Africa.

RELG 312 - Radical Religious Movements - Gen Ed: H

Cross listed: JUST 312
Time: T/R 10:05-11:30
Instructor: Douglas Jones
This course focuses on movements that are deemed radical by their contemporaries. Topics will vary from week to week, though generally we will focus on the self-professed religious identity of these movements alongside their relationship with the broader religious culture. Do radical religions consider themselves radical? How do they communicate with, or seek to influence, the mainstream? Major themes include the proliferation of utopian and messianic movements in the seventeenth-century, socialism and religion, religion and violence, religion and suicide, the anti-cult movement in America, and the relatively recent appearance of sci-fi religions. Students who took RELG 212 course will not receive credit for 312.

RELG 361 – The Bible and Its Interpretations - Gen Ed: C, H

Cross listed: JUST 361
Time: M/W/F 2:20-3:20
Instructor: Douglas Jones
This course takes a comparative approach to the history of biblical interpretation by looking at diverse communities within the Jewish and Christian traditions. How have these communities used the Bible to understand their place in history, address present tribulations, and even predict the future? What major conflicts have arisen over the issue of interpretation? Some topics include the theme of movement in the Torah and rabbinical tradition, 18th and 19th century biblical scholarship, the meaning of allegory in Catholic and Protestant interpretation, and the so-called literal sense of scripture. We will also close by considering the issue of biblical interpretation as it relates to new religious movements in America.

RELG 380D - Landscapes and Lit- Gen Ed: 

Cross listed: COLI 381X / ENVI 380A
Time: T/R 2:50 - 4:15 pm
Instructor: Alexander Sorenson
This class examines the “place” of natural landscapes in literature by focusing on the river as a foundational site and symbol of the human imagination. Using the figural, narrative, and philosophical dimensions of the river as a lens, we will explore key epochs of literary history from antiquity to the present. In doing so, we will trace how rivers from the Styx to the Susquehanna can play a role within a community’s self-understanding. A core question that will guide these discussions is: how can rivers (and natural environments more broadly) function as guides through literary history, and why have cultures so often chosen the imagery of the river in particular as a means for imagining and (re)constructing their own histories? Tentative genres and subjects include ancient and medieval epic poetry, Romanticism, modernism, and contemporary literature.

RELG 380F - Ancient Christianity - Gen Ed:  G, I, J, N, T

Cross listed: JUST 380P / MDVL 382J/ HIST 386F
Time: T/R 11:40 AM - 01:05
Instructor: Nathanael Andrade
This course will trace the emergence of positive attitudes toward the worldwide dispersion of the Jews from the 19th century to the present. It will examine the rejection of the idea that Jews living outside of Palestine are by definition in Exile, the diverse ideologies of the proponents of diaspora nationalism, the diasporists’ critique of Zionism and their involvement in the establishment of alternative Jewish homelands – both in fact and in fiction.

RELG 480B - Nature and Cosmos in East Asian Religions – Gen Ed:

Cross listed: AAAS 481L/ AAAS  582D / MDVL 480B
Time: T/R 04:25 - 05:50 
Instructor: Kristina Buhrman
Nature and Cosmos in East Asian Religions, Philosophy and History. This seminar introduces students to aspects of the worldviews found in East Asian culture and religions, particularly how people in the past understood how the natural world and the universe worked, and the role of humans within it. Students will become familiar with scholarly work on the subject, and will have practice reading primary materials in translation. Topics included are cosmogony (the origin of the world), the relationship between human actions and natural phenomena, the effect of these worldviews on architecture and literature, and how the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism affected the development of a distinctively premodern East Asian scientific tradition. At the end of the course, students will be introduced to how this tradition affected the adoption of western science in 16th-19th century Japan. As a major project, students will undertake research on one aspect of these worldviews in comparison with classical, Christian, or modern western religious and scientific traditions.

RELG 480C - Existential Problems – Gen Ed: H
Cross listed: ENG 450M
Time: T/R 11:40 - 01:05 
Instructor: Joseph Church
Existential Problems - A study of philosophical, religious, artistic, and psychobiological thought pertinent to contemporary existential problems with alienation, impermanence, and possible meaninglessness. We’ll read work by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Tillich, Buber, McGilchrist, Dostoyevsky, Borges, Beckett, and Kafka, among others. And we’ll view relevant films by Aronofsky, Bergman, Fincher, Gondry, Kurosawa, Leigh, Lynch, Ki-Duk, and von Sternberg, among others. Lecture and discussion. For each meeting students come to class with a question or observation about the assigned material. Final grade based on this daily work, two shorter papers, engagement in discussion, consistent attendance. NOTE: I DO NOT ALLOW STUDENTS’ USE OF LAPTOPS OR PHONES DURING CLASS. NOTE: I want our first class meeting, Tuesday, January 16, to be as productive as possible: toward that end, in preparation for class discussion, I ask that you read Gordon Bigelow’s “A Primer of Existentialism” (posted on Brightspace) and develop a question or observation about something in the piece you find interesting.


Yiddish II - YIDD 102 - Gen Ed: WFL2

Cross listed: JUST 180a/ GERM 241J / RUSS 280A / YIDD 502 
Time: M/W/F 1:10-2:10
Instructor: Gina Glasman
Follows on from Yiddish 101 as students sharpen their linguistic skills with more complex sentence structure, a deeper knowledge of tenses and cases, and a broader vocabulary. In addition, we explore Yiddish culture through film, stories, folk sayings and the occasional joke! As always lyrics from Yiddish popular song provide the backbone of the class, and individual attention is a feature of the instruction. Note: interested students canjoin 102 directly without having taken 101. (Instructor permission needed)

Living in a Material World II - YIDD 280A - Gen Ed:

Cross listed: JUST 284A 
Time: T/R 4:25 - 5:50
Instructor: Gina Glasman
This class will be dedicated to a single question: how can we use the artefacts of everyday life to better understand the history of an immigrant metropolis? To explore this question, we will focus on a specific city - New York - and a particular cultural vehicle, museums – institutions rooted in the notion that “objects” can speak!  In the Spring semester, students will create their own digital exhibit, using the themes, approaches and concepts we have explored together in class.  Students can chose to focus their research on any community within the complex urban fabric of either past or present-day New York City.

YIDD 354 - Modern Yiddish Culture - Gen Ed: H, J

Cross listed: JUST 354 / GERM 380K / RUSS 381D
Time: T/R 1:15-2:40 p.m.
Instructor: Gina Glasman
In the half century before the Second World War, a Yiddish ­speaking "Jewish Street" stretched from Buenos Aires to Boston, from London to Lodz, with many cities in between. What characterized the culture of this mostly urban and modernizing society is the subject of this class. Cinema and short stories, poetry and politics provide our vehicle to explore the world of Eastern European Jewry in a time of radical transformation and approaching catastrophe (all material is in English). Note: If a student has already taken a 200-level version of Modern Yiddish Culture they will not receive credit for this course.