Religion 120A: Jewish Thought and Identity
Gest 101
Tuesday/Thursday 1:00-2:30pm

Ken Koltun-Fromm
Haverford College
Gest 205
Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday, 12-1pm
610-896-1026 (office)


An exploration into how Jewish identity is constructed, performed and situated within a variety of literary and representational texts. We will focus on the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Moses, and the ways in which these central Jewish characters are imagined in later memory, and then focus our attention on the notion of Jewish covenant.


Class preparation is critical for the success of the course. You should come to class ready to discuss the reading for that day, and should take some time before class to reflect upon the nature and issues in the texts. Class attendance and participation, then, are central components and requirements for the course. The written work will include four essays, each of four double-spaced (typed) pages in length, with the first essay rewritten and turned in for a grade. The final paper will be an expanded 7-10 page revision of the last (fourth) essay. All of these factors - class preparation, attendance, participation, and writing - count in determining your final grade. All papers must be turned in by hand to Gest - no electronic copies will be accepted except with prior permission!


First paper: Due September 20th (Friday), 5pm
Second paper rewrite: Due October 7th (Monday), 5pm
Third paper: Due November 4th (Monday), 5pm
Fourth paper: Due November 25th (Monday), 5pm

Final Paper: Rewrite fourth paper to include essays in Reviewing the Covenant and other texts read in class. Due at the end of Finals period.

Reading Packet
Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian
Eugene Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant
Peter Ochs, ed. Reviewing the Covenant

Section I: Abraham and Isaac

Sept. 3 (T) - Introduction and translations of Genesis

Sept. 5 (Th) - Genesis 12-19 (packet)

Sept. 10 (T) - Genesis 20-25:11 (packet)

Sept. 12 (Th) - Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire, pp. 72-96 (packet)

Sept. 17 (T) - Auerbach, Odysseus' Scar, 3-23 (packet)

Sept. 19 (Th) - Spiegel, The Last Trial, 3-8, 17-27, 51-59, 143-152 (packet)

Sept. 20 (Friday) - First Essay Due, 5pm

Sept. 24 (T) - Levenson, Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, 111-142 (packet)

Sept. 26 (Th) - Levenson, Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, 173-199 (packet)

Section II: Moses

Oct. 1 (T) - Exodus 1-13 (packet)

Oct. 3 (Th) - Exodus 14-20, 32 (packet)

Oct. 7 (Monday) - Second Essay Rewrite Due, 5pm

Oct. 8 (T) - Discussion of papers

Oct. 10 (Th) - Walzer, Exodus and Revolution, 3-17, 133-149 (packet)


Oct. 22 (T) - Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 1-55

Oct. 24 (Th) - Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 91-143

Oct. 29 (T) - Assmann, Moses the Egyptian, 144-167, 208-218

Oct. 31 (Th) - Buber, Moses, 13-19, 39-59 (packet)

Nov. 4 (Monday) - Third Essay Due, 5pm

Nov. 5 (T) - Discussion of papers

Section III: Covenant

Nov. 7 (Th) - Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant, 1-52

Nov. 12 (T) - Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant, 55-107

Nov. 14 (Th) - Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant, 108-152

Nov. 19 (T) - Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant, 155-206

Nov. 21 (Th) - Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant, 207-234, 284-299

Nov. 25 (Monday) - Fourth Essay Due, 5pm

Nov. 26 (T) - Discussion of papers


Dec. 3 (T) - Reviewing the Covenant, 3-59

Dec. 5 (Th) - Reviewing the Covenant, 60-107

Dec. 10 (T) - Reviewing the Covenant, 111-144, 173-199

Dec. 12 (Th) - Reviewing the Covenant, 145-170

Final paper: Due Dec 21 (Saturday), 12pm