284a - American Judaism
Fall, 2004
Tuesday/Thursday 1-2:30 - Woodside

Ken Koltun-Fromm
Haverford College
Gest 205
Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday, 12:00-1:00pm
610-896-1026 (office), 610-645-8324 (home)


This class will explore the cultural, social, and religious dynamics of American Judaism. We will focus on the representation of Jewish identity in American culture, and examine issues of Jewish material, gender, and ritual practices in American history. We will study how Jews express identity through their physical and material surroundings, and how persons work with objects to produce religious meaning.


Preparation for class discussions is required and necessary. You should be fully prepared to engage the reading material in class, and offer reflective comments upon the reading and the ideas of others. To help in this preparation, you should write a brief account of what you think most central, provocative, or confusing in the reading for that day with the expectation that you will share these thoughts in class (this writing should be a short paragraph - 3-5 sentences - for your eyes only).

You will write three five page, doubled-spaced papers during the semester, and a longer, twelve page research paper for you final, due the last day of finals period. The first of the three papers can be rewritten and turned in for a grade a week after I return the initial paper to you. The due dates for the papers are as follows:

First paper: October 8th, Friday (5pm)
Second paper: October 29th, Friday (5pm)
Third paper: November 19th, Friday (5pm)
Final paper: December 17th, Friday, 12pm

All papers must be turned in on the second floor of Gest building in the appropriate box labeled for this class. If coming to the Haverford College campus proves difficult on Fridays, you may email a copy of your paper to me by the 5pm deadline, but only if you inform me before then that you wish to do so, and I confirm. I suggest that you cc a copy to yourself, and seek a reply from me that I have received and can open the document. If I cannot open the document and print it from my computer, I will not consider the paper to be turned in until I can do so. Your paper will be marked down for each day late.


Your final grade will be based on the above assignments, with significant weight placed on your engagement in class discussions. I do not evaluate each task with percentage accuracy (your final paper is not worth, say, 30% of your grade, for example), but instead examine all your work as a piece, and provide a grade that I hope fairly expresses the work and attention rendered to the class assignments, your peers in class, and your class participation. This process also allows me to take into account improvement over the course of the semester.

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (rwebb@haverford.edu, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible. Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

Texts for Purchase

Andrew Heinze, Adapting to Abundance
Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America
Jack Wertheimer, ed., The American Synagogue
Riv-Ellen Prell, Fighting to Become Americans
Steven Cohen and Arnold Eisen, The Jew Within



31 (T) - Introduction to class (Orsi, "Everyday Miracles," pp. 3-6)


2 (Th) -Marc Lee Raphael, "A History of Judaism in America," 39-73, and "The Synagogue," 97-114 (on Blackboard)

Jewish Material Consumption

7 (T) - Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 1-48

9 (Th) - Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 51-85, 89-115

14 (T) - Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 116-160

16 (Th) - Class Cancelled (Rosh Hashanah)

21 (T) - Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, 181-218

23 (Th) - Joselit, The Wonders of America, 3-54

28 (T) - Joselit, The Wonders of America, 55-88, 135-169

30 (Th) - Class Cancelled (Sukkot)


5 (T) - Joselit, The Wonders of America, 171-218, Diner, "Food Fights," in Hungering
for America, 178-219 (on Blackboard)

7 (Th) - Joselit, The Wonders of America, 219-295

8 (F) - First Paper due, 5pm

Fall Break

The Synagogue

19 (T) - Jick, "The Reform Synagogue," 85-110 (visit to Reform synagogue - no class)
See http://www.mlrt.org (Date set with Rabbi David Straus, 1:15pm)

21 (Th) - Wertheimer, "The Conservative Synagogue," 111-149 (visit to Conservative
synagogue - no class) See http://www.tbhbe.org (Date set with Sharon
Schumacher, 1:15pm)

24 (Sunday) - Visit Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park (Date set with Gabe Basch at
10am - 215-659-7476) http://www.bethsholomcongregation.org

26 (T) - Gurock, "The Orthodox Synagogue," 37-84 (visit to Orthodox synagogue - no
class) See http://www.lmsonline.org/index.asp (Date set with Rabbi Levene,

28 (Th) - Joselit, "The Special Sphere of the Middle-Class American Jewish Woman:
The Synagogue Sisterhood," 206-230; Sarna, "The Debate over Mixed Seating
in the American Synagogue," 363-394

29 (F) - Second Paper due, 5pm

Jewish Gender and Sexuality


2 (T) - Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 1-57

4 (Th) - Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 58-123

9 (T) - Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 124-208

11 (Th) - Prell, Fighting to Become Americans, 209-252

Movie: Trembling before G-d

Jewish Identity

16 (T) - Ozick, "Envy; or, Yiddish in America," 41-100 (on Blackboard)

18 (Th) - Roth, 'Eli, the Fanatic," 249-298 (on Blackboard)

19 (F) - Third paper due, 5pm

23 (T) - Class cancelled - AAR meeting

25 (Th) -Thanksgiving Break

30 (T) - Hertzberg, A Jew in America, Prologue and 1-44 (on Blackboard)


2 (Th) - Eisen and Cohen, The Jew Within, 1-42

7 (T) - Eisen and Cohen, The Jew Within, 43-99

9 (Th) - Eisen and Cohen, The Jew Within, 155-207

Final paper due: December 17th, Friday, 12pm