The academic study of Jewish history, literature, and culture goes back to the early years of Hampshire College. In 1973, a group of students helped to organize the nation’s first college course on the Holocaust, “Thinking the Unthinkable.”
One alumnus of that course, co-organizer Aaron Lansky, went on to found the National Yiddish Book Center, now the world’s largest collection of Yiddish books and located adjacent to the Hampshire campus. Students of Jewish Studies may focus on a specific aspect of Jewish culture, religion, or history, or explore the unique position of Jews within any number of academic interests including ethnic studies, urban studies, American studies, or art history.
Recent Hampshire students have investigated these links through academic research, creative writing, and photography.
|Student Project Titles|
|Sample First-Year Course|
The Rise of Secular Jewish Culture
Jewishness has always involved more than religion. Jewish identity, even in the pre-modern world, was expressed through language, work, music, food, and other cultural behaviors. Modernity brought with it even more possibilities, and a sense of radically different political, cultural, and artistic Jewish identities beyond religion began to emerge. This interdisciplinary course draws upon history, literature, political philosophy, and sociology in tracing the rise of a pluralistic, multifaceted modern Jewish culture in Europe and the U.S. between the seventeenth century and the Second World War. We begin with Spinoza, the most significant “heretical” Jewish thinker in the seventeenth century, and continue through the European Enlightenment, the rise of modern Jewish nationalist movements, and the emergence of secular Yiddish and Hebrew literature. Finally, we will address the crisis of Jewish modernity provoked by the Holocaust, and briefly survey secular Jewish identities today.
|Sample Courses at Hampshire|
|Facilities and Resources|
Jeremiah Kaplan Family Foundation
National Yiddish Book Center
The center also offers events and conferences for college students, focusing on Jewish literature and culture. In the past few years, noted scholars and writers have visited Hampshire, including American literature scholar Eric Sundquist, Yiddish literature scholar Jeffrey Shandler, and novelist and essayist E.L. Doctorow, giving a lecture entitled “Religion and Literature.”
Coordinator for Religious Identity and Political Intersections
Prague Short-Term Field Study Program