The Jewish Experience in the United States: A History of Exceptions and Exceptionalism


This course surveys American Jewish life from the colonial settlement of the new world to the present day with special emphasis on configurations of the Jewish Question in a variety of historical and geographical contexts. We will explore the paradox between American Jewish social and economic success over the last three and a half centuries and the sense of ambivalence many Jews feel toward their place in American society. As a class, we will consider key moments in American Jewish history, including the converso community that arrived alongside early spanish settlers, the role of jews in the slave trade and plantation complex, Jewish appeals for acceptance and equality within the American colonies and early republic, as well as how Jews coped with a divided union during the Civil War. We will analyze successive waves of Jewish immigration from different countries, the building of Jewish communal structures, and the evolution of Judaism and Jewish identity within the United States. Jewish contributions to American culture will also be an important focus of the class as we explore the birth of American popular culture through music, film, television, and fiction. Throughout the course we will be cognizant of the regional, religious, ethnic, racial, class, gender, and sexual differences that comprise American Jewish society from its early inception to the present. We will observe how Jews have been simultaneously welcomed as well as excluded from political, economic, and social realms of the American community. As often as possible we will engage in a multitude of case studies and primary sources so we can gain specific regional expertise, while maintaining a national, and often transnational lens for analyzing these central questions.
Course Attributes: EN H; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; AS SC

Section 01

The Jewish Experience in the United States: A History of Exceptions and Exceptionalism
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