Classes Overview


HEBR 101 Intro to Modern

Instructor: Hanna Maschler ( )
An introduction to the pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and writing system of modern Israeli Hebrew. The two-semester course covers a core vocabulary of 1000 words, enabling students to produce and understand simple messages dealing with a wide range of topics. By the end of this sequence students are able to understand simple texts and conduct basic conversations. more

HEBR 201 Intermediate Modern Hebrew

Instructor: Hanna Maschler ( )

Continuation of the study of basic modern grammar, verb conjugations and noun declensions. These grammar topics are presented through texts that deal with modern Israeli society, culture, and history. Student vocabularies are increased to 1600 words, making it possible to read and discuss simple newspaper articles. more

HEBR 301 Advanced Hebrew
Prerequisite: 202, or equivalent, or instructor permission.

Instructor: Hanna Maschler ( )
Introduction to advanced grammar and syntax, along with reading of simple texts on topics related to Israeli society, history, and culture. more

HEBR 302 Advanced Hebrew
Prerequisite: 301, or equivalent, or instructor permission.

Instructor: Hanna Maschler ( )
Continues the study of advanced grammar and syntax. Readings include original texts from a variety of modern genres. more

HEBR 493 Independent Study in Hebrew

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RELJ 111 Biblical Hebrew

Instructor: Don Polaski ( dcp4n@Virginia.EDU  )
This course and its sequel (RELJ 112) will introduce students to the basics of Biblical Hebrew vocabulary and grammar, for the express purpose of reading the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in its original language. An inductive approach, employing biblical verses to illustrate grammatical points, will allow exposure to the canonical writings themselves from the start. Midway through the semester, we will begin reading longer prose passages directly from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. There will also be discussion of important Hebrew terms and concepts from the biblical readings. more

RELJ 121 Old Testament/Hebrew Scripture

Instructor: Don Polaski ( dcp4n@Virginia.EDU  )
Year after year, the Bible continues to be a best-seller world-wide, not only because of the insights into Ancient Near Eastern religion and culture that it offers, but even more importantly because it holds a fundamental place within Judaism and Christianity, as well as the larger cultures affected by these religions. This course introduces students to the literature of the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures, both in its original historical and cultural contexts and in the history of its reception as sacred scripture. It covers the major historical phases of the religion and institutions of ancient Israel and explores the diverse literary genres and religious perspectives found in the biblical corpus. Discussion of important themes (for example, the exodus from Egypt) incorporates material from the Ancient Near East and later Jewish and Christian interpretations.

Course Meets: Historical Studies Requirement
Course Meets: Non-Western Perspectives Requirement
RELJ 203 Intro to Judaic Tradtions
Instructors: Vanessa Ochs ( ),
Elizabeth Shanks Alexander
( )
In this introduction to Jewish religion, we learn that the word TRADITION, ever important in Judaism, has many meanings. Moreover, we learn that there is not one single Jewish tradition. Rather, Judaism is characterized by a whole range of practices, beliefs, attitudes and sacred texts which have changed dramatically through the ages and which continue to change. The goal of this course is to understand the role of tradition in Judaism and to study Jewish traditions which are alive today. Areas of study include: central Jewish beliefs, sacred text study, Jewish prayer, holy day practices, and rites of passage (birth and death). In order to deepen our understanding of the range of Jewish traditions, we see a variety of films, consider Jewish websites, and "do Jewish" that's is, we attend places where Judaism is being lived, and try our hand creating a Jewish food or object. more
RELJ 256 Sources of Jewish Tradition

Instructor: Elizabeth Shanks Alexander ( )

An introduction to the central works of the Jewish canon. We will consider such questions as: why are these books important? what religious sensibilities do they perpetuate? what is the relationship between them? what strategies of reading can help us grasp their basic meanings? and how do Jews read them? Using the classical sources to acquaint ourselves with fundamental themes and rituals in the Jewish tradition, we will be especially interested in how practices of reading are incorporated to and contribute to the growth of the religion. Readings will be taken from the scriptural, exegetical and mystical traditions including Torah, Midrash, Mishnah, Talmud, Zohar, medieval biblical commentaries (parshanut).

RELJ 303 Historical Jesus

Instructor: Harry Gamble ( )

This course focuses on Jesus of Nazereth as an historical figure, that is, as he is accessible to the historian by means of historical methods applied to historical evidence. Careful attention will be given to all the potentially useful sources including the canonical Gospels, apocryphal Gospels, and Jewish and Graeco-Roman sources, as well as to the problems of dealing with them. A reconstruction of the activity and teaching of Jesus will be attempted, with a view to determining Jesus' place within ancient Judaism and the relation of Jesus to the emergence of Christianity.

RELJ 339 Jewish Feminism

Instructor: Vanessa Ochs ( )
From ancient times to our own day, Jewish women have engaged with Jewish tradition, texts and practices appropriating, resisting and transforming it. In this course, we will study the strategies by which contemporary women in Judaism continue to create the conditions for increased spiritual, scholarly and social empowerment. As we study the major works and issues in contemporary feminism from the mid-1960's to the present, noting how Jewish feminists and feminist scholars of Judaism have defined and legitimized the study of Jewish women's experience, we will trace the impact of Jewish feminism on Jewish ritual, text study, communal leadership, and theology.

RELJ 391 Women and the Bible

Instructor: Judith Kovacs ( )
This course provides a forum for exploring the intersection of gender issues and biblical studies. Much of the course focuses on the close interpretation of particular texts from the Bible. We will survey passages from the Hebrew Bible (=Torah/Old Testament) and the New Testament that focus on women or use feminine imagery, considering various readings of them, including traditional Jewish and Christian, historical-critical, and feminist interpretations. We will examine the evidence of the Bible on the position of women in Israel and in the early church and consider how biblical authors use feminine imagery to express their theology. Attention will also given to how later Jewish and Christian communities employ Scripture to shape and define women's social and religious roles. Topics treated will include the stories of creation and fall in Genesis 1-3, narratives with female protagonists (Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, Esther, Ruth, Judith, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman), the prophetic images of Israel as prostitute, wife, and pure daughter of Zion, the figure of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs, the erotic imagery of the Song of Songs, women in the circle of Jesus, Paul's views on women, and the use of feminine images to portray judgment and redemption in the Revelation to John. No prerequisite. Not for women only (men are especially encouraged to enroll). The course may be used to fulfill the second writing requirement.
Course Meets: Second Writing Requirement.

RELJ 397 Jewish Worship & Theology

Instructor: Peter Ochs ( )
A detailed study of the traditional Jewish (rabbinic) morning prayer service: including close textual study of the prayers, historical study of their sources, and theological study of what they have meant and what they mean to us now. Comparisons with other Jewish prayer services (evening, sabbath) and with prayer in other religions. And work in some recent philosophic studies of scripture and prayer.

RELJ 505 Judaism in Antiquity

Instructor:  Elizabeth Shanks Alexander (
A critical survey of the development of Judaism from Ezra to the Talmud (c. 450 BCE-600 CE). During this period "Jewishness" gradually began to emerge as a form of identity that was different from biblical Israel. We will consider the forces (Hellenism, the development of a diaspora community, the emergence of Christianity) that exerted pressure on the the growth and development of Judaism during this period, leading to this development. We will also examine the manifold ways in which Jewish identity manifested itself (apocalypticism, wisdom tradition, sectarianism and rabbinic Judaism). Finally, we will consider the question of how a normative form of Judaism, today known as Rabbinic Judaism, grew out of the variety of Jewish expressions that characterized the Second Temple period and eventually achieved hegemony.
Course Meets: Historical Studies Requirement
Course Meets: Non-Western Perspectives Requirement

RELJ 529 Seminar:Hebrew Bible Torah

Instructor: Don Polaski ( dcp4n@Virginia.EDU  )

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YIDD 105 Elementary Yiddish Language and Culture

Instructor: Gabriel Finder
This course is designed to be an introduction to the fundamentals of the Yiddish language and to various forms of Yiddish culture in both Europe and the United States. We will study Yiddish structure and syntax, acquire a basic vocabulary, and apply  these skills to speaking and reading. While the major portion of class will be devoted to Yiddish language, we will also read Yiddish short stories and plays in English translation, watch Yiddish films, and listen to Yiddish music.
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Modern Hebrew Langauge
Asian and Middle Eastern Langauges and Cultures