"The Jewish People ll: Jewish History from Medieval Times to the Present
Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Professor: Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur
Tuesday and Thursday 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Classroom: SOM (School of Management) 116
Office: Herter Hall 731
Office Telephone: (413) 577-0649
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 9:00-11:00 and by appointment
Jews have always comprised a fraction of the world population. Why are they worthy of study? One of the reasons is their enormous and disproportionate impact on the non-Jewish world. Another is the fascinating internal diversity of the Jewish people, both ideologically and ethnically. This course will explore Jewish civilization through the often overlapping lenses of religion and ethnicity. Throughout the course, the Jews will also be considered as a culture and a civilization, with the gendered experiences of both Jewish men and women emphasized. We will also consider the impact of Jewish communities on the non-Jewish host societies in which they settled. Through primary and secondary source readings, lectures, film clips, slide shows, and class discussions, this course will cover the medieval through modern eras of Jewish history (315 CE to the present), and both the western and eastern hemispheres.
While there are no prerequisites for this course, The Jewish People l is recommended as preparatory background. This is a university course--you need not be of Jewish ancestry or religion to take and/or succeed in this class.
This is a reading-intensive course. Readings average 60 pages per week. Some readings are lighter or easier than others. Be sure to check the syllabus for the option to skim or read selectively and for optional readings. Keep in mind that some pages need not be read since they include only footnotes. To find the reading selections in the course packet, follow the page numbers listed in bold in this syllabus. Example: (CP: pp.1-3)
Quizzes and Exams
Students will take five in-class quizzes on the readings and lectures covered since the previous quiz. These quizzes are composed of terms to identify and short questions. Students are permitted to drop one quiz (the lowest grade).
Students will also take an in-class midterm and a final exam.
The T.A. will hold review sessions for quizzes and exams two days before the quiz or exam.
Students will complete a 1-page biographical sources assignment and 5-page biographical essay (see pp.12-14 of this syllabus for description) on a historical figure pertinent to medieval or modern Jewish history.
Succeeding in this Class
Think of this class as a job (you love). Just as missing work days and neglecting to complete office work efficiently will harm your chances of promotion, so too will missing classes and not completing the assignments adversely affect your grade for this class. Likewise, regular attendance and high quality performance on quizzes and assignments will bring you the results you have earned.
Lectures are as important as readings. Lectures reinforce the readings, and also add new material for which students are responsible.
Students may volunteer to make a 10-15 minute presentation on a topic of their choice that must be relevant to the class. These topics must be approved in advance. For example, during the Holocaust lecture, a student from last semester gave a 15-minute presentation on his recent experiences on the March of the Living, a program that brings young Americans and Canadians to Poland and Israel for historical tours of concentration camps and Holocaust museums/memorials. Students volunteering to make such presentations will have 3-5 additional points added to their final grade.
Missed Classes, Quizzes, Exams and Assignments
Students are expected to attend all class meetings. Students with lab exams or students involved in University-sanctioned activities (such as athletics and field trips) that may require them to miss class, must submit notes from their professors. Students arriving late to class, after attendance is taken, are required to alert the T.A. to their presence at the end of class. Otherwise, they will be marked absent. Students are responsible for the classes they miss. In case of absence, a student should request the notes from another student. Due dates are listed in the syllabus; it is the students responsibility to keep track of them. If a student falls ill or has a personal emergency that requires him/her to ask for an extension, h/she must submit to me a letter from his/her doctor or from the Dean of Students Office. In the case that a student cannot avoid missing a class, that student is still responsible for the material covered and for changes in the class schedule announced during that class. If a quiz is given during a students unexcused absence, the student will receive a 0 for that quiz. Written assignments (i.e. biographical sources assignments and biographical papers) handed in late without a prior extension will be marked down half a grade for every day late.
There are no make-up quizzes or exams, nor can a quiz or exam be given early because of a special circumstance. Students may drop one quiz (of the lowest grade). Any student with a written University-sanctioned excuse can earn credit for a missed exam by writing a research paper on an assigned topic. If you think you may miss quizzes or exams, you should seriously consider dropping the course.
Course Outlines and Other Class-Related Material
Pending technical assistance, course outlines will be posted to the class website the evening before each lecture. The website address is:
See the website for other pertinent information, such as date, time and place of review sessions, the syllabus, a course description, etc.
Receiving Extra Assistance
Teaching Assistant (T.A.)
The T.A. for this course is Richard Gassan, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department. Richards contact information is as follows:
Office: Herter 730
Office hours: Tuesdays, 1:30-2:30, or by appointment
home phone: 413-549-4563
Ask the Professor
Students are encouraged to ask questions in class. Students should also feel free to submit questions to me via email or in handwritten form. The website for this course has an ask the professor section, inviting students to raise questions which will then be addressed in class.
Students with learning disabilities should contact:
Learning Disabilities Support Services
321 Berkshire House
Tutor Coordinator: Kathy Weilersterin
323 Middlesex House
LDSS will evaluate and diagnose students, and then contact the professor. The professor will not accept claims about learning disabilities unless they are documented by LDSS.
Students with learning disabilities must submit a form to the professor at least a week before the quiz, midterm, or final exam if they would like an untimed quiz or exam.
Aviva Ben-Ur, ed. Course Packet for The Jewish People ll. Amherst, MA: Collective Copies, 2001. (Available at the Collective Copies). A copy of the Course Packet is also available on reserve. In this syllabus, the Course Packet is designated as (CP)
71 S. Pleasant St., Amherst
The following are available at Food for Thought Bookstore:
William Hallo, David Ruderman and Michael Stanislawski, eds. Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Source Reader. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984. In this syllabus, this book is designated as (H)
Judith R. Baskin, ed. Jewish Women in Historical Perspective. Second Edition. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998. In this syllabus, this book is designated as (B)
Food for Thought Bookstore
106 N. Pleasant St., Amherst
Calculation of Grades
Five quizzes and attendance 25%
Mid-term examination 25%
Biographical paper and sources 25%
Final exam 25%
Class Schedule With Assigned Readings
Note: readings listed under a date are due on that date!
Tuesday, January 30: Introduction: The Jews: A People, A Religion, A Civilization
No advanced readings required, except to read the syllabus in its entirety.
Assignment: Be sure to pick up, fill out, and return the student information form
Thursday, February 1: Jews in the Roman Empire: Legal Status of the Jews and the Development of the Jewish Community in Exile
Yehoshua M. Grintz, Eli Davis and Raphael Posner. Jew, Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1971, pp.21-25. (CP: pp.1-3)
The Barbarian Invasions of Europe: Fifth Century. In Haim Beinart, Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, pp.13-top of p.16. (CP: pp.5-8)
Yitzhak F. Baer. The Origins of the Jewish Communal Organization in the Middle Ages. In Binah: Studies in Jewish History, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Dan, New York: Praeger, 1989, pp.59-82; READ pp.59-67 ONLY!!! (CP: pp.9-13)
The Shaping of Traditions (First to Ninth Centuries); etc., pp.63-top of 82. (H)
Tuesday, February 6: Jews in the Islamic World
Under the New Order; and The Koran on the Treatment of The People of the Book, etc. In Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, pp.22-39; 149-151. (CP: pp.15-25)
The Jews of the Arabian Peninsula, etc. In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, p.18-top of p.21. (CP: pp.27-30)
The Koran on the Children of Israel, pp.82-93. (H)
Thursday, February 8: The Golden Age and Its Golden Men: Jews in Muslim Spain
The Golden Era. In Jane S. Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience, New York: The Free Press, 1992, pp.60-89. (CP: pp.31-46)
Muslim Spain. In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.35-36. (CP: pp.47-48)
The Assertion of Spanish Jewrys Independence Under Hasdai ibn Shaprut, etc., pp.96-122. (H)
Tuesday, February 13: Masters and Mistresses of Their Modest Domain: Jewish Autonomy in Medieval Europe
David Biale. Corporate Power in the Middle Ages. In Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, New York: Schocken Books, 1986, pp.58-86. (CP: pp.49-63)
Emily Taitz. Womens Voices, Womens Prayers: The European Synagogues of the Middle Ages. In Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, ed. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut, Philadelphia and Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1992, pp.59-71. (CP: pp.65-71)
The Ethical Wills of Judah ibn Tibbon and Eleazar of Mainz, etc., pp.139-top of 148. (H)
Thursday, February 15: Jewish Gender Roles and Ideals in Medieval Europe
Femminization and Its Discontents: Torah Study as a System for the Domination of Women. In Daniel Boyarin, The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997, pp.151-185. (CP: pp.73-90)
Judith R. Baskin. Jewish Women in the Middle Ages. In Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith R. Baskin, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991, pp.101-127. (B)
Tuesday, February 20
No class-Monday schedule
Thursday, February 22: Jews and the Crusades
Jewish Communities in Ashkenaz, etc. In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.38-42. (CP: pp.91-101)
The Crucible of Europe and The Charter of Bishop Rudiger of Speyer, pp.95-96 and bottom of p.122-p.129. (H)
Tuesday, February 27: Oppression and Creativity in Medieval Christian Europe: Blood Libels, Expulsions and Jewish Vitality
The Jews of England Up to the Expulsion, etc. Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.57-top 62; 63-64; 72-top of 74; 111-112. (CP: pp.103-109)
Jacob Rader Marcus. The Accusation of the Ritual Murder of St. William of Norwich, 1144, etc. In The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book: 315-1791, New York: Atheneu, 1975, pp.121-136; 155-158. (CP: pp.111-122)
Cecil Roth. The Medieval Conception of the Jew: A New Interpretation. In Essential Papers on Judaism and Christianity in Conflict From Late Antiquity to the Reformation, ed. Jeremy Cohen, New York, 1991, pp.298-308. (CP: pp.123-128)
Thursday, March 1: Iberian Jews (Spain and Portugal): Forced Conversion, Expulsion, and Exile
Film clip: Song of the Sephardi
Renée Levine Melammed. Sephardi Women in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods. In Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith R. Baskin, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991, pp.128-149. (B)
H.H. Ben-Sasson. The Generation of the Spanish Exiles Considers Its Fate. In Binah: Studies in Jewish History, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Dan, New York: Praeger, 1989, pp.83-98. (CP: pp.129-137)
Isaac Abravanel, Introduction to the Former Prophets,Andrés Bernaldez, How the Jews Were Ejected From Spain, and The Edict of Expulsion (Spain). In The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles: An Anthology of Medieval Chronicles Relating to the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, ed. David Raphael, North Hollywood, California: Carmi House Press, 1992, pp.51-54; 69-73. (CP: pp.139-144)
Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.65-67; middle of p.74-top of p.77; 82-86. (CP: pp.145-156)
Tuesday, March 6: New Christians in Exile: The Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam
Joseph Kaplan. From Apostasy to Return to Judaism: The Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam. In Binah: Studies in Jewish History, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Dan, New York: Praeger, 1989, pp.99-117. (CP: pp.157-166)
Ibid. Political Concepts in the World of the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam During the Seventeenth Century: The Problem of Exclusion and the Boundaries of Self-Identity. Menasseh Ben Israel and His World. Yosef Kaplan, ed. pp.45-62. READ pp.49-62 ONLY!!! (CP: pp.169-176)
Thursday, March 8: Jews in the Ottoman Empire: Romaniote, Mizrahim and Sephardim
Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.70-top of p.72; 88-91. (CP: pp.177-183)
Bernard Lewis. The Jews of Islam, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, pp.120-top of p.148. (CP: pp.185-199)
Tuesday, March 13: The Kabbalah of Isaac Luria and Shabbetai Zvi
Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp. 93; 113-115. (CP: pp.201-204)
The Messianic Mood of Sixteenth-Century Safed, pp.180-top of 190. (H)
Thursday, March 15 Midterm Exam
March 17-25: Spring Break
Tuesday, March 27: Here We Stay: The Jews of Poland
Film clip: The Jews of Poland (1988)
How Jews First Came to Poland: Three Legends. In Diane K. Roskies and David G. Roskies, The Shtetl Book, New York: Ktav Publishing House, pp.xi-xiii. (CP: pp.205)
Isaac Lewin, The Origin and Rise of the Jewish Community in Poland (chapter 1) and One Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Poland (chapter 2). In The Jewish Community in Poland: Historical Essays, New York: Philosophical Library, 1985, pp.1-37. (CP: pp.206-224)
The Beginnings of Jewish Settlement in Poland. In Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, pp.64-65. (CP: pp.225-226)
Thursday, March 29: The Jews in Renaissance Italy
The Significance of Leon Modenas Autobiography for Early Modern Jewish and General European History. In The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modenas Life of Judah, trans. and ed. Mark R. Cohen, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988, pp.3-18. (CP: pp.227-235)
A Handbook of Hebrew Rhetoric in the Setting of Renaissance Italy, etc., pp.159-174. (H)
Tuesday, April 3: The Jews of Suriname, South America: Slaves, Sugar and Salvation in the Context of the New World
lecture will include a 10-minute slide show
Introduction; and The Cultural and Intellectual Environment. In Jews in Another Environment; Surinam in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century, Robert Cohen, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991, pp.1-10 and 94-123. (CP: pp.237-258)
Preface, Editors Introduction, The Jewish Community in Surinam: A Historical Survey, David de Is. C. Nassy, Author of the Essai Historique Sur Surinam; An Eighteenth-Century Prayer of the Jews of Surinam. In The Jewish Nation in Surinam, ed. Robert Cohen, Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1982, 11-12; 13-16; 18-27; 75-87. (CP: pp.259-287)
Jewish Plantations in Surinam, Atlas of Medieval Jewish History, p.102. (CP: p.289)
Thursday, April 5: Hasidim and Mitnagdim (Mystics and Anti-Mystics)
Evyatar Friesel, Sabbateanism, Frankism, and Early Hasidism. Atlas of Modern Jewish History, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, pp.50-51. (CP: pp.290-291)
Solomon Maimon, The New Hasidim, etc. The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History, compiled and edited by Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, pp.387-393. (CP: pp.293-299)
Shmuel Ettinger. The Hasidic Movement-Reality and Ideals. In Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present, ed. Gershon David Hundert, New York and London: New York University Press, 1991, pp.226-243. (CP: pp.301-309)
Tuesday, April 10: Enlightenment and Emancipation
biographical sources assignment due!
Jacob Katz, The Portents of Change. In Out of the Ghetto: The Social Background of Jewish Emancipation, 1770-1870, New York: Schocken Books, 1978, pp.28-41. (CP: pp.311-317)
The Process of Political Emancipation in Western Europe, 1789-1871. In The Jew in the Modern World, pp.112-113 and bottom 118-136. (CP: pp.319-339)
Road From the Ghetto (1789-1914), etc., pp.213-top of p.222. (H)
Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain, pp.229-241. (CP: pp.341-347)
Thursday, April 12: Origins of Jewish Denominationalism
Religious Tendencies in Modern Judaism. In Atlas of Modern Jewish History, 52-57. (CP: pp.349-354)
Emerging Patterns of Religious Adjustment: Reform, Conservative, Neo-Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. In The Jew in the Modern World, pp.155-176; 197-206. (CP: pp.355-386)
Tuesday, April 17: Wissenschaft des Judentums (Science of Judaism): A New Way of Looking at Jewish History and Civilization
Michael Meyer. The Emergence of Jewish Historiography: Motives and Motifs. History and Theory 27 (1988): 160-175. (CP: pp.387-394)
Jacob Katz. Emancipation and Jewish Studies. Jewish Emancipation and Self-Emancipation, Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1986, pp.75-85. (CP: pp.395-400)
Thursday, April 19: The Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe
Film clip: Fiddler on the Roof
Zipperstein, Steve. Haskalah, Cultural Change, and Nineteenth Century Russian Jewry: A Reassessment Journal of Jewish Studies 35:2 (1983): 191-207. (CP: pp.401-409)
The Pale of Settlement, etc., pp.229-top of p.233; 238-240. (H)
Tuesday, April 24: The Jews of Germany and Germanic Lands
Beth-Zion Abrahams, trans. and ed., Introduction, Book l and Book ll. In The Life of Glückel of Hameln, 1646-1724, Written by Herself. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1963, pp.vii-xiv and 1-41. (CP: pp.411-439)
Thursday, April 26: The Rise of Zionism
Shlomo Avineri, Herzl: The Breakthrough, Gordon: Labor and Redemption, Rabbi Kook: The Dialectics of Redemption. In The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State. New York: Basic Books, Inc., pp.88-100, 151-158, 187-197. (CP: pp.441-458)
The Birth of Zionism, etc., pp.234-240; 263-264. (H)
Tuesday, May 1: The Great Wave of Jewish Immigration to the US, World War l, and Restrictive Immigration Laws
David Biale, American Jews and Contemporary Diaspora Power. Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History, pp.177-205. (CP: pp.459-473)
Mass Immigration From Eastern Europe, etc., pp.251-257. (H)
Thursday, May 3: The Holocaust
Film clip: World at War Series: Genocide (part 20)
Film clip: Yehoram Gaons From Toledo to Jerusalem
Jacob Katz. Was the Holocaust Predictable? Commentary 59 (May 1975): 41-48. (CP: pp.475-482)
En Tierras de Polonia/In Polish Lands (Ladino and English). In And the World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust, trans. Isaac Jack Lévy, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp.209; 212-213. (CP: pp.483-484)
Mein Kampf, etc., pp.265-281. (H)
Tuesday, May 8: The Establishment of the State of Israel
Film clip: Exodus (starring Paul Newman, 1960)
H. H. Ben-Sasson, The Struggle for Independence and the Establishment of the State of Israel. A History of the Jewish People, ed. H. H. Ben-Sasson, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976, pp.1040-1062. (CP: pp.485-496)
Albert Memmi: Portrait of a Jew (1962). In The Jews in the Modern World, pp.289-292. (CP: pp.497-500)
Out of the Ashes (1914-1945), etc., p.259-top of p.260; 281-285. (H)
Thursday, May 10:The Jews Who Werent There: Jewish Communities and Individuals Overlooked in Jewish History (non-Ashkenazi Jews, non-Sephardi Jews, multi-heritage Jews, suddenly Jewish, etc.)
biographical paper due!
Film clip: Novia Que Te Vea (May I See You a Bride)
Film clip: Chinese Jews on the Banks of the Yellow River
Ephraim Isaac. Hearing the Call: Solidarity with Ethiopian Jews. In The Narrow Bridge: Jewish Views on Multiculturalism, ed. Marla Brettschneider, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, pp.219-235. Note: be sure to read footnote 25 on p.235. (CP: pp.501-509)
Atlas of Modern Jewish History, pp.82-87; 129; 142-144. (CP: pp.511-520)
Tuesday, May 15: Jews in America Today-Assimilation or Return?
Wendy Shalit. Introduction and Beyond Modernity (chapter 12). In A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. New York: The Free Press, 1999, 1-12 and 214-238. (CP: pp.521-540)
Atlas of Modern Jewish History, pp.10-13; 130-141. (CP: pp.541-556)
Nathan Glazer. Introduction, in American Judaism, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp.1-11. (CP: pp.557-562)
Final exam period: May 19-25
Final exam time and place: To be announced
Biographical Sources Assignment/Biographical Paper
"The Jewish People ll: Jewish History from Medieval Times to the Present
Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Professor: Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur
This assignment has two components:
a. biographical sources assignment (due Tuesday, April 10)
b. biographical paper (due Thursday, May 10)
Choose a historical figure in Jewish history, in any period from medieval times to the present. This figure may either be Jewish/of Jewish ancestry or a non-Jewish figure who is relevant to Jewish history.
a. biographical sources assignment
Write one paragraph identifying the person, her/his birth and death dates, where s/he was born/was active; what her/his significance is in Jewish history; why you chose her/him; the central question or questions you will explore in your paper. Below this paragraph, list the sources you will use. You must refer to at least two published or manuscript sources, at least one of them being a book. Please note: only reputable internet sources will be accepted. This assignment is worth 5% of your final grade. For two examples of this assignment, see below.
b. biographical paper
Write a five-page biography of this individual, placing him or her within the context of his/her epoch in Jewish history. Be sure to describe his/her impact on or significance for Jewish history. With the exception of the list below, you may choose a person discussed in class or in the readings. Alternatively, you may search for a person in the subject index of Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jewish Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia, or a Whos Who reference work. All papers must have complete bibliographies appended to the end. Biographical sources assignments may not be appended as bibliographies. This paper must be at least five pages in length, not including the bibliography. This paper is worth 20% of your final grade.
Note: the following topics may not be chosen:
Isaac Abravanel; Woody Allen; Isaac Asimov; Israel Baal Shem Tov; Leo Baeck; David Ben-Gurion; Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai; Leonard Bernstein; Louis Brandeis; Mel Brooks;
Martin Buber; Constantine the Great; Moshe Dayan; Alfred Dreyfus; Albert Einstein;
Anne Frank; George Gershwin; Hank Greenberg; Hank Greenspun; Theodor Herzl;
Eva Heyman; Dustin Hoffman; Flavius Josephus; Franz Kafka; Sandy Koufax; Meyer Lansky; Emma Lazarus; Joseph Isador Lieberman; Moses Maimonides; Jackie Mason;
Golda Meir; Moses Mendelssohn; the biblical patriarch, Moses; Julius Robert Oppenheimer; Yitzhak Rabin; Solomon Schechter; Menachem Mendel Schneersohn;
Jerry Siegel; Isaac Bashevis Singer; Steven Spielberg; Baruch Spinoza;
Mark Spitz; Howard Stern; Barbara Streisand; Ruth Westheimer; Elie Wiesel.
Format of biographical sources and biographical paper
These assignments must be typewritten (on either a typewriter or computer). The biographical paper must include footnotes or endnotes. Papers must not exceed ten pages--papers that do will be graded only through the tenth page. Do not forget to proofread your paper for spelling and grammatical errors. Important note: use your own language (except, of course, when quoting)--plagiarism is strictly forbidden.
Using Live Interviews or Pre-Recorded Interviews
Students may choose to interview a living person (for example a relative, friend or acquaintance) or utilize an already existing interview with such a person. Such students must include at least 5 sample interview questions in their biographical sources assignment. Additionally,, such students must submit a transcript of this interview with their biographical papers.
Grading Standards and Most Outstanding Paper
Biographical sources assignments and biographical papers will be graded on thoroughness, clarity of presentation and originality.
One paper will be chosen as the most outstanding paper. The author of this paper will have 3-5 additional points added to her/his final grade.
Here is an example of a standard biographical sources assignment:
Biographical Sources Assignment
A Biography of Ira Ginsberg
student: Ana-María Feldstein
Ira Ginsberg (1894-1949) was a Jewish gangster of Eastern European Ashkenazi and Catholic Italian descent who grew up on New Yorks Lower East Side and was a key figure in the mafia of the 1930s. I chose him because I am very interested in the involvement of Jewish immigrants in the mafia, a chapter of American Jewish history that is not commonly discussed. His main impact was his founding of Italian-Jewish Mobsters United, a union for mafia members that still exists today and is largely responsible for decreasing the incidence of murder in organized crime. One of the themes I will be exploring is his Jewish and Italian identity and religious practices and the role these played in his professional life.
Bruce Contraband. The Bizarre Career of Ira Ginsberg and the Jewish Mafia of New York City. Cambridge, Mass.: University Press of New York, 1976.
Anna Delinquent. Ira Ginsberg and the Judeo-Italian Underworld. In Journal of White Collar Crime, volume 35, number 2 (January 1955): 55-66.
Peter Zimmerman. Ira Ginsberg and his Involvement with the Italian and Jewish Mafia. In Italian and Jewish Criminals in Early Twentieth Century America, edited by Pearl Smuggle. Chicago: Underground Press of America, 1989, pp.219-245.
Here is an example of a biographical sources assignment based on an oral interview:
Biographical Sources Assignment
A Biography of Miriam Shalinsky
student: Scott Simon
Miriam Shalinsky (b. 1935) is my best friends maternal great-grandmother. She is a child survivor of the Holocaust from Berlin, Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1959. I chose to write about her so that her story will not be forgotten. Her main impact is through her inspiring lectures on her Holocaust experience, which she has presented throughout the world since the 1980s. The main question I will be exploring is how her experiences and memories as a girl may be different from the experiences of most male Holocaust survivors.
1. What is your earliest memory of Berlin and anti-Semitism?
2. Describe your family, including their names, birth dates and occupations.
3. Were you ever sent to a concentration camp? If so, please describe that experience.
4. Did you experience anything that male Holocaust survivors might not have experienced?
5. Describe your relationships with other female Holocaust prisoners.
Shalinsky, Miriam. Interview by Scott Simon. Tape recording, Amherst, Mass., 25 October 2000 and 1 November 2000.
Wilson, Patricia. The Experience of Children of the Holocaust in Berlin, Germany. In Journal of Genocide, volume 18, number 3 (March 1998): 129-166.
Zachary, Edward. Women and the Holocaust in Berlin, Germany. Baltimore, MD.: University Press of America, 1990.
copyright Aviva Ben-Ur, 2001