East European History

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History 1270 Eastern European Jewry



Until the Holocaust, most European Jews lived in the Eastern part of the continent. This is an upper division course that looks at the Jews of Eastern Europe from the time of their arrival in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages to the contemporary period. We will begin by looking at how, when, whence, and with what experience Eastern European Jews arrived in Eastern Europe where they initially found refuge. The Ukrainian massacres of the 17th century, put an end to this "golden age" of Eastern European Jewry.

We will move quickly up to the age of Enlightened Absolutism in the 18th century which held out the possibility of emancipating the Jews of Eastern and Central Europe. The main focus of the course will be on the developments of the 19th and 20th centuries, a period intimately tied up with modernity and nationalism.

The Jewish community was affected by the economic, social, intellectual, and political changes transforming all of European society. While some Jews embraced modernization for the promise of prosperity and emancipation that it held forth, others tried to resist it or to adapt it to the Jewish tradition. The Haskalah and Hasidism, assimilation, socialism, Yiddishism, and Zionism are Jewish responses to European modernity.


Books for purchase at the Bookstore:

Howard M. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History

Recommended: Antony Polonsky, ed., Studies from Polin: From Shtetl to Socialism


Books for purchase at Copycat:

Eastern European Jewry coursepack (maps, articles, selections, primary sources)


On Reserve:

  • Irina Livezeanu, Copycat coursepack
  • Howard M. Sachar, The Course of Modern Jewish History
  • Antony Polonsky, ed., Studies from Polin: From Shtetl to Socialism
  • Martin Gilbert, Jewish History Atlas
  • Bernard Weinryb, The Jews of Poland (chapters)
  • Umansky & Ashton, Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality in Eastern Europe
  • Aster & Potichnyj, eds., Ukrainian-Jewish Relations
  • Wilma A. Iggers, The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia (on order)
  • Chimen Abramsky et al., eds., The Jews in Poland
  • Raphael Mahler, Hasidism and the Jewish Enlightenment
  • Lucy Dawidowicz, The Golden Tradition
  • Richard Levy, Anti-Semitism in the Modern World
  • Albert Lindemann, The Jew Accused
  • Susan Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl
  • Jonathan Webber, ed., Jewish Identities in the New Europe
  • Ezra Mendelsohn, "Jewish Assimilation in Lvov: The Case of Wilhelm Feldman"
  • Ezra Mendelsohn, "From Assimilation to Zionism in Lvov: The Case of Alfred Nossig"
  • Mark Zborowski & Elizabeth Herzog, "The Rebbeh Makes Miracles" in Life is With
  • People
  • Elie Wiesel, Night



This course will make use of lecture, discussion, oral presentations, and visual materials in addition to the reading assignments that you must keep up with, week by week. If you fall behind the course will become unmanageable. You should speak to me about it immediately. The class will work best if you are actively involved throughout, bring your questions to class, are able to answer questions on the reading assignments, and take part in discussions.

Read the textbook for background and context, to give you "the broad historical sweep for the period we are studying. If you are completely unfamiliar with the history in question, read the textbook carefully. If, on the other hand, you have studied some version of this history before, as Western Civ, Eastern Civ, European history, or Jewish history, you can use the textbook to refresh your memory and for reference.

In class your close attention and participationis expected throughout. Assignments are to be handed in on time or not at all. You must come to class punctually and sit for the whole class period, unless a completely extraordinary circumstance has arisen. If so, speak to me about it before class or before the missed assignment.Do not be late, and do not leave early. I expect, of course, perfect adult behavior and courtesy. I will tell you what specifically I expect of you during the first class. If you are joining the class late, please come see me during office hours or after class for a run-down on the rules as soon as you join. If any problem should arise, please contact me ahead of time, to make special arrangements.

The midterm and final exams will include short and long essays and map questions.

Students will be held to rigorous standards of academic integrity. Cheating and plagiarism are unacceptable. If you are using material from the Internet, you must hand in a printout of the Web source with your written assignment. If you plagiarize any part of an assignment you will receive an F grade for that assignment.

Each week you will receive a set of questions covering the next week's topic and reading assignments. Use these questions to guide you through the reading you are doing, to help you formulate an essay about the topics covered, and to prepare for class discussion.

The weekly essays you write should cover the main issues touched on in the readings, class presentations, and videos that we see. Include answers to at least one question about each reading that week. These essays are less formal than the term paper, but should be in good grammatical form and represent your best thinking.

Please limit yourself to two pages, typewritten, double-spaced per week. Think of these weekly essays as an intellectual journal accompanying you on your journey through the history of Eastern Europe's Jews. The essays are due each Tuesday. (The first weekly essay is due Thursday after Labor Day.)


Grade Calculation:

midterm 20%

weekly writing assignments 50%

paper or final 30%

Students will have a choice of writing a term paper on an assigned topic, or taking an in- class final exam. You will receive a separate hand-out explaining the paper assignment.


Opportunites for Extra Credit:

The readings marked "XC" can bring you extra credit if you complete the reading at the appropriate time in the semester, write a one page essay on it, and give a very brief, 3-5 minute presentation in class. In your essay and oral report explain what is the main point or points of the article, what kind of evidence the author uses, and what the article adds to the required materials by way of information or interpretation.




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