by Deni Budman (COM ’20)
One of the newest Jewish Studies courses, which is being taught most semesters, is “World Cultures of the Jews” is in many ways unique. It is also highly engaging. The course introduces students to the study of Judaism in its many forms by exploring Jewish communities across the globe today, their different historical origins and cultural contexts, and their strategies of preserving cohesion and transnational solidarity.
Did you know there are vibrant Jewish communities in Ethiopia, China, and Morocco? Well, there are. And the global context of Jewish Studies opens up a new path to understanding religion, culture, and heritage. Have you wondered how race, religion, culture, law, and nationalism shape particular Jewish communities? By taking a look at Jewish histories in diverse environments, this course highlights the wide array of Jewish practices. It even challenges the definition of “Judaism” itself. Meta, right?
Professor Ingrid Anderson, who launched the course this semester, is well-loved by her students for her ability to break down difficult topics and stay clear of bias. She actively engages her students in class discussions, encouraging them to discuss complex ideas confidently, with insight and rigor.
Evan Brown (COM ‘23), a freshman in the current spring 2020 course, says, “Professor Anderson has done an excellent job at creating a safe space that encourages everyone to participate in our conversations, regardless of their background or views. My peers have been a key part of my experience in class because they have allowed me to see beyond what I was taught in Jewish day school, so I can create my own unbiased opinions. Because everyone in JS100 comes from a completely different upbringing, we all learn and grow from each other.”
Every session in JS100 begins with a student-led conversation. At the beginning of the semester each student chooses a reading that stands out to them on the syllabus and they present it to their colleagues.
The course also takes advantage of the community outside the classroom. As a part of the class, students form groups to complete community visits with different Jewish communities across the Boston area. This semester, some had planned to volunteer at the annual Cape Verdean Passover seder held at the Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Students share their experiences with the rest of the class, so they can learn from each other. Other assignments include two brief writing exercises and a research paper.
JS100 is an incredibly popular course. It’s no surprise that it was one of our first classes to fill up this past semester.
JS100 counts toward the minor in Jewish Studies. The course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: the Individual in Community, Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration.