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Jewish Rituals: Circumcision and Ritual Slaughter (MA)


Admission requirements

It is preferable that the student has taken an introduction to Judaism course.


From antiquity until the present circumcision and Jewish dietary laws have been subject to discussion, debate, disapproval and mockery. In this course we will first consider the laws concerning circumcision and ritual slaughter and trace the development of these practices over a period of several centuries.
We will next consider why these rituals have led to public debate and just what the content of that debate has been.

Course objectives

The student will become aware of how societal taboos and majority rites and customs influence the way in which minority cultures are regarded.
The question of freedom of religion versus human rights will also be discussed as well as how these concepts entered the debates on ritual slaughter and circumcision.


See Time table

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Total course load 140 hours – Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars 24 hours – Time for studying the compulsory literature and for completing assignments 116 hours

Assessment method

Class participation 15%
Oral presentation 40%
Paper 45%
The paper will be based on the oral presentation.
For each element the student must receive a minimum grade of 5.5 and a minimum of 6.0 in order to pass the course.
Deadline paper: 30 January 2014.


Blackboard will be used for posting announcements, the weekly schedule, additional documents and readings as well as links to literature.

Reading list

Amongst others:
Lawrence Hoffman, Covenant of Blood. Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism (University of Chicago Press 1996)
Shaye Cohen, Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised? Gender and Covenant in Judaism (University of California Press 2005)
Robin Judd, Contested Rituals. Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843-1933 (Cornell University Press 2007)
Current newspapers, periodicals and journals

Books will be made available on the Reserved Reading Shelf (collegeplank) in the theological reading room of the University Library


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:

Remarks Attendance is mandatory. All other information.