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Between Ideology and Historicity: Jewish Historiography


Admission requirements

Students should have basic knowledge of Judaism and Jewish history. Course is ideal for students of religious studies and/or history but other masterstudents are welcome. Please consult the instructor for further information.


The point of departure is the Wissenschaft des Judentums and the so-called “turn to history”by Jewish scholars in the late 18th and throughout the 19th c. Much of this history writiing was apologetic in nature and/or used as a vehicle of integration and reform. As such new interest in Spanish-Jewish history, was awakened and the rabbinic period was written off as an errant era. Zionism created its own version of Jewish history as did American Jewish historians whose experience of modernity was quite other than that of their European predecessors and contemporaries.

Course objectives

Students will become familiar with the following key terms/questions:

  • lachrymose version of Jewish history

  • Jewish history vs. history of the Jews

  • Jewish history as intellectual history vs. that of popular culture, sociology, economy

  • essentialism and assimilation in historiography

  • Zionist historiography

  • Shoah and historiography



Mode of instruction

seminar. Attendance and participation are mandatory. Classes may be missed no more than twice and only in exceptional circumstances (at the discretion of the conveners and only with prior notice). Absence without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Attendance: 13 weeks x 2 hours = 26 hours
Class preparation: 13 weeks x 4 hours = 52 hours
mid-term paper: 22 hours
Paper: 40 hours

Assessment method

mid-term paper: 30%
Paper: 70%

The final mark is established by determination of the weighted average of the mid-term paper and paper.
Both papers must receive a grade of 5.5 or more and the average of the two must be no less than 6 to successfully complete the course.
Rewrites of the papers must be submitted within two weeks.


Blackboard will be used for course information, weekly schedule and assignments, announcements and posting of abstracts.

Reading list

Students are advised to purchase the following two books:

  • M. Brenner, Prophets of the Past, Interpreters of Jewish History (Princeton U Press 2010)

  • M. Rosman, How Jewish is Jewish History (Littman Library 2008)

Capita selecta from a.o.:
A. Gotzmann and Ch. Wiese (eds), Modern Judaism and Historical Consciousness (Brill 2007)
D. Myers (ed.), The Faith of Fallen Jews: Re-inventing the Jewish Past (Brandeis U.P. 2013)
Idem, Re-Inventing the Jewish Past: European Jewish Intellectuals and the Zionist Return to History (Oxford U.P. 1995)
Y. Zerubavel, Recovered Roots. Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (U. Chicago P. 1995)
K. Hödel, “Looking Beyond Borders. Performative Approaches to Jewish Historiography”, Journal of Jewish Identities 1 (2008) 51-66
I. Zertal, Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood (Cambridge UP 2005)


Registration for courses and exams

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


The instructor may be consulted via her email address:
J. Frishman