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Modern Judaism: Challenges, Solutions, Diversity


Admission requirements

In principle, students should have completed the course Introduction to Judaism or Jews and Judaism: A Cultural History. In all other instances, please consult the instructor.


Striving, for emacipation, European Jews were expected to adapt their religion/religious practices to their surroundings. Often they had already abandoned many rituals. By mid-19th c. rabbis and philosophers attempted to formulate Judaism anew, making it attractive for modern Jews. In the early 20th c., Judaism flourished in the USA, due first to immigrants from Germany and later, following the pogroms, from Eastern Europe. Major thinkers emigrated westwards.
In the course of the 20th c., especially in the aftermath of the Shoah, the face of Judaism changed yet again, due to the emigration of (ultra) orthodox Jews both to the USA and the newly founded State of Israel.
By the 21st c. identification with the various movements shifted once more and the question concerning the Jewishness of the State of Israel became more acute, after political Zionism’s mission was basically fulfilled.

Course objectives

Students will be familiar with the historical events leading to the generation of the modern movements in Judaism.
Students will be able to differentiate between the major movements in Judaism and their founding fathers (and mothers).
Students will comprehend the forces leading to the present-day de-institutionalization of Judaism as well as the rise of radical orthodoxy/fundamentalism.


Timetable Religiewetenschappen

Mode of instruction

Lectures and presentations by students.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

26 hours course attendance (13 weeks x 2 hours per week)
52 hours course preparation (13 weeks x 4 hours)
20 hours preparation midterm paper
42 hours final paper
totaal: 140 hours

Assessment method

Midterm paper 30%
Final Paper 70%

The final mark is established by determining the weighted average of the midterm paper and final paper. In order to complete the course successfully, students must receive a minimum grade of 5.5 for each of the papers and an average of 6 in total. Papers may be resubmitted if a grade less than 5.5 has been received in first instance. Rewrites must be resubmitted within 2 weeks.


Blackboard will be used for course information, weekly schedules, changes and announcements.

Reading list

Capita selecta from a.o.:
Michael Meyer, Response to Modernity (Wayne State University Press 1988)
Dana E. Kaplan, The New Reform Judaism: Challenges and Reflections (U. Nebraska Press 2013)
Andreas Brämer, Rabbiner Zacharias Frankel. Wissenschaft des Judentums und konservative Reform im 19. Jahrhundert (Olms 2000)
Arthur Green (ed), Jewish Spirituality (Crossroad 1986)

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Prof. dr. J. Frishman


Attendance is mandatory. Failure to attend will result in a lower or failing grade.