Jewish Responses to Anti-Semitism

History  408Y / Jewish Studies 409c
Spring 2007

Mondays 1:00-3:00 (HBK 0103)
Please Note: This is a new course, and the syllabus is under construction. Though the topic outline is complete (as of today, Thursday, September 6), over the semester I will be adding weekly assignments as well as explanations, guides, make-up dates for classes missed, and opportunities for extra credit. Please check back regularly.



Professor Bernard Cooperman; Taliaferro (TLF) Rm 2130; 301-405-4271.

Office hours: Mon. 11:30-12:30, Wed. 2:00-3:00, and by appointment


Required Texts

Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism (Oxford)

Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance. Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (1961; reprint, New York: Behrman House, s.a.)

Stephen E. Bronner, A Rumor about the Jews. Antisemitism, Conspiracy, and the Protocols of Zion (2000; reprint, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Helmut Walser Smith, The Butcher's Tale. Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town (New York: Norton, 2002)

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem ( Penguin)


Recommended Reference Works and Writing Guides

Robert Allen, ed. Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). There are many wonderful usage manuals available that will guide you through the amazing intricacies of the English language. This paperback version of one of the most famous was recommended because it is relatively cheap. Another good one is Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (Merriam Webster, 1994). Read an entry every evening; even if you don't learn anything, it's sure to put you to sleep.

Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History 5th edition (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007). This is a useful tool that takes on basic questions ("Working with sources"; "Following Conventions"; "Quoting and Documenting"; etc.) as well as trickier issues ("What Is Plagiarism?"). There are several other books that are just as good. Look around to find one that you will use.

Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000). This is one of many available guides to basic grammar and syntax.


The three usage/style manuals listed above are well written and not too expensive. There are many other similar books on the market. You should make such books a part of your personal library and place them permanently on your desk or a bookshelf so that you can consult them often while you write. (Some students keep the usage manual or books like it, near their bed. You can read an entry each evening. It will undoubtedly help you fall asleep, but in the few seconds before you drop off, you will get to understand how the English language works.) These manuals will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. In almost any field you choose, your future career will be determined by how well you command language and how comfortably you can persuade others of your positions. In this course, your papers are marked for both content and the quality of the argument you make. The latter depends on your control of the English language. Give yourself all the help you can get.

Lecture and Reading Schedule

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Week 13
Week 14

Movies (videos) are assigned for a number of weeks during the semester. These will be shown in the Non-Print Media section on the fourth floor of Hornbake library on a repeating schedule.

Don't forget to refer to this site often in order to stay up-to-date on changes to the schedule or assignments and the addition of study questions or extra credit opportunities.

Readings are due on the week for which they are listed. You are expected to be prepared to discuss them in class. Assignments are due the following week.

Finally, please remember the following University Honor Pledge which you should write and sign on all of your assignments and exams: "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment/exam."


Mon., Sept. 10 Definitions and Categories.

Assignment 1: In class we examined the beginnings of the article "Anti-Semitism" in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906), looking for how and why the author came to formulate his presentation as he did. Basing yourself on our discussion, develop your own working definition of the term "anti-Semitism" that addresses both chronological and essential aspects. [Feel free to examine dictionaries and other sources to see how they define the word.] Then, using your definition, write a one-to-two page analysis of the treatment of this theme in three other encyclopedias. The three must include The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) [see the entry "Judaism," especially part IV: "Judaism and Church Legislation" (and compare the article "History of the Jews" in the same encyclopedia)]. Of the other two articles, one may be from an online source (e.g. Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica which is available online through the univeristy's Research Port), but at least one must come from a text you find in the library. At least one of the two must come from a subject-oriented (as opposed to general) encyclopedia. Remember to provide full bibliographical information for your paper including, if available, date and entry author. Your analysis should address how the authors understood the concept, how they addressed its historical development, and how they dealt with ideological, national, religious, or intellectual sensitivities. Pay attention to when and especially where the authors wrote their entries. If you can find bibliographical or bibliographical information about the author, feel free to include it.

Examples of thematic encyclopedias might include
Encyclopedia Judaica (1972) and/or the second edition (2007)
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (1968), or even
Antisemitism: a Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution (2005).

Mon., Sept. 17 Is There a Pre-Modern Anti-Semitism? I. Difference in the Classical World.

Laqueur, Changing Face of Anti-Semitism, chapters 1–3
Josephus, Against Apion. On reserve in McKeldin. Pp. 163–187; 253–349.
Philo of Alexandria, Legation to Gaius [Legatio ad Gaium]. ed. E. Mary Smallwood (1961), pp. 82–88; 140–146.

Mon., Sept. 24 Is There a Pre-Modern Anti-Semitism? II. Christianity and the Introduction of Religious Categories.

"The Longest Hatred" (1993; at least the first part) [DS145.L665 1993]
The account of Christ's passion in the Gospel according to Matthew and John [pay careful attention to the role assigned to Jews in the narratives and to how this role differs from version to version]
Justin Martyr, skim any of the available versions of the Dialogue with Trypho (many editions are available online [including Dialogue with Trypho the Jew or Dialogue with Trypho] and identify the types of argument; anlayze whether any can be called anti-Semitic)
Gavin Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), chapters 2 ("Tradition, History, and Prejudice," pp. 42–54) and 13 "Medieval Antisemitism," pp. 301–10)

Mon., Oct. 1 Modernity and Anti-Semitism I: Modern Nationalism and Anti-Semitism; Politicization of the Jews

"L'affaire Dreyfus [The Dreyfus case]" PN1992.8.F5A34 2001

Laqueur, Changing Faces of Antisemitism, chapter 5
Jehuda Reinharz, ed., Living with Antisemitism. Modern Jewish Responses (Hanover: Univ. Pr. of New England, 1987), pp. 3–13 (Ben Halpern, "Reactions to Anti-Semitism in Modern Jewish History") & 42–58 (Jonathan Frankel, "Crisis as a Factor in Modern Jewish Politics"). On reserve in McKeldin [DS145.L628 1987]
Bronner, Stephen Eric. Rumor about the Jews (Oxford U.P.)

Mon., Oct. 8 Modernity and Anti-Semitism II: The Concept of Race. How did Jews understand themselves genetically and how did they portray other communities? How did they use and/or reject racial categories?

Mon., Oct. 15 Medieval Realities and Fictions in Christendom and Dar-al-Islam. Polemic. Martyrdom.

"The Disputation" BM535.D52 1991 [available through the library's Digital Collection] OR
WAP 0123 [video of a live Washington-area performance; available at the Performing Arts Library]

Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance. Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times Part I, and part II, chapters 7, 9, and 10.
Jonathan Ray, "Beyond Tolerance and Persecution: Reassessing Our Approach to Medieval Convivencia," Jewish Social Studies 11, no. 2 (Winter 2005), pp. 118. [Available through Project Muse on Research Port]

Mon., Oct. 22 Early Modern Tensions & New Equilibria. Ghettos and Toleration.

Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, part III.

Mon., Oct. 29 Modern Rhetoric and Response: Wissenschaft as an argument for Jewish survival and as a response to anti-Semitic views of Jewish culture. Anti-Semitism as a Ground Concept in Jewish Historiography

Salo Baron, "Ghetto and Emancipation. Shall We Revise the Traditional View?" (1928)
[on electronic reserve at McKeldin]

Mon., Nov. 5 Anti-Semitism in America, and in the Minds of American Jews. Literary Anti-Semitism

"Focus" (based on the novel by Arthur Miller) [PN1997.2 .F63 2002]
"You're Jewish?" from the movie "The Tribe"

Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (1999). Part IV: Recent Years. [on reserve at McKeldin]
Philip Roth, "Eli the Fanatic" in Goodbye Columbus and Five Short Stories (1966)

Mon., Nov. 12 Reactions to the Holocaust.

Shulamit Volkov, Germans, Jews and Antisemites. Trials in Emancipation (2006): "Prologue," pp. 1–9. [On electronic reserve in McKeldin. I recommend reading the original Hebrew Ba-maagal Ha-Mechushaf (2002), pp. 11–21, also attached to the scan on reserve.]
Hannah Arendt. Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil
Film: "The Specialist"

Mon. Nov. 19. The Blood Libel, Medieval and Modern. Continuity or Rupture?

Film: "The Fixer"
Helmut Walser Smith. The Butcher's Tale (Norton)

Mon., Nov. 26. Zionism, Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Gudrun Krämer, "Anti-Semitism in the Muslim World. A Critical Review," Die Welt des Islams 46:3 (October, 2006), pp. 243-276. Available online through Research Port (Springer)

Mon., Dec. 3 Individual meetings with professor

Mon., Dec. 10 Presentation of Papers


Class Requirements & Grading

1) Attendance at classes and discussion sections is mandatory. Repeated unexcused absence from class will result in a grade of F regardless of what other work is submitted.

2) A research essay of approximately twenty (20) pages on a relevant theme to be decided upon with the instructor (65%). The paper should include an exploration of the meaning of the term "anti-Semitism," a discussion of a specific historical event or pattern, and a summary of the available scholarly literature on that event/pattern. Please note: you are required to have my signature on your detailed research project by mid-term. Final versions are due on the last day of class. I will be glad to read and comment on preliminary drafts at any point in the course, time permitting. Try to get drafts to me as soon as possible; at the very end of term there is often not enough time to handle all requests.

3) Weekly assignments: readings and small reports designed to help you write that paper. Readings are due the week they are listed in the syllabus. Pairs of students will be assigned to each reading to present to the class. The grade for this section also includes regular classroom participation. (10%)

4) Prepare a detailed bibliography on some aspect of the Jewish response to anti-Semitism. The bibliography should include journal articles, book chapters, books, websites, and other relevant materials -- both primary sources and secondary analyses. Each entry should include full bibliographical information and a brief summary of the contents and relevance of the material. If the item is in our library, include a call number. If you found it in the National Archives or some other collection, give full details about how to locate the material. The bibliography should be preceded by a one-to-two-page introduction explaining the topic and how the items contribute to understanding it. Your bibliography should include from 15 to 20 items. Your bibliography can be on the same subject as your paper. (15%)

5. Set up a blog on on which you keep a diary of scholarly and/or popular articles about our topic. A minimum of two entries per week is expected. As you find your research topic I expect your blog will become narrower and more focused. Some of your entries should also report on anti-Semitic web sites and anti-anti-Semitic web sites that you have visited, sharing the exact url's with your classmates. You should subscribe to H-Antisemitism, a listserv that will give you lots of interesting leads. Try to include good visuals, videos if you find them, and the backgrounds to incidents or sites your mention. Your blogs will be judged for ambitiousness, breadth, depth, and "interesting-ness" so be bold. As soon as your blog is set up please send me the url so that it can be posted for all students in the class to read. (10%) Sample blogs for a [very different] course I did with students in Florence are to be found at See the links to students' names. Your blog for this course is a way of creating a shared academic diary.

Please note: you are expected to read other peoples' blogs and comment upon them. One of the purposes of this course and one of the most important things I can help you learn, is how to present yourself in public -- both orally and in writing. The reason I have asked for the blog and the reason I will be commenting on your written papers in front of the whole class (unless you ask me not to) is specifically to break down the reticence students often feel about "exposure," about speaking in public. So remember that I am not trying to embarrass anyone: I am trying to give you a needed sense of confidence by showing you it really isn't that frightening to speak/write publicly and let others see your work. (I will try to make fun of myself and my own idiosyncrasies in class in order to show everyone that it is ok, and hopefully to inspire you all to participate too.)

6) There is no final exam in this course.

Rights and Responsibilities

University policy gives you certain rights with respect to accommodations for disabilities, absences for religious observances, and other matters. Most of these rights are listed online at: It is your responsibility to inform the instructor of any needs or intended absences. It is also your responsibility to fulfill the requirements specified in this syllabus and to uphold academic integrity. The Code of Academic Integrity is available on the WEB at:
If you experience difficulties in keeping up with the academic demands of this course, contact the Learning Assistance Service, 2201 Shoemaker Building, (301) 314-7693.