Home Purpose of Course Grading &
Extra Credit

The Jew and the City
HIST 286/JWST 275

Homework assignments are to be completed by the due date and saved in a folder to be handed in twice during the semester.  Refer to this site frequently; homework assignments may be added.

Homework assignment #1: Due Wed., Sept. 2

1.  Find a non-fiction book in McKeldin library that analyzes some aspect of the city or urban life.  Provide full bibliographic information, including the call number. Identify the discipline from which you feel this book derives and briefly describe the kinds of sources and methods it uses.

2.  In a daily newspaper, check to find how many uses of words like city, civic, urban, metropolitan, and their derivative forms you can find.  Prepare a list of at least five different words (or examples of different uses of the same word). For each example, provide a brief citation to show the context, and then define the word as it is used in that context.

NOTE: The purpose of this exercise is in part bibliographic. Make sure you consult a style manual to see the proper format for all your references.

Homework assignment #2 (first brief paper): Due Friday, Sept. 4

Find two articles dealing with the "city" or "urbanism" (you may also want to check terms such as "modernity" or "industrialization" whose definitions may include discussion of cities and urbanization) in two encyclopedia, respectively, and see how their authors define the issue.  One encyclopedia can be general (such as Encyclopedia Britannica), but the other must be specialized (that is to say, pertaining to a broad, albeit distinct subject area, such as International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Social Thought, Encyclopedia Judaica, etc.). Prepare a 500-word treatment of the issues worth investigating on the subject, comparing and contrasting the ways in which the subject is presented in your two sources. Feel free to praise or criticize the approach that your sources used. At the end of your paper, list the search terms and methodology you used.

Extra credit will be given to anyone able and willing to use at least one foreign language reference source (such as Brockhaus, Larousse, etc.).

Homework assignment #3: Due Mon., Sept. 11

1. What does Barnavi mean by "discontinuous space" and how is his approach useful in an understanding of Jewish geography/urbanization?  [Hint:  Think about the difference between objective fact and people's perception of fact.] Barnavi's atlas is on reserve at McKeldin with the reference number XPB 3221.A1.

2. In the time-line chronological graph Barnavi is comparing several different sets of statistics.  What are these?  Do they all use the same scales?  What line links the various scales?  Is his presentation useful?  Does this method of presentation distort reality?  Are there assumptions in his presentation that you find questionable?

3.  Why does Barnavi devote a special section of his graph page to comparing Diaspora/Israel populations?

Homework assignment #4: Due Wed., Sept. 16

1.  Briefly outline the major demographic trends of modern Jewish history identified by Freisel.

2.  How many periods is Friesel charting?  What is the meaning of the number under the first box in each of his sets of urban population readings?

3.  For each of the periods charted, identify the three cities with the largest Jewish populations, and list them in order with approximations of their Jewish populations.

4.  What are the implications of changing "rates" of urbanization?

Homework assignment #5 (bibliography): Due Fri., Sept. 18

Using the library catalog entry for the video "The Other Half Revisited: The Legacy of Jacob A. Riis" (1996) directed by Martin D. Toub, try to find other books on Jews in poor urban immigrant neighborhoods.  Be ready to provide a list of these in class.

Homework assignment #6: Due Fri., Sept. 25

Research Proposal & Bibliography: Prepare a one-page bibliography on an aspect of Jewish urban life in Poland/Russia anytime before World War II.  (Sample topics might include the history of the Jews in a particular city, the economic life of Jews, Jews and non-Jews in the city, synagogues in large cities, etc.)  Your bibliography should include approximately ten items including both scholarly articles and books.  Make sure that you format your bibliography according to one of the accepted style manuals.  Introduce your bibliography with a brief paragraph outlining your theme, its importance, and what you expect to find through your research.

Homework assignment #7 (second brief paper #2): Due Wed., Oct. 14

Are photographs (and films) reliable historical sources? What are the advantages, strengths, and limits of photographic records as a source for Jewish urban history?  Answer these questions through a close analysis and comparison of pre-World War II images, at least one drawn from Eastern European Jewish life and at least one drawn from American Jewish immigrant life.  (Suggestion:  you might be well served looking at books by, and about, Jacob Riis.)  Compare your images in terms of what they emphasize and what they omit, how the photographer structured the image, etc.  Are your photos reliable historical sources?  Why?  Your paper should be approximately three pages.  If the images you use come from books, attach photocopies of the photos to your paper.  If they are from videos, try to describe as closely as possible where they occur in the video.

Homework assignment #8 (third brief paper): Due Wed., Nov. 11

View the video "Crossing Delancey."  In a paper of approximately three pages, compare the images of Jewish urban life (and particularly the view of Jewish women) presented in the play, God of Vengeance, by Sholem Asch, the movie "Mamele," and this film.  Pay particular attention to the portrayal of the conditions of Jewish life, of Jews' occupations (and their resultant social status in the city), on the meaning of religion, and of the role and fate of women in these situations.  End your paper by considering why the various scripts differed so much in their portrayals of these issues.

Bibliographical references regarding Jews and Film

Homework assignment #9: Kiryas Joel and the Issue of "Establishment"

Part I(four-page position paper): Due Mon., Nov. 23

Your paper should answer the following question: "Should a religious community be allowed to use public funds for the purposes of establishing parallel public institutions that serve only the members of their particular community?" Choose one side (either yes or no) and prepare a four-page position paper.

Your paper should consist of the following: (a) a description of the history of Kiryas Joel and the background of the events that led up to the legal case that came before the U. S. Supreme Court [one page]; (b) an explanation of the constitutional issue before the court and a brief outline the positions taken [one page]; and (c) a point-by-point defense of your position. [two pages]

Your answer to the question (part c) should draw upon:

o historical precedents (both those we have studied in class and any additional ones you discover by way of additional research)

o arguments about the nature of urban life generally and the functioning of neighborhood and group association in modern metropolitan centers


Part II (one-page critique): Due Wed., Nov. 25

Write a one-page critique of another student's position paper. If you answered in the affirmative, take a paper in which the student answered in the negative and vice versa. Clip your paper to the original postion paper and hand both in together.


Homework assignment #10 (final paper): Due Wed., Dec. 9

Present an analysis of one aspect of the current struggles over urban policy in Jerusalem.  Your paper should focus on some Jerusalem-linked aspect of either the Israeli/Palestinian question or the struggle between Haredim and more secular Israelis for control of the city.  Your presentation folder should include a) neat copies of relevant news articles you have collected over the semester from the Web, newspapers, magazines; b) a map of Jerusalem showing the contested areas you discuss; and c) a background analysis (5 - 6 pages) of the struggle you describe based on insights you have learned from the course, the news articles you found, and at least two scholarly books, chapters, or journal articles. NOTE: The scholarly articles you choose should give you some sort of comparative perspective on what is going on in Jerusalem. Thus, if you talk about struggles on the Temple Mount, look for scholarly articles dealing with sacred sites and buildings in other places or times. If you talk about separate educational systems, you might look for articles on separate educational systems in the U.S. or in multi-lingual societies. Good luck!