American Jewish History
Professor Kirsten Fermaglich (pronounced Fur-may-glish)
Michigan State University
Fall 2006

Course Description
     This course will trace the development of the American Jewish community from its origins in 1654, when 23 Jewish refugees fled Brazil and landed by mistake in the city that would become New York, to the present, when American Jews have become such a large, successful, and well-integrated ethnic and religious community that one of its members, Joseph Lieberman, could be nominated vice presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2000.  Composed of many different groups, including Ashkenazic and Sephardic, Reform, Orthodox and Conservative, Reconstructionist, feminist, atheist, and secular, the American Jewish community is not easily typed, and we will devote some of the class to examining battles over what it means to be an American Jew.  Focusing on successive waves of immigration, we will also explore the changing ways in which Jews adapted to American life, constructed American Jewish identities, and helped to participate in the construction of a new American nation.

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Required Films

     This class makes extensive use of ANGEL ( for posting assignments and class lectures.

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