American Jewish History:
Strangers in Creative Tension

Dr. Dennis B. Klein
Hist 3863/ Fall 2005
Class meetings MW 2:00-3:20 in Hennings 234

To reach Dr. Klein—

Course themes
     Historically Jews have shown a striking resilience at surviving ambient contempt in the countries they lived in, but not until their arrival in the United States have they confronted the mixed blessings of a society dedicated to promoting their civic and material success. Why and how did American Jews remain “Jewish” in America’s open and relentlessly secularizing society? For American Jews who “made it,” what, if anything, remained Jewish in their lives and how did that distinctive American-Jewish residue revise and transform both traditional Jewish existence and America’s progressive self-understanding? How, in short, did a fundamentally Christian America and successive waves of Jewish immigrants endeavor to live together?
     This is a course based essentially on informed discussion. I will occasionally offer lectures to establish historical context, but the material of this course appears to raise more questions than provide complacent answers. Consequently, we will examine source documents in order to evaluate the conflict and concert of American and Jewish cultures.

Course philosophy, requirements, and grade distribution:
     As with any course I teach, I believe the fundamental value of this course, in addition to its content, is its emphasis on close reading of primary texts and a thoughtful and documented criticism of them both in class and in writing. To achieve these objectives, I require my students to engage in a three-part intellectual progression: (1) carefully read and take notes on all assignments, highlighting for each reading its major themes, key passages, new words, and your own questions; (2) participate in class discussions, referring to readings and your notes (in any particular class, you should never feel satisfied until you understand the material and its significance); (3) in preparation for take-home exams, review your notes to strengthen comprehension and to discern broad historical themes for each part of the course.

Written requirements and Grade distribution
A note on oral reports
     Oral reports are scheduled reports in class. Everyone is responsible for reading each assignment in advance and should be prepared to evaluate its argument critically, but each one of you will have the chance to open discussion on a particular article. In these oral reports, you must seek to define the reading’s main arguments, select “quotable” passages and explain why they’re important, consider unfamiliar terms, and question aspects of the author’s argument. For complete credit, you must submit hard copy of a completed “In-Class Oral Report” on the day of your report. Forms are located in your Source Reader.

Submitting response papers
     It is important that you immediately reserve three evenings for lectures by visiting scholars on topics related to the themes of this course. Your attendance is mandatory and will be monitored. Each response paper must document the relationships between lecture themes and course themes. Due dates are one week after the lecture. The three lectures and their dates and locations are:

A word on writing successful take-home essays
     For full credit on your written work, you must observe style guidelines located in your Source Reader called “Writing Effective Essays” (WEE). This is especially important for constructing successful take-home exams and (this is important too) for citing your sources.

Course policies and procedures

Class participation
     Expressing yourself before your peers is as important a skill to master as reading or writing. I will significantly reward your participation in class. I will do so by periodically considering your active involvement based on completed reading assignments, and by raising or lowering each of your take-home exam grades accordingly. A “B” on the first essay exam, for example, would be entered as a B+ or an A- if your class participation for that part of the course was regular and informed. Conversely, a “B” on a take-home exam would be entered as a B- or a C+ if you rarely participated or didn’t participate at all in class for that section of the course. Many students, whose written work could have been stronger, have earned high grades (and have gotten the most from my courses) because they routinely come prepared for active participation.

Missing or arriving late to class
     Attendance is fundamental and is something I take very seriously. You need not inform me about occasions when you need to miss class. If you miss or arrive late to more than one class during any part of the course, I will lower your take-home exam grade for that part by one increment for two or three missed classes or late arrivals, by two increments for four or five missed classes or late arrivals, etc. As an example, if you miss two classes in the first part of the course, a B on the 1st take-home exam would become a B-. I will monitor class attendance at the beginning of each class. Students who otherwise have gotten good, hard-earned grades, have received low grades in my courses due to excessive absences or late arrivals. Please note: If you miss class, it is strictly your responsibility to ascertain subsequent class meetings and assignments (you can call me or consult another student).
     In general, please observe customary classroom protocol by arriving to class and submitting original papers on time (late papers will incur penalties), remaining in class throughout the period, and by taking notes on reading assignments and bringing them and relevant source material to each class.
     The following are dates when class will not meet and when there will be no office hours due to religious or state holidays, or to academic conferences: Wed., Oct. 5; Mon., Oct. 10; Wed., Oct. 19; Wed., Oct. 26; Mon., Nov. 7; Wed. Nov. 23 (at instructor’s discretion), and other possible dates as needed. Unscheduled class cancellations will be announced in class.
     I enjoy exploring and discussing the intriguing issues that invigorate the history of American Jews and look forward to exploring them with you in and outside class. Feel free to contact me anytime. I can promise that this course will reward your involvement. --DBK.

Required reading available for purchase in the University Center Bookstore:

This syllabus amounts to a course outline and is essential for helping you organize key themes and supporting sources. Please bring it to each class and consult it regularly. Changes to the syllabus will be announced in class. Students who miss class are responsible for ascertaining subsequent class meetings and assignments.

     A date shown below after an assigned reading, usually assembled in the Source Reader or the Course Pack, but also including Philip Roth’s historical fiction, is the date of this primary, period source’s first edition. All other reading assignments (assembled for the most part in AJE) are “secondary,” interpretive sources written by (somewhat) detached, professional historians during the past 20 years or so who have no immediate stake in the outcome of developments under scrutiny.
     The bibliography at the end of this syllabus includes the corpus of sources used to construct this course. For standard citation protocol, consult “Writing Effective Essays” in the Source Reader.

Introduction: Dangerous seductions: The thrill of “passing” in society

Part I

Part II

Part III

(Mostly references to assigned reading)

Unpublished © 2005 by Dennis B. Klein. All rights reserved