Lectures in Jewish History and Thought. No hard questions, please.
SURVIVE JEWISH HISTORY
SURVIVE JEWISH HISTORY I
What do you think this is, a game?
HISN 155: History of the Jewish People I SYLLABUS
SURVIVAL IS THE GOAL. THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS.
HISN 155: History of the Jewish People I is An exploration of the remarkable tenacity and longevity of the Jewish people, whose survival despite staggering odds challenges historical credulity. Survivors will encounter a series of historical challenges to the vitality of Jewish civilization, and discuss how a combination of the Seven Survival Skills contributed to the preservation of the Jews and their culture.
The goal is to survive existential threats while making positive contributions to world culture. Survivors will encounter a series of hostile Empires, Kingdoms, and social movements and will employ the Seven Survival Skills to earn points that enable them to live and encounter the next challenge.
Note to web students: the information below is part of the undergraduate course for registered students at Touro College. Students participating in the slimmed-down public version, which does not offer college credit, will be allowed to post comments in the discussion section. Comments will not be graded.
Survivors must earn four Jewish Survival Points in each Existential Challenge in order to advance to the next level. Point One is earned by posting a comment on how one of the Seven Jewish Survival Skills played a role in surviving the specific challenge. Point Two is earned by commenting on another student’s post in a relevant and appropriate manner. Point three is earned by posting on how the lessons learned from the Existential Challenge under discussion might be applied to a contemporary issue in modern-day society, and Point Four is earned by posting a comment on another student’s suggestion.
A very limited number of Merit of the Ancestors points will be available for students who fail to survive. This pool of points is finite: once it is used up, students who fail to work for Survival Points will not pass the course.
Students may, however, accumulate personal Scholarly and Creative Contribution to Society points by posting especially high-quality comments in a creative or insightful fashion. Scholarly and Creative Contribution to Society points are awarded at the discretion of the Guide and/or by majority vote of the survivors. They may be preserved for later use, or transferred as Communal Solidarity and Altruistic Self-Sacrifice points to other survivors who need them to survive, at the discretion of the survivor. These points may be summarized as follows:
Jewish Survival Point
1 (MAX. 4 PER EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE)
1. Post comment relating to Seven Jewish Survival Skills.
2. Post comment on another student’s comment.
3. Post comment on Contemporary Relevance.
4. Post comment on another student’s comment.
STUDENT MUST EARN FOUR POINTS TO SURVIVE
Merit of the Ancestors Point
1 (MAX. 4 PER EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE)
Awarded solely at the discretion of the Guide.
Finite pool: when they are gone, they are gone.
Scholarly and Creative Contribution Point
1 (MAX. 1 PER EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE)
Awarded at the discretion of the Guide or by Majority Vote of the Survivors.
Survivors will have the opportunity to transfer these points to assist struggling fellow survivors.
GRADING YOUR SURVIVAL
On the most basic level, survival is everything. So you want to go for the A. Here’s how we calculate it:
Survive all levels and have at least one Scholarly and Creative Contribution Point left over (49 points or more): A.
Survive all levels but do not make a Scholarly and Creative Contribution (48 points): A-
Inexplicable intervention from a supernatural source. Most important Jewish Survival Skill, informs all others, but almost completely out of the control of the individual survivor. Typically only identified after the fact. Rabbinic direction:it is forbidden to place one’s self in a dangerous situation in the hope that a miracle will occur: we do not rely on miracles” (Talmud, Shabbat 32a).
2. SCHOLARSHIP AND CREATIVITY.
Invigorating new perspectives on essential elements of the human condition, typically expressed in philosophical works or re-imagining of existing works for contemporary readers. Activity in this area typically extends beyond the Jewish community to benefit human society as a whole. Maimonides’ contributions are exemplary.
3. SERVANT-LEADERSHIP AND INSPIRED FOLLOWERSHIP.
Dedicated, courageous leaders who place the benefit of the community before their own welfare (e.g. Moses, David) and stalwart followers who recognize the importance of rallying around true servant-leaders (Nachhon ben Aminadav’s plunge into the Sea of Reeds before it split).
4. COMMUNAL AUTHORITY AND PERSONAL AUTONOMY.
Effective control of communal norms (even through coercive measures) yet allowing sufficient personal autonomy for individual growth and advancement. Example: the institution of the medieval Kehillah, along with avenues of social and individual appeal.
5. COMMUNAL SOLIDARITY AND ALTRUISTIC SELF-SACRIFICE.
Recognition of plight of others and personal self-sacrifice to benefit other communities and individuals. Organization of charitable activities. Example: American support of Soviet Jewry.
6. TEXTUAL COMMITMENT AND ADAPTIVE INNOVATION.
Fidelity to received traditions yet creative adaptations to contemporary situations. Example: Hasidism.