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Jewish Studies Program

Study Jewish history, culture, and traditions.

Jewish Studies at AU

Do you want to know more about antisemitism, the Holocaust and its film and literature, Jewish comedy, Fiddler on the Roof, politics (American, Jewish, and Israeli), the Bible, Jesus, and how to order a falafel in Hebrew? If so, then American University’s Jewish Studies Program has courses for you.

Our prize-winning faculty explore these topics and many others in our classrooms. Our students pursue internships at the world-class US Holocaust Memorial Museum, at the many Jewish communal agencies headquartered in the nation’s capital, and on the Hill. Our campus hosts outstanding guest scholars and artists to deepen our understanding of Jewish life and culture. Our majors and minors graduate with a deeper understanding of the civilizations of the Jewish people and go on to careers in public service and the for-profit sector.

Understanding Antisemitism: A Guide

Dr. Pamela Nadell, Director of the Jewish Studies Program, took the lead on creating "Understanding Antisemitism: A Guide for the AU Community." AU faculty, students, and staff provided additional support to complete this guide for the benefit of the university community. Read the guide.

Past Programming

  • Antisemitism Since the Holocaust Series: Europe, Israel, and America

Antisemitism and Racism with Cheryl Greenberg and Marc Dollinger
The Deep Roots of Modern Anti-Judaism
Jews of Color: American Jews, Race, and History

Acts of Remembrance Series: Shaping Holocaust Memory in the 21st Century

Ruth Franklin: Anne Frank, A Life
Geraldine Schwarz: Those Who Forget: My Family's Story in Nazi Europe
Rebecca Frankel: Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love

Europe's Jews Before the Holocaust Series

Jeffrey Veidlinger: In the Midst of Civilized Europe
In Hitler's Munich: Jews, the Revolution, and the Rise of Nazism with Michael Brenner

View additional AU Jewish Studies past events series on YouTube.

Graduate Students

Andrew Sperling, PhD candidate in History, is currently working on his dissertation, "American Jews Against Antisemitic Extremism.” Sperling was awarded the Mark and Ruth Luckens International Prize in Jewish Thought and Culture from the University of Kentucky for his paper "'Living on a Sort of Island': Jewish Refugee Farmers in the American South," which will appear in the forthcoming edition of American Jewish History. Additionally, Sperling published "Creative Power: A Jewish Refugee in the Jim Crow South, 1939-46" in the peer-reviewed journal Southern Jewish History. Sperling is also the recipient of a number of fellowships and grants from the American Jewish Archives, the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, and the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Rachael Davis, a third-year Ph.D. student in History, is researching Jewish women in the American South. She is currently the Editorial Assistant at the Rebecca Gratz Digital Collection, where she transcribes Gratz's letters from 1799 to 1869. She is also the Research Assistant at the Catskills Institute, which focuses on Jewish hotel and resort culture in New York.


HIST 344/JWST 320: Israel and American Jews: A Complicated Relationship

W 2:30pm-5:20pm

Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer

This course explores many facets of Israel’s relationship with American Jewry, from political rhetoric to philanthropy, from pop music to hummus, from folk dance, summer camps and tourism to war heroes and Wonder Woman.   

HIST 418/618: Nazi Germany

T/F 11:20am-12:35pm

Julie Keresztes, Jack, Joseph, and Mandel Morton Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies Postdoctoral Fellow

This course explores the political, social, and economic conditions that made it possible for Hitler to take power. It also looks at the nature of Nazi rule with a particular emphasis on World War II and the Holocaust.  

HIST 419/619-001: Holocaust

W 11:20am- 2:10pm
Pamela Nadell, Director, Jewish Studies Program

Tracing the histories of antisemitism and racism that led to the Holocaust. Examines the historical development of the Final Solution. Considers the variety of responses to Jewish persecution by the Nazi perpetrators, the Jews, and the nations of the world.

HIST 245: Modern Jewish Civilization

M/Th 9:45-11:00am
Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer

Fulfills AU CORE Integrative Requirement: Diversity and Equality. This course explores Jewish political, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual history from the early modern period to the mid-twentieth century, covering Eastern and West/Central Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and America. Students use primary documents and secondary literature to analyze such topics as religious reform, political emancipation, gender and class differences, the rise of Zionism, and antisemitism.

JWST 210-001: Voices of Modern Jewish Lit

M/Th 12:55-2:10pm
Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer

Fulfills AU CORE Habits of Mind requirement: Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry. This course explores the development of modern Jewish literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. It moves in time and space from Eastern Europe to immigrant-era New York, to pre-State Palestine, Holocaust-era Europe, the dispersion of Jews from Arab lands, and back to present-day Israel and America. We encounter the most significant developments of modern Jewish history: the mass migration to the West, the Holocaust, modern Zionism and Israeli culture, and the challenges of living in America's diverse society. By reading works that were originally written in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and other languages (all assigned readings are in English), we confront issues of identity, persecution, wandering, and belonging that characterize the Jewish encounter with modernity. We engage with literature - which includes short stories, poems, memoirs, songs, and novels - as a way for human beings to communicate the urgency of the times in which they live. 

HEBR 117: Hebrew Elementary Modern II

M/Th 9:45-11:00am
Sarit Lisogorksy, Adjunct Professor

This course is a continuation of Hebrew 116. Based on the skills learned in the first semester, this course continues to develop students’ skills in the areas of reading, listening, writing and speaking. You will learn more complex syntactic structures and vocabulary.  

SISU 319: Arab-Israeli Relations

M/Th 9:45-11:00am
Dan Arbell, Scholar-in-Residence

A survey of Arab-Israeli relations from their origins to the present. Includes an account of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, the history of the British mandate, the Arab-Israeli wars, the involvement of external powers, and the quest for peace. The emphasis is on conflict resolution.

SISU 419-001: Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace

W 11:20am-2:10pm
Guy Ziv, Associate Professor

This senior capstone provides students with a deeper understanding of the problems that have confounded the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in particular the "final status" issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and security. Students then partake in a simulation in which they attempt to constructively address the final status issues as well as other sticking points, such as settlements and terrorism, in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

JWST 491: Internship in Jewish Studies

JWST 481: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies I

JWST 482: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies II

JWST 490/690: Independent Study

CORE 107-011: Jerusalem: Myth, History, Modernity

T/F 9:45am- 11:00am
Martyn Oliver, Faculty Chair, AU Core

The course proceeds thematically, beginning with the role of Jerusalem in the mythic imagination of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students then turn to writings reflecting the history of Jerusalem as a physical place and a source of contention for the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the empires of medieval Europe and the Ottomans, the British, the Arabs and the modern State of Israel. Finally, the course turns to the modern era and examines Jerusalem as a modern city and a proxy for disputes over identity, culture, language, and religion. Students visit different places of worship in Washington, DC, and invite guest speakers representing a diversity of cultures to class.

HIST 419/619-001: Holocaust

T/F 11:20am- 12:35pm
Julie Keresztes, Jack, Joseph, and Mandel Morton Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies Postdoctoral Fellow

Tracing the histories of antisemitism and racism that led to the Holocaust. Examines the historical development of the Final Solution. Considers the variety of responses to Jewish persecution by the Nazi perpetrators, the Jews, and the nations of the world.

HIST 443/643-001: History of Israel

M/Th 12:55-2:10pm
Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer

This course traces the development of modern political Zionism in nineteenth-century Europe; the historical background leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948; and the history of Israel since then, including patterns of Jewish immigration and its relationship to the Arab world. Cross-list with ISR-443. 

ISR 317-001/GOVT 317-001: Israeli Politics

T/F 11:20am-12:35pm
Dan Arbell, Scholar-in-Residence  

This course provides an overview of the geopolitical history of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict from the pre-state era until the present as well as an analysis of the principles that guide Israel's political system and the cleavages in Israeli society which greatly affect developments and trends in politics and policy. It is mostly conducted as a lecture/discussion course, but also includes reading academic articles, watching films, listening to guest lectures, holding class debates, and discussing current news and developments.

ISR 400-001: Blackness in Israeli Popular Culture and Contemporary Art

M/Th 11:20am-12:35pm
Efrat Yerday, Lecturer

Over 160,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin live in Israel today. This course discusses their various expressions of socio-political art, popular culture, and activism. The course demonstrates especially how contemporary artists of Ethiopian origin are promoting an agenda that reflects their lives including being Black in today's Israel. Crosslist: AFAM-450-002/SOCY-454-001.  

JWST 205-001: Ancient and Medieval Jewish Civilization

M/Th 9:45-11:00am
Lauren Strauss, Senior Professorial Lecturer

Fulfills AU CORE Habits of Mind requirement: Socio-Historical Inquiry. This course examines the independent Jewish states that flourished in Palestine, the rise of the most important Jewish communities outside the ancient Jewish homeland, and the foreign influences that shaped not only the political life of the Jews but also their internal organization and their creativity. 

JWST 491: Internship in Jewish Studies

JWST 481: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies I

JWST 482: Senior Thesis Jewish Studies II


SISU 330-004: U.S.-Israel Relations

M/Th 2:30pm-3:45pm
Guy Ziv, Associate Professor

This course explores the evolution of U.S. relations with Israel, from pre-1948 American Zionism to President Truman's decision to recognize the Jewish state in 1948 to America's role as Israel's greatest supporter in the world today. It examines key milestones in U.S.-Israel relations, including the wartime American airlift in 1973; the U.S. role in Arab-Israeli peacemaking; and American military, economic, and diplomatic aid to the Jewish state. The course analyzes how a combination of sentimental, domestic political, and strategic factors have led to the formation of a wholly unique bilateral relationship characterized at once by both tight bonds and inherent tensions.

HEBR 116: Elementary Modern Hebrew I

M/Th 9:45am-11:00am
Sarit Lisogorsky, Adjunct Instructor

Focuses on the acquisition of basic vocabulary and grammatical structures in culturally authentic contexts through speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension. Designed for students with no prior experience with Hebrew.

HEBR 216: Intermediate Modern Hebrew 

M/Th 11:20am-12:45pm
Sarit Lisogorsky, Adjunct Instructor

Refinement of basic language skills in a cultural context. Expansion of vocabulary and grammatical structures and development of communicative skills. 

Photo: 1987 Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews; courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society. 


News & Notes

PhD Candidate Andrew Sperling recently published "'Living on a Sort of Island': Jewish Refugee Farmers in the American South, 1938-1946" in the journal American Jewish History, as well as an article in The Conversation. Congratulations, Andrew! Read the American Jewish History article, and The Conversation article

Dr. Pamela Nadell received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Award to write a book on the history of American antisemitism. 

Dr. Pamela Nadell addresses the long history of American antisemitism as the White House releases the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism in an article for The Conversation. Read the full article. 

Dr. Michael Brenner has recently been named by the German Federal Minister of the Interior to a commission whose objective is to study the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. 

American University conducted an interview with Dr. Pamela Nadell regarding the current state of antisemitism in America. Read the full interview. 

Dr. Pamela Nadell and Dr. Michael Brenner were both invited to a White House Listening Session on the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. 

The Jewish Studies Program recently concluded a new series: Acts of Remembrance: Shaping Holocaust Memory in the 21st CenturyThis series brought a variety of speakers to campus (virtually and in-person) throughout the Spring semester. Our speakers included Ruth Franklin, Rebecca Frankel, Andrew Kornbluth, and Susan Suleiman. The entire series can be found on our YouTube playlist

Dr. Julie Keresztes joins the Jewish Studies Program as the 2022-2024 Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies Postdoctoral Fellow. Read more about Dr. Keresztes and her academic work.

Quick Links

Meltzer Schwartzberg Center for Israel Studies
AU Jewish Studies on Facebook
AU Jewish Studies on YouTube

Alumna Meredith R. Weisel was recently named the Regional Director of the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League. Read more about Weisel's work with the ADL.

Andrew Sperling (history PhD student) won the 2021 Mark and Ruth Luckens International Prize in Jewish Thought and Culture for his essay "Living on a Sort of Island’: Jewish Refugee Farmers in the American South." 

Dr. Pamela Nadell was featured in Set the World on Fire: How Antisemitism Fuels White Nationalism from PBS.

Dr. Pamela Nadell spoke to BYU Radio on antisemitism in the real world and online.

"Jews of Color: American Jews, Race and History" Event: If you missed it, check out this amazing virtual event held via Zoom! Thank you to Laura Leibman, Kelly Whitehead, Lewis Gordon, and Lauren Strauss for an amazing conversation about the American Jewish community's relationship to race.

Dr. Pamela Nadell published America’s Jewish Women: A History From Colonial Times to Today, which won the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year in the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards.

Michael Brenner (History, Israel Studies), published his new book in German on Munich's rise as the capital of antisemitism and the testing ground for Adolf Hitler after World War One.

Lisa Leff has been appointed Director of the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Geraldine Gudefin's latest publication, "Entre loi juive et loi française : le divorce et le droit de garde des enfants juifs russes au début du XXe siècle", appears in the French journal Archives Juives (2019/2 Vol. 52). 

Sarit Lisogorsky has joined the Jewish Studies program as a Hebrew instructor.

See videos from the 2022 Israeli Writers Series.

View author/book details and watch past event videos of the 2022 Webinar Series: Europe's Jews before the Holocaust

Watch alumna Wendy Lower's book talk on her award-winning book, The Ravine: A Family, A Photograph, A Holocaust Massacre Revealed. 

Watch the 2020-21 Antisemitism Series, Antisemitism Since the Holocaust: Europe, Israel, and America