Syllabus for the Contemporary Jewish Writing Class

at Congregation Beth Ami in April-May 2015

Printable PDF syllabus: Summary + week 1, week 2, week 3week 4week 5week 6 – all in one


This course will

  • explore emerging trends and current issues in contemporary Jewish writing
  • provide resources and tips on using the internet to find new books and reviews
  • introduce recent books on these topics/genres: Novels, American Jewish History, (Auto)Biographies, World Jewish History, Shoah and Mysticism
  • provide opportunities to deep-read and discuss texts
  • encourage participants to bring their questions and suggestions and share their favorite recent Jewish books


  • Class meets six Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 and starting April 16, 2015
  • No test, no grading: the goal is personal enrichment
  • All handouts (in PDF format) at
  • Online sources to find (new) Jewish books and reviews at

April 16: 1st class – Introduction and Novels

  • What is Contemporary? Jewish? Writing?
  • Themes/trends in Jewish literature, including novels: Holocaust, Israel, exile, magical realism, mysticism, crime, urban living, gender issues, absurd modernity, meaning making…
  • Sources for new books and reviews: Top 5 Sites, Social Sites, Journals
  • Break, if needed (5 min)
  • What is a Novel?
  • Close reading of an excerpt from The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • Introducing recent novels
  • Homework for 2nd class:

April 23: 2nd class – American Jewish History

April 30: 3rd class – (Auto)Biographies

May 7: 4th class – World Jewish History


May 14: 5th class – Shoah

May 21: 6th class – Kabbalah / Jewish Mysticism

  • Discussing  Introduction to the Kabbalah: interview with Daniel C. Matt
  • Introducing Kabbalah Typology
    • Science: academic principle, study of text
      Gershom Scholem: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
    • Magic: folkways, superstition, tradition
         Joshua Trachtenberg: Jewish Magic and Superstition A Study in Folk Religion
    • Religion: integral part of orthodox Judaism
        Shneur Zalman of Liadi and Menachem Schneerson: Tanya (Chabad)
    • Self-Help/Spirituality: focus on personal enrichment
        David A. Cooper: God Is a Verb
    • Business: Making money through producing “Kabbalah” books, events, classes
        Rav P. S. Berg: The Kabbalah for the Layman (The Kabbalah Center,
    • Christian Kabbalah: From Renaissance on, starting with Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
         Dion Fortune: Mystical Qabalah
    • Religion/Self-Help/Business: well-marketed, to non-Jews too
        Michael Laitman: Awakening to Kabbalah (Bnei Baruch,
        Yitzchak Ginsburgh: Living In Divine Space (Gal Einai,
  • Sharing books related to Kabbalah brought by the class
  • Introducing and discussing the Kabbalah bibliography
  • Watching
  • Recommended readings, books and videos:

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