Courses at Iowa: Fall 2019

While the University of Iowa does not currently offer a Jewish Studies minor, students that are interested in the opportunity to explore Jewish history, culture, and religion from a variety of perspectives may enjoy these classes that are available this Fall.


Judaism, Christianity, and Islam


This course offers an introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by focusing on the scriptural foundation and historical development of these three related traditions. Lectures cover the texts and other forms of religious expression, including art, music, literature, and philosophy.

Religions in a Global Context


This course examines the world's religions and religious traditions, focusing specifically on areas where different religious traditions intersect and flash points of religious conflict around the world. By understanding the basic tenets of the world's religions, we can better understand the fundamentals underlying religious conflict. Each week, the course examines an area of religious interaction, reviews the backgrounds of any present conflict, students learn the basic tenets of the various religious traditions, and explores ways in which an understanding of religious aspects of each conflict can potentially lead to conflict resolution.

Intro to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament


What exactly is the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament? How can we understand this work when so many Jewish and Christian groups not only disagree about its interpretation but also what books and even versions of those books should be included? This course will introduce the student to the contents of the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, and examine these individual writings within their historical contexts. Throughout the semester, the class will learn how to recognize and analyze the major themes and characters of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. The purpose of this course is to understand the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible within the broader cultural background of the ancient near East, the history of the people who composed the book, and how many literary content of the Bible reflect, reject, or otherwise interact with the cultural and historical circumstances and times. 

Religion in america today


Have you ever been curious about what why people believe? Do you wonder about eating certain things at certain times of the year, why people pray and why they raise their families in certain ways? If you wonder about any of these things, then this class is for you. 

We will explore together commonalities as well as differences among religious and spiritual groups in the United States today including evangelical Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews; and Muslims.  We will also learn about less well known groups and adherents such as the Amish, Zen Buddhists, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, and snakehandling Holiness-Pentecostals, as well as the beliefs of agnosticism and atheism.

The Bible and the Holocaust


This course deals with the Nazi war against Jews and Judaism from both the perspective of the perpetrators and of the victims. In regard to the victims, we will read three accounts by survivors who found themselves caught in the Nazi web of terror: one hiding out with a Polish Catholic family, another on the lam in the Latvian countryside, and the last in the belly of the beast of the largest killing center (Auschwitz); additionally, we will view the film, SHOAH, by Claude Lanzmann, which presents first-person testimonies of survivors, witnesses and former Nazis. We will also read selections from the Hebrew Bible in order to determine whether in the light of the slaughter of six million Jews it can be said that the biblical God is still "alive." The course is taught by Holstein and includes pre-recorded (close-captioned) lectures as streaming video. There will be two multiple-choice exams of equal weight and a 1 to 2 page essay.  While this online venue is designed in such a way that it will replicate as much as possible the classroom experience, it also aims to capitalize on the element of flexibility made possible by the online experience. 

Biblical Hebrew I


Contact Professor Cargrill if you are interested in this class. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls


Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls; reading of the Scrolls in English translation; examination of Qumran site archeology, survey of broader sociopolitical context of Second Temple Judaism (586 BCE to 135 CE) out of which the scrolls emerged.

Politics / Memory: Holocaust - Genocide 9/11


This course examines how contested legacies of genocide, global violent conflict and 9/11 continue to pose an urgent and generationally mediated challenge for a critical politics of memory. We will discuss various approaches to an effective or failed coming to terms with an injurious and difficult past (e.g., the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide) by analyzing museums, sites of memory and artwork.

Introduction to the History Major: Nazi Germany


Nazi Germany stands out as one of history’s most destructive regimes. But scholars still debate many questions. Why did the Nazis come to power? What was the experience of “ordinary people,” as well as powerful figures, in both targeted and privileged groups? How did Nazism fit into both German history and an international context? How central were notions of race, gender, religion, and other social frameworks? Were there missed opportunities for averting war and genocide? How did the history of Nazism shape the post-World War II world? Does studying this history offer useful tools for furthering justice and human rights today?

In this course, we will examine diverse methods for researching Nazi Germany: archival research, oral history, digital mapping, forensic archaeology, cultural studies, and more. We will analyze historians’ debates on how to interpret the Nazi era, and we will embark on research projects of our own. We will base our research on archival collections of Iowans whose life trajectories were shaped by the Nazi era, for example as refugees or survivors. We will also draw on a newly-available database of refugee children in Great Britain to explore the fate of separated families using digital methods. Students interested in further work in this area can use their research from this class as a foundation for an honor’s thesis, or they can explore other opportunities such as an internship in a Holocaust museum.