Contemporary Judaism

Modern Jewish thought from Mendelssohn to the present, with particular reference to the dynamics of emancipation, anti-semitism, religious reform, Zionism, the rise of natural religion with its emphasis on the supremacy of ethics, and feminism. One course.

Jewish Ethics

Survey of Jewish ethics from antiquity to modern times, with focus on both general methods and specific case studies. How different traditional Jewish sources and communities respond to ethical challenges such as the death penalty, abortion, cloning, the environment, and economic justice, especially in the U.S. responses from a variety of Jewish perspectives (Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative). One course.


Jewish Mysticism

The main historical stages, personalities, texts, ethical doctrines, social teachings, and metaphysical doctrines from rabbinic to modern times. Topics include the significance of context and cross-cultural influence in shaping mystical traditions of a minority population living in Christian, Muslim, and secular environments and ways in which mysticism has served to empower and marginalize women. Readings emphasize primary sources (Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic writings, medieval mystical works) in translation and consider them both as literary works and elements of religious ritual.

Ethics in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

An introduction to ethics in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, addressing moral and ethical dilemmas within the varied sources of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the diversity of views and opinions within the text, and passages often regarded as problematic for modern readers. The use of the biblical text as a resource for the construction of pre-modern and modern Jewish and Christian ethics will also be explored. One course.

Atheism and Buddhism

A critical examination of atheism and religions (Buddhism), with a focus on intellectual, religious, philosophical, and scientific debates about God, the origin of the universe, morality, evolution, neuroscience, happiness, enlightenment, the afterlife, and karma. Readings to be selected from philosophical, scientific, and religious writings. Authors will include some of the following: Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris, Owen Flanagan, Stephen Batchelor, and the Dalai Lama. One course.

Taoism and Mysticism

Explores the mystical tradition that runs through the Taoist school of Chinese thought and practice from ancient times to the present, concentrating on early Taoist texts and their commentaries (from ca. 400 BCE-ca. 700 CE.) in English-language translation.

Buddhism and Sexuality

Critical examination of the relation of religion and sexuality with special attention to Buddhism. Discusses religious interpretations of sex, sexuality, and gender; the codification and normalization of these rules through texts, symbols, and practices; and recent challenges to these interpretations. Topics include homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, gender equality, clerical marriage, married clerics’ wives, and clerical sexual abuse. Draws on religious theory, gender theory, and critical theory.