Judaism, Jewishness, and Modernity

May 2011

Professor Schorsch is a scholar of the highest order whose dedication to his subject and students ought to be evident to any who takes this course. His style is passionate and well-informed par excellence. Any student with even the slightest interest in Judaism, philosophy, or general intellectualism will find fantastic outlets for those interests in this course. The course's thesis is deliberately general--how have different thinkers responded to Judaism's confrontation with modernity philosophically, historically, sociologically, theologically, etc.--such as to allow students to project their own interests onto the course's trajectory. Professor Schorsch is always open to questions, and his extensive knowledge of all things academically Jewish makes his insights highly valuable. The course is discussion-based, so student participation is welcomed and understood as an essential component to cultivating understanding. The texts used in this course are highly stimulating (of course that is a subjective valuation, but I don't think it's so farfetched) and I, as well as others whose interest was evident from their comments, certainly appreciated the opportunity to come to class and talk about our reactions rather than simply listen to Prof. Schorsch lecture, even though that is a stimulating activity in itself. This course is a fair amount of work, both in terms of volume and the often impenetrable nature of its content. If you're looking for an easy A, take another class. But if you possess an earnest curiosity, or even a modicum of interest in the subject, this is where you want to be. You will learn tremendously under the auspices of a fantastic, compelling lecturer and walk away with knowledge that will infiltrate many aspects of your life in ways that those other "easier" classes never will. This is a far cry from a B-S lecture offering cursory overviews that will ultimately leave you hardly informed of the material. Jewish or not (because this course assumes very little prior knowledge), the ambitious student will leave this course understanding exactly why he or she came to Columbia--to learn from the best and cultivate a genuine thirst for knowledge.