professor
Irena Klepfisz

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

May 2010

This was one of the best, if not the best class I have ever taken at Columbia! Professor Klepfisz is a profoundly knowledgeable and inspiring teacher. She truly cares about your intellectual growth and is eager to share her own insights with you. I loved the selection of readings – some of the stuff was fabulous! – and thought-provoking class discussions. You left the class still thinking about it, which is what I really liked. She may challenge you to clarify/develop your argument, but I found that you only benefit from it on the long run. The exploratory one-page essays required to be submitted every week before class actually enhanced my reading experience. Plus, even though it’s been some time since the class ended, I can still remember almost all of the books we read, which is not what I can say about many other classes. In short, this class was an amazing experience which changed my way of thinking of Jewish women’s literature and feminism, and actually inspired me to take more women's studies classes. I would recommend it to anyone who wants some meaningful and exciting class experience. If you are looking for an unforgettable class and an encounter with an awesome professor, don’t miss a chance to take a class with Prof. Klepfisz!

Dec 2009

A lot of what has been said here is true-- Professor Klepfisz has a super interesting personal history, and is a huge wealth of knowledge on second wave feminism, feminist literature, and Jewish studies. She will certainly challenge you and brings a lot to the table. That being said, she is more than a little rough around the edges. She is a tough grader and has clear standards of what she wants to hear and is not flexible in interpretation. If you say something that deviates from her opinions, she will call you out on this. Sometimes this is fine because you are just plain wrong, but sometimes this stifles class conversation and creates an atmosphere that can be intimidating. The reading was a mixed bag-- some really great stuff, but as the course went on the quality of writing diminished. Really cool field trip to the Brooklyn Museum that should not be missed, we watched a couple of movies which was fun, and she even called up a couple of her writer friends who came into our class to speak with us. You definitely don't have to be Jewish to take this class. If you have never taken a women's studies class or a literature class, just be prepared to be criticized. If you're well-versed in at least one of those disciplines, you'll be fine.

Jan 2006

A truly amazing, inspiring professor. Prof Klepfisz is quite humble, and is just a very smart and articulate woman with an incredibly diverse base of experiences, contacts, and opinions. The class was a small seminar, all female, and consisted almost entirely of Jewish women. The reading list was full of stuff that I would have never read on my own but that served to give dimension and texture to the Jewish American experience in the late 1800s and early 1900s. For anyone, a truly illuminating treatment of a less known slice of our history. I took this class to fulfill an English requirement, and it is very much an English/Women's Studies hybrid. The work-load is fairly high - you will read a novel or several short stories every week and either prepare a short response paper, a longer paper (4x), or a presentation for the class (1x). The grading is very fair and unbloated, and will make you want to work hard to create the most clear, concise, and intelligent writing you are capable of. In order to get more context on Professor Klepfisz's fabulousness, I would suggest checking out and reading some of her interesting and thoughtful essays and poems before you enroll in this class.

Apr 2005

Prof Klepfisz is an absolute gem of a professor who I was so, so glad to have. This course was fabulous--great books that really focused on a different aspect of Jewish culture each week, and Prof. Klepfisz takes very little BS in discussion--she's smart, and she'll shut you down if you're making a dumb comment, which is what I feel is lacking in so many classes. Plus, she is a Second-Wave feminist through and through, has great insight (and friends) involved in the Second Wave Jewish feminist movement, has great stories, and is so, so smart and willing to listen--I love her and this class, learned so much, added great new titles to my bookshelf, and really enjoyed the 2 hour seminar!

Jan 2004

While I thoroughly enjoyed this class, it definitely has some frustrating moments. We study different "units", starting with feminism in Jewish religion/ritual, moving through to Sephardi women and women in the Shtetls, to women in the Holocaust, and finally women in Israel. The reading can be pretty heavy at times, but most of it is extremely enjoyable if you have an interest in the topic. However, barely anyone in the class finished all the reading. She keeps grading fairly arbitrary, and its hard to know how you're doing in the class until you get your final grade. Also, Prof. Klepfisz has an English background, so literary analysis is a part of the class. Overall, she is EXTREMELY knowledgable about the subject matter- in fact, I would have liked to hear her speak up more instead of every class being just us talking.

Apr 2003

I love Professor Klepfisz. I would agree with the above reviewer that Prof Klepfisz is a tough cookie, she doesn't take sh*t from anyone. Depending on who is in the class (and your background), the lecture may not be up to par. She structures the class discussion based on the knowledge that people have, so if you have immense women's studies experience I might not recomment this course for you (you do a lot of "what *is* feminism?" kind of stuff). Try her 4-point seminar on Jewish Women writers. Klepfisz knows her stuff so do not hesitate to ask questions. I also would have the same complaint as the previous reviewer - Klepfisz is incredibly smart and clearly has loads of life experience with this topic and FYI - she knows a lot of the Jewish feminists that you read about. But she does not lecture, pretty much every class is a discussion and therefore she doesn't really come prepared with anything to say. It's pretty informal. I got a lot out of the reading, most of it is pretty easy to read even if it's not always light. You will read lots of novels and 70's Jewish feminist stuff that is easy to critique. She is tough but this class is totally worth it.

Jan 2000

Professor Klepfisz rocks my world. She only teaches in the fall at Barnard; in the spring she does other stuff, including writing her incredible poetry. Her readings of the texts are truly insightful, and the texts themselves are often--although not always--fabulous. My one critique (shared w/several other students I've talked to) is that sometimes I wish she'd talk more in class, since her analysis is so much better than ours. I've learned a *huge* amount from her about how to read a work and how to write an excellent paper (I can't emphasize that point enough). By forcing you to keep papers incredibly short, she makes you learn how to actually focus and hone an argument--a truly valuable lesson. She's also a hugely cool person. Intensely political, she's a lesbian-feminist and grew up in the Yiddishist Socialist movement. She's one of those professors who not only make you talk about class and gender and but also help you understand just why doing that is so incredibly important. Be warned, however, she is a harsh, harsh grader and an extremely tough lady who refuses to suffer fools. This should not scare you off. It's totally possible to do well if you are willing to work your ass off. It seems like a lot of people who would love this class don't know about it. Perhaps this is because of the subject matter. However, there are several non-Jews in the seminar this semester who are totally digging it, so don't let yourself be scared off. It's an enormous privilege to have the opportunity to learn with Professor Klepfisz.