Sheryl Nestel

Curriculum Vitae

PhD Dissertation

Resources for critical scholars

SES1954 Marginality and the Politics of Resistance
Fall, 2001

SES 2999
Jews, Identity and Difference
Spring, 2002

Contact Me


April 3, 2005

Course Syllabus: SES 2999,
Special Topics Course: 
Jews, Identity, and Difference
Summer 2005

SES 2999 Special Topics Course: Jews, Identity, and Difference


Instructor:  Dr. Sheryl Nestel

Summer 2005




Day and Time:            Tuesday & Thursday 5:30 – 8:30 PM

Place:                          TBA

Office Hours:               By appointment

Office no.                    12-269

Phone:                         416 923-6641 Extension 6018



Course Website:



A. Introduction

This course examines the multiple and contradictory identities ascribed to and embraced/resisted by Jews in contemporary Western societies. Relying substantially on anti-essentialist theories of identity, the course begins with some foundational assumptions: 1) that identities, including Jewish identity, are not static but constantly in production and subject to contestation and revision, 2)  that identities are both culturally constructed and historically embedded, and 3) that the analytic categories of race, gender, sexuality and class articulate in the production of identities. Within this theoretical framework, we will explore practices of Jewish identity construction and trace the role of shifting relations of power in these practices.  New forms of Jewish cultural, political and spiritual resistance to cultural erasure will be surveyed as will contemporary expressions of anti-Semitism. Finally, we will explore the implications of new conceptualizations of Jewish identity for anti-racist politics, scholarship and pedagogy and the role for an “autonomous Jewish Voice” (Boyarin, 1996) in critical social analysis.

The course readings are drawn from an emerging body of literature associated with “The New Jewish Studies” (Heller, 1999) which utilizes cultural studies, feminist, postcolonial, postmodern, queer and anti-racism frameworks to rethink the terms in which Jewish identity has been represented. Reflecting an emergent literature, the readings often raise more questions than they answer but will hopefully help generate lively classroom debate and inspire participants to engage in new modes of scholarly inquiry.


B. Course requirements


Weekly preparation


This course is structured around substantial weekly readings and in-class discussions. Suggestions for further readings are listed for each week. Completion of the required readings and ample preparation for discussion are absolutely essential.

The following are some suggestions for preparing for class discussions:  Begin by outlining what you believe to be the major arguments in the article. We will spend time in class talking about the process of reading the article. The discussion may begin with some of the following questions:  What personal resources did you bring to your reading? What outside resources did you consult? What parts of the article require further clarification for you? You will be expected to discuss your own critical engagement with the course readings including: How did the article influence your own thinking? How can you apply the author’s insights to your academic work/ workplace/activism? How would you challenge the author’s conclusions?  Finally, each student will be encouraged to pose one or two questions that will stimulate further discussion of the week’s major themes.


Evaluation of class participation will comprise 25% of the final course grade.


Course paper


A 15-20 page paper is due (TBA) the grade will represent 75% of the final mark. Students may choose from a variety of options for the final paper which include, but are not limited to the following: 1) a critical review essay of recent writing in an area related to Jewish identity, 2) a critical, theoretically-informed autobiographical essay (see for example Caplan, , Behar, and Shohat in the assigned readings) or 3) a research paper on a topic relevant to the course focus. The final class session will be devoted to student presentations of their work-in progress on the course paper (see below). Students are encouraged to meet with the instructor to discuss the final paper.  A 2-3 paragraph proposal for the final paper is due (TBA).


Writing should be clear, direct and grammatically correct. Papers should be typed double-spaced, preferably in an easy-to-read font and size (please do not use anything below 10 pt). Always include page numbers for citations or quotes from the assigned reading. For any additional citations, please use any conventional academic referencing format such as APA, MLA, etc (see below for cyberlinks). If you have not already done so, it may be helpful to choose a reference style, learn it well, and employ it consistently in your academic writing. This will save you time and effort as you proceed in your academic career and make it easier to submit your work for publication if you choose to do so. Don’t hesitate to use the resources (courses, writing labs, etc.) offered by the university to improve your writing skills. Your ideas will enjoy a better reception if they are expressed with clarity and elegance.


The University of Toronto site for writing resources (includes reference styles)


The Harvard University Writing Site (grammar, punctuation, style, etc.)



Student presentations of work in progress


In the final class meeting students will be required to make a brief (10-15 minute) presentation about their work-in-progress for the course paper. You will be asked to outline the topic you have chosen, discuss your approach to the research/writing, and describe the resources with which you are working.


C. Course materials


Students will need to obtain the following texts.   Several copies of Maus are available through the Toronto Public Library.


1)      Art Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II (see week III below for detailed reference). There are also several copies in the U of T Library system as well as in the Toronto Public Library system.


2)       Insider/Outsider:  American Jews and Multiculturalism, ed. D Biale, M Galchinsky, S Heschel (see week X below for detailed reference).

Course readings appearing on the syllabus with an asterisk (*) can be accessed on the course website: <>. If you are not working at computer on campus, you must have a U of T library card in order to access the website; when prompted, you must enter your library card number and PIN (usually the last four digits of your student number). If you are unfamiliar with using web-based materials, please consult the instructor.


4) The remainder of the required readings will be made available for photocopying.



Students who are unfamiliar with Jewish history and culture are urged to read at least one background text. For example: Nicholas De Lange, An Introduction to Judaism Cambridge University Press, 2000 . or Melvin Konner, Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews, New York: Viking Compass, 2003.

Course Schedule

I. :  Introduction


*Heller S. 1999. The New Jewish Studies:  Defying Tradition and Easy Categorization. The Chronicle of Higher Education 45.21:  1-6 (internet version).

Horowitz SR. The Paradox of Jewish Studies in the New Academy. In Insider/Outsider:  American Jews and Multiculturalism, ed. D Biale, M Galchinsky, S Heschel, pp. 116-130. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.

Rubin-Dorsky J. & Fisher-Fishkin S 1996. Glossary of Hebrew, Yiddish and “Yinglish” Terms. People of the Book:  Thirty Scholars Reflect on Their Jewish Identity. Madison:  Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

II:  Troubling Jewish Identity

Silberstein L, J. 2000. Mapping, Not Tracing:  Opening Reflection. In Mapping Jewish Identities, ed. LJ Silberstein, pp. 1-36. New York:  New York University Press

*Charmé SZ. 2000. Varieties of Authenticity in Contemporary Jewish Identity. JewishSocial Studies 6: 133-55

  Klepfisz I. 1990. Khaloymes/Dreams in Progress:  Culture, Politics, and Jewish Identity. In Dreams of an Insomniac:  Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes, pp. 187-211. Portland, Oregon: The Eighth Mountain Press


Film to be shown in class:  Treyf produced, written & directed by Alisa Lebow and Cynthia Madansky. [New York, NY] : Treyf Productions, 1998.


Further reading:

Stratton, J., 2000. Coming Out Jewish. London and New York: Routledge


III.  The Holocaust and Contemporary Jewish Identity I


Spiegelman A. 1986. Maus I:  A Survivor's Tale. My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon

Spiegelman A. 1991. Maus II:  A Survivor's Tale. And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon

  Further reading: 

Friedman MA. 2000. The Labor of Remembrance. In Mapping Jewish Identities, ed. LJ Silberstein, pp. 97-121. New York:  New York University Press.


Geis D (Ed.). 2003. Considering Maus:  Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust. Tuscaloosa and London: Univ. of Alabama Press.


LaCapra D. 1998. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas:  Art Spiegelman's Maus. In History and Memory after Auschwitz, pp. 139-79. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.


*Staub M. 1995. The Shoah Goes On and On:  Remembrance and Representation in Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’. Melus 20.3, 33-47.



Film to be shown in class: Punch Me in the Stomach starring Deb Filler; director, Francine Zuckerman; producers, Francine Zuckerman and Jonathan Dowling. Toronto, Ont : Punch Me in the Stomach Productions, Inc. 1995.

IV The Holocaust and Contemporary Jewish Identity II

Finkielkraut A 1994. All German Jews? In The Imaginary Jew, pp. 17-34. Lincoln and London:  University of Nebraska Press

Suchoff D 1994. Introduction. In  A Finkielkraut The Imaginary Jew, pp. vii - xviii. Lincoln and London:  University of Nebraska Press

Novick P 1999. “Would They Hide My Children?” In The Holocaust in American Life, pp. 170-206. Boston and New York:  Houghton Mifflin

Young J E 1995. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:  Memory and the Politics of Identity. In L Nochlin and T. Garb (Eds.) The Jew in the Text:  Modernity and the Construction of Identity. London: Thames and Hudson.


Further reading:

Bauman Z. 2000. The Holocaust's Life as a Ghost. In The Holocaust Ghost: Writings on Art, Politics, Law and Education, ed. FC Decoste, B Schwartz, pp. 3-15. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press

Bialystok, F. 2000. Delayed Impact: The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community. Kingston and Montreal:  McGill-Queens Univ. Press.

*Whitfield SJ. 2000. Reflections on Peter Novick’s Holocaust in American Life:  Two Perspectives. Judaism 49.4: 484-492

Staub ME. 1999. "Negroes are not Jews: Race, Holocaust Consciousness, and the Rise of Jewish Neoconservatism. Radical History Review 75: 3-27

V. Constructing Jewish Difference


Gilman, S 1985. Introduction:  What are Stereotypes and Why Use Texts to Study Them? In Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness 15-35. New York and London: Cornell University Press.


Gilman S 1991. The Jewish Nose:  Are Jews White? Or the History of the Nose Job. In The Jew's Body 169-93. New York and London: Routledge


Gilman SL 1996. A Problem Still. In Smart Jews:  The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence, pp. 1-30. Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press.


*Glenn, S. (2002) In the Blood? :  Consent, Descent, and the Ironies of Jewish Identity. Jewish Social Studies 8. 2/3: 139-152


Further reading


*Freedman J. 1998. Angels, Monsters, and Jews: Intersections of Queer and Jewish Identity in Kushner's Angels in America. PMLA - Publication of the Modern Language Association 113: 90-102

Itzkovitz D. 1997. Secret Temples. In Jews and Other Differences:  The New Jewish Cultural Studies, ed. D Boyarin, J Boyarin, pp. 176-202. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press

*Kaplan S. 2003. If There Are No Races, How Can Jews Be a “Race”? Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 2, 1: 79-96.

*Kun J. 1999. The Yiddish are Coming:  Mickey Katz, Antic-Semitism, and the Sound of Jewish Difference. American Jewish History 87.4:  343-374.

Gilman S 2003. Jewish Frontiers:  Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities. New York:  Palgrave MacMillan.

VI.  Anti-Semitism


*The Facts (Judeophobia). New Internationalist, 372, October, 2004 18-20.

*Butler J 2003. No, it's not Anti-Semitic. London Review of Books,  25.16 , August 21, 2003.

*Eberstadt F 2004. A Frenchman or a Jew? New York Times Magazine February 29, 2004. 48-51, 61.

Freedland J 2004. Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism? In R  Rosenbaum (Ed.) Those Who Forget the Past. New York: Random House. 422-437.

*Klug  B 2004. The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism:  Reflections on Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism and the Importance of Making Distinctions. The Nation  278. 4 23-35.

*Anti-Semitism New and Old (response to Klug) The Nation 278.4, April 12, 2004.

* Wieseltier  L  2002. Hitler is Dead - Against Ethnic Panic. The New Republic, May 27, 2002. p.19.


Films to be shown in class:  Discordia: When Netanyahu Came to Town (NFB, 2004) Ben Addelman and Samir Mallaland


Confrontation at Concordia. Prod. and Dir. Martin Himel, 2003.


Further reading:


Bauman Z. 1998. Allosemitism:  Premodern, Modern, Postmodern. In Modernity Culture and 'the Jew', ed. B Cheyette, L Marcus, pp. 143-56. Stanford: Stanford University Press


McGrath R. 1996. Shaking the Family Tree:  A Personal Exploration of Anti-Semitism in Newfoundland. Canadian Woman Studies 16.4: 12-16


Heschel S. 1990. Anti-Judaism in Christian Feminist Theology. Tikkun 5.3: 25-8, 95-7


Shain M. 1999. Ethnonationalism, Anti-Semitism, and Identity Politics:  The North American and South African Experiences In Jewries at the Frontier, ed. SL Gilman, M Shain, pp. 335-350. Chicago: University of Illinois Press


*Joseph, B. 2002. Returning to Safe. Tikkun, 17.1: 22-25.

VII.  Jews and Whiteness

Braude CB. 1999. From the Brotherhood of Man to the World to Come:  The Denial of the Political in Rabbinic Writing under Apartheid. In Jewries at the Frontier, ed. SL Gilman, M Shain, pp. 259-89. Chicago: University of Illinois Press

Brodkin K 1998. How Did Jews Become White Folks? In How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America, pp. 25-52. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press

Kaplan C. 1998. "Beyond the Pale":  Rearticulating U.S. Jewish Whiteness. In Talking Visions:  Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age, ed. E Shohat, pp. 451-84. Cambridge: MIT Press

Further reading:

Kaye/Kantrowitz M 1996. Jews in the U.S.:  The Rising Costs of Whiteness. In Names We Call Home:  Autobiography on Racial Identity. B Thompson & S Tyagi (Eds.) 121-37. New York and London: Routledge

Britzman DP 1998. Narcissism of Minor Differences and the Problem of AntiRacist Pedagogy. In Lost Subjects, Contested Objects:  Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning, 97-112. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Jacobson MF1998. Whiteness of a Different Color:  European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge, USA & London:  Harvard Univ. Press.

VIII.  Both/And: Hybrid Identities

Behar R 1996. The Story of Ruth, the Anthropologist. In People of the Book:  Thirty Scholars Reflect on their Jewish Identity, ed. J Rubin-Dorsky, SF Fishkin, pp. 261-79. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press

Rich  A 1982. Split at the Root. In Nice Jewish Girls:  A Lesbian Anthology, ed. ET  Beck, pp. 67-84. Watertown, Mass:  Persephone Press

Shohat E 1999. Taboo Memories and Diasporic Visions:  Columbus, Palestine and Arab-Jews. In Performing Hybridity, ed. M Joseph, JN Fink, pp. 131-56. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Further reading:

*Radin J 2004. Better Off Than You Would Have Been: Feminist Legacies for Transnational Adoptive Families in the Jewish Community.  Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 8 (2004) 143-154

Walker R 2001. Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. New York:  Riverhead

Gilbel-Azloulay K 1997. Black, Jewish and Interracial: It's Not the Colour of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity. Durham and London:  Duke Univ. Press.

Khazzoom L 2003. The Flying Camel:  Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage. New York: Seal Press.

Shneer D & Aviv C (Eds.) 2002. Queer Jews . New York:  Routledge.

Boyarin D, Itzkovitz D & Pellegrini A (Eds.) 2003. Queer Theory and the Jewish Question. New York: Routledge

Film to be shown in class: Fresh Blood : a Consideration of Belonging : a video / by B. H. Yael. Toronto : V Tape, 1996.

IX. Jews, Gender and Difference

Berger M 1996. The Mouse that Never Roars:  Jewish Masculinity on American Television. In Too Jewish:  Challenging Traditional Identities, ed. NL Kleeblatt, pp. 93-107. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press

Boyarin D 2000. The Colonial Drag:  Zionism, Gender, and Mimicry. In F Afzal-Khan, K Seshadri-Crooks (Eds.) The Pre-Occupation of Postcolonial Studies 234-65. Durham and London: Duke University Press 

Prell R-E 1999. The Jewish American Princess: Detachable Ethnicity, Gender Ambiguity and Middle Class Anxiety. In Fighting to Become Americans:  Jews, Gender, and the Anxiety of Assimilation 177-208. Boston: Beacon Press

Further reading:

Garber M 2001. Moniker. In Our Monica, Ourselves in. L Berlant & L Duggan (Eds.) , 175-202. New York and London: New York University Press l

Pelligrini A 1997. Jewishness As Gender. In Performance Anxieties:  Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race, pp. 17-37. New York and London: Routledge

Peskowitz M & Levitt L 1997. Judaism Since Gender. New York and London: Routledge.

X. Jews and Other "Others"

*Goldschmidt H. 2000. Peoples Apart:  Race, Religion, and Other Jewish Differences in Crown Heights, pp. 1-51. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Cruz.

Seidman N. 1998. Fag-Hags and Bu-Jews:  Towards a Jewish Politics of Vicarious Identity. In Insider/Outsider:  American Jews and Multiculturalism. In D Biale,

M Galchinsky & S Heschel (Eds.)  254-68. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press

Further reading:

Greenberg, C. Pluralism and it's Discontents. In Insider/Outsider

Film to be shown in class: Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities / conceived, written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith, based on her stage play ; directed by George C. Wolfe. [New York] : Public Television Playhouse, Inc., 1993.

XI. Israel, Zionism and Diasporic Jewish Identities 

Pre-reading (for those unfamiliar with the history of Zionism):  Herzberg, Arthur (1959) Introduction in The Zionist Idea, pp. 15-100. New York:  Harper and Row.

Nimni E 2003. From Galut to T'futsoth:  Post-Zionism and the Dis<>location of Jewish Diasporas. In E Nimni (Ed.) The Challenge of Post-Zionism:  Alternatives to Israeli Fundamentalist Politics. London and New York:  Zed Books 117-152.

Galchinsky M. 1998. Scattered Seeds:  A Dialogue of Diasporas. In Insider/Outsider:  American Jews and Multiculturalism, ed. D Biale, M Galchinsky, S Heschel, pp. 185-211. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press

Further reading:

*Golan D et al 1999. The Jewish Diaspora, Israel, and Jewish Identities:  A Dialogue. South Atlantic Quarterly 98: 1/2 Winter/Spring 1999. 95-116.

Silberstein LJ. 1999. Mapping Zionism/Zionist Mapping. In The Postzionism Debates:  Knowledge and Power in Israeli Culture, pp. 15-46. New York, London:  Routledge.

*Shain, Y &  Bristman B 2002. Diaspora, Kinship and Loyalty:  The Renewal of Jewish National Security. International Affairs 78.1 69-95.

*Kirshenbaum  G. (2003) Zionism and its Discontents. Tikkun, 18.6,  51-53.

Boyarin D & Boyarin J 1993. Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity. Critical Inquiry 19: 693-725

Habib J 2004.  Israel, Diaspora and the Routes of National Belonging. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press

Ellis M 2002. Israel and Palestine -- Out of the Ashes:  The Search for Jewish Identity in the 21st Century. London:  Pluto Press

XII. Reconfiguring Jewish Identity:  Spiritual, Cultural, Pedagogical, and Political Interventions  

Adler R 1998. Here Comes Skotsl: Renewing Halakhah. Engendering Judaism:  An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. Philadelphia and Jerusalem:  The Jewish Publication Society 21-60.

*Svigals A. 1998. Why We Do This Anyway ?: Klezmer as Jewish Youth Subculture. Judaism 47: 43-9

Simon  R. 1995. Face to Face with Alterity: Postmodern Jewish Identity and the Eros of Pedagogy. In Pedagogy:  The Question of Impersonation, ed. J. Gallop pp. 90-105. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

*Krawitz, C 2004. A Voice from Within: A Challenge for the Conservative Jewish Movement and its Gay/Lesbian Activists. Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 8 (2004) 165-174.

The Tikkun Community: Core Vision @

Film to be shown in class - Trembling Before G-D. `

Further Reading:

Boyarin J. 1996. The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. In The Narrow Bridge:  Jewish Views on Multiculturalism, ed. M Brettschneider, pp. 207-18. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University 

Ruttenberg D 2001. Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism. New York:  Seal Press.

Elon A, Hyman NM, Waskow A 2000. Trees, Earth and Torah:  A Tu B'Shvat Anthology. Philadelphia:  Jewish Publication Society.

Aleph alliance for Jewish Renewal <>


XIII. Student Presentations of Work in Progress