Further information on Fall 2018 courses


Esam Aal & Rafi Dworsky: People of the Book


Course schedule (subject to revision):

First Week: The Jewish Liturgical Year:  Music of Prayer and Ritual (Dworsky)

Jewish rituals and prayers are expressed through chants and melodies.  Rafi will describe the procession of holidays through the year and demonstrate the chants and melodies that identify each liturgical moment down to time of day, special days of the week or month, different festivals and holidays of the year, weddings, funerals, and the High Holidays: The New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Suggested reading:

The Torah: The Five Books of Moses
        See: Genesis, Chapter 1, Verses 1-5
                Leviticus, Chapter 19, Verses 1-18, especially verse 18
• Ouaknin, Marc-Alain, Symbols of Judaism (Barnes and Noble, 2003)
• Wiesel, Elie, A Passover Haggadah
Fiddler on the Roof

Second week: Islam 101 (Aal)

  • God (Allah)
  • The prophet/Messenger (Mohamed)
  • The Scripture/Quran and Hadeeths
  • The five tenets of the faith
  • The essence of the faith
  • Terminology: Sharia, Sunni vs. Shai, Jihad, ……

Suggested reading:

  • Abou El Fadl, Khaled, Speaking in God’s Name.  One World Publications 2001
  • Armstrong, Karen, A Short History.  Modern Library 2002
  • Aslan, Reza, No God But God.  2011
  • Barlas, Asma, Believing Women in Islam-Unreading Patriarchal Interpretation of the Quran.  2002
  • Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.  Harvard 2002
  • Lavoie, Louis, Anger in the East: Historic Sources of Muslim Discontent (lavoielouis6@hotmail.com)
  • Menocal, Maria Rosa, The Ornament of the World.  Little Brown 2002
  • Mernissi, Fatima, Islam and Democracy-The Fear of the Modern World.  1993
  • Mojaddadi, Jawid, The Masnavi-Book 1-6.  Oxford World Classics
  • Naser, Sayyed, Hossein, Ideas and Realities of Islam.  1972
  • Nasr, Vali,  The Shia Revival.  W. Norton & Co. 2006
  • Qureshi, Nabeel, Answering Jihad.  2016
  • Ramadan, Tariq, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation 2008
  • Warrick, Joby, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS.  2016
  • Wills, Garry, What Quran Meant And Why It Matters.  2016

Third week: History of Islam (Louis Lavoie, guest speaker)

A summary history of Islam and Islamic societies, and contrary to common notion, Islam was almost never propagated by the sword. Conversion and the spread of Islam were most often due to the good example of Muslims, social convenience or commercial advantage. Among Muslims leading exemplary lives were the Sufis appearing in the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia shortly after its conquest including the role Sufis played bringing Islam to the indigenous people who eventually account for more than half the world’s Muslims.

Louis Lavoie is a retired defense analyst with lifelong interest in the Islamic culture. He has traveled the Middle East from Algeria to Iraq. Mr. Lavoie is the author of Tides of History: A review of three historic Tides that have helped Shape the 20th Century and Anger in the east: Historic Sources of Muslim discontent.

Fourth week: Muslims vs. Jews – Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  (Aal & Dworsky)

Many Jews throughout the world view the establishment of the State of Israel as redemption and a just reward for the suffering, persecution, and slaughter of the Jewish people over the centuries, for example, during the Crusades, the pogroms in Russia and elsewhere, and the torture and slaughter of over six million Jews throughout Europe in World War II.  World Muslims view the establishment of the State of Israel as a catastrophe for the Palestinians and as a blow dealt to them by the international community, particularly in the West.  The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been central to the Muslims’ discontent, not only in the Middle East, but in the entire Islamic world.  The instructors will present how Arabs and Jews view the conflict and how it has impacted the Middle East and, frankly, the world, for the last 70 years, that is, since the United Nations voted to grant statehood to the Jewish state.

Suggested reading (Aal):

  • Ashrawi, Hanan, This Side of Peace.  1996
  • Darwish, Mahmoud, “A Butterfly Burden” (Poetry)
  • Ellis, Deborah, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak.
  • Elon, Amos, The Israelis: Founders and Sons.
  • Hass, Richard, A World in disarray. (Penguin).
  • Mearshimer, Stephen & Walt, John, “The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy.”  2006
  • Morris, Benny, “Righteous Victims”: A History of the Zionist-Arab conflict.
  • Peppe, Ilan, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
  • Said, Edward, The Question of Palestine.
  • Shulman, David, “Israel & Palestine: Breaking the Silence.” (The New York Review, Feb, 2011)
  • White, Ben, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.
  • Waxman, Dov, Trouble in the Tribe.
  • Ya’ Avi, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising-Third Front.

Suggested reading (Dworsky):

  • Genesis, Chapter 17; Chapter 18, verses 1-15; Chapter 21; Chapter 22, verses 1-19.
  • Arendt, Hannah, Zionism Reconsidered (in the compendium by the same name: Zionism Reconsidered: The Problem of Jewish Nationalism and Normalcy – Dissenting Views)
  • Grossman, David, The Yellow Wind (1988)
  • Rodinson, Maxime, Israel: A Colonial Settler State?
  • Malamud, Bernard, The Jewbird (short story)
  • Basisu, Mu’in, Descent Into the Water: Palestinian Notes from Arab Exile
  • Wiesel, Elie, Night (see especially Chapter 4)
  • Katz, Jacob, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times
  • Browning, Christopher R., Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
  • Said, Edward, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the World
  • Carter, Jimmy, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
  • Kosinski, Jerzy, The Painted Bird
  • Kuznetsov, A. Anatoli, Babi Yar (1971)
  • Yevtushenko, Yevgeny, Babi Yar (poem)