Last year I co-taught a class called “Wealth: Religious Approaches” and ran a related workshop, “Jewish Approaches to Wealth and Poverty.” I am now preparing the sources presented at the workshop for publication and will be teaching a new course based on these previous forays, called “Jews and Money.” I had originally intended this course to be more about the religious texts, their approach to economic issues, and what we all might be able to learn from them. As I worked on the course, though, I found myself entangled in a far more complex set of issues. The result is this syllabus, for which I have the following blurb:
In the West, there has always been a complicated relationship between Jews and money. On the one hand, Jews have disproportionately prospered in many places where they were given equal economic and political rights. On the other, though, economic success was often accompanied by more virulent anti-Semitism. In the first part of this course we will examine, both theoretically and empirically, the complex relationship between Jews, capitalism, socialism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism. In the second part of the course we will return to the one aspect of the “cultural capital” that is sometimes said to have helped Jews to prosper: their religious tradition. In this part we will examine traditional Jewish religious teachings on wealth and poverty in their historical contexts both to flesh out some of the issues raised in the first part of the course and, more importantly, to provide a fresh set of intellectual resources for considering our own approach to these issues in modern America.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Should you desire an editable copy in Word email me.