Teaching

Shaina offers participatory seminars at colleges and universities, high schools, synagogues, libraries, and other adult education programs. Classes range from two sessions to a full semester. Click on the course titles below to read a description of Shaina’s cutting-edge classes:

Explore expressions of Jewish anxiety surrounding Christmas in America. Analyze a legal case, a Grace Paley story, an episode of Frasier, a series of interfaith greeting cards, and an SNL sketch as we discuss how Christmas became a touchstone for American Jewish identity.
Follow the progression of Jewish-American literary generations from the immigrant experience through the great breakthroughs of the postwar literary "masters," culminating in the end of the century's postmodern redefinition of American Jewishness. What makes literature “Jewish”? Who creates the Jewish literary canon and determines its masters; whose literary voices are suppressed? How does Jewish American fiction reflect what it means to be Jewish ethnically, religiously, and culturally in America?
Using Salo Baron’s influential 1923 essay about the “lachrymose conception of Jewish history” as a springboard for discussion, consider the consequences of emancipation. Investigate the gains and losses that accompanied Jewish citizenship in Europe and how historians have approached these issues over the past two centuries.
Locate the origins of secular Jewish expression in the literature, theater, and music of Jewish Eastern Europe and follow these forms to America where they are joined by film, television, and festivals. Explore how these genres engage artists, readers, viewers, listeners and dancers in Jewish expression, in ways once reserved for religious ritual and belief. Examine the genealogies of American Jewish cultural creativity. In what ways have secular Jewish practices become ritualized? How have religious Jews incorporated or resisted secular cultural expression?
“Intermarriage” has been a major point of contention for Jewish communities around the globe for centuries. However, ancient, sacred Jewish texts do not adopt a clear position on the matter: Joseph, Esther, even the great prophet Moses all marry “outside the faith.” This course examines the history of Jewish exogamy (out-marriage) and conversion (to and from Judaism). Film, literature, and other media provide a window into how Jews have condemned, condoned, ignored, or embraced interfaith couples.
Jewish cultures span thousands of years and at least as many villages and urban centers, political ideologies, theologies, rituals, and literatures. Indeed, it is impossible to point to a singular entity called “Jewish Culture.” If we contend that Jewish cultures are so varied, what about these cultures makes them “Jewish”? In this course, explore the variety of Jewish cultures from Jewish societies in antiquity through the contemporary Jewish-American scene. Focus on the theme of “the Other”: how Jewish cultures create themselves by constructing boundaries between themselves and their neighbors, themselves and their historical predecessors.
Beginning with European conceptions of “the Jewish race,” this class centers on Jewish whiteness in the US and the story of how American Jews journeyed from race to religion to ethnicity. Consider political activism and media representation, with an eye toward the Jewish-black alliance. Is there a productive Jewish-black dialogue (or is it a one-side monologue)? How do black Jews negotiate postmodern identity politics?
This course introduces students to the Jewish religion through the cinematic lens. Consider Jewish historical, textual, linguistic, theological, liturgical, and ritual practices as we interrogate the limits and consequences of their onscreen representations. Screenings of American fiction film, documentaries, and television shows pave the way for exploring some of Judaism's key concepts. We ask how the imagery in these films erects boundaries for what qualifies as "Jewish."
Examine the major phenomena that encompass the modern Jewish period, including the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), hasidism, Zionism, socialism, antisemitism, and the construction of a Jewish historical narrative. Look closely at historical documents, historiography, and other media as we consider how Jews define themselves and are defined by others in the modern period.
This course is devoted to an analysis of Jewish imagery in television, film, and on the internet. Examine the multiple meanings behind codes of Jewish (in)visibility often taken for granted by American artists and audiences. Address broader questions in current scholarship: the limits of representation; the formation of stereotypical identities through visual media; and how the status of "otherness" helps shape a national and religious imagery.
Explore Jewish religion through the lens of a single concept, the Sabbath. Consider the origins, history, theology, liturgy, and practice of the Sabbath in Judaism. Using Jewish religious texts, philosophical treatises, ethnographies, fiction, and film, trace the traditions and innovations associated with the rituals surrounding the Sabbath. Consider the Sabbath as a boundary marker: between the sacred and profane, between private and public spaces, between Jew and Christian, and between various types of Jews. Interrogate the possibilities and limits of studying Judaism as a "religion."
Analyze the selected writings (in English translation) of early 20th century Yiddish-American women writers, and their mid-century Jewish feminist successors. In the fiction and poetry of Kadya Molodowsky, Celia Dropkin, Tillie Olsen, and Grace Paley, encounter the immigrant experience from a women’s perspectives. Examine how the writers depart from earlier Jewish literary forms to critique or reiterate prevailing cultural modes and values, and discuss how the work reflects their complex experience as Jews, women, and Americans.

And many more!

Shaina provided the best combination of keen intellect, warm and generous support, honest and insightful criticism, and easy and humorous rapport that one could hope for in a colleague and teacher. She not only demonstrated a vast knowledge of her field but also served as a model for me as to how to educate, engross, and inspire students.”
— Michele L. Waldinger, J.D. 1978, M.A. in Jewish Studies 2010
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