Spring 2017

Jews at Amherst

Listed in: , as COLQ-242


Wendy H. Bergoffen (Section 01)


The history of Jews at elite colleges and universities appears in a number of recent studies.  This Mellon research seminar focuses on Jews at Amherst College.  Its subject poses the unique challenge of trying to research the identity and experience of individuals whose Jewishness may not have been known or visible.  That Jews can be identified in multiple ways—including religion, sense of peoplehood, shared history, and/or language—raises an important question:  what methodologies are best suited for researching Jewish life at Amherst?  To generate analytic models, we will read works that examine the implications of admissions policies, fraternity participation, and class dynamics for Jewish students, especially those attending elite institutions; they offer frameworks for studying changes in institutional culture.  A goal of the seminar is to develop research strategies for recovering the identities of Jews in the past.  To this end, students will learn how to interpret archival materials and situate them in the contexts of Amherst College history, local history, educational history, and American Jewish history.  Students will work extensively in the Amherst College Archives and gather data from the College’s Office of Institutional Research.  Additionally, we will ask to what degree Jewish experience has differed from the experience of other groups on campus, thereby conceiving our subject as part of a larger study of inclusion at Amherst College.

This course is part of a new model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty.  It is open to sophomores and juniors interested in research.

 Limited to six students.  Spring semester.  Lecturer Bergoffen.

If Overenrolled: The professor will seek a mix of academic backgrounds and knowledge


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Research, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017