Spring 2018

Jews at Amherst

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-270


Wendy H. Bergoffen (Section 01)


This research-intensive course focuses on the history of Jewish experience at Amherst College.  Founded in 1821 as an institution for the “education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry,” the college motto remains:  Terras Irradient, “let them enlighten the lands.”  Throughout the semester, we will ask:  What did it mean for Jewish men—and later, women—to choose Amherst College?  What was the quality of their experience once they arrived?  What (if anything) distinguished their experience from other students?  Course units will offer an historical overview of Jewish experience in higher education in the last hundred years.  We will focus on the era of quotas, when Jewish students were excluded from elite schools; the proliferation and influence of Menorah Societies; the rise of Jewish fraternities; the radicalism of the 1960s; and the role of Hillel.  This background will help us discern the ways Amherst Jewish experience aligns with or deviates from larger trends in American Jewish history. Over 75 Jewish alumni have shared their stories in written accounts.  In additional to these valuable narratives, we will work with a range of primary materials in the Amherst College Archives; statistical data from the Office of Institutional Research; and materials from college periodicals and published accounts.  Students will draw from these resources to produce a final essay of deeply researched institutional history.

Students are encouraged to contact the professor prior to enrolling.

Limited to 15 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 2018