Studying (Jewish) Culture, Understanding Diasporas

Two approaches to be discussed in class this week.

First, the “linguistic model” (a tree…):

Then, a “mind map”:

Ward Shelley's Jewish Diaspora Painted Mindmap

And, finally, a visual approach to Jewish liturgical diversity that combines both models:

Historical Map of Jewish Liturgies (Nusḥaot-Tree-2.4.5)

If it all seems cryptic, it’s because–at least in my view–it has a lot to do with labyrinths…


Jewish Nightlife: A Midterm Collaborative Examination

Jewish Nightlife
Midterm Examination
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For our midterm examination, we will combine a traditional collaborative Jewish learning format (chavruta) with the use of collaborative digital tools. (Take that, #digitalhumanities!).

1. TEAMS: Form teams of 2, to work in “chavruta style” (as discussed in class and posted on the course blog)

2. METHODS: Each team must create one multi-media flash card for each of the 3 topics (choose one in each group, so that at the end you will have produced a total of 3 flash cards), using the Google Apps available to UC Berkeley students via the bConnected suite)

Cultural Identity & Cultural History (multi-dimensional notions of time, space, and language)
– Sephardic
– Ashkenazi
– Jews in the Lands of Islam

Ritual and material culture (ritual performances, texts, objects)
– Simchat Torah
– Prayer Book (Siddur)
– quasi-Hazzan

Music & Sound (in their relationships to cultural identity and to ritual)
– “chant” (Psalmody and Biblical reading)
– “tune”
– para-liturgical

3. CONTENT: Each card must include the following elements:

  1. Two short paragraphs representing different (possibly conflicting) points of view on each of the topics selected
  2. A visual element
  3. A sound (or video) element
  4. Source citations (no specific style requested) for each of the elements above

4. COLLABORATION: Each team must share its flash cards with the instructor (spagnoloacht[at]

A Historical Map of Jewish Liturgical Diversity

Historical Map of Jewish Liturgies (Nusḥaot-Tree-2.4.5)

This map, which was created by Aharon Varady and posted at, is one of the best resources I’ve ever seen describing the rainbow of Jewish identities. Hat tip to its creator for summarizing so much in so little space, and with so much clarity.

We will spend some time in class going over (and over, and over again) this. (But you could try to match its various boxes and threads with your readings this week… then we can get to the music!)