Assignment: For your final paper, you will write an essay on one Jewish ritual.

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Assignment: For your final paper, you will write an essay on one Jewish ritual. You are
welcome to explore any topic that we have covered this semester (or, with my permission, you
can choose to write about a ritual that we didn’t cover). If you choose the DIY option (see below
Part II, then you must write about either Shabbat or the laws of Kashrut. Otherwise, you are
welcome to choose any Jewish ritual you want (including the one that you presented on earlier in
the semester
Part I: The origins + significance of the ritual [4-5 pages, double spaced, 60%]
First, you will begin by explaining the historical origin and significance of the ritual. For
instance, if you were writing a paper on shabbat, you would start with the story of creation,
followed by a discussion of the commandment to honor the Sabbath. Then you might add in
some sources (Talmudic or later commentaries) that discuss the significance of the Sabbath.
You must include specific details about 1 object that is necessary for your ritual practice.
Perhaps that is a pair of candlesticks (for shabbat) or the spice box (also shabbat) or a dreidel
(channukah), a yad (for the Torah), a seder plate (for Passover) etc.
Some questions to consider as you write:
What is the earliest text that describes this ritual? Is it the Bible? If so, which chapter(s)
+ verse(s)? In what context is it mentioned (is it part of a story like God creating the
world? Or is it in a list of laws/commandments?
Is there a discussion about this ritual in later textual sources? In the Talmud? In recent
commentaries? Is this a more recent tradition?
Do all the biblical and rabbinical sources agree about the ritual / its significance /
function? Or do they conflict with one another?
How is the object used in the ritual? Why does one need it? What role does it play? Can
the ritual be done without it? Where should this object be kept when it is not in use? Or
is it always in use? Must it look one certain way?
Part I: The lived experience of the ritual [2-3 pages, double spaced, 30% of your gradel
For the second part of the paper, you will focus on how the ritual is observed. To do this, you
must choose one of the following options:
Historical: Contrast the modern ritual with the way in which the ritual observed in an
earlier period (ancient, medieval, early modern, etc.). Or, if you are a history buff, you
can also compare the ritual in two historical time periods.
Denominational differences: Contrast how two Jewish denominations observe the ritual.
For example, how does the ritual vary between Reform and Orthodox Jewish
communities or between Modern Orthodox and Lubavitch Communities?
Communal differences: Contrast global variations in the ritual. Many of you are from
have family in other countries; this is a great opportunity to find out how your chosen
ritual is celebrated in Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Guyana, etc. Are there regional
particularities? This is also a great way to learn more about important Jewish
communities in India, Morocco, Yemen, Iran (just to name a few) that have distinctive
religious practices.
Gender differences: Men and women have distinct roles in traditional Judaism, but
modernity has forced a reckoning with this binary. How do male and female obligations
traditionally differ? And, how have progressive communities pushed for a more inclusive form of Judaism? Or maybe you are interested in writing about the ways in which wedding / birth rituals been adapted / created for the LGBTQI+ community?
• DIY: Observe the ritual yourself! Learn about keeping Kosher or observing the Sabbath by choosing to observe one or the other (Sabbath from Friday Sundown to Saturday sundown; Kosher for a weekend). Describe what you did (or failed to do) to observe the practice. What objects did you need to fulfill the ritual? How did it go? What did you learn about Judaism by trying to do it? Why did you fail to fully observe the practice, how does a practice shape identity and community?
Conclusions/Reflections: [1 page, double spaced, 10%]
Reflect on what you learned: what did you realize that you still don’t know? Were you were able to empathize with the tradition? What did you learn about the significance of the practice for modern Jewish life? How did (or didn’t) this paper help you to learn about Judaism as a living tradition?
1. Title for your paper (titles are important, so be creative!) – You are not required to
include a title page.
2. Introduction with thesis statement – 1⁄2 page
3. Part I: The origin, significance, and associated object – 3-4 pages with properly formatted citations after any idea or quotation that you gleaned from another source, including our course readings, articles, books, and approved web resources. You do not need to cite notes that you took in class.
4. Part II: The lived experience – 2-3 pages with properly formatted citations after any idea or quotation that you gleaned from another source, including our course readings, articles, books, and approved web resources. You do not need to cite notes that you took in class.
5. Conclusions + Reflections: 1 page
6. Bibliography: including at minimum 5 scholarly sources that you consulted in addition
to those assigned for class.
7. All texts must be proofread, spell-checked, and double-spaced. Please use 12-point Times New Roman font for all your writing (you are all encouraged to make use of the Writing Center – make your appointment soon!)
Grading Rubric: You will be graded on the following:
• Locating and using relevant sources for your research.
• Comprehension of relevant research
• Analysis of what you learned about Judaism
• If applicable: good faith effort to follow the practice for the time required.
• Thoughtfulness of your reflection on your experience
• Writing Skills (clarity, organization, citations, spelling & grammar)
To find sources, check out these helpful resources:
• – This one-stop shop lists books and articles at libraries worldwide. You enter your zip code, and it should provide resources at CUNY and beyond. In general, Worldcat is easier to search than the CCNY library website and it will provide you the call numbers of books housed at CCNY.
• CUNY One Search – This database provides books and articles that are available in CUNY. It is not yet comprehensive. You can limit your search to CCNY.
• – this website provides access to a wide-range of digitized articles (and sometimes books). Access is provided through
• Project MUSE – similar to JStor, this website provides access to a wide-range of digitized articles. Many religion journals are housed on Project MUSE. Access is provided through
**Plagiarism will result in a 0 for the assignment, an F for the class, and you will be
reported to the office of academic integrity.
• Academic Search Complete – claims to be a comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary database, with more than 6,500 full-text periodicals, including more than 6,000 peer- reviewed journals. In addition to full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 10,000 journals. Don’t be fooled by its name. It isn’t actually complete.
• EBSCO eBook Academic Collection – currently counts 175,000 electronic books in its holdings.
In addition to scholarly books and articles that are available online (through the resources mentioned above), these are the ONLY other permissible electronic/web-based resources:
• ArtStor – an impressive online database of images from museums and collections around the world. Be sure to try alternate spellings for a successful search (Channukiyah, Hannukiyah, Hannukiya, Menorah, etc.). Access is provided at CCNY and through the proxy server.
• Oxford Art Online (including Grove Art) (available through and on the computers at the library)
• The Jewish Museum Website and The Israel Museum Website as well as websites for other similar museums worldwide
• Smarthistory, presented by Khan Academy
• Bibliography for the History of Art, hosted by the Getty Research Institute


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