Robert S. Schine

Curt C. and Else Silberman Professor of Jewish Studies

Professor of Religion

 Tuesdays 1:30-3:00; and Thursdays 2:45-4:15
 Munroe Hall 309

Professor Schine teaches Jewish Studies, with courses encompassing the history of Jewish thought, especially from the Enlightenment on, the history of Zionism, and also Hebrew Bible and Classical Hebrew.

In his scholarship Professor Schine focuses on German-Jewish thought and culture.  He is the author of Jewish Thought Adrift: Max Wiener 1882-1950 (Scholars Press, 1992) and of Hermann Cohen, Spinoza on State and Religion, Judaism and Christianity, an annotated translation, with introduction, of Cohen’s 1915 monograph (Shalem Press, Jerusalem, 2014).  He is also co-editor, with Samuel Moyn, of an anthology of translations, Hermann Cohen: Judaism and Neo-Kantian Philosophy (forthcoming, Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought, Brandeis/University Press of New England). Among other essays and articles, he has also written on the early history of Jewish life in rural New York and Vermont, collaborating on an exhibit on the history of the Jews at the Slate Valley Museum (ongoing). Research for the exhibit led to the discovery, in the American Jewish Archives, of the earliest "Minutes Book" of a Jewish congregation in Vermont, shedding light on the social and economic conditions and the language of Vermont's early Jews. Professor Schine's study, "'Members of this Book': The Pinkas of Vermont's First Jewish Congregation," appeared in The American Jewish Archives Journal (2008).

A member of the Middlebury faculty since 1985, he is the first holder of the Curt C. and Else Silberman Chair in Jewish Studies.  From 1997 to 2004, he served in the academic administration, first as Dean of Faculty and then as Vice Provost.  From 2005 to 2011 he was Head of Brainerd Commons, one of the College's five residential Commons.  He has also served as chair of the Classics Department, as Director of Middle East Studies and as the first Director of the Program in Jewish Studies.  He holds degrees from Kenyon College (BA, Religious Studies), the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg (MA, Major in Philosophy, Minor in Classics) and the Graduate School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (PhD, Jewish Philosophy).


rev. 11.2015



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

CLAS0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
(Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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CLAS0505 - Ind Senior Project      

(Approval Required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

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CLAS0700 - Sr Essay Classics/Cy      

Senior Essay for Classics/Classical Studies Majors
(Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

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FYSE1384 - Reading the Book of Job      

Reading the Book of Job
Why do the innocent suffer? Why do we want to believe that the world is “fair” and “ordered”? The Book of Job asked these questions millennia ago. Framed by a prose tale about the “patience of Job,” with a happy ending, the core of the book is a debate in poetry, between an impatient Job and his “friends”, with no satisfactory ending at all. We will study the book itself and its retellings and interpretations through novels, poetry, drama, philosophy and art, including works by Kafka, Camus, William Blake, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, and Robert Frost. 3 hrs. sem. CW PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2016

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FYSE1455 - Teachers and Students      

Teachers and Students, Ancient to Modern
Hillel used to say, “The shy one cannot learn, and the impatient one cannot teach.” Confucius said: “If I lift up one corner and the student can't come back with the other three, I won't do it again." Cultures ancient and modern have reflected on the responsibilities of teachers and students, grappling with what constitutes an effective teacher or a successful student. What are the virtues—and perils—of discipleship? Of charisma? Should a teacher be gentle or forceful? Strict or lenient? Are teachers creators or conduits of tradition? In this seminar we will explore these questions in a range of historical periods and places, using film, literature, religious, and philosophical texts. Texts will include the Bible, Analects, and writings by Plato, Rousseau, and Helen Keller; films will include Dead Poet’s Society. 3 hrs. sem. CW PHL

Fall 2015

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HEBR0101 - Beginning Classical Hebrew I      

Beginning Classical Hebrew I
The goal of the Hebrew sequence is to develop students' ability to read the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) and later Hebrew literature. An introduction to classical Hebrew, this course presupposes nothing, begins with mastery of the Hebrew alphabet, and leads students through the noun and the basic structure of the Hebrew verbal system. By the end of the course, students will be reading and translating brief biblical narratives with the use of a lexicon. LNG

Winter 2013, Fall 2014

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HEBR0102 - Beginning Classical Hebrew II      

Beginning Classical Hebrew II
This course continues the introductory sequence (HEBR 0101) offered in Winter Term and will conclude by reading a single biblical text such as Jonah or Ruth in its entirety. Selections of biblical poetry and narrative will be read throughout the semester. 3 hrs. lect. LNG

Spring 2013

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HEBR0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
Approval required.

Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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INTD0210 / EDST0210 - Sophomore Seminar/Liberal Arts      

Sophomore Seminar in the Liberal Arts
This course is designed for sophomores who are interested in exploring the meaning and the purpose of a liberal arts education. To frame this investigation, we will use the question "What is the good life and how shall I live it?" Through an interdisciplinary and multicultural array of readings and films we will engage our course question through intellectual discussion, written reflection, and personal practice. There will be significant opportunities for public speaking and oral presentation, as well as regular writing assignments, including a formal poster presentation. Readings will include reflections on a liberal arts education in the U.S. (Emerson, Brann, Nussbaum, Oakeshott, Ladsen-Billings, bell hooks); on "the good life" (excerpts from Aristotle, sacred texts of different traditions); on social science analyses of contemporary life; texts on the neuroscience of happiness; as well as literary and cinematic representations of lives well-lived. CMP (J. Miller-Lane; P. Zupan) CMP

Fall 2016

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INTD1156 - Jewish Humor: No Joke      

Jewish Humor: No Joke!
What makes jokes funny? How do jokes connect with the absurd? How do jokes ameliorate hardship? Is “Jewish humor” distinct from other forms? How? In this course we will investigate Jewish humor, ranging from the Bible to Yiddish writers, its function in the face of persecution (even the Holocaust), and its role in contemporary America and Israel. In addition to studying and enjoying Jewish jokes in literature, film, websites, and other sources, we will consider theories of humor, including Sigmund Freud’s famous essay on jokes, Henri Bergson’s Laughter, and Ted Cohen’s Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. The course will emphasize oral presentation. CMP WTR

Winter 2015

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LITS0710 - Senior Honors Essay      

Senior Honors Essay
(Approval Required)

Fall 2014

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RELI0160 / JWST0160 - The Jewish Tradition      

The Jewish Tradition
How did monotheism emerge in the ancient Middle East? What did God command the Jews to do? (And when God spoke, were they already Jews?) How did they transform this message into a tradition that has endured over two millennia? In this course we will study the tension between preservation and innovation in the Jewish tradition by exploring ritual, practice, classical texts, and their interpretations: Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, medieval philosophy (Maimonides), poetry (Halevi), and mysticism (Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah). 3 hrs. lect./disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2015

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RELI0161 - Making of Modern Jewish Life      

The Making of Modern Jewish Life
Jewish life in the 21st century is radically transformed from a century ago. We will explore these transformations through the thinkers, movements, and events that have shaped Jewish life in our day: the emergence of religious denominations in Europe and North America (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist), the revival of Kabbalah in our times, the Holocaust as a crisis in religious thought, the eruption of Zionism and founding of the State of Israel, the transformations brought about by the changing role of women, and finally, post-denominationalism and "the un-Jewish Jew." 3 hrs. lect. PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2015

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RELI0165 - Cultures of the Jews      

Cultures of the Jews
Judaism is more than a religion, but how? We will seek to answer this question by studying Jewish life as a global phenomenon encompassing varieties in custom, gender roles, family and communal structure, language, music, literature, and art. We will range across the major divisions of Jewish culture in Europe (Ashkenazic and Sephardic), to Jewish life in the Middle East, and follow the diffusion of these cultures as far as China and India. Readings include translations from a variety of languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino), and genres including memoir, ethnography, poetry, philosophy, and scripture. 3 hrs. lect/disc. CMP PHL

Fall 2014

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RELI0264 / JWST0264 - Jewish-Christian Interactions      

Conflict and Identity: Jewish-Christian Interactions
“Urging a Jew to convert to Christianity is like advising a person to move upstairs while demolishing the ground floor.” This quip by Moses Mendelssohn epitomizes Christianity’s conflicted attitude to its Jewish origin, affirming it while rejecting it. Yet the relationship is not symmetrical, for the very reason that Judaism precedes Christianity. In this course we will examine the troubled history of the relationship between Christians and Jews from antiquity to the present. Readings include Church Fathers, rabbinic texts, medieval polemics, law codes regulating Jewish-Christian interactions (particularly governing food and table fellowship) and modern interfaith dialogue. 3 hrs. lect./disc. EUR HIS PHL

Spring 2016

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RELI0280 / JWST0280 - Hebrew Bible /Old Testament      

Studies in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament WT
Studies in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is an introductory course that focuses on a major religious text in the Western tradition. We will closely read diverse selections from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings in English translation; no familiarity with the Bible or background is presumed. Special attention will be paid to matters of genre and methods of modern biblical scholarship, as well as Jewish and Christian traditions of interpretation. 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. HIS PHL

Spring 2016

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RELI0362 - Religion and Nationalism      

Religion and Nationalism – Israel and Palestine
How do Palestinian and Jewish nationalisms compare? Are they “simply” national movements? Are they secular or religious movements? Is Zionism a European colonial enterprise, a manifestation of “Orientalism” and racism, or a Jewish response to these phenomena? We will study the development of Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms, with attention to religion, political ideology, and to competing and contradictory versions of history. Course materials will include readings by major proponents and critics of both Palestinian and Jewish nationalism, debates on historiography, memoir, and film. Will include debate simulations. Fulfils requirements for MES Major and JWST Minor. 3 hrs. sem. AAL HIS PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0388 - Job and the Problem of Evil      

The Book of Job and the Problem of Evil
Why do the innocent suffer? The Book of Job asked this question millennia ago, giving not an explicit answer, but at least a response. Framed by a prose tale on the patient Job, the book is mainly a debate in poetry between an impatient Job and his “friends” that has continued to our day, in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought, and in philosophy. We will study the debate on the meaning of Job in philosophy and religion through the works of Maimonides, Kant, Hume, Voltaire, William Blake, Jung, and others. Familiarity with Biblical studies or philosophy of religion is helpful, but not required. 3 hrs. sem.  PHL

Spring 2017

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RELI0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI1073 / PHIL1073 - Religion Enlightenment      

“A Book Forged in Hell”: Religion, Enlightenment and Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise*
What is the role of religion in a modern state? When citizens’ religious freedoms collide with state interests, which should prevail? In his Theological-Political Treatise, Spinoza rejected the divine origin of scripture and the authority of religion and set the stage for modern textual criticism. He championed the separation of religion and state and laid the groundwork for modern secularism. One reviewer denounced the Treatise as “a book forged in hell.” We begin with a close reading of the Treatise and then consider Spinoza’s long legacy: the rise of liberalism and secularism, the origins of modern Biblical criticism, and the reasons why Spinoza has been called “the first modern Jew.” EUR PHL WTR

Winter 2017

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Department of Religion

Munroe Hall
427 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753