COVID-19: Essential Information

Robert S. Schine

Curt C. and Else Silberman Professor of Jewish Studies

Professor of Religion

 work(802) 443-5151
 Munroe Hall 211

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; 2nd edition, 2020) and of Hermann Cohen, Spinoza on State and Religion, Judaism and Christianity, an annotated translation, with introduction, of Cohen’s 1915 essay (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). He written  articles on Cohen, on the Hebrew writer Hayyim Nahman Bialik and 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 and of the Religion 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. 6.2020



Course List: 

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

FYSE 1384 - 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 2016

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FYSE 1455 - 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 2019

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HEBR 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
Approval required.

Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

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INTD 0210 / EDST 0210 - Sophomore Seminar/Liberal Arts      

Sophomore Seminar in the Liberal Arts
The current pandemic, and all the questions it brings to the fore about what we value in a college experience, make this an ideal moment to consider the meaning and purpose of your liberal arts education. At the heart of this exploration will be a question posed by physicist Arthur Zajonc: “How do we find our own authentic way to an undivided life where meaning and purpose are tightly interwoven with intellect and action, where compassion and care are infused with insight and knowledge?” We will examine how, at this pivotal moment of decision making, you can understand your college career as an act of “cultivating humanity” and how you can meaningfully challenge yourself to take ownership of your intellectual and personal development. Through interdisciplinary and multicultural exploration, drawing from education studies and philosophical, religious, and literary texts, we will engage our course questions by way of student-led discussion, written reflection, and personal, experiential learning practices. In this way we will examine how a liberal arts education might foster the cultivation of an ‘undivided’ life, “the good life”, a life well-lived. (The course is open to sophomores and second semester first-year students. Juniors by permission only.) CMP

Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

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RELI 0160 / JWST 0160 - Jewish Traditions      

Jewish Traditions
“Traditions” are not static, but a constant interplay between continuity and creativity. What do classical Jewish texts (Bible, Rabbinic literature) tell us about Judaism’s origins? How have the core concepts and practices of Judaism morphed into a cluster of traditions that has endured over two millennia? With these questions in mind, we will study central ideas in Jewish thought, rituals, and their transformations, culminating in individual projects involving the investigation a contemporary movement, congregation or trend in contemporary Jewish life, e.g. Reform, Reconstructionism, mystical (neo-Kabbalistic) revivals, or “secular” Judaism. 3 hrs. lect./disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2018

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RELI 0261 / JWST 0261 - Jewish Thought: Modern Era      

What is Jewish Thought? The Modern Era
What’s left of religion once reason is done with it? This is the question posed by the Enlightenment and confronted by the major Jewish thinkers we study in this course. Some become champions of Enlightenment reason; others later react against it. Is Judaism actually a rational religion after all-universal, but endowed with a particular identity by its practices and ceremonies (per Moses Mendelssohn)? Or is it unique because of its ethical monotheism (per Hermann Cohen)? Is it essentially a national identity (per Zionism)? As Jewish thinkers face challenges to received tradition, what exactly is the task of Jewish thought? 3 hrs. lect/disc EUR PHL

Spring 2020

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RELI 0280 / JWST 0280 - Hebrew Bible /Old Testament      

Studies in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
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. (Seniors by waiver) 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. HIS PHL

Spring 2019

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RELI 0362 / JWST 0362 - 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 MDE PHL

Spring 2017, Spring 2019

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RELI 0388 - 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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RELI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Winter 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021

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RELI 0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Winter 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021

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RELI 0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Winter 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021

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RELI 1073 / PHIL 1073 - Spinoza’s Book Forged in Hell      

Spinoza's "Book Forged in Hell": The Theological-Political Treatise
What is the role of religion in a modern state? When religious freedoms collide with state interests, which should prevail? Spinoza rejected the authority of religion and the divine origin of Scripture, thus laying the groundwork for modern Biblical criticism and championing the separation of religion and state. A contemporary denounced the Treatise as “a book forged in hell.” We begin with a close reading of the Treatise, followed by selections from his Ethics, and consider Spinoza’s long legacy: the rise of secularism, the origins of Biblical criticism, and the reasons why Spinoza has been called “the first modern Jew.” EUR PHL WTR

Winter 2017, Winter 2019

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Department of Religion

Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753