Honoring Feminist Histories, Finding Ways Forward
Who is this course for?
This online course was made for participants whose work blends social justice, education, and religion and spirituality. It is particularly helpful to K-12 theology and religious studies teachers, inter-faith leaders and ministers, diversity and inclusion coordinators, and activists. It is designed to illuminate the historical and contemporary complexities of how racism and antisemitism are entangled. Readings are distinctly interdisciplinary: they also prioritize women's history of building coalitions and pressing into interconnections across difference.
Contact us directly for tuition fees, book lists, and further details. There is open enrollment for Spring registration. Classes are offered both 1:1 or in small groups of 2–4 people. Stand-alone workshops drawing on aspects of course materials are also available for larger groups (up to 12 people).
How long is the course?
The 12 Modules take between 3-4 months to complete depending on the participants choice of pacing with the material.
What do participants receive?
12 modules of interdisciplinary readings
22 recorded scholarly lectures on the readings (15-20 minutes each)
6, 90-minute customized class sessions (over Skype)
ongoing email support from the instructor throughout the course
pedagogical training in how to teach these materials to others, including trauma-informed and contemplative teaching practices
Since the 2016 election, there has been a rising wave of antisemitic and racist hatred that has occurred with the rise of white nationalism under a Trump presidency. Concurrently, within the national Women’s March, there are continued painful conflicts around understanding both antisemitism and racism and the ways in which different histories press on one another.
But what if we took these challenges not as an invitation to give up on one another, but rather to understand that these impasses are a symptom of how our education system, by and large, has not taught us to understand these critical intersections of history? This course weaves religious and theological studies with feminist texts and histories of coalition building. Through this interdisciplinary approach to social justice questions, we find expansive tools to address contemporary concerns.
The course material was carefully designed to offer sustained study across a range of academic areas often not read together—including ethnic studies, Black studies, Jewish cultural studies, theological studies, and feminist studies.
Writers like Barbara Smith, A.J. Levine, Adrienne Rich, Ella Shohat, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Laura Levitt, Jonathan Boyarin, and Carol Conaway will help us hold space for listening more deeply across history. Participants will have the privilege of benefiting from the tools of transformation that feminist thinkers have labored so hard to offer these critical conversations.
The Approach to Learning
1:1 classes and small group classes meet over Skype.
Small class size allows for greater customization of the course materials and for the class sessions to best support how each learner wishes to apply their course of study to their vocational path. We especially focus on using this study to foster leadership skills. The course's rigor will help you teach and lead others through complex topics.
But the design of this course is also about more than just scholarly engagement. Rather, this path of rigorous textual study and holistic contemplation is a holding space for transformations, creativity, and embodied knowledge to emerge and be supported. Our goal is to practice learning methods that connect mind, body, heart, and spirit. Our greatest intention is to send ripples of healing from a place of depth, anchored to a spirit of interconnection across history and communities.
Key Questions of the Course
How are both antisemitism and modern racism the violent products of a form of patriarchal Christianity wedded to state political power?
What is historically distinct about antisemitism from other forms of modern racism?
What are the connections between a long history of Christian theological anti-Jewishness and racial forms of antisemitism that emerged in “secular” contexts? (“Secular” is in quotes because the power structures were still dominated by Christian cultural dominance.)
How do communities come together and stand with one another against these injustices? What have feminist attempts at building coalitions looked like in the past? How were they generative amidst conflict and impasse? And why is this history of women's relational labor across communities so often overlooked in how we tell the stories of historical change?
If all injustice is linked, what does that mean for how we practice presence with one another as we try dismantle the very conditions that allow communities to come to be so divided?
In our study, we approach antisemitism and racism as entwined realities that take shape in distinct historical moments, geographies, and structures of power. In other words, neither are “transhistorical”—these structures exist in the specifics of concrete histories in concrete places, and our job is to engage these histories with more knowledge and nuance while asking questions about the contemporary moment we are living.
Application for Educators
For those who are in-service teachers taking this course, we will grapple deeply with difference and how to represent and engage difference in the classroom. For example, if violence and power enact oppression through formations of sites of difference made into hierarchies (race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, ability/disability, religion, nation, etc.), how can we build pedagogical strategies to resist these forms of objectification? Said another way, how do we teach about antisemitism and racism in such a way that our classrooms are yet creating space to celebrate the lives and communities of Jews, Black folks, and people of color?
Teaching about people targeted by state and structural violence also raises ethical and pedagogical questions on how we are representing the fullness and richness of people’s lives, communities, histories, and identities. No person should ever be reduced to just being represented as a target of violence, even when we seek to name how power and violence work on people’s lives.
Being attentive to these issues of representation helps us counter the objectifying effects of violence. The course also borrows from theories of trauma in order to consider how teachers can teach from a place of trauma-informed and healing pedagogies.
Application for Activist Spaces/Social Movements
Our current activist discourse, as especially exemplified by social media conversations, show us that we often do not even have the language to heal impasse and move toward deeper engagements of one another’s histories.
For example, the call for intersectionality in the national Women’s March reveals important needs for deeper recognition of Jewish identities, but it can also reveal how Black feminist work is drawn upon yet often not read in in-depth ways. So, as part of our work, we will explore what the concepts of "interlocked systems" and "intersectionality" have meant for Black feminist studies. We will consider the original contexts in which these terms were used to talk about race, gender, and class; we will also consider the extent to which these descriptions can or should be utilized to understand contexts beyond their original usage. For instance, Kimberlé Crenshaw has explained how the popular word "intersectionality" (which she coined in 1989) becomes "gentrified" when it is no longer used to refer to Black women and women of color's experiences.
While taking her concern for the gentrification of the term seriously, we will pursue together a lexicon of terms and evolving concepts to theorize how identity and difference are lived within intersecting systems, with specific attention to Jewishness and also the experiences of Jews of color (while noting that “white Jews” and “Jews of color” are phrases created in particular historical moments, places, and structural and political conditions).
We will turn especially to feminist histories and theologies of building coalitions as we explore how honoring difference also helps us understand deep interconnections. We will give specific attention to analyzing how antisemitism is built into white supremacy and forms of Christian political dominance woven into empire, while asking: What can we do to dismantle these entwined forms of violence? What traditions in our own religious histories support inter-faith coalition building? How can our communities work together amidst religious, racial, and ethnic difference in order to work for change and healing?