SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Jewishness on Screen

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

This course investigates the ways in which Jews as an ethnic group and Judaism as a religion are represented in the mass medium of film. Since ethnic, cultural, and religious aspects are linked in definitions of Jewish identity, they need to be examined together rather than separately. We shall analyse and compare feature films and documentaries produced in Israel, Britain, and the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. For each thematic unit one film will be the central focus of discussion, while other films addressing similar issues will provide comparative material. We shall analyse the films in the particular political, social, and cultural contexts in which they were produced and investigate their underlying ideologies and perceptions of Jews/Judaism. It will also be necessary to understand the represented practices from the perspective of Jewish Studies, that is, on the background of their historical development. Therefore the course has two related goals: (1) to familiarise students with Judaism on the basis of its representation in films and (2) to provide an ideology-critical examination of the ways in which a particular and yet diverse  religious and ethnic group is represented in the mass medium of film.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • the skill of critically analysing the ways in which Jews and Judaism are represented in the medium of film;
  • awareness of the ideological, political, and economic processes which govern the representation of Jews and Judaism in film; .
  • understanding of the historical background and religious and cultural context of the Jewish religious practices and ideas represented in films;
  • knowledge of the history of representation of Jews and Judaism in film;
  • the ability to distinguish between different geographical contexts (UK, US, Israel) of representing Jews in film;
  • knowledge of critical discourse related to Jews/Judaism and the media;
  • ability to trace common themes and motives;
  • ability to compare films of different time periods and cultural contexts with regard to their representation of Jews and Judaism;
  • understandinq of broader issues and themes underlying the cinematic representations (e.g. History and Fiction; Jews as Survivors and Victims; Israel and America as Mirror Images; Nature, Technology, and Art; Gender issues, Antisemitism ,and Multiculturalism);
  • acquisition of a knowledge of film theory (how to read the cinematic frame, the relationship between form and content, mise-en-scene, montage etc.)
  • development of advanced analytical skills that can-be transferred to other media and topics as well.


A two hour lecture and one hour seminar each week.

Method of assessment

One essay - 4000 words (worth 80%);  one class presentation (worth 20%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules