Introduction to Arabic as a Jewish Language
Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis
This course is offered as a tribute to the legacy of Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer. Dr. Goldhamer earned a PhD in Medieval Philosophy from the University of Chicago. During my 13 years on the faculty of Hebrew Seminary, I enjoyed many conversations with Rabbi on a shared love for the Arabic language. There would be no Judaism as we know it without the formative centuries under Islamic rule and in the Arabic culture. For some 1,200 years Arabic speaking Jews and their civilizations across 3,000 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean North Africa and deep into the Middle East, have been some of the major centers of Jewish life. From Saadia al Fayoumi in Cairo in the Geonic era into the early Modern era, Arab Judaism was the center of all Jewish life. There would be no siddur, no Halakha, none of the great medieval philosophers and much more in Jewish life. Further afield, there likely would have been no Renaissance, certainly not in the form it took, without Arab speaking Jews acting as translators through Europe’s Dark Ages. Goals of the class: – To be able to decode Arabic in order to use Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew dictionaries and follow the comparative linguistic analysis. – To begin to become aware of the pre-eminent Arab influence on the formation of Judaism from Sa’adia at the end of the 9th century thru the end of Moorish rule in the Maghreb and Andalus at the end of the 15th century and the continued flourishing of Arabic speaking Jewish communities to the mid-20th century. – To become familiar with key works written in Arabic or Hebrew by Arabic-speaking Jews including Ibn Maimoun (Maimonides).
Textbooks: Alif Baa for Arabic reading – Readings as assigned.
Cost is $150 to audit and $750 for Rabbinic students.