Welcome to the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies!

The department offers a rich teaching and learning program from absolute beginners to PhD. We offer four undergraduate majors: Biblical Studies, which offers the opportunity to master methods for understanding how the biblical texts communicated their message in their ancient historical contexts; Classical Hebrew, the language of the Bible and other ancient sources like the Dead Sea Scrolls, which includes the teaching of the ancient Semitic languages of Aramaic and Syriac (we are the only department in Australia to offer a full program in Classical Hebrew); Modern Hebrew, expanding on Hebrew's various historical manifestations while facilitating and nurturing learning "language in use", and covering issues of contemporary Israeli society and culture; and Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture, an interdisciplinary program that aims to provide insight into the rich cultural heritage of a the Jewish people and their significant contributions to broader world culture in both the Christian and later Muslim worlds.

Our Hebrew (both Classical and Modern) units cater for students at different entry points and develop high levels of linguistic skills. Classical and Biblical Hebrew will introduce you to the thought world of the Bible as you read biblical and other texts from the ancient world like the Dead Sea Scrolls in the original language. In Modern Hebrew, you will speak, read and write in Hebrew as a way of learning the language. Our Jewish Civilisation and Holocaust Studies will introduce you to the most representative intellectual movements and thinkers from Post-Biblical times, through the Middle Ages to the present.

Your studies at the University of Sydney can be usefully complemented by attending a semester through official exchange in one of our partner universities in Israel, in Jerusalem Haifa and Tel Aviv, including scholarship assistance at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

We have an outstanding graduate program with a significant number of doctoral students and a general Masters degree as well as a Masters in Holocaust Studies taught jointly with the Department of History. As well, the department is a partner in the Master of Museum and Heritage Studies

For students considering a future in teaching the Hebrew language, the Faculty of Education at the University of Sydney offers a teacher education program focussing on teaching language at both primary and secondary levels.

The teaching and learning programs offered through the department are sustained by a number of generous benefactors: The Malka Einhorn Lectureship in Modern Hebrew and support from the Roth Foundation.

History of the Hebrew Biblical and Jewish Studies department

The Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies was founded in 1945 as the Department of Semitic Studies, headed by Evan MacLaurin until his retirement in 1978. During this period, the department developed programs in Classical Hebrew and Arabic along with other ancient Semitic languages such as Aramaic and Ugaritic. Both Modern and Mishnaic Hebrew were taught as options within the Classical Hebrew program. Upon Professor MacLaurin’s retirement, Professor Emeritus Rifaat Ebied served as Foundation Professor of Semitic Studies and was Department Head until the appointment of the late Professor Emeritus Alan Crown, who, until his retirement in 1997, served as Head of Department as well as a personal chair.
Following the creation of separate schools in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in January 2003, the Department of Semitic Studies separated into


Arabic Language and Cultures and Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies within the then School of Languages and Cultures. After being housed in the main quadrangle for a quarter of a century, the department moved into Brennan MacCallum in June 2004. In 2011, the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning offering Jewish thought and culture courses began operating through the department and CCE.

The department is fortunate to have received some generous benefactions, including the Roth Foundation. The late Stefan and Felicia Einhorn Fund supports the entire Modern Hebrew Program, one full-time lectureship in Classical Hebrew/Biblical Studies as well as casual teaching in these areas, and casual teaching in Jewish Civilisation. In addition, the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund supports student and academic exchange between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Mandelbaum House, the Jewish residential college at the University of Sydney, opened in 1995, provides support for the department’s postgraduate programs.