Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture


Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture is an interdisciplinary program which covers history, philosophy, literature, religion, ethics and cultural studies. The major covers two millennia of Jewish Civilisation. You explore the development of the Jewish people from the time of Alexander the Great, experiencing their history, philosophy, literature and ethics. The major focuses on the historical evolution of Judaism, and how Jewish identity has been moulded by key Jewish thinkers and the Jewish historical experience. It traces this experience over five continents Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australia, looking at communities as far flung as the Jews in Kaifeng in China, Spanish Jewry and the history of Jews in Australia. It aims to provide insight into the rich cultural heritage of a small minority and their significant contributions to broader world culture in both the Christian and later Muslim worlds in terms of three basic periods: the Classical (Talmudic and post-Talmudic periods in Palestine, the Middle East and Asia); the Medieval, with a focus on the key centres which developed first in Spain and later in Poland; and finally the Modern Era, with emancipation and the challenges of modernity, the Holocaust, Jewish nationalism and statehood.

There are no foreign language requirements for undergraduate study as all units of study are conducted in English and use texts in English. Study of Hebrew is, however, encouraged in conjunction with JCTC units of study, and a basic knowledge of at least one language associated with the Jewish experience (either Hebrew Classical or Modern, or German) is required for honours and postgraduate study.

Study plan

A major in Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture requires at least 36 senior credit points including 24 credit points from core units of study and of which 6 must be at 3000 level.

Junior units of study (1000 level):
Junior units of study focus on the two interrelated areas of the Jewish experience, through the land of Israel and the Jewish diaspora experience, during and after the period of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE.

These foundational units seek to provide a basic knowledge of the Jewish religion and practice as well as the Jewish historical experience during what we call the ‘Classical Period’. JCTC1001 Palestine: Roman Rule to Islam focuses on Palestine during the Roman rule from the first century BCE until the Muslim conquest in the seventh century. JCTC1002 Jewish Settlement Outside Israel explores the broader Diaspora experience, particularly in Babylon, Egypt and further to the East in India and China.

Senior-intermediate units of study (2000 level):
Senior-intermediate (2000 level) units trace the subsequent historical evolution of the Jewish people, with a particular focus on the European experience.

You first complete two medieval units of study: JCTC2603 ‘Jews Under the Crescent and the Cross’ and JCTC2604 ‘From Expulsion to Regeneration’. These units follow on from the Classical period and explore both the positive developments in Jewish thought and culture, as well as the emergence of Christian antisemitism and the negative Jewish experiences during the Middle Ages. The emergence of the negative Jewish stereotype in Christian Europe, as well as the Jewish responses to persecution from both a practical and theological perspective are crucial to a full understanding of the modern period. Many of the persecutory measures Hitler was able to introduce, for example the Jewish badge, segregation and ghettoization were legacies of the medieval period.

You then undertake three units of study dealing with the modern period to complete the major. The first: JCTC2605 ‘From Emancipation to the Holocaust’ centres on the modern European Jewish experience within the framework of political emancipation and enlightenment. The second: JCTC2606 ‘The Holocaust: History and Aftermath’ focuses on the background, events and aftermath of the Holocaust, one of the major events of the twentieth century. The third unit deals with the emergence of the modern state of Israel: JCTC2607 ‘Israel in the Modern Middle East’.

Senior-advanced units of study (3000 level):
You complete 6 credit points at senior-advanced (3000) level. You have a choice of JCTC3601 'Unravelling the Arab-Israeli Conflict' or EUST3602 'Cultures in Contact.'

Graduate opportunities

Sydney Arts and Social Sciences graduates work in government departments at all levels, and major private sector consultancies and corporations, locally and overseas. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences offers a range of subject areas that prepare graduates for careers in administration, education, business research, marketing, media, management consultancy, public relations, gallery and museum curatorship, hospitality and tourism, community and welfare. Our graduates are proficient in research and inquiry, and demonstrate personal and intellectual autonomy, and ethical, social and professional understanding, qualities sought after by leading employers all over the world.

Further study for major

Eligible candidates may proceed to an Honours year in the Bachelor of Arts, or apply for admission to a rich postgraduate program in the humanities and social sciences, comprising advanced learning and professional courses. Master degrees include capstone projects ranging from internships with government and non-government organisations in Australia and overseas, the gallery and museum sector, and leading media organisations, to opportunities for independent research projects which prepare students for higher degrees by research.

Related subject areas

Hebrew (Classical), Hebrew (Modern), European Studies

Our courses that offer this major