University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture

About the major

Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture is an interdisciplinary program which covers history, philosophy, literature, religion, ethics and cultural studies. The major explores two millennia of Jewish Civilisation focussing 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 journey through periods of continuity as well as radical change, including the seismic shifts that the Jews experience as both sovereign and diaspora peoples.

In so doing JCTC provides 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 (and contemporary) 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 recommended for honours and postgraduate study.

Requirements for completion

The Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture major and minor requirements are listed in the Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture unit of study table.

Learning outcomes

No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate understanding of the Jewish people, their culture, religion and history from antiquity to the present.
2 Utilise an explicitly interdisciplinary approach to the study of Jewish history, culture and thought.
3 Demonstrate the skills to access and evaluate primary and secondary sources to conduct research in Jewish Studies.
4 Demonstrate the capability to construct and defend valid arguments employing different methodologies and forms of evidence from Jewish Studies.
5 Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively and openly in cross-cultural and interdisciplinary settings to achieve high quality results.
6 Apply appropriate professional and ethical standards to academic research and inquiry in Jewish Studies.
7 Develop the capacity to engage with situations demanding adaptability, cultural competence and resourcefulness.

Advanced coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies in SLC prepares students to actively engage in the complex and culturally diverse contemporary world. Students will utilise linguistic and methodological skills developed in their previous studies to develop their knowledge of institutions, practices and ideas that permeate different cultures in the local and global context. They will be offered opportunities to participate in projects on translation, acculturation and self-reflexivity and to examine textual and social real-world problems related to topics which include translation, migration studies, cultural diversity and social integration.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Jewish, Civilisation, Thought and Culture advanced coursework units of study page.


A high proportion of students who major in Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture continue to an Honours year.

The honours program allows students to undertake advanced seminars on Jewish thought, practice and history, and write a research thesis on a topic of their choice.

Most students choose a thesis topic within the modern Jewish experience, usually relating to the Holocaust, Israel or Australian Jewry, which are the specialist areas of academics within the Jewish Studies program. You are encouraged to place your Honours thesis within the broader context of Jewish Civilisation and to continue with your language studies during an Honours year. This represents the department’s philosophy of the close connections between language, culture and in the Jewish case the Hebrew language and religious belief and practice. At the higher levels, whether relating to Biblical Studies or Jewish Civilisation, some knowledge of the Hebrew language is considered vital to a full understanding of the Jewish literature and heritage.

Honours admission requirements

Admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Culture with an average of 70% or above is required.

It is desirable but not required for students to have a basic knowledge of at least one language associated with the Jewish experience (either Hebrew Classical or Modern, or German).

Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Jewish, Civilisation, Thought and Culture honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

More information and current contact details for academic coordinators can be found on the Department's website: