Hebrew Studies and Jewish Studies

About Hebrew Studies

Hebrew was first taught at the University of Melbourne in 1946 and continues to be a significant influence on scholarly thought and the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools and communities throughout Australia. It is the only program in Australia that teaches Hebrew language from beginners to advanced levels and places great emphasis on it as the language of the Bible and the language of modern Israel. Students are able to explore a variety of topics that draw on some of the most comprehensive Hebrew and Jewish archival resources available in Australia.

Study of the language is complemented by subjects that explore Jewish culture, literature and society. Through the study of modern authors and poets, these subjects aim to provide students with knowledge of the language in contemporary contexts and to equip them with skills to undertake critical literary analysis in both Hebrew and English. The program in Jewish Culture and Society maintains formal international arrangements with universities that provide students with the opportunity to complete some of their studies overseas. The program leads to an articulated structure of higher degree study and provides graduates with highly valued and transferable skills in their vocational pursuits.

Hebrew is one of the major languages belonging to the family of Semitic languages which also includes Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Ugaritic, Edomitic, Arabic, and Phoenician. It is one of the oldest languages in the world, having been spoken from about 1200 BCE to the present day in Israel. It has had an enormous impact on Western culture most particularly through what is commonly called the Old Testament but otherwise known as the Tanach or Hebrew Scriptures.

About Jewish Studies

The Jewish studies program offers an unparalleled opportunity to study the development of Jewish civilisation from its origins to the contemporary world. Jewish studies investigates the history, literature, archaeology, philosophy, ethnography and social theory of Jewish society and culture. Students are encouraged to engage in contemporary debates about ethnicity and identity, assimilation, exile and Diaspora cultures. Students benefit from the interdisciplinary breadth and the opportunity to combine this with options in Hebrew language study. Jewish studies is conducted in a dynamic environment by dedicated teaching staff who are able to draw on the resources of one of the country’s leading history programs.

The Jewish Studies Program has links with the History program and the Classics and Archaeology program in the University. A full three-year sequence is available that does not involve language work, though Modern Hebrew is available at all year levels. Students are urged to acquire proficiency in Hebrew early in their course – Hebrew 1B standard is a prerequisite for honours.

As part of their second or third year in Jewish Studies students can include courses completed at an accredited overseas university – eg the Rothberg School for Overseas Students of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, The Tel-Aviv University and the Oxford one-year program in Jewish Studies. These institutions offer a wide range of courses in Jewish Studies.