Centre for Continuing Education

Jewish Culture Course: Holy Days, Festivities and Religious Practice

Jewish culture. Learn about Jewish culture with us.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

In partnership with the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
Course materials developed by The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning - a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For specific enquiries regarding the program, please contact Hinda Young on 0432 567 917.

This course examines a wide variety of Jewish sources to explore the deeper concepts underlying Jewish holidays, lifecycle observances, and Jewish practice. We will seek to understand the contexts, texts, and axioms behind these rituals in order to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish ways to mark and sanctify time.

This course is part of the Melton’s signature core curriculum which provides a sophisticated, comprehensive and pluralistic approach to understanding Judaism.

The core curriculum comprises a sequential series of text-based lessons comprising of four courses: Holy Days, Festivities and Religious Practice; The Purpose of Life; Crossroads of Jewish History; and The Ethics of Jewish Living. Each course invites adults to delve into Jewish living, memory and wisdom.

As with the other core units, Holy Days, Festivities and Religious Practice integrates the study of Jewish history, religion, ritual, language, ethics, philosophy, literature, theology and contemporary Jewish life.


This course aims to introduce the festivals and life cycle events underpinning Jewish life and beliefs, and explore the ideas they contain and convey.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • interpret the Jewish calendar and identify and understand the significance of the major holy days, their origins and contemporary expressions
  • identify life-cycle rituals in Judaism and recognise and analyse the multiple and varied interpretations of their practice and meaning
  • develop an understanding that Judaism is a way of life, which affects everyday practices that have religious and cultural expressions
  • discuss the primary sources of Jewish literacy – the Torah (The Five Books of Moses) the first component of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and Rabbinic literature
  • distinguish between the positions of the major Jewish thinkers on selected topics.


This course examines the Jewish calendar and Judaism’s major holy days, their origins and contemporary expressions as well as Jewish life-cycle events. It explains that Judaism is a way of life guiding everyday practices and is informed by major Jewish texts and the writings of key Jewish thinkers.

Specific topics covered are:

Introduction: A time for every purpose under heaven

  • What is Jewish time?

The Jewish year begins

  • Introducing the Jewish calendar
  • Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year)
  • Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
  • Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
  • Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah)

Day-to-day Jewish living

  • Jewish reminders and symbols
  • Beit HaKnesset (Synagogue)
  • Berakhot (Blessings)
  • Tefillah (Prayer) and Tzedakah (Charity)
  • Shabbat (The Sabbath) and its messages
  • Shabbat and its observance
  • Laws and customs of Kosher observance

Rabbinic innovations and Jewish holy days

  • Chanukah (Rededication of the 2nd temple)
  • Purim (The Jewish people saved in ancient Persia)
  • Tu B’shvat (New Year for Trees)

Rites of passage

  • Birth and Berit
  • Bar and Bat Mitzvah
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Mikveh
  • Rituals of death and burial
  • Rituals of mourning
  • Conversion and adoption

Formative national moments

  • Pesach (Passover)
  • The Pesach Seder
  • Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and Tisha B’Av (Annual day of fasting and mourning)
  • Yom HaZikaron (Israel National Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israel Independence Day)
  • Shavuot (Feast of Weeks)

Concluding lesson

  • Reflecting on the rhythms of Jewish life

Intended audience

Intended for anyone interested in learning about Jewish culture and festivals through the study of key Jewish texts.

Delivery style

This 15-week course is delivered as a series of interactive workshops based on a class reading of texts (biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern literature and poetry). It also involves discussion between participants and the facilitator.


A course booklet is available in two formats:

  1. Complimentary online booklet (PDF) accessible via an online portal.
  2. Printed booklet (additional fee of $24) available for purchase here. Your booklet will be available to collect at the first or second class, depending on the date of purchase.

Recommended reading

You are required to bring your own Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) to class. Any version of the Old Testament is acceptable.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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