Centre for Continuing Education

People of the Book Course: A People Apart?

Jewish Culture. Learn about Jewish Culture with us.

Learn about Jewish culture the smart way with Jewish Culture courses at CCE, The University of Sydney.

In partnership with the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & 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 Jillian Fine on 0410 497 870 or email.

‘Behold it is a People dwelling apart, not counting Itself among the Nations’ (Numbers 23:9). These famous lines, uttered by the prophet Balaam, have long been the subject of scholarly and more popular debate. Is the ‘uniqueness’ of Israel a blessing or a curse? How and why have the Jews retained their distinctiveness over their turbulent history and why has this difference generated such debate both within and without Jewish communities? Through maintaining their distinct culture in the countless habitations the Jewish people have made significant contributions to other cultures and traditions. At the same time, they have often been persecuted by those who viewed this difference negatively. This one-day course will address these questions through exploring Balaam’s statement as both an ancient descriptor and a contemporary dilemma: a springboard into the complex and compelling history of the Jewish people. Taught by experts from Sydney University’s Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, together with Mandelbaum scholar, Professor Dan Michman, from Yad Vashem, the day also includes sampling of kosher delicacies both ancient and modern, and a tour of the Australian Jewish History section of the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Sacred Space: A Chosen Land for a Chosen People

Rabbi Dr Ari Lobel

By the end of this session participants will:

  1. Understand the textual basis for the relationship between the Jewish nation and both the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
  2. Gain insight into how these texts have been interpreted in Rabbinic literature.
  3. Discuss the philosophical implications of the choice of a specific land, city and mountain (i.e. Temple mount).
  4. Explore the impact that this relationship to the Holy Land and City has had throughout Jewish History on all areas of Jewish life, including its impact on the formation and ongoing development of the modern State of Israel.

Chosenness: Privilege or Responsibility?

Dr Avril Alba

By the end of this session participants will:

  1. Understand the textual basis for the derivation of the concept of ‘Chosenness’.
  2. Gain insight into how these texts have been interpreted throughout Jewish history.
  3. Explore whether the concept of Chosenness' implies an increased status or an increased responsibility.
  4. Reflect on contemporary interpretations of this ancient idea.

Hebrew- a common language for a common nationhood

Yona Gilead

By the end of this session participants will:

  1. Acquire an understanding of the ways both European and Jewish nationalism impacted on the revival of Modern Hebrew.
  2. Appreciate the role George Eliot’s Novel Daniel Deronda (1876) played on Eliezer Ben Yehuda.
  3. Discuss the impetus for the revival of Hebrew: did it emerge from a desire to be similar to, or different from, other nations?

Particularism and Universalism: Post-1943 Interpretations of the Holocaust

Professor Dan Michman


  1. Historical events do not have an intrinsic “meaning” as such: they are invested with “meaning” in real-time and later pending a variety of factors and lenses.
  2. “The Holocaust” has been interpreted in a variety of ways, but the most apparent ones are the “Particularist” (Zionist, religious) and Universalist (Genocide, human rights).
  3. These apparently opposing interpretations develop already during the Holocaust and immediately afterwards.
  4. What sub-variants of both directions appear towards the end of the 20th century? (Post-Zionism, the “Third Partner”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies).

Australian Jewish History – a tour of the ground floor of the museum

Professor Suzanne Rutland

By the end of this session participants will:

  1. Gain an overview of Jewish life in Australia from the time of the First Fleet.
  2. Come to understand Australian reactions to Jewish refugees from Nazism, post-war survivors and ongoing repercussions.
  3. Gain an understanding of the contributions Jews have made to Australian society, despite their small numbers.

Course suitable for

This course is suitable for anyone who is interested in learning about Jewish culture and history.

Other Information

  1. Registration is at 9:30AM
  2. Lunch, morning and afternoon tea will be provided


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion