Centre for Continuing Education

Jewish Culture Course: Crossroads of Jewish History Course

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 seeks to reclaim Jewish history and help you rediscover how Jews were both passively defined and shaped by historical events, and actively engaged in recreating and reinventing Judaism in reaction to these events.

Crossroads encourages you to explore how historical Jewish events have bequeathed enduring understandings of Judaism and Jewish memory on modern Jewish identity. Each lesson explores historical topics of interest paired with Jewish texts.

This course integrates the study of Jewish history, religion, ritual, language, ethics, philosophy, literature, theology and contemporary Jewish life. It is part of the Melton Institute’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.


The aim of this course is to have you understand and recount the important junctures in Jewish history that impact on modern Jewish life and identity.


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

  • describe key junctures in Jewish history, relevant to Jewish memory, identity and destiny
  • use Jewish history as a tool to strengthen your own personal connection to both the past and present
  • identify key themes important to the creation of Jewish memory and identity
  • describe how historical events shapes memory and identity in the Jewish culture and more broadly.


Introduction to the course

  • The memory of crossroads

Introduction to the Biblical Period

  • From tribal society to kingship
  • Destruction of the First Temple to Ezra

Introduction of the 2nd Temple and Rabbinic Periods

  • From Judeans to Jews
  • Internal tensions: Controversies of the Sadducees and the Pharisees
  • Destruction of the 2nd Temple to Bar Kokhba: The making of a diaspora
  • Confrontation with early Christianity
  • Internal and External Disparity between Eretz Yisrael(The Land of Israel) and Bavel (Babylonia)

Introduction to the Medieval Period

  • Confrontation with early Islam
  • Geonim consolidate power
  • Ushering in the age of Ashkenazim and Sephardim
  • Jews on trial
  • The decline and destruction of the Jewish Community in Spain

Introduction to the Early Modern and Modern Periods

  • A community dispersed: finding meaning in mysticism
  • From despair to ecstasy to despair
  • Fighting for the soul of Eastern Europe: Chasidim and Mitnagdim
  • A brave new world: The Modernisation of Judaism
  • The Jewish question is born: political emancipation in Western Europe
  • Responses to political emancipation with religious reformation
  • Answers to the Jewish question: Anti-Semitism and Zionism
  • Exodus from Europe: The immigrant experience in South Africa and the United States
  • The Holocaust
  • The creation of the State of Israel
  • Arab Jewish emigration
  • Answers to the Jewish question: Communism and Anti-Zionism

Introduction to the Contemporary Period

  • The Ethiopian journey: from exodus to integration
  • Claiming a Jewish woman’s voice
  • Religious authority in contemporary Israel
  • A link in the great chain

Intended audience

Suitable for anyone who is interested in learning about Jewish culture, philosophy and history.

Delivery style

This 15-lesson course is delivered as a series of interactive workshops based on class reading of texts (biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern literature and poetry) and 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.

Additional information

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

What others say.

  • Very informative course. Broad areas of topics were covered and well presented by the tutor. I enjoyed the course very much and would like to further my study in Jewish culture and history.

  • Excellent course content and engaging delivery.

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