Undergraduate Courses in Jewish Studies, including the Biblical World


Courses in Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester are offered in a number of subject areas, particularly Middle Eastern Studies and Religions and Theology. Not all courses are available every year. Here is a provisional list of course units (available in the academic year 2019-2020, units are subject to change in subsequent years). 


MEST10042: The History and Sociopolitics of Palestine/Israel (1882-1967) - Dr Moshe Behar

This course unit provides an introduction to causes, consequences and controversies associated with the emergence, development and consolidation of the conflict in Palestine/Israel from 1882 until the 1967 war. Emphasis is placed on both the socio-political and diplomatic aspects of the conflict. This is a Year 1 course.  As such, it assumes no knowledge about the topic; students who for whatever reason happen to be somewhat knowledgeable about the topic may find this fact fortunate or unfortunate – but this course is geared entirely toward those new to the subject.


RELT10191: Introduction to Judaism - Prof Alex Samely 

The course will define Judaism as a religious system based on Torah, with two main aspects - beliefs and practices. The concept of Torah will be analysed, and the methods of Jewish hermeneutics (Midrash), by which Torah is applied to changing historical circumstances, explained. The basic creed of Judaism - its fundamental beliefs about God, the world, humankind, the people of Israel, and history - will be explored, as they are expressed in Jewish law, Jewish mysticism, Jewish ethics and Jewish philosophy. The major practices and rituals of Judaism will be considered, especially those which involve the sanctification of time, space and persons. The role of religious symbolism in Judaism will be analysed, particularly as it is expressed through art, architecture and religious artefacts. This account of the broad structure of Judaism will be set within a historical overview of Judaism from Biblical to modern times, which will identify the major events, developments and figures. Factors which have created diversity (history, geography and ideology) will be examined and an account given of the major modern varieties of Judaism - Orthodoxy, Reform and Conservatism. The course will conclude with a demographic and statistical overview of Judaism today, and with a consideration of some of the major issues which currently exercise the Jewish community (e.g. assimilation and loss of identity, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the State of Israel, and the status of women).

ULHE1000: Beginners Modern Hebrew Language - Ms Sigal Altman

This course is for absolute beginners of Hebrew. It aims to provide students with basic knowledge of Hebrew grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Further it also aims to provide students with writing, oral and comprehension skills in the Hebrew language, through a range of written, communicative and practical exercises. The focus is on accuracy as well as communication. Students will be expected to use the range of resources available to them in the Language Centre and to communicate with native speakers wherever possible, in order to develop cultural competence.

 Related 1st year course units (includes Jewish component):

MEST10092: Cultures of the Middle East and North Aftrica – Prof Zahia Salhi 

The study of the cultures of the Middle East and Africa (MENA) is the main focus of this course. Starting with a set of lectures on the meaning of culture and an insight into the specificity of the region in terms of land, people and their social customs, the course will then focus on the MENA family and will examine gender roles in both the public and private spheres, the role of patriarchy in shaping gender roles and family ties, and the region’s never ending dilemma of struggling between tradition and modernity. Other topics include marriage as a site of cultural celebrations, New year celebrations with case studies from Israel (Rosh Hashanah) and Iran (Nowruz); Male circumcision as practiced in the MENA according to Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions; the celebrations of Muslim religious festivals including the Mawlid (Prophet Mohammed’s birthday) and the Hajj will also be studied with a focus on how local cultures shape up religious practice. 

MEST10711: History and Politics of the Middle East and North AfricaProf Zahia Salhi 

This is an introductory course on the History and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, with sections devoted to geography, history, politics, economics, society, religion, gender, literature, arts, and cinema. Two principal thematic questions generally run throughout the course, linking its various sections. They are: “What, if anything, is distinctive and exceptional about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?” and “How has the MENA changed during the modern age?” To better understand these issues the course provides a theoretical framework through the study of the work of Edward Said including Orientalism and Covering Islam.Students will be introduced to the use of a range of sources relating to the History and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, including reference and survey works, studies of particular subjects, and internet resources. The principal objective of this module is to lay the foundations for a deeper study of the Middle East and North Africa while facilitating acquisition of intellectual and personal transferable skills.

RELT10311: Introduction to the Study of Religion and TheologyDr Holly Morse

This course will introduce students to key concepts in the study of Religions and Theology through an examination of a range of religious figures across traditions. The first weeks of the course introduce key theoretical elements to the study of religion, as well as providing a grounding in important academic skills. Subsequent lectures examine significant themes such as religion and politics, religious conversion, suffering, and the idea of selfhood, through studies of the life and thought of figures including Augustine, Maimonides and Kierkegaard (subject to change each year). Students will have the opportunity to learn about a range of approaches and traditions, and the course is delivered by a number of lecturers, each teaching on their specialist subject.

RELT10712Bible in Ancient and Modern Worlds – Dr Peter Oakes

This unit teaches understanding of the Bible as a collection of texts written in ancient contexts but with continuing impact in contexts today. You will learn skills in interpreting biblical texts in relation to other ancient texts, as well as skills in evaluating present-day uses of the Bible. The course covers key examples of texts from both the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. You will not need knowledge of Hebrew or Greek to study the course.

RELT10242: Religion, Ethics and the Environment - Dr Kamran Karimullah

Scientists have declared that we have entered a new geological era, the anthropocene. For the first time, humans are causing profound changes to long-term geological processes—including climate change and mass extinction. Humans have always thought hard about the ethics of their relationships with animals and with the cosmos, but the crisis has forced them to think in new ways. This course will look at the resources religious traditions provide for thinking about ethics and the environment. We will examine the ways in which contemporary thinkers have variously applied, adapted and revolutionised those resources. And we will also ask to what extent religious ethics might have been to blame for the crisis, as some have alleged, and how useful it is to analyse environmentalism as a secular form of religious ethics.


(1st and 3rd year students may be allowed to take one 2nd year course)

ULHE3000: Intermediate Modern Hebrew Language - Ms Sigal Altman

This is a lower intermediate level language course which teaches the skills of reception (reading and listening), production (speaking and writing) in the target language and mediation between the target language and English (translation and interpretation).

RELT20140: Biblical HebrewJustin Daneshmand

This course is designed to train you in reading Biblical Hebrew fluently and to familiarise you with the ins and outs of Biblical Hebrew grammar. During our weekly classes you will be taught aspects of that grammar systematically. In class and through self-study, you will have the opportunity (1) to practise your knowledge through grammatical and translation exercises and (2) to apply it through reading, translating and grammatically analysing simple texts written in Biblical Hebrew style as well as some easy (and to some extent simplified) portions from the Hebrew Bible, such as narrative ones from Genesis. The basic book for the course is Lily Kahn’s excellent and attractive The Routledge Introductory Course in Biblical Hebrew (London, 2014). By the end of the course you will be ready for an advanced course in Biblical Hebrew in which you will be trained to read the Hebrew Bible independently, applying and deepening your knowledge of its syntax and grammar.

RELT20651: Jewish Philosophy and Ethics - Prof Alex Samely 

The course introduces students to the philosophical study of the Jewish religious and non-religious tradition from historical and contemporary points of view. We ask: What are some of the philosophical concepts that have been used to understand the personal God of history whom the Hebrew Bible presents? What role does embodiment and gendering play for the divine figure and for humans? How can one understand as revelation a fixed text, the Hebrew Bible, whose meaning appears to change over time? What can one make of the idea of a creator God giving specific commandments to one people, and how is that connected to an ethics relevant to all humanity? In what sense is there a historical or religious identity of the Jewish people and what does it mean today, in particular after the Holocaust? What is the relationship between the validity of philosophical arguments on the one hand, and arguments from authority or revelation on the other?

RELT21022Ethical Issues and the Bible - Dr Todd Klutz

This Second Level course unit is designed to consider a range of texts from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (especially the teaching of Jesus) that raise significant ethical issues, including war and violence, justice and peace, gender, marriage and family life, wealth and poverty, ecology. In addition to exploring the nature of the ethical systems assumed in the biblical materials, the unit encourages critical evaluation of those systems from a range of different moral perspectives, including virtue ethics and ethical naturalism. Evidence for the existence of not merely a single theory of ethics (e.g., ‘divine command ethics’) in ancient Israel and her literature but a plurality and blending of moral theories is considered throughout the course unit. 

MEST20272: Themes in the Histories of Arab and Jewish Nationalism - Dr Moshe Behar

This course examines key questions and themes pertaining to the consolidation of collective identifies in the 20th Century Middle East. How do collective identities come into existence? How do nations emerge (or disintegrate)? What best accounts for the development of nations: ideology, the economy, societal transformation, politics, cultural formation or technological change? This course examines these and other key questions and themes pertaining to the consolidation of collective identities in the 20th Century Middle East while utilising theoretical studies that focus on additional regions. As such, the course explores the emergence and consolidation of collective identities on competing bases (such as ethnicity, language, region, class, religion, etc.)

 Related 2nd year course units (includes Jewish component):

RELT20121: Religion, Culture and GenderDr Katja Stuerzenhofecker

This course aims to evaluate shifting attitudes towards the nature of gender identity, roles and relationships in Western societies and religious traditions as practiced in the West. Emphasis will be placed on the interaction between religion, culture and gender, focusing especially on how the academic study of religion, and Western religious traditions themselves, have responded to changing gender positions and performances. The course will introduce different theoretical perspectives on gender identities, e.g. social constructionism, feminist and womanist theologies, and explore their relationship with contemporary social and political movements concerned with gender inequalities. While exploring several religious traditions, the unit will specifically identify how Jewish and Christian religious traditions have responded to the experiences of women and men in society. There will also be an opportunity to assess how contemporary images and representations of women and men in media, literature and popular culture reflect theoretical debates in the academy.

MEST20352Women and Gender in the Middle East and North AfricaProf Zahia Salhi 

As well as challenging prevailing stereotypes about the women of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as passive victims of their cultures and religions, this course will give students the opportunity to gain in depth understanding of women and gender in MENA. The course covers the history of MENA women in the context of Islam, Eastern Christianity and Judaism.  It examines gender inequalities, polygamy, veiling, adultery, the patriarchal family, property rights and violence against women.  It also studies the emergence of Middle Eastern and North African feminisms and the interplay between socio-economic forces, nationalist processes of modernity and women's political ambitions. In the light of the recent uprisings in the region the course looks into women in the aftermath of the so-called ‘Arab springs’ and the prospects of change in MENA societies.

SALC21132All about Eve: Encountering the First Woman from Antiquity to Today – Dr Holly Morse

From the Bible to the billboard, Eve has been shaping Western thinking on sin, sexuality and gender for over three thousand years. This level 2 unit offers a wide-ranging examination of the evolution of Eve, the first woman of the Bible, from antiquity to modernity in Judaism, Christianity, and secular culture. By the end of this course you will have a broad knowledge of the myriad afterlives of Eve in theology, literature, art, and popular culture and the implications these interpretations have had for the developments of concepts of “woman” and human nature in the West. Topics will include ‘Goddess in the Garden – Eve in the Ancient Near East’, ‘Pandora’s Pal: Eve’s Early Evolution to Femme Fatale’, ‘Tripping Up: Gnostic Interpretations of Eve’s Fall into Knowledge’, ‘Original Sinner: Gendering Sin in the Middle Ages’ ‘The First Woman Question: Eve and the Querelle des Femmes’, ‘Imagining Eve: Painting the Fall’ and ‘New World, New Woman: Eve at the Movies’ (subject to change each year). Students on this module will have the opportunity to examine the interpretation of Genesis 1—4 in a considerable breadth of primary and secondary sources, examining theological and literary texts, as well as the visual arts and popular culture. 


(2nd year students may be allowed one 3rd year course)

ULHE2000: Pre-Intermediate Modern Hebrew Language - Ms Sigal Altman

This courses aims to further develop the linguistic skills in the language for those who have successfully completed ULHE3000. It lays emphasis on developing speaking, listening and reading skills , but equally places emphasis on grammar and on written accuracy. The focus is on accuracy as well as communication. Students will be expected to use the range of resources available to them in the Language Centre and to communicate with native speakers wherever possible, in order to develop cultural competence.

GERM30481Screening the Holocaust Dr Cathy Gelbin

This course unit will examine the filmic treatment of the Nazi atrocities from the late 1940s to the present. Tracing the ongoing debates around appropriate modes of Holocaust representation, we will examine the major political and aesthetic issues at stake in feature film and documentary. In so doing, we will consider film’s potential to convey the personal dimension of the Holocaust together with art’s ethical implications in the face of atrocity. Starting with Eastern Bloc cinema’s pioneering of central modes of Holocaust representation in the first two postwar decades, we will consider the changing portrayals of politics, race, gender and sexuality in Holocaust film throughout the decades. We will then turn our attention to the impact of the Holocaust on the postwar generations. The study of German film in its international context will afford a comparative view of Holocaust film as a transnational body of works.

RELT30380Biblical Hebrew Texts II – Dr Holly Morse

This course is designed to make you fully capable of translating and grammatically (and to some extent exegetically) analysing any portion from the Hebrew Bible independently. Starting from the biblical text you will use dictionaries and grammars to translate and comment on a number of selected passages. In total we will read about ten chapters from the Hebrew Bible together, a combination of texts chosen from the Torah, Prophets and Writings. Depending on the personal interest of the students we might also read a few selected passages from a rabbinic source, such as Mishnah Avot (the “Chapters of the Fathers”). By the end of the course, you will have acquired a deep knowledge of Biblical Hebrew syntax and grammar and be able to appreciate the issues involved in translating and interpreting an ancient text, and to assess varied text-traditions. This course unit is only open to students who have successfully completed an appropriate beginners’ course in Hebrew.

RELT30331: Holocaust TheologyProf Daniel Langton

This course will survey a number of theological responses to the Holocaust, with Jewish and Christian writers. It will explore the differing ways that their religious concepts, beliefs, principles and practice have been effected by the theological challenge of the Holocaust, which has undoubtedly brought about a wide-spread crisis of identity and meaning for many religious thinkers. Among other areas of interest, it will consider the wider context of Jewish-Christian relations (in particular Christian anti-Judaism), the debate surrounding the phenomenon of Jewish self-definition in terms of the Holocaust, and the future of Holocaust theology itself.

RELT30711: Women and Gender in the Biblical World - Dr Holly Morse

This course, which assumes no previous knowledge of biblical literature or languages, offers an introduction to the characterisation of women in the biblical world will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to engage in critical examination of the key issues concerning the biblical representation of women’s social and religious roles in biblical literature, and to frame these within their wider historical context. Topics covered include: gendering the divine; marriage and motherhood; female sexuality; gender, power and authority; ancient Israelite women’s religion. Students will also be familiarised with relevant secondary literature, allowing them to contextualise their study of primary materials within contemporary scholarly debate. 

MEST30722: Historical controversies in the Study of Israel/PalestineDr Moshe Behar

This class critically surveys the following themes: “Israeli Inter-generational Conflict?”; “Historical Inquiry and Israel’s Collective Memory”; “Israel: Democracy, Ethnic Democracy or ‘Ethnocracy’?”; “Jewish and Democratic State: Built-in Structural Tension?”; “Arab Citizenship in a Jewish State”; “Sephardim/Mizrahim in Israel” and “The Politics of Land Ownership.

Related 3rd year course units (includes Jewish component):

HIST31842: War, Memory and Politics of Commemoration in Eastern EuropeEwa Ochman

The legacies of World War II and the Holocaust are particularly enduring in Eastern Europe. It is not surprising, therefore, that memories of the war have been shaping domestic and international relations in much of Eastern Europe since the demise of the Soviet Bloc. The war memories have been used to promote narratives of independent nationhood, to frame discourses about internal and external security and to justify new aspirations for the future. This course explores war memory and commemoration after the fall of communism to probe the connection between collective memory and national identity in the context of a rapid transformation of society. Students will consider how the memory of past events contributes to the formation of new identities in turbulent times.