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 2016-2017, units are subject to change in subsequent years). 


MEST10042: The Question of Palestine/Israel (1882-1967) - Dr Moshe Behar

This course unit provides an introduction to causes, consequences and controversies associated with the emergence, develoment 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.

RELT10192: Introduction to Judaism - Prof Alex Samely (TBC)

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).

ULHB10030: Beginners Modern Hebrew Language - Ms Sigal Altman

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

MEST10711: History and Politics of the Middle East and North Aftrica – Prof Zahia Salhi 

 After a general introduction which defines the MENA region in terms of its history and geography, and how the term MENA came to being across critical historical periods which of course determined the geographical boundaries of this region, the course introduces students to the study of ‘Orientalism’ as a theoretical base which will help them make better sense of subsequent lectures.

The course will then move to study MENA society in terms of Gender, Kinship, Ethnicity and Identity. This is followed by an overview of the formation of the modern Middle Eastern state system as well as its economy.  It will look closely into the role of oil in shaping MENA politics and cultures, and discuss the advent of political Islam and Islamic terrorism and their impact on MENA and the globe. This will be followed by a lecture on sectarianism which will shed light on the contemporary conflicts that destabilise the MENA region especially in the aftermath of the Gulf war.
The course will also study the literature, the arts and cinema of this region, and their role in shaping politics besides being political expressions/voices of the MENA people.


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

The course will introduce four prominent and influential thinkers from a range of religious traditions, ranging from Augustine of Hippo to the Sufi poet Rumi and the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. These “classics” within religious studies are intended to introduce you to the problems and key questions in the academic study of religions and theology. The lectures are designed to provide a mix of introductory overview material as well as critical research and essay writing skills. In the seminars you will discuss these questions further in relation to primary texts in order to go into more depth. The seminars are also designed to help you become aware of how your own presuppositions affect how you see the religious practices and beliefs of others, as well as hone your interpersonal and communication skills.

RELT10711Bible 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 Andrew Boakye  

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)

ULHB20010: 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 Hebrew - Justin Daneshmand

To learn the basics of Hebrew, beginning with the alphabet, and to read the Book of Jonah in Hebrew. The course is primarily intended to prepare you to undertake the subsequent study of Hebrew texts, but those who have successfully completed it should be able to consult the Hebrew text of the Bible and make intelligent use of commentaries and other works which presume a basic knowledge of Hebrew.

RELT20652: Jewish Philosophy and Ethics - Prof Alex Samely (TBC)

The course aims to help students engage with the philosophical discourse surrounding the Jewish tradition.  We will examine some key strands in the historical development of “Jewish” philosophy, but also ask what “Jewish” here means; examine key contributions to the development of the contemporary philosophical agenda with regard to Judaism and Jewishness; and study in detail a sample of thinkers of Judaism and Jewishness in English translation, with text selections from the works of Saadia, Maimonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Cohen, Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Ochs and Ross. Students will be encouraged to examine critically philosophical arguments and to develop philosophical questions in response to texts read in the seminars, and in their assessed Essays.

RELT21021: Ethical Issues from Joshua to Jesus - Dr Todd Klutz

This Second Level course unit is designed to consider a range of texts from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the teaching of Jesus according to the New Testament that raise significant ethical issues, including war and violence, justice and peace, gender, marriage and family life, wealth and poverty, ecology.

RELT21881: Religion and Evolution -  Prof Daniel Langton

Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the most controversial and influential ideas of the modern era. For students of religious studies it is important for several reasons. Evolution has been at the centre of an historic conflict between scientific and religious worldviews that continues to this day, it has impacted on both Jewish and Christian modern theologies, and it has given birth to a range of scientific approaches for understanding the nature of religion itself. This course introduces the student to such contentious and ideologically sensitive ideas as Creationism and Intelligent Design, selfish genes, memes, and evolutionary psychology.

MEST20271: Themes in the Histories of Arab and Jewish Nationalism - Dr Moshe Behar

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

RELT20121: Religion, Culture and GenderMs 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.



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

GERM30481Screening the Holocaust Dr Cathy Gelbin

This course unit will examine the filmic treatment of the Nazi atrocities and their memory from the late 1940s through to the present. Tracing the ongoing debates around appropriate modes of Holocaust representation, we will examine the major political, psychological and aesthetic issues at stake in feature film and in documentary and essay films. 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. Among other themes, we will look at the representation of the Holocaust in Hollywood, European, and Israeli cinema, and at issues of gender, sexuality and generation both in the context of the experience and the memory and representation of the Holocaust. Major questions and themes throughout our study of filmic works will include the notion of ‘an event without a witness’, the Holocaust as having breached ‘the limits of representation’, the idea of the Holocaust as 'rupture of civilization', and the proposition of a 'multidirectional memory' in the context of the Holocaust and migration/postcoloniality. We will engage with films and with theoretical texts through a multidisciplinary cultural approach in order to understand the meaning of cultural memory as social knowledge and how such knowledge is represented and produced through film.

RELT30380: Biblical Hebrew Texts - Dr Adrian Curtis and Dr Walter Houston

Genesis 1-3; 2 Samuel 6-7; selected Psalms.

RELT30331: Holocaust TheologyProf Daniel Langton

This unit focuses on the area of modern Jewish and Christian thought known as Holocaust Theology.  Jewish and Christian theologians have both sought to respond to the challenge presented by the radical evil of Holocaust and the suffering it caused.  The course will critically examine many of the key responses to this challenge and seek a deeper understanding of the main issues involved such as: the problem of evil and suffering, theodicy and the nature of evil, the covenant, the use of scripture and the Jewish mystical traditions, and implications for Jewish-Christian relations.

RELT30712: Women and Gender in the Biblical World - Dr Holly Morse

MEST30722: Historical controversies in the Study of Israel/Palestine - Dr 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.

HIST31492: The Holocaust: History, Historiography, Memory - Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus

More and more, the Holocaust is perceived and assessed as one of the seminal event of the 20. Century in Europe. If its consequences were not clearly embraced in the immediate after war, the long shadow of genocide shapes today’s culture and politics. This course aims at presenting some main themes in the growing field of Holocaust studies. Themes will be on the Holocaust itself, its general interpretations, the question of victims, of perpetrators, the technologies of mass killings, but also on the consequences of genocide (justice, memorials, testimonies). It is a history class, with some interdisciplinarity: politics, literature, psychology will also be used in class. When traditional teaching in Holocaust studies separate the Holocaust itself from its aftermath (consequences, representations, cultural studies of the Holocaust), this course module intends to unify the two sides of the topic. Topics are both thematic (such as ‘Jews in Germany from 1933 to 1941’) and transversal (such as ‘Holocaust testimonies’). A specific attention will be dedicated to the digital aspects of Holocaust learning, documentation and memory.

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

HIST30941: Refugees in Modern World History, 1914 to the PresentProf Peter Gatrell

This course unit introduces students to the causes and consequences of global mass population displacement during the twentieth century. It examines crises in 20th century Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, the Far East, and sub-Saharan Africa, and addresses key issues such as forms of external intervention and assistance, refugees’ journeys, the creation and management of refugee camps, and ‘durable solutions’ including repatriation and ‘homecoming’. Some attention is paid to international law and human rights, but more emphasis is placed on the refugee regime more broadly, and to the various ways of conceiving and addressing the ‘refugee problem’ historically. We also consider the visual representation of refugees and displaced persons. Wherever possible, attention is given to refugees’ self-perceptions and their narration of experience. Distinctive features include discussion of the interdisciplinary literature in refugee studies; and the group poster project on a topic of students’ choosing. Includes Jews and Palestinians as refugees; interpretations of displacement, memory books, and ‘home’.