Introduction to Judaism

Unit code : RELT10192
Credit rating : 20
Teaching period(s) : Semester 2

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To explain the main historical characteristics of Judaism, including its “religious” dimension, some of its everyday practices and interactions with other cultural traditions, and the various ways in which the academic discourse can approach Judaism and other cultures. 

Objectives (Learning outcomes)

By the end of this course you should:

1)Know what are the major phases in the historical development of Judaism.
2)Understand both the unity and diversity of Judaism.
3)Understand the major religious concepts of Judaism.
4)Know how Judaism relates to some non-Jewish religions.

  • Distinguish the major phases in the history of Judaism;
  • Explain ways in which there is unity and diversity within Judaism;
  • Name and discuss key concepts together with the main texts and practices in which they find their expression;
  • Say how Judaism has related to other cultures.
  • Discuss various academic approaches to religious traditions
  • Take effective notes during lectures
  • Plan their time effectively
  • Use internet and physical information resources with confidence
  •   communicate clearly in written and oral forms;
  •   participate appropriately in a learning group;
  •   demonstrate an aptitude for independent work
  •   demonstrate self-motivation in the completion of tasks. 



Assessment methods
Renate Smithuis:Unit coordinator
Written exam:50%
Written assignment (inc essay):50%


Free Choice : Yes

Employability Skills

Students will

  • practise skills in the critical analysis of real world situations within a defined range of contexts;
  • demonstrate a high degree of professionalism, including creativity, motivation, accuracy and self management;
  • practise effective expression of ideas, as well as appropriate and accurate communication of information;
  • enhance their ability to recognise different perspectives while assessing critically the evidence for positions and arguments;
  • manage their own professional development, including reflecting on progress and taking appropriate action;
  • improve their ability find, evaluate, synthesize technical information from a variety of sources;
  • gain an awareness of the social and community contexts of the academic field of study.

A full description of this course unit can be found in MyManchester.

Course unit overview

The course introduces students to the academic study of the beliefs and practices of Judaism, as an example of the study of religious cultures more generally. We will address the origins of Judaism in the Hebrew Bible, with its sense of a history and of a God as a gendered person; the notion of Israel as an extended family; and community-oriented notions of holiness, worship and divine commandments. We shall examine discourses of group identity through narrative and law, and the option of “assimiliation”. We shall discuss forms of literary expression, interpretation of Torah, religious leadership, the role of gender, manifestations of mystical experience, anti-Semitism and its effects, and the historical and ongoing responsiveness of Judaism to other cultures. Both religious and non-religious ideas of Jewishness in the 21st century will be considered, including Hasidism, Orthodoxy, Reform, unaffiliated Judaism, religious Zionism and Jewish agnosticism.

Teaching staff
No available data to display.
Lectures - 22 hours
Seminars - 11 hours

Teaching and learning methods

In the lecture the main topics and academic methodologies will be introduced and discussed. Students are expected participate actively during the lectures, which include regular opportunities for discussions and questions. The readings relating to each lecture topic are discussed in the seminar of the week. Students are expected to prepare the lecture materials (available on Blackboard) and the reading in the days before and after the lecture. They will have an opportunity to introduce the compulsory reading at the seminar, and contribute critically to its discussion. The weekly reading assignments therefore require regular work outside classes and in advance of the seminars, including close study of assigned texts, note taking, summarizing or excerpting, as well as the creation of texts in note form. Preparation of the assessed Essay will be guided by formal advice in the lecture and on documents on Blackboard.