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    An introduction to Judaism in the modern world, with emphasis on contemporary issues and debates.

    Although there are only 14 million Jews worldwide, Judaism is the precursor of both Christianity and Islam and has played a significant role in the cultures of Europe, the Middle East and the US. This paper focuses on modern Judaism, as it developed over the last two centuries, so as to understand the beliefs and practices of contemporary Jews.

    We will consider questions such as: why are there disagreements between different Jewish sects or movements, including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaisms? What is the Ultra-Orthodox movement, and are they 'fundamentalists'? What do Jews mean when they claim to be the Chosen People? What are Jewish beliefs about a coming Messiah in the end times? How does Judaism treat women? What is Jewish mysticism - Hasidism and Kabbalah? Why has antisemitism arisen in Europe and in Christianity, and how did it result in persecutions and the Holocaust? How did Zionism - the movement to establish a modern state of Israel - arise, and what are the religious dimensions of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? Can we say that Israel is a secular state, as it sometimes claims? This paper provides an introduction to the academic study of a social group that challenges the boundaries of religion, politics and culture. No background in religion is required.

    About this paper

    Paper title Special Topic: Zionists, Fundamentalists and Liberals: Jews in the Modern World
    Subject Religious Studies
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    18 200-level RELS or RELX points
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Theology
    May not be credited together with RELS230 when taken with the same content.

    Dr Deane Galbraith

    Teaching staff

    Course co-ordinator: Professor Will Sweetman
    Lecturer: Dr Deane Galbraith

    Teaching Arrangements

    10%-Online short-answer tests (2 x 5%)
    15%-Critical response to news article
    50%-Final examination


    Textbooks are not required for this paper.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to:

    • describe and distinguish various modern forms of Judaism, their origins, practices, beliefs, and constructions of identity (scholarship, global perspective, interdisciplinary perspective)
    • understand various critical methods as applied to Judaic studies, their applicability to its subfields and their relative strengths and weaknesses (interdisciplinary perspective, critical thinking)
    • understand and evaluate opposing viewpoints on select issues and debates within modern Judaism (scholarship, critical thinking, ethics)
    • write clear, persuasive, critical and knowledgeable essays on contemporary topics and debates within Judaic studies (communication)
    • articulate the strengths and weaknesses of positions within Judaic studies (interdisciplinary perspective, critical thinking)
    • relate developments in various contemporary forms of Judaism to the demands and challenges of modernity (scholarship, critical thinking, ethics)
    • assess the limitations and contingencies of the category of religion as it is employed within Judaic studies (scholarship, critical thinking)


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system
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