SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

R150 Introduction to Judaism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/23
15 credits (0.5 unit)
Year of study:
Year 1

This course provides an introduction to Judaism for those with no or little previous knowledge of the subject. It is organised thematically, each session exploring a crucial aspect of Jewish history, literature, and religion. An interdisciplinary, cultural studies approach will be taken, introducing students to a variety of methodologies (e.g., history, philology, sociology, gender studies) and research topics. Judaism is not limited to religion but comprises the entire historical and cultural experience of Jews from antiquity to modernity, in both the Land of Israel and the Diaspora, with a focus on Europe and the U.S. Starting with the Hebrew Bible, the foundation document of Jews as a distinct ethnic group with its own history and religion, course sessions will explore topics such as the significance of Jerusalem, the development of synagogues and rabbis, as well as experiences such as migration, immigration, assimilation, racism, and multicultural identities. The last sessions will deal with daily life issues such as the role of gender, the significance of the family, and Jewish ritual practices. Sessions will explore the pluralism within Judaism and the porous boundaries between Jewish and other cultures in the historical, political, and geographical contexts Jews lived in.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

To become familiarized with key aspects of:

  • Jewish religion and religious practice.
  • Jewish history, with special emphasis on Judaism and Judaic literature.
  • Jewish thought, philosophy, and mysticism.
  • Divisions and movements within Judaism today.

To gain awareness of:

  • The importance of Judaism within the context of world religions.
  • Issues confronting Judaism in the modern world,
  • Academic approaches to Judaism in the field of Jewish Studies.
  • To read and appreciate samples of Jewish religious texts, in English translation.

Method of assessment

  • One essay (1500 words) (40%)
  • One 2 hour exam (40%)
  • One 20-minute oral presentation (10%)
  • Class participation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Solomon, Norman (2000) Judaism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • De Lange, Nicholas (2003) Judaism, 2nd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules