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The opportunities to study the Jewish tradition within the NSW Studies in Religion syllabi are rich and varied. In order to help students explore the complexities of Jewish thought and belief, the Sydney Jewish Museum offers a range of programs that can add depth to student learning.
The SJM’s Windows into Judaism program provides students with the opportunity to view primary source materials such as Torah scrolls, texts from the corpus of Jewish oral law and a variety of ritual objects. This interaction with artefacts is coupled with a guided workshop encompassing the Museum’s Judaica displays. Together, these experiences give students insight into Judaism’s rich and varied history as well as insight into its continuing relevance as a living religious tradition. This program has relevance to Stages 4, 5 & 6 of the NSW religion syllabi and can be catered to suit individual class requirements.
A Living Tradition provides a more advanced insight into how Jewish law maintains its relevance through time. Students will increase their understanding of concepts such as the Covenant as exemplified in the giving of the commandments at Sinai and participate in a case study on how the Covenant has been interpreted in different Jewish denominations. Students will gain an appreciation of the importance of text in the Jewish tradition through viewing religious texts that were treasured and preserved during the Holocaust. This program has particular relevance to the new Stage 6 Preliminary study: Nature of Religion and Beliefs (Origins, Sacred Texts and Writings, Observance) and the HSC Depth study (Significant people and ideas, significant practices in the life of adherents).
Similarly, The Jewish Lifecycle supports the new Stage 6 syllabus through illustration how the Jewish tradition imparts meaning to every stage of life for both the individual worshipper and the religious community. The program provides students with an understanding of the theological meaning and ritual observance of lifecycle events in the Jewish tradition such as circumcision, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, marriage, death and mourning. Emphasis is also given to the diversity of practice within the various Jewish denominations with regard to these rituals. Museum displays clearly illustrate each stage in the Jewish lifecycle, providing students with a unique insight into Jewish life and tradition.
Righteous Among the Nations is a unique program that focuses on the ethical dimensions of religious study. The Righteous Among the Nations are non Jewish men and women who put their own lives in danger to help Jewish people hide or escape from their persecutors during the Holocaust. Through relevant Holocaust Survivor testimony the students will gain a deeper understanding of the complex moral and ethical decisions that individuals made throughout the Holocaust. The program includes a group discussion with a Holocaust Survivor and has relevance in particular to a study of ethics within Religious Studies programs.
Women and Judaism examines the changing role of women in the Jewish tradition throughout the 20th century through examining the exchange between traditional Judaism and modern feminism. Particular emphasis is placed on key female Jewish religious thinkers such as Susannah Heschel, Nechama Leibowitz and Judith Plaskow. Students explore the work of these key thinkers in a hands on case study approach of two of the three ‘time bound’ mitzvoth (commandments) specified for women through an examination of relevant objects and texts in the Museum. This program has particular relevance for the new Stage 6 syllabus: Religious Tradition Depth Studies/Significant people and ideas/Jewish feminism.

For pricing and more information on all programs, please call the SJM on 9360 7999 or email

What People Believe:  Teaching Tolerance through Religious Diversity

Mariela Sztrum
Education Officer, Sydney Jewish Museum

The Sydney Jewish Museum’s program What People Believe aims to teach primary school students about Jewish religious and traditional practices while concurrently addressing the pressing issues of prejudice and stereotyping. The goal of the program is to foster cross cultural understanding and friendship among people of diverse faiths.

Students have a chance to hear rabbinic tales or Midrashim, exploring the meaning of Shabbat and its symbols and meanings. Through participation in storytelling activities students are encouraged to draw their own conclusions from the tales. Students will also explore the mystical importance traditionally assigned to Hebrew script. This illustrates the power of “reading between the lines” in Jewish ancient texts such as the Torah. Students then have the opportunity to learn the first letter of their name in Hebrew and they will participate in a “hands on” craft activity in which they will learn how to write in Hebrew script.

Following the storytelling workshop a tour of the ground floor of the Sydney Jewish Museum will give students the opportunity to view Jewish ritual objects and gain knowledge about major Jewish festivals and traditions. The tour is facilitated in an age appropriate manner. Topics such as Shabbat, the Jewish wedding and other rites of passage and Jewish holidays such as Passover and Hanukkah are described. Emphasis can be placed on other topics as requested by the teacher.

What People Believe emphasises the differences as well as the similarities between and within religious cultures. This interactive program explores the concepts of stereotypes, prejudice and religion in the context of multicultural Australia. In challenging younger children to embrace difference while valuing our common humanity, the program encourages racial tolerance and understanding in Australian society.

© 2006 Sydney Jewish Museum. Mariela Sztrum  Sydney Jewish Museum 2006

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