Why did you go into Jewish Studies?

Melanie Landau

Monash University

Eight years ago I was employed as a Lecturer in Jewish Studies when I returned to Melbourne, Australia, after four years in Jerusalem. My colleagues and I developed a community education program for the university and then we raised money from local family foundations for our salaries. Our university positions involved half-time community education with university branding and half-time regular academic teaching and research. This model was a great success for the university. We changed the nature of discourse in the community, attracted our target audiences, and we succeeded in bringing in several new chairs because of the exposure that our program gave the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation.

My first monograph (converted from my PhD) is currently in press. Tradition and Equality in Jewish Marriage: Beyond the Sanctification of Subordination (Continuum) is both an analytical and a constructive project. It looks at alternatives to traditional Jewish marriage from within the traditional sources (such as conditional marriage and derekh kiddushin) as well as showing how traditional marriage is nonreciprocal and detrimental to women (and the marriage relationship) as well as exploring the role of values in halakic determinations. This project represents both my embrace and my wrestling with the tradition.

All the courses I have been involved in developing and/or teaching have had a transformational goal in mind: "Jewish Law"; "Reading Gender in Judaism"; "Rethinking Australian Jewish Community"; "Post conflict: Memory, Justice and Reconciliation"; and an overseas trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories called "Israelis and Palestinians: Between War and Peace."

I currently live in Jerusalem with my family on sabbatical and also work half-time as Director of Facilitation for Encounter, which is an educational organization dedicated to providing global diaspora leaders from across the religious and political spectrum with exposure to Palestinian life. I am thriving in this environment where relationship is at the center and I have the privilege (and burden) to be a "boundary-crosser" and move between Israel and Palestinian Territories, carrying both my grounded-ness in the tradition as well as the consideration of our Jewish participants and our Palestinian partners.