Limmud-Oz: Presenting the presenters

May 8, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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Professor Ghil’ad Zuckerman is currently working at the University of Adelaide in the department of Linguistics and Endangered Languages.


Ghil’ad Zuckerman

His work has taken him all around the globe from Israel, London, Australia, Singapore and back again! He is a regular presenter at Limmud-Oz and has attended every one since it started in 1999. We had a chat to him about his career, his session at Limmud Oz this year and why he loves coming to Limmud Oz so much!

Kim Ravia interviews him…

Why did you decide to study linguistics? I was always attracted to languages and linguistics. I was always making linguistic jokes from a very young age. My Dad was Italian and he was also interested in languages so he was a big inspiration for me.

Can you give us a bit of an insight into your background? In terms of what you studied, career highlights etc? I grew up in Israel, then I went to United World College in the UK and studied many things including maths, Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics and philosophy. I then came back to Israel for my compulsory military service, after that I was at Oxford University and was offered a doctorate of philosophy, where I met a lot of influential people (including George Clooney’s wife).

I got invited to do a lecture at Mandelbaum House at the University of Sydney in 2001 and taught my girlfriend, who is now my wife and that’s how I first came to be in Australia. I also lived in Singapore for a while, then I came back to Australia and was on the research council at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and now I’m currently Chair of Endangered Languages at the University of Adelaide.

What is the name of your session at Limmud Oz this year? It’s called Promised Land to the lucky country: Aboriginal and Jewish collaborations. It will be a panel of three speakers; myself, Jacky Troy, who is an Aboriginal professor of languages and a student from Monash University in Melbourne.

Your session at this year’s Limmud Oz is about the bond between Jews and the Aboriginal people. While you have been studying this topic what similarities have you come across between the two cultures? Oh there are a lot! Both Aboriginal and Jewish people have a special connection to the land. Every year we as Jews say “next year in Jerusalem” and the Aboriginal people have their Dream Time, which connects them to the land. It’s true that the Aboriginals didn’t have a written history, but like us they have a rich oral history. A lot of them are sympathetic to the Jews because they also have a history of genocide.

Why did you decide to help the Aboriginal people revive their languages? I wanted to do everything I can to help the Aboriginal people regain their culture. I thought the best way to do that is to revive their language, because of their plight. If they can revive their languages I think they will feel more empowered.

How did you decide to be a presenter at Limmud Oz? When I first came to Australia I thought how can I contribute to the Jewish community? So I have been to every Limmud Oz since the beginning. It helps me feel more connected to my Jewish culture and I am dedicating my panel this year to William Cooper, who was an Aboriginal political activist.

Have you done any sessions at Limmud Oz in the past? and, if so what were they? I’ve done many sessions. I’ve done sessions on translating the bible from Ancient Hebrew to Modern Hebrew, talked about Diaspora Jews and Zionism, talked about Aboriginal languages, why we should teach Yiddish and Hebrew in schools and I’ve talked about the Jewish religion from a scholarly perspective.

What do you hope people will learn and take away from your session this year? I hope people will learn two things. Firstly, I hope people will come to know how much the Aboriginal people care about the Jewish people. Secondly I hope most people who come to my panel will learn how they can help the Aboriginal people.     


Ghiláds panel, The Promised Land” and The Lucky Country”: Collaboration between Jews and Aboriginal People will be on Monday June 8 from 12pm-1pm.

To see the full Limmud-Oz program:


One Response to “Limmud-Oz: Presenting the presenters”
  1. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Professor Zuckerman represents some of the noblest values of Israel and the People of Israel.
    May he be strengthened in his work both for the descendants of the Original People of this continent and for us, the descendants of Ancient Israel.

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