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Basic Facts:
• One of the oldest religions in the world
• One of the first monotheistic religions
• 12-14 million people in the world practice this religion
Why is such a small religion considered ‘major’?
-it has had an enormous impact on other
religions, law, ethics and history
Judaism is more than a religion it is also an ethnicity and
a culture.
The Jewish people were their own nation thousands
of years ago. They had a kingdom, a common
language and the religion kept them together. Jews
consider being Jewish the same as being Italian or
African-American. It is something you cannot
Basic Beliefs:
• The Patriarchs: Abraham (considered the
founder), Isaac, Jacob (“Israel”) – origins of
the Hebrew people (more than 3800 years ago)
Enslaved in ancient Egypt and freed by Moses
(more than 3300 years ago)
Hebrew monarchy in the “Promised Land” (The
Land of Israel), ends 6th century BCE
Basic Beliefs and Practices:
• God has chosen the Jewish people for a
special covenant (pact).
If they worship him properly he will guide, protect
and reward them.
A Messiah will be sent by God to end this life and
all the faithful Jews will have eternal life in heaven.
The Torah (Jewish Holy Book) has the rules
and ethics Jews should live by to lead a good life.
Basic Beliefs and Practices:
• Jews also believe that to lead a good life you must care
about your community.
– This is why many Jewish people go into professions
where they can have an impact on their communities,
i.e.: doctors, lawyers, teachers
Jews believe that God is too great for there to be any kind
of representation of God.
– No pictures & paintings. And many Jews don’t even
write the word ‘God’.
Jews worship in Synagogues on Saturdays and on Holy
Rabbis are the official clergy who conduct the religious
services and act as counselors for those in the community
who need help or guidance.
Kosher Laws:
• The Torah sets out some specific rules
about preparing and eating food.
• Certain animals are seen as ‘unclean’ and
are prohibited for Jews. These include:
– Pigs
– Shellfish
– Mice
– birds of prey (eagles, hawks, owls)
Kosher Laws continued:
• Also, certain parts of the animals are forbidden:
– The hindquarters of animals (the back legs and rear
– Internal fats from the animal
– Any meat containing blood. (Like a very rare steak)
In terms of preparing food there are also laws.
– Animals must be killed as painlessly as possible.
– Blood and milk products must never be mixed. (Many
Orthodox Jews actually have separate refrigerators
for meat products and dairy products)
Foods that are “Kosher” are foods that have been
prepared according to these laws.
• The history of the Jewish people is a long one of
persecution and war.
– The Egyptians and Babylonians made the
Jews slaves
– The Romans and Christians persecuted the
– The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews in the
Types of Judaism:
• Over time people began to have different views
on how to follow Judaism
There are four major types of Judaism
– They differ on how strictly they follow the ancient
More Strict
Less Strict
Orthodox Judaism – Very Strict:
• These Jews believe the best way to practice
their religion is to follow the laws of the Torah
very closely.
– No work at all on the Sabbath (Saturday). Many
Orthodox Jews don’t even drive on Saturday
– Follow the Torah and the Kosher (dietary) laws
– Synagogues are segregated by gender. Women and
men cannot sit together. Men perform all the
ceremonies during religious services.
– Some Orthodox Jews even follow strict dress codes.
Conservative Judaism- strict
• These Jews believe that the Torah must be
followed but not as strictly as Orthodox Jews
follow it.
– Laws about the Sabbath and Kosher laws are followed
but not as strictly as Orthodox Jews follow them. i.e.:
Conservative Jews may not work on Saturday but
they might drive.
– Synagogues are not segregated, men and women sit
together. But men still perform all the ceremonies.
Reconstructionist Judaism
Reconstructionist Judaism
• The newest and smallest form of Judaism
• Believe that the Torah is important but everyone
can modify the rules for their lives.
Sabbath and Kosher rules are important but not
completely necessary to be a good Jew.
Men and Women are equal – women can be
Reform – the least strict
• These Jews believe that many of the laws
in the Torah are out of date and that
some of the requirements are more
important than others.
– They may feel that leading a good life and
helping their community requires them to
work on the Sabbath, or they may feel that
God cares more about being a good person
than about what foods you eat.
Reform – the least strict - continued
– Many Orthodox Jews do not even recognize
Reform Judaism as a type of Judaism because
it is not strict enough.
– Laws about the Sabbath and Kosher laws are
not followed as much.
– Women are seen as equals in the synagogue.
There are many Reform rabbis who are
Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah
• These are initiation ceremonies like many other religions
have. They occur when a boy, or girl, has reached an
age of maturity and they can take responsibility for
themselves in terms of following the Torah.
– Boys have Bar Mitzvahs when they are about 13.
– Girls have Bat Mitzvahs when they are about 12, but
only Reform and some Conservative Jews have Bat
– The ceremony involves the boy or girl reading and
singing parts of the Torah during a special service.
The passages must be read in Hebrew. There are also
questions the boy or girl must answer about their
Death and Funerals
It is customary for someone who has died to be buried
quickly (within one-two days). This is most likely a
practice that began because the early Hebrews lived in a
very hot climate and a dead body would begin to
decompose rapidly if it was not buried quickly.
– Jewish families also sit Shiva following the death of a
loved one. Friends and relatives come to the home
bearing food and they help the family through the
grieving process.
– It is also customary for mirrors and clocks to be
covered with cloth while sitting Shiva. This is
symbolic – time and your appearance do not matter
at this moment.
• The most important Holidays for Jews are
Passover, Rosh Hoshanah and Yom
– The Jewish calendar follows the lunar
calendar (Phases of the moon) and so these
holidays do not fall on the same days every
year. (The Christian holidays of Easter and
Lent also follow the Lunar calendar)
Holidays continued
• Passover is in the Spring and celebrates
God’s intervention to help the Jews when
they were slaves in Egypt.
– A special meal (The Seder) is made with
foods that have symbolic importance, and a
passage from the Torah is read.
Holidays continued
• Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur are
related and occur in the Fall.
– Rosh Hoshanah is the beginning of the Jewish
new year and is followed ten days later by
Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). During
this ten day period Jews are supposed to
consider all the sins of the past year and seek
forgiveness or make up for those sins.
Holidays continued
•Hannukah is more of a minor holiday but is
more important here in the US.
– Many Jewish families give gifts to each other
like Christians do for Christmas.
– The holiday, the Festival of Lights, celebrates
an ancient military victory where Jews believe
God made a miracle by making one day’s
worth of lamp oil last for eight days in a Holy
Judaism and Christianity
• Christianity
– Judaism predates Christianity – it is the foundation of
Christianity but is not a part of it
– Jesus was Jewish, as were his followers and the Apostles
– Jews do not believe that Jesus was anything more than a
good and wise man who lived and died 2000 years ago –
Jews still await their messiah
– The Jewish messiah would not be divine. He would be a
political figure who restores the Hebrew monarchy and
causes peace to reign on Earth
– Jews are not concerned about salvation and the “world
to come”