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The belief in one single deity or God responsible for the creation of the universe.


The so-called tetragrammaton or four consonants in Hebrew which refer to God. Modern scholars are not sure how it was originally pronounced. It is generally rendered "Yahweh."


The Jewish term for "teacher."


The Hebrew word for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The word means "instruction" or "teaching." The Greek term is Pentateuch.


Jewish law and lore, as finally compiled in the sixth century CE.


The Hebrew term for the Jewish scriptures, which Christians call "the Old Testament."


The belief that God has chosen Abraham and his descendants to be the "chosen people" who will be a light of ethics and righteous living to the nations of the world.


The term literally means the "anointed one." An apocalyptic figure whom God will send to return the Jews to their rightful home and rebuild the Temple.

Bar Mitzvah

A coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish boys at the age of thirteen when they ritually become adults in the congregation. The term means "son of the commandment."

Bat Mitzvah

A ceremony in non-Orthodox congregations welcoming young girls into adult responsibilities. The term means "daughter of the commandment."


The Jewish Sabbath beginning Friday at sundown and ending Saturday at sundown.


The term used for a strict and traditional diet, including a prohibition on consuming pork and shellfish


The term used for circumcision of males on the eighth day after birth. For strict believers, a sign of God's covenant with the Jews.


The prayer for the dead


One of the main holy days of the faith celebrating the Exodus of the Jews from bondage in Egypt. Also known as Pesach.

Yom Kippur

The most important of the holy days, known as "The Day of Atonement."

Rosh Hashanah

One of the main holy periods of the faith, which signifies spiritual renewal in remembrance of the original creation of the world. New Year's Day.


The eight day holy period known as the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights. Historically, it celebrates the victory of the Maccabean Rebellion against the attempt by Antiochus to force non-Jewish practices on the Jews.


A kind of "underworld" in Jewish theology, a place of punishment for sinners.


Small leather boxes containing Biblical verses which are worn by traditional Jewish men (during weekday morning prayers) on the forehead and the upper arm, thereby fulfilling the commandment to keep the Covenant "close to heart and mind."


The prayer shawl worn by traditional Jewish men.

Orthodox Judaism

Strict, "Torah-true" faith. It seeks to preserve all the old traditions, such as keeping kosher, etc

Reform Judaism

A liberal branch of the faith that has made many adaptations to modern life. It does not stress the importance of keeping many of the old traditions, such as kosher, etc.

Conservative Judaism

A kind of middle ground in Jewish theology. It accepts some strict practices from the Orthodox branch (dietary laws, belief in the literalness of the Torah, etc.) and some liberal ones from the Reform branch (family pews for men and women, modern methods of education for children, etc.).


The attempted annihilation of European Jewry in the Nazi death camps of World War II.

Chosen People

The teaching that God has chosen the Jews among all the people of the world to be a "light unto the nations" and a model of ethical behavior.


One who speaks for God.


The forced dispersion of the Jews from Jerusalem after 70 CE when the Romans destroyed the Temple and the city. The term is also applied to the period of time after the Jews were in Babylonian Captivity.

Babylonian Captivity

The fifty year period of exile (586-536 BCE) during which the Jews were held captive in Babylonia by King Nebuchadnezzar.


The Jewish mystical tradition


The systematic summation of the legal teachings of the oral tradition of the Torah.


The historical movement dedicated to the establishment of a politically viable, internationally recognized Jewish state in the Biblical land of Israel.


A feminine noun that represents the nurturing aspect of God.

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