Judaism is the oldest of the world's four biggest
monotheistic religions (religions with only one god). It's
also the smallest, with only about 12 million followers
around the world.
Jewish history begins with the covenant established
between God and Abraham around 1812 BC (over 3,800
years ago), during the Bronze Age, in the Middle East.
The Torah (Jewish Law), the primary document of
Judaism, was given to the Jews by the Prophet Moses
(Moshe) about 3,300 years ago.
The Jewish calendar starts with the day when Adam and
Eve were created (the Sixth Day of Creation). This year
(2010) is 5770 on the Jewish Calendar. It starts with Rosh
HaShanah, the two day Jewish New Year. From September
2010, the Jewish Calendar will be 5771.
There are large Jewish populations in Israel and the U.S.
Place of Origin Israel
Sacred Text The TeNaCh (Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim)
Sacred Building Synagogue
Holy Place Jerusalem
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,
Major Festivals Pesach (Passover), Shavuot
(Pentecost), Sukkot (Tabernacles)
Main Branches Orthodox, Reform, Conservative
1. Where did Judaism originate from?
2. What do Jews believe?
3. Who is the founder of Judaism?
4. Who is Abraham?
5. What is the Symbol of Judaism?
6. What is a Menorah?
7. What is a Mezuzah?
8. Where do Jews worship?
9. What are the spiritual leaders called?
10. What is the Jewish Holy Book called?
11. What is the Tanach?
12. What is the most important day of the week for
13. What happens on the Shabbat in a Jewish
14. What special things do Jews wear?
15. What are bar mitzvah and a bat mitzvah?
16. What do Jews call marriage?
17. What are the different types of Jews?
18. What is Kosher food?
19. What are the main Jewish festivals?
Where did Judaism originate from?
Judaism originated in Israel around 4000 years ago.
What do Jews believe?
Jews believe that there is a single God who not only
created the universe, but with whom every Jew can have
an individual and personal relationship.
Who is the founder of Judaism?
Jewish history begins with the covenant established
between God and Abraham around 1812 BC, during the
Bronze Age, in the Middle East. Abraham is considered as
the father of the family of Jews.
Moses, is also an important figure as he gave the Jews the
Torah around 1250 B.C. The Torah contains the laws of
Who is Abraham?
Abraham is the father of the Jewish people. Jews see
Abraham as a symbol of trusting and obeying God.
Abraham is also important to followers of Christianity and
The story of Abraham is told in the Book of Genesis (the
first book of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles) in chapters
Who is Moses?
Moses is the leader who freed them from slavery in Egypt.
Moses protected the Jews from the wrath of God, and
negotiated with God on their behalf.
What is the Symbol of Judaism?
The symbol or emblem of the Jewish people is the
Magen David (Shield of David), also known as the Star of
What is a Menorah?
The Menorah is one of the oldest symbols of the
Jewish faith. It is a candelabrum with seven
candle holders displayed in Jewish synagogues.
It symbolises the burning bush as seen by
Moses on Mount Sinai. The two most common
menorahs have seven and nine candle-holders. The term
hanukiah or chanukiah, refers to the nine-candled holder
used during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
What is a Mezuzah?
A mezuzah is found on doorposts in Jewish
homes. It is a little case, containing a tiny scroll.
The writing on the scroll is from the bible. It is in
Hebrew and is called the Shema. It says that
Jewish people should love God and keep his rules.
Where do Jews worship?
Jews worship in Synagogues. Men and women usually sit
separately in the Synagogues
Men are required to cover their heads. In most cases
worship takes place in Hebrew.
What are the spiritual leaders called?
The Jewish spiritual leaders are called Rabbis. Unlike
leaders in many other faiths, a rabbi is not a priest and has
no special religious status.
What is the Jewish Holy Book called?
The most holy Jewish book is the Torah (the first
five books of the Hebrew Bible). Others include
Judaism's oral tradition, the written form of
which is known as the Talmud.
The Torah (or teachings) contains the five books revealed
to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.
The Torah is stored inside the Ark.
No one is allowed to touch the Torah, so a
special pointer called a yad is used to follow
words when reading it.
The collection of Jewish scripture is known as the TaNaCH
(TeNaK) which derives from the three parts to the Jewish
scriptures the Torah, the Nevi'im and the Ketuvim. The
word TaNaCH is actually an acronym for the parts of the
Hebrew Bible: "T" is for Torah, "N" is for Nevi'im, and "CH"
is for Ketuvim. The Torah is the first part of the TaNaCH.
Find out more...
What is the most important day of the week for
The most important day of the week is the Sabbath
(Shabbat), which is a day made holy by refraining from
When does the Sabbath start and end?
The Jewish holy day, or Sabbath, starts at sunset on Friday
and continues until sunset on Saturday. During the
Sabbath, observant Jews will do nothing that might be
counted as work. Among the things that they can't do are
driving and cooking.
What happens on the Shabbat in a Jewish family?
At the beginning of Shabbat Jewish families share a meal.
They eat special bread called hallah. On the Sabbath, Jews
attend services at the synagogue, often led by a Rabbi.
What special things do Jews wear?
Kippah (a skull Tallit (a prayer
On their heads a devout Before beginning to
Jew always wears the worship or pray the devout
Kippah to remind him that Jew will often put on a
he is always duty bound to tallit. The fringes on the
follow the laws of God at shawl remind him of the
all times and in all places. many commandments of
Tefilin (small leather box with
long leather straps attached)
The boxes are worn on the left forearm
and on the forehead. Inside the boxes
are passages from the scriptures. A tefilin on the left
arm is a reminder to keep God's laws with all your heart,
because it is near to the heart. A tefilin on the forehead
remind the Jew to concentrate on the teachings of the
Torah with all your full mind.
Tefilin are worn when praying at home or in the
What is a bar mitzvah and a bat mitzvah?
They are both special ceremonies where Jewish boys (aged
13) and girls (aged 12) can become adults in the eyes of
the Jewish religion.
Bar mitzvah is for boys and means Son of the
Bat mitzvah is for girls and means Daughter of the
What do Jews call marriage?
Jews call marriage Kiddushin. This is a Hebrew word
which means made holy or special.
What is different about a Jewish wedding compared to a
The couple are married under a huppah (sometimes
spelled chuppah), a canopy. (picture)
The couple make a written contract or promises
together. This is called the Ketubah.
A glass is broken to remind them that their joy will
neer be complete until the Holy Temple in Jerusalem
What is similar in Jewish weddings and Christian
Both couples give each other a ring. The ring is a token or
symbol of their promises
What are the different types of Jews?
The three main types in Britain are:
Orthodox (the most religiously observant),
There are other subdivisions within these but this
represents British Judaism in its simplest form. Find out
What is Kosher food?
Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish law. This
means no mixing of dairy and meat, no pork or pork
products and no shell fish.
The animal from which the meat is taken must have been
slaughtered in accordance with prescribed Jewish ritual.
Jews cannot eat meat from any animal which does not
both chew its cud (food brought up into the mouth by an
animal from its first stomach to be chewed again) and has
a split hoof; animals such as rabbit or hare, pig, horse,
dog or cat are therefore prohibited.
Jews may eat fish that have both fins and scales that are
detachable from the skin.
Click here for our calendar of Religious Festivals
What and when are the main Jewish Festivals?
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is celebrated to
commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who
were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses.
It is a major eight day festival. A highlight is the Seder
meal held in each family's home at the beginning of the
festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted as
narrated in the Haggadah (the Telling, the Story). Matzah
(unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are
other foods that contain no leaven. There is a great spring
cleaning in the home before the festival to ensure that no
trace of leaven is left in the home during Pesach.
Rosh Hashanah - Jewish New Year
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and
commemorates the creation of the world.
This festival marks the Jewish New Year and begins with
ten days of repentance and self examination, during which
time God sits in judgement on every person. The festival is
also known as the Day of Judgement, the Day of the
Sounding of the Shofar, and the Day of Remembrance.
Over the two days of Rosh Hashanah, there are special
services at the synagogue. A musical instrument, called a
shofar, is blown. It makes a loud piercing sound like a
trumpet and reminds Jews of God's great power.
People east slices of apple dipped in honey. This is a way
of wishing each other a sweet and happy New Year.
Happy New Year - 'Leshanah Tovah Tikatevy'
Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur, the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish
year, brings the Days of Repentance to a close.
As well as fasting for 25 hours, Jews spend the day in
prayer, asking for forgiveness and resolving to behave
better in the future.
Sukkot / Sukkoth
Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews spent in
the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Some lived
in tents whilst others built huts out of leaves and branches.
These huts were called sukkot.
During the festival, some Jews build their own sukkah in
the garden or at the synagogue. Jews eat their meals in
the sukkah for the eight or nine days of the festival.
There are rules to making the sukkah. Each sukkah must
have at least three walls. The roof of the sukkah must be
made of material referred to as sekhakh, which means
"covering." Thie 'covering' must be something that grew
from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches,
corn stalks, bamboo reeds or sticks. Sekhakh (the roof
covering) should be sparse and left loose enough so that
the stars can be seen.
There is a special Sukkot service in the synagogue.
Everyone holds branches from three trees in their hands
and a citron fruit in their right. They walk around the
synagogue seven times, waving the branches.
(Sukkah is the singular, Sukkot is the plural)
Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It
dates back to two centuries before the beginning of
Christianity. It is an eight day holiday starting on the 25th
night of the Jewish month of Kislev
Hanukka celebrates the miraculous victory over religious
persecution in the Holy Land and also commemorates the
re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the
miracle of the burning oil. This is where the oil of the
menorah (the candelabrum in the temple) miraculously
burned for eight days, even though there was only enough
oil for one day.
Tisha B'av is a solemn occasion because it commemorates
a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people
over the years
Tu B'Shevat is the Jewish 'New Year for Trees'. It is one of
the four Jewish new years (Rosh Hashanahs).
Yom Hashoah is a day set aside for Jews to remember the