Some people think that Judaism is a culture, like being Irish or Indian. Others view it as a religion. Still others say that being Jewish is a nationality, and that the Jewish homeland is the Land of Israel. The truth is, being Jewish encompasses all these things — and a whole lot more. The entire span of Jewish life and knowledge is nearly impossible to define…yet exciting to explore.
What do Jews believe?
Different groups of Jews believe different things. Judaism has three main denominations — Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform — though many other subgroups and philosophies exist within and beyond these (including Reconstructionism, Hasidim, Jewish Renewal, and others). To some extent, all these groups regard the Torah — the Five Books of Moses — as the central book of Judaism. Some Jews value its stories. Others derive their beliefs and their customs and traditions from the Torah’s laws.
What do Jews do?
Judaism has many practices and ethical teachings. Almost all Jews celebrate some form of Jewish holidays, from attending a Passover seder to lighting the candles on Hanukkah. Some Jews keep kosher, and only eat certain foods, or foods prepared in certain ways. Many Jews celebrate Shabbat every Friday night and Saturday, and will attend synagogue and listen to the Torah being read, a different portion each week.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.