Judaism is the way of life of the Jewish people and the first recorded monotheistic faith. In the English-speaking Western world, “Judaism” is often considered a “religion,” but there are no equivalent words for “Judaism” or for “religion” in Hebrew; there are words for “faith,” “law,” or “custom. As a way of life, it includes the social, cultural, and religious history of a widespread and diverse community, including people who do and do not think of themselves as “religious.”
Core values that are consistent across the spectrum of the Jewish people include the concept of Kehillah (community) – the responsibility to care for everyone within the community; Welcoming and aiding the stranger; and Recognizing that every person is created in the image of God.
Judaism centers around three fundamental ideas:
- GOD: Belief in a singular Supreme Being and Creator who has an ongoing relationship with the Jewish people.
- TORAH: The Five Books of Moses. Torah also refers more broadly to the entire body of Jewish teaching including future words of Jewish scholarship.
- ISRAEL: God formed a Covenant with the Jewish PEOPLE Israel, at Mount Sinai. Israel can also refer to the connection Jews have with the historic land of Israel and to the modern State of Israel.
Jewish religious practice is based on following a set of commandments as delineated in the Torah and then interpreted (and argued over!) for millennia. Encompassing a diverse people, Jews may interpret and practice differently from one another. Two of the most notable observances practiced by a portion of the Jewish people are: Kosher – a system of eating according to specific laws and Sabbath -observing a weekly day of rest that begins on Fridays at sundown and concludes Saturday night.