Passover, or Pesah in Hebrew, is a major Jewish holiday, also called “the festival of unleavened bread.” During the eight days of the festival, Jews commemorate God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, eating only unleavened bread or matzah, as did those who fled from Egypt. At the special ritual meal called the seder, the traditional narrative of Passover, as contained in the Passover Haggadah, is told.


Literally “righteousness” or “justice,” tzedakah is the biblical mitzvah, or commandment, to give to the needy. Traditionally this is interpreted by Jews as 10 percent of one’s wealth.


Aramaic is the language of the Talmud, and core parts of the liturgy used by Jews to this day. A famous teaching expressing the uniqueness of Aramaic says that even the angels do not understand Aramaic, and so when Jews pray in Aramaic, the prayer goes directly to God.

Haskalah Movement

A Jewish Enlightenment movement of the 19th century that led to the evolution of modern Hebrew into new literary and spoken forms, leading to the energetic revival of Hebrew as the spoken language of the new state of Israel in the 20th century. The Haskalah Movement led to the emergence of Jewish Biblical Criticism, and is credited, in some ways, with paving the intellectual ground for the modern denominations.

niggunim (pl.)

The central musical manifestation of Hasidic life. Often, niggunim are sung using syllables such as “Ah,” “Oy,” “Hey,” “Bam,” instead of words.


Tefillin are the small black leather boxes containing verses of the Torah that Orthodox Jews bind to the forehead and non-dominant arm during morning prayer, thus fulfilling the Biblical commandment to love God with heart, soul, and might and to bind these commandments “as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6.8).

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, fewer are paying for High Holy Day seats

September 27, 2019
Congregation B’nai Amoona in St. Louis is expecting some 3,000 people for Rosh Hashana services next week, and the 137-year-old congregation, which prides itself on inclusion, wants to be welcoming. The building is fully accessible to people with disabilities. It has a wheelchair ramp leading up to the bimah, or sanctuary stage, and Bluetooth headsets for the hearing impaired. This year, it’s also taking another step toward inclusion. For the first time anyone can remember, nonmembers will not be required to buy tickets for High Holy Day services. Source: ... Read more about On the eve of Rosh Hashana, fewer are paying for High Holy Day seats

For synagogues, High Holidays welcome is complicated by security needs

September 27, 2019
On a Friday night not long after 11 people were killed by a gunman at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, Edmund Case was standing in the entryway of Temple Shalom in Newton, Massachusetts, having volunteered to act as an usher for that night’s services. A man Case didn’t know, and whose look struck Case as “off,” entered the building and asked, “Could I look around?” Internally, Case felt a zing of alarm. “Why would someone come on a Friday night and want to look around?” he thought. The man turned out to be new to town and looking for a synagogue to join. For Case, the... Read more about For synagogues, High Holidays welcome is complicated by security needs

Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?The question “Who is a Jew?” is complicated in the United States. Traditionally, Jewish identity was determined by matrilineal religious commitments. However, the major Jewish denominations vary in whom they consider Jewish. Even further, new Jewish movements like Jewish Renewal and Jews for Jesus have expanded and complicated the definition of Judaism itself.... Read more about Who is a Jew?

American Jews and Israel

American Jews and IsraelParticularly after the Six Day War in 1967, many American Jews have felt a strong religious and political obligation to support Israel. However, since Israel has become more secure and powerful, and tension with Palestinians has increased, some American Jews have tempered their support for Israel.... Read more about American Jews and Israel

Facing Antisemitism

Facing AntisemitismJews disagree on the extent to which antisemitism has existed and currently persists in the United States. Nevertheless, nearly all Jews hold the Holocaust as a definitive event in Jewish history, requiring memorialization and remembrance.... Read more about Facing Antisemitism

Politics: The Liberal Tradition

Politics: The Liberal TraditionAmerican Jews have, for all of American history, tended to be politically liberal. Possible reasons for this trend are found in biblical sources, historical factors, and immigration trends. This liberalism has led to strong Jewish support for religious freedom, progressive economic policies, and social justice.... Read more about Politics: The Liberal Tradition

The Challenge of Assimilation

The Challenge of AssimilationDue to the relative acceptance of Jews in modern American civil society, there exists a concern that assimilation will reduce the Jewish population over time. The high rate of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews is considered both an indication and source of Jewish-American assimilation.... Read more about The Challenge of Assimilation