Feminism and Judaism

Feminism and JudaismFor most of its history, Judaism has traditionally been a patriarchal religion; however, women’s movements since the mid-20th century have advocated for and achieved greater equality for women in many Jewish denominations. Jewish women are now ordained as rabbis in all non-Orthodox denominations, and many Jewish theologians are expanding their field of interest to include the roles and characters of biblical and historical Jewish women.... Read more about Feminism and Judaism

Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Bar and Bat MitzvahThe major rite of passage for Jewish boys and girls is the bar mitzvah (son of the commandment) and bat mitzvah (daughter of the commandment) service. The term refers both to the person and the ritual, in which Jewish children, at ages twelve or thirteen, and adult Jewish converts, lead their congregation for the first time in the recitation of a weekly Torah portion. They thereby begin full participation in Jewish congregational life, and the is often followed by a large celebration.... Read more about Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Funeral and Mourning

Funeral and MourningJewish funerary rituals are simple, requiring the deceased be buried in consecrated ground within 48 hours of death. But the period of mourning after the burial, called sitting shiva (literally “seven”), involves the immediate family remaining at home, seeing visitors, and engaging in prayer services. Mourners recite the Kaddish, a prayer recited at the conclusion of every synagogue service. The Kaddish honors the dead but makes no mention of death, instead affirming God’s holiness. ... Read more about Funeral and Mourning

The Synagogue

The SynagogueThe synagogue was first an institution meant to temporarily replace the temple of Jerusalem during the Jewish Diaspora, or exile from Israel. In its early forms, the synagogue represented a community in its entirety. In the 19th century, the growth of Jewish organizations and federations took the social and political emphasis away from the synagogues. However, by the 20th and 21st centuries, synagogues sought to once again become multifunctional spaces of Jewish encounter and expression.... Read more about The Synagogue

Under the Huppah: The Jewish Wedding

Under the ChuppahJewish weddings are traditionally joyous occasions; and while the specificities of Jewish weddings vary, most will include the signing of a ketubah, or marriage contract, the recitation of seven prayers, the smashing of a glass to represent the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the presence of a huppah, a special small canopy held over the rabbi and newlyweds for the duration of the service.... Read more about Under the Huppah: The Jewish Wedding

A Hasidic Tish

A Hasidic TishThe ultra-Orthodox Hasidic communities in America often live in close proximity, retaining a strong sense of identity distinct from secular American culture. A tish is an Orthodox Hasidic practice in which a ritual meal is shared between men in a Hasidic community and their rebbe, the Hasidims’ spiritual leader, after which the rebbe lectures on Jewish scriptures, the Torah and Talmud.... Read more about A Hasidic Tish

Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah

Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat TorahThe eight day harvest festival of Sukkot commemorates the Jews’ forty years of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, as described in the Torah. Jews build sukkahs, temporary structures made of organic materials like bamboo and leaves in backyards, yards, or rooftops. Jews then eat meals—and, for some, sleep—in the structures. Shemini Atzeret is the eighth day of Sukkot. Simchat Torah, the following day, celebrates the congregation’s yearly completion of the reading of the whole Torah, finishing the Book of Deuteronomy and beginning again with Genesis.... Read more about Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah


PurimThe Festival of Purim celebrates the heroism in the biblical Book of Esther, in which Esther, through insight and wit, saved the Jews of Persia from genocide at the hands of Haman, the King’s adviser. Purim is celebrated with a raucous and playful religious service, eating of triangle-shaped pastries called Hamantashen, and raising of money for charities.... Read more about Purim

Brit Milah

Brit MilahBrit milah is a rite of passage taking place eight days after the birth of Jewish males that symbolizes their entrance into a covenant with God through circumcision, or the removal of the foreskin of the penis. This is generally an occasion for a small family celebration. Some Jews hold similar rituals, involving only naming ceremonies, for newborn Jewish females.... Read more about Brit Milah

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashana and Yom KippurRosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, together referred to as “The High Holy Days,” are the two most important holidays of the Jewish year, the former celebrating the coming of the New Year and the creation of the world, the latter (ten days later) beginning the new year with a Day of Atonement for one’s wrongdoings. Synagogue services on these days are the most well attended of the year; they involve the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn), and, on Yom Kippur, a day of fasting.... Read more about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur


HanukkahHanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” is a minor Jewish holiday that is particularly popular in the United States due to its proximity to Christmas. It is an eight day holiday that celebrates the military victory of the Jewish Maccabeans over the Hellenistic empire and the miracle which took place after regaining the temple in Jerusalem, when a day’s worth of ritual oil burned for eight straight days and nights. On Hanukkah, Jews light an eight-branched candelabra, give gifts, play a gambling game called dreidel, and eat latkes (potato pancakes) and other foods cooked in oil.... Read more about Hanukkah


PassoverPassover, or Pesach, is an eight day festival celebrating the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery. During this period, Jews abstain from leavened bread and eat only matzah (unleavened bread) to remember the hastiness preparing to depart from their homes. Jews also have a seder (literally “order”), a special meal featuring elaborate symbolism and a distinctive liturgy following the reading of a special prayer book that recounts the Passover story.... Read more about Passover

Keeping Shabbat

Keeping ShabbatIn the Jewish calendar, Shabbat (also called the Sabbath) begins at sunset on Fridays and ends at sunset on Saturdays. Jews traditionally “keep” the Sabbath by resting and refraining from labor. They instead share meals and rituals with family, study, and attend synagogue services. ... Read more about Keeping Shabbat

Orthodoxy in Transition

Orthodoxy in TransitionBoth the Modern Orthodox and Conservative Jewish movements, now quite distinct, were created in the early 20th century not through the efforts of any one leader, but through the creation of organizations and schools built upon shared values. Since then, the Conservative movement has become the more liberal and Orthodox the more conservative movement in religious practice and doctrine.... Read more about Orthodoxy in Transition

Postwar Judaism

Postwar Jewish RevivalAfter World War II, many American Jews moved to the suburbs and further assimilated into American culture. While Jewish institutions rose in prominence during this period, Jewish religious practice diminished. Additionally, the recognition of the horrors of the Holocaust elicited a specifically modern and American reexamination of Jewish theology.... Read more about Postwar Judaism