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

Jewish Continuity: The Next Generation

Jewish Continuity: The Next GenerationDue to contemporary anxieties about the extent of Jewish assimilation in America, many Jewish organizations and philanthropies focus on “Jewish Continuity,” keeping Jewish people within communities and networks of other Jews. This has led some to develop informal, unaffiliated groups for Jews to come together to participate in Shabbat or other Jewish events.... Read more about Jewish Continuity: The Next Generation

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