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Judaism is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Some scholars argue that modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Israelites, their ancestors. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization.

The Torah, as it is commonly understood by Jews, is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh. The Tanakh is also known to secular scholars of religion as the Hebrew Bible, and to Christians as the "Old Testament". The Torah's supplemental oral tradition is represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. The Hebrew word torah can mean "teaching", "law", or "instruction", although "Torah" can also be used as a general term that refers to any Jewish text that expands or elaborates on the original Five Books of Moses. Representing the core of the Jewish spiritual and religious tradition, the Torah is a term and a set of teachings that are explicitly self-positioned as encompassing at least seventy, and potentially infinite, facets and interpretations. Judaism's texts, traditions, and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. Hebraism, like Hellenism, played a seminal role in the formation of Western civilization through its impact as a core background element of Early Christianity. (Full article...)

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Chavrusas learning in the Carteret beis medrash

Chavrusa is a traditional rabbinic approach to Talmudic study in which a pair of students analyze, discuss, and debate a shared text. It is a primary learning method in yeshivas and kollels, where students often engage regular study partners of similar knowledge and ability, and is also practiced by men and boys outside the yeshiva setting, in work, home and vacation settings. The traditional phrase is to learn b'chavrusa (i.e., in partnership); the word has come by metonymy to refer to the study partner as an individual, though it would more logically describe the pair.

Unlike a teacher-student relationship, in which the student memorizes and repeats the material back in tests, chavrusa-style learning puts each student in the position of analyzing the text, organizing his thoughts into logical arguments, explaining his reasoning to his partner, hearing out his partner's reasoning, and questioning and sharpening each other's ideas, often arriving at entirely new insights into the meaning of the text. While chavrusa-style learning is traditionally practiced by men and boys, it has become popular in women's yeshivas that study Talmudic texts. In recent times, it has een extended to telephone and internet hookups in which partners study Talmud as well as other traditional Jewish texts. (Read more...)

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Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem

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First Roumanian-American synagogue, Manhattan, New York – exterior
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The First Roumanian-American congregation is an Orthodox Jewish congregation that for more than 100 years occupied a historic building (pictured) at 89–93 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. Those who organized the congregation in 1885 were part of a wave of Romanian-Jewish immigrants who settled mostly in this precinct. The building had previously been a church, then a synagogue, and then a church again. It was transformed into a synagogue for a second time and extensively remodeled when the First Roumanian-American congregation purchased it in 1902. The synagogue's high ceiling, good acoustics, and seating for up to 1,800 people made it famous as the "Cantor's Carnegie Hall". The congregation's membership was in the thousands in the 1940s, but by the early 2000s had declined to around 40 as Jews moved out of the Lower East Side. Though its building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, the congregation was reluctant to accept outside assistance in maintaining it. In January 2006, the roof collapsed and the building was demolished two months later. (Read more...)

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A Lag Ba'omer bonfire

Credit: Olaf.herfurth (talk)

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