The Judaism Portal

Judaism (Hebrew: יַהֲדוּת‎, Yahadut; originally from Hebrew יְהוּדָה, Yehudah, "Judah", via Greek Ἰουδαϊσμός Ioudaismos; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin origin c. 1400) is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people, also sometimes called Israelites. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Within Judaism there are a variety of religious movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Historically, all or part of this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period; the Karaites during the early and later medieval period; and among segments of the modern non-Orthodox denominations. Some modern branches of Judaism such as Humanistic Judaism may be considered secular or nontheistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. Major sources of difference between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of the Rabbinic tradition, and the significance of the State of Israel. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more traditionalist interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the rabbis and scholars who interpret them. (Full article...)

Selected Article

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol is an Orthodox congregation that was, for over 120 years, located in a historic synagogue building at 60–64 Norfolk Street in Manhattan, New York, on the Lower East Side. It was the first Eastern European congregation founded in New York City and the oldest Orthodox Russian Jewish congregation in the United States. Founded in 1852 by Rabbi Abraham Ash as Beth Hamedrash, it split in 1859, with the rabbi and the bulk of the members renaming their congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. Rabbi Jacob Joseph, the first and only Chief Rabbi of New York City, led the congregation from 1888 to 1902 . The congregation's building, a Gothic Revival structure built in 1850 and purchased in 1885, was one of the largest synagogues on the Lower East Side, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. In the late twentieth century the congregation dwindled and was unable to maintain the building, which had been damaged by storms. Despite funding and grants, the structure was critically endangered. As of 2008 the Lower East Side Conservancy was trying to raise an estimated $4.5 million for repairs, with the intent of converting it to an educational center. (Read more...)

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Rudolf Vrba was Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Canada. In April 1944, Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler became the second and third of only five Jews to escape successfully from the German death camp at Auschwitz and pass information to the Allies about the mass murder that was taking place there. The 32 pages of information that the men dictated to horrified Jewish officials in Slovakia became known as the Vrba–Wetzler report. It is regarded as one of the most important documents of the 20th century, because it was the first detailed information about the death camp to reach the Allies that they accepted as credible. Although the report's release to the public was controversially delayed until after the mass transport of 437,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz had begun on May 15, 1944, it is nevertheless credited with having saved many lives. Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has called Vrba "one of the Heroes of the Holocaust". (Read more...)

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Various menoras for Hanukkah,
from the 12th to 17th centuries

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