Jews are ancestors of Abraham and the Hebrews. Around 1600-1700 BCE, the
Hebrews left their homeland of Canaan (Israel) and moved to Egypt. They probably left because of drought or famine. In Egypt, the Jews were enslaved, where they would remain for hundreds of years. Around 1393 BCE, a boy named Moses was born to his Hebrew mother. At the time of Moses’ birth, the Egyptian Pharaoh commanded that all Hebrew babies be drowned in the Nile River. Moses’ mother concealed him for three months after his birth. After she could no longer conceal Moses, she set him adrift on the Nile River. Moses was discovered by the Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted Moses as her own.
When Moses reached adulthood, he went to see how his fellow Hebrews were fairing. Displeased with what he saw, Moses eventually fled Egypt. Moses became a Shepard for many years. One day, Moses saw a “burning bush that would not be consumed”. God spoke to Moses from the bush. God told Moses to go to Egypt and free the Hebrews from slavery. Moses pleaded with the Pharaoh to allow the Hebrews to leave. Only after God had sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians did the Pharaoh allow the Hebrews to leave. Moses’ leading of the Hebrews out of Egypt is called the Exodus of Moses.
On the way to Canaan, Moses led the Hebrews through a desert. They spent many years roaming through the desert. While there, Moses received the Torah, the five books of Moses, from God. The Torah contained the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments provided a moral code of behavior for Jews. The Jews eventually made it back to Canaan where they remained until the Romans conquered the region in 70 AD. During the Roman conquest of Jerusalem the Jews were forced out of their holy land. The Romans destroyed most of the city except for one wall.
The Jews were forced to leave their holy land, but they did not forget their faith. They continued to practice their religion through some of the most difficult times, such as the Holocaust during World War II. In 1947, after World War II had ended, Israel as a modern Jewish country was established. Ever since the creation of Israel in 1947, the Jews have been in conflict with their neighbors of differing religions.
Beliefs and Traditions:
The four cornerstones of the Judaism are the Torah as the word of God as passed down by Moses, the land of Israel as promised to them by god, the people, and their love for their one and only god.
The Jewish holy book is the Torah which is also called the Old Testament by Christians.
The Jewish holy day or Sabbath is from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
The Jewish house of worship is called a synagogue or Temple.
The primary member of the Jewish clergy is known as a Rabbi.
Jews visit and pray at the western wall of Jerusalem, the only wall that was not destroyed by the Romans. Jews believe that the messiah will return there.
There are three forms of Judaism:
Conservative- created to conserve Jewish tradition in the U.S., still traditional and services are performed in Hebrew.
Reform- less traditional, services often performed in English
Passover: An important tradition to commemorate the Exodus of Moses and the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.
Hanukkah: The festival of lights commemorates an important event in Jewish history where a one day supply of oil miraculously lasted eight days.
Yom Kippur: The holiest and most solemn of Jewish holidays. The central theme of this holiday is atonement which describes how sin can be forgiven by God.