Jewish Culture and Customs

The Pioneering Spirit

The pioneering spirit has always captivated me. Remnants of wagon trails can still be seen in various Western states. The courage and tenacity displayed by those trailblazers are lessons for all of us. Yet, as much as I admire those brave Americans who…

Uncovering Our Roots: The Pale Of Settlement

An understanding of our family background—how our ancestors lived and how they came to the United States from their countries of origin—satisfies a curiosity in many of us. For myself and other Jewish people with Eastern European ancestry, tracing our roots can…

A Jew Lives Here

Jewish people who are serious about practicing their Judaism realize that living incognito is not an option for them. Judaism, by its very nature, teaches its people not to be ashamed of their identity.

Fermished and Ferblonjet

A guide is a person who shows the way by leading, directing, or advising. The Friends of Israel uses excellent guides when we host our tours to Israel. These individuals provide insightful information…

How to Be a Mensch

My mother gasped when she saw me walk through the door after a semester away at college. I had left home clean shaven with short hair, and now—well, let’s just say she had trouble finding…

A Jew, or Not a Jew?

A rabbi tells a story of his days in rabbinical school. As part of his curriculum, the professor asked his students to list the names of the ten greatest Jews of the 20th century.

The Question of Time

It is often joked about among Jewish people that whenever the time is set for an appointment or a date, the time specified will not be the actual time to begin.

Tzedaka: It Is More Blessed to Give

A story is told of the rabbi of Nemirov. His followers, all Hasidim, stated emphatically that every night their rabbi went up to heaven. Another Jewish group, Mitnaggedim (opponents), ridiculed the Hasidim about this belief.

The Dynamic Of Jewish Prayer

Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lᴏʀᴅ.

My Mother’s Chicken

Growing up Jewish in my family guaranteed that buying chicken would be an unusual experience. Instead of going to the supermarket like everyone else in my neighborhood, we went to the shochet…

Siddur: The Book Of Prayer

Like so many other Jewish adults, I well remember the long and arduous process of learning the liturgy of Hebrew prayers involved in worship. It started with the simple rote learning of the Hebrew alphabet.

Prayer: The Service Of The Heart

Prayer is not unique to Judaism, yet Jewish prayer is unique. In synagogues around the world, congregants meet together to worship. But Jewish prayer is not confined to a synagogue.

Orthodox Judaism In America

Some Jewish people think that Christianity is confused and splintered. They point out that there are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals, and many other divisions. Within those groups there are conservatives…

Conservative Judaism

The Jewish expression “Eat kosher but think trayf [non-kosher]” encapsulates the ideology of one of the more popular branches of modern American Judaism. An attempted medium between the traditional and liberal wings of Judaism…

Reform Judaism

A Christian woman was interested in the beliefs of Reform Judaism. She asked her Jewish friend what a Reform Jew believes. The friend responded, “Be a good spouse and parent, work hard, be honest…

Hasidic Judaism

Within the world of Orthodox Judaism there is a group of intensely religious Jews whose influence and significance far outweigh their number. Termed ultra-Orthodox by outsiders, they are more properly known as Hasidic Jews…

Because It’s A Mitzvah

When people visit Mea Shearim, one of the most Orthodox communities in all of Israel, or observe the crowds gathered at the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, questions often arise…

Kabbalah: Making a Mystery of God’s Word

An expert is defined as a person who displays a special knowledge derived from training or experience. Over two decades ago, as a junior in college, I was boarding with several other students—all Gentiles.

Jesus in the Rabbinical Literature

It is easy to determine the Jewish opinion of Jesus during His earthly ministry by reading the Gospel accounts. In simple terms, the common people, even if they did not accept His Messianic claims, generally…

Jesus in Josephus

Flavius Josephus was a Jerusalemite priest who lived in the last half of the first century. He also was the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee during the war with Rome from AD 66–70.

Jesus in Modern Judaism

The name Jesus means different things to different people. To some, He is a great prophet, teacher, or leader, but others use His name as a curse. While some have never heard His name…

Rambam and Rashi: Bringing the Bottom Line

Separated by time (about 100 years) and distance (several hundred miles), two men provided the means for the Jewish people to study both the Talmud and the Bible. These “helps” are still used today…

Hillel: The Kind Pharisee

Jewish tradition states that the oral law was transmitted from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the elders, from the elders to the prophets, and from the prophets to the men of the great assembly.

The Talmud

“No! No! No!” the grandmother screamed as the six-year-old boy placed the clean spoon into the drawer of clean utensils. “That spoon goes with the milchig [dairy].” The youngster should have known;

Are There Horns Under That Hat?

Several years ago there was a TV series called Little House on the Prairie. One of the show’s characters, a youngster named Albert, became friendly with an elderly Jewish man.

Tenach, Torah, & Targum

The Torah is the foundation stone for the Jewish people. Inspired by God and written by Moses, it has been central to Jewish life since its inception.

Food For Thought

Food, with its various tastes, smells, textures, and visual appeal, is a powerful trigger in the process of remembering. Whether it is in the preparation, serving, or eating, certain foods seem to prompt many people…

Fussy Fressers

Food is an integral part of Jewish life. One man explained it this way: “For our people, food is more than a necessity of life; it is an emotional experience.”

A Special Diet

Food, glorious food! We need it to survive. We eat it to celebrate almost any occasion. We offer it in hospitality or comfort. Socially, food somehow helps to build bridges for easier and better communication…

Dressed for Worship Part Two

As Tevya, the milkman in Sholem Aleichem’s story Fiddler on the Roof, considered various practices unique to his Judaism, he turned to the audience and asked, “Why do we do the things we do?”…

Dressed for Worship Part One: The Tallit

Who hasn’t had it happen—a missed appointment, that lack of association between a name and a face, the forgotten anniversary or birthday? Forgetfulness is a plague that knows no prejudice.

Death and Mourning

Chai is the Hebrew word for life. Jewish people frequently wear gold charms depicting this Hebrew character on chains around their necks, emphasizing the fact that life is Judaism’s most precious and cherished commodity.


Holidays are commemorative days used by most people to participate in recreational activities, to travel, or just to relax. Conversely, holy days are special days set aside for worship.

A Little Sanctuary Ezekiel 11:16

As a youngster growing up, I can remember two synagogues in our neighborhood. Sitting high on a hill was an imposing, three-story brick building with beautiful white stone pillars in the front.

Beware of a False Alarm

Suddenly the alarm sounded! Judging from the teachers’ faces, this was no drill. All of the students filed out quickly and quietly, looking around for signs of trouble.

The Jewish Wedding

Marriage is regarded as one of the most important and significant decisions in the lives of Jewish people. The Torah (the five books of Moses) clearly states that God made “an help fit” for Adam…

Bar Mitzvah

On Saturday morning, June 11, 1966, I walked from the stage of the synagogue to the platform (bema) where the Torah lay open. Following in the tradition of my father and grandfather…

Brit Milah

The birth of a boy into a Jewish family is cause for great joy and celebration (simcha). On the eighth day after his birth, a ceremony takes place that unites him with all other Jewish…

Silhouette of man speaking.

The Schneerson Syndrome

Judging by the number of signs in Israel bearing the slogan “Prepare for the Coming of the Messiah,” one would be led to believe that the nation is gripped by Messianic fervor unparalled in modern…

Purim: No Minor Festival

An old Yiddish saying translated into English, says, “As a high temperature does not denote serious illness, neither is Purim a festival.” Its meaning reflects the impression among some that the Feast of Purim…


Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Thy commandments, and enjoined upon us the mitzvah of kindling the Festival lights …

Be Ye Holy: The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Of all the feasts of Israel, none exemplifies the holy standard of living to which God calls us more than the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Instituted by God and given to the nation of Israel…

Shavuot: The Feast of Weeks

All of the festivals of Israel give great insight into the New Testament. Shavuot, or Pentecost, as most Christians know it, is no exception. Understanding the background and practice of this festival gives rich insight…

Different Jews

These headlines pose quite a contrast. It is important to note that these two groups are the extremes statistically. Only a small percentage of Jews hold either view.* But they do reflect just how difficult…

Tisha be-Av

Tisha be-Av, or the Ninth of Av (Av is the fifth month in the Jewish calendar, corresponding to July/August), not only commemorates specific tragedies in Jewish history; it also symbolizes all that has been dismal…

Yom Haatzmaut

The time was 4:00 p.m. The date was Friday, May 14, 1948. A black sedan pulled up to the front of the Tel Aviv Museum. Out of the back seat emerged a short, white-haired man…

The Shema: How Much of Me Does God Own?

Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God is one Lᴏʀᴅ: And thou shalt love the Lᴏʀᴅ thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

The Majesty of Herod’s Temple

The Temple of Jesus’ time was built by Herod the Great. Appointed by the Romans, Herod was king of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C. He had the dubious reputation of being the most unpopular…

The Light Shines Brighter Still

Most people in the world don’t know much about Hanukkah—they should. All most of us see in it are those quaint eight-branched candelabra which adorn the outside of synagogues or are seen in public displays…

I Have a Jewish Friend

Hi my name is Amy, and I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again. That makes me a Christian. I know I’ll go to Heaven when I die.


As the Bible reader moves from Malachi to Matthew, he encounters many new ideas, movements, and institutions never mentioned in the Old Testament. In the Gos­pels, for example, he reads about synagogues, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots…