Living Judaism

The Most Comprehensive Multimedia Guide to Judaism and Jewish Cultures

What is a Jew?

A Jew is someone who fulfils one or more of the following criteria:


  • Practices the religion of Judaism
  • Was born of a Jewish mother
  • Is descended from Abraham's son, Isaac

Exactly what the requirements are will vary depending on who you ask.


The Jewish scripture (holy writings) basically consists of two basic parts:


  • The Tanakh
  • The Talmud

The Tanakh is the Jewish equivalent of the Christian bible. The Talmud consists of explanations of and commentaries on the Tanakh. It is a large body of Jewish scriptural writings that governs the minutiae of everyday life for some Jews.

Basic Beliefs

In addition to the Ten Commandments, Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith gives an Orthodox interpretation of Judaism.

Founding and History

For Orthodox Jews, Judaism was 'founded' by Abraham - the first man on Earth to adhere to monotheism - and the history of the Jews (up to the end of Biblical times) is to be found in the Tanakh.


There are around 20 festivals in Judaism

The Synagogue

The Synagogue is the Jewish place of worship.


Jewish culture is varied and depends heavily on where a particular community is living and where its members and their ancestors have lived before. Jewish culture is, therefore, basically made up of a number of parts - the religion itself, what people have absorbed of their host culture, what they have brought with from previous host cultures and what Movement they adhere to. Despite this broad variation, there is a common thread running through all the variations - but it is very difficult to put one's finger on it.

The Symbols of Judaism

The most well known symbol of Judaism is probably that shown on the right - the Magen Dovid, the Star of David. It is now incorporated in the national flag of the State of Israel.



The Hebrew Language

Anybody who has seen Hebrew writing will know that it looks completely different from western writing, which is based on the Roman alphabet. Hebrew has its own alphabet, a grammar that is very different from most western languages and is written from right to left.


The Jewish Calendar

The Jewish calendar is based on Lunar months but solar years. A lunar month is the time between successive new moons.

Jewish Sects

The existence of sects in Judaism is not well known - even amongst Jews, the word is rarely used - but there are many bodies in Judaism that can fairly be described as sects.


Jews cannot eat whatever they like - there are strict rules on what is permitted and what is prohibited. The set of rules is generally known as 'Kashrut' which is Hebrew for 'fitness', implying that food which is in accordance with these rules is fit to eat - or 'Kosher'.

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