Person in the synagogue who helps conduct the Torah reading; a synagogue official.


See Angel.


Seventh son of Jacob; head of the tribe of Gad, whose territory lay in the mountains of Gilead, east of the Jordan. The tribe of Gad supplied David with some of his best warriors.


Hebrew acronym for Youth Battalions. Israeli premilitary training during high school years. (See also Israel Defense Forces.)


Literally, district. The northern hill country of Israel is divided into Upper and Lower Galilee; it extends lengthwise from the Emek Jezreel to the foothills of Lebanon, from the Mediterranean on the west to the Jordan rift on the east.


See Kinneret, Lake.


Or Golah; from Hebrew, meaning exile. The lands where Jews lived outside of the Land of Israel were called Galut. In early times, Galut also referred to the people-in-exile or captivity. Jewish sages called Israel’s stay in Egypt Galut Mitzrayim, or Egyptian captivity. The second Galut, of Babylonia, lasted 70 years, from 586 to 516 B.C.E., the year of the rebuilding of the Second Temple. The third Exile, from the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 B.C. to the present day, is called Galut Edom or Galut Ishmael. The former refers to the Jews under Christian rule, the latter to those under Moslem dominion. A distinction is usually made between Galut, which is forced exile, and Diaspora, which is voluntary. (See also Ingathering of The Exiles.)


See Prague.


Title given to the heads of the Talmudic academies of Sura and Pumbeditha in Babylonia between 589 and 1040. The name “Gaon” is derived from the phrase Geon Yaakov, or Pride of Jacob, in Psalms 47:5. After the period of the Geonim, the title fell out of use for more than 500 years; it was used again among rabbis and scholars to describe someone of great Jewish learning. The first Gaon was Hanan of the academy of Pumbeditha in 589 and the last was Rav Hai Gaon in 1038. There were 48 Geonim in the academy of Pumbeditha and 36 in that of Sura. The Geonim, who were known for their scholarship and wisdom, were the deciding judges in all religious matters. The Geonim also supervised the academies in their districts. Semiannually all the academy teachers would assemble to hear the Geonim render scholarly interpretations of questions on the Torah and the Talmud. In addition, the Geonim replied to written questions sent to them from all parts of Babylonia, and from other countries as well. Responses recorded by various Geonim are still in existence. Among the most famous Geonim were: Judah Gaon, Saadiah Gaon, Sherira Gaon, and his son, Hai Gaon.


See Elijah, Gaon of Vilna.


See Heaven and Hell.


See Music.

GARY, ROMAIN (1914-1980).

French novelist. Born in Lithuania, he was a French war hero who wrote about the horrors of war and about human cruelty and greed. His Jewish heroes appear in The Dance of Genghis Cohn and Madame Rosa.


See Israel and Negev.


See Fast Days.


See Heaven and Hell.


World-famous Canadian-American architect, born in Toronto. Originally named Ephraim Owen Goldberg, he changed his name just before the height of his success, following which he designed such radical structures as the Gehry Tower in Hanover, the Dancing House in Prague, most recently the Walt Disney Concert hall in Los Angeles, and many more, all immediately noticeable for their extreme dynamic style.

GEIGER, ABRAHAM (1810-1874).

Scholar and orator. One of the founders of the Reform movement in Germany. At the age of 21 he became the rabbi of the Jewish community of Wiesbaden, Germany, and immediately started to introduce reforms in the synagogue services. In 1837, he called the first conference of liberal, or Reform, rabbis in Wiesbaden; the next year, he was chosen assistant rabbi and later rabbi of the important community of Breslau. The Orthodox members separated and founded a community of their own. In his works, Geiger strove to show that Judaism has evolved throughout the generations. He considered Jews a religious group whose mission is to spread ethical ideas. He removed all references to Zion from the religious services and eliminated prayers which he considered inconsistent with modern thought.


See Talmud.


See Kabbalah.


Starting out as a patriarchal and tribal society, ancient Israel was deeply interested in genealogy. This is reflected in the first chapters of Genesis, where long genealogical tables are provided, tracing the origin of humanity to Adam and Eve, and the origin of the Jewish people to Abraham and Sarah. In later books of the Bible we find additional genealogies, including those of kings (for example, the House of David), priests, Levites, and others. In Jewish tradition, every Jew belongs to one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and at one time every Jew could trace his or her ancestry back to a particular tribe. After the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C.E., ten tribes were lost, and after biblical times most genealogical records were lost, and most people were no longer able to trace their ancestry back to a given tribe. One of the few remnants of ancient Jewish genealogy is the preservation of family names related to either Kohen or Levi, which has religious significance rather than a specific genealogical connection.

For the past 2,000 years, Jews were subjected to frequent assaults and persecution and forced to migrate across the globe, losing many family records in the process. In modern times it became virtually impossible for any family to trace its origins any earlier than the late Middle Ages. Additionally, family names date back only to around 1800 (See Names), so that tracing one’s family name for most Jews means only going back seven or eight generations at the most.

In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest among Jews in the U.S., in Israel, and around the world, in finding their family roots. The Holocaust in Europe, which wiped out entire communities, has prompted surviving relatives to study their families’ past history. And third and fourth generation American Jews, not unlike other Americans of foreign origin, have begun to show interest in their family’s origins. Consequently, the Holocaust Museum in Washington and Steven Spielberg’s foundation in Los Angeles have launched projects to preserve individual and family records from the Holocaust, while the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel established the Douglas E. Goldman Genealogy Center in 1985. In 1998, the Center reported having records of some 750,000 Jews and more than 1,500 family trees listed in its databases.

One of the best known sites today for search for one’s roots is JewishGen.org, which has many databases and links for researchers.


Zionist political party dating back to the 6th Zionist Congress in Basle in 1903. At this Congress the Socialist Zionist party, Poale Zion, and the religious Zionist party, Mizrachi, took up positions to the left and right of the General Zionists, or G.Z., who stressed free enterprise, a unified educational system, and respect for Jewish tradition. After Theodor Herzl‘s death, the leadership of the Zionist movement as a whole remained with such General Zionists as David Wolffsohn and Otto Warburg. During the years 1914 to 1921, General Zionist leaders Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, and Louis D. Brandeis led the Zionist movement. In 1920, the Revisionists broke off from the G.Z. and formed their own party. After the birth of Israel, the G.Z. participated in the Knesset and in government coalitions, and in 1965, it joined the right-wing Herut and formed the present-day Likud party. (See also Israel, Government and Political Parties; Zionism.)


From Greek, meaning origin. In Hebrew, Bereshit, or In the Beginning. The first of the Five Books of Moses, Genesis tells the story of Creation, the flood, and the stories of the patriarchs. It closes with Jacob‘s descent to Egypt to join his son, Joseph.


. A literary “cemetery” for worn-out sacred books and manuscripts. One famous Genizah, a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts, was discovered in Cairo by Solomon Schechter in 1896.


Jews were among the first white settlers of Georgia in 1733. Sephardic Jewish families lived in Savannah, but many left by 1740 because of hardship. Georgian Jews took an active part in the Revolutionary War, and in mid-19th century German Jews settled in Atlanta and other towns. Today, there are 120,000 Jews in Atlanta, and small communities in Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah. The main Jewish newspaper is the Atlanta Jewish Times.


The existence of Jewish settlements in Germany early in the 4th century has been established by historical evidence. Reference to Jews in Cologne is found in decrees issued by Emperor Constantine. Earlier, Jewish traders had followed in the footsteps of the Roman legions who established military outposts along the northern ports of the Rhine. Little is known about the fate of the Jews in Germany at the time of the fall of the Roman empire and during the succeeding invasions from the East and West. During the reign of Charlemagne (771-814), the Jews engaged in commerce and trade. He found Jews useful to the welfare of the state and protected them against undue discrimination. His son Louis the Pious (814-840) extended commercial privileges to Jews. Their importance in the economic field is illustrated by the fact that on many occasions market-day was postponed from a Sabbath to a weekday in order to enable Jews to participate in it. Often, Jews were invited to settle in particular towns in order to increase their prosperity. In the 9th and 10th centuries Jewish communities sprang up in the cities of Augsburg, Mayence, Regensburg, Speyer, and Worms.

The development of Jewish economic life paralleled intensive scholarly activity. The famous family of Kalonymus, a family of scholars and poets, moved from Italy to Germany. One of the greatest authorities on Jewish law, Rabbenu Gershom, called “the Light of the Exile,” headed a Talmudic academy, or yeshiva, in the city of Mayence, attracting students from distant countries.

In the Middle Ages. The First Crusade in 1096 brought about the destruction of a number of Jewish communities. A number of elegies included in the Book of Lamentations chanted on the Ninth of Av bemoan the tragedy of that period. The Second Crusade in 1146, although less severe in its effect on Jewish communities, led to a worsening of the Jewish economic position. Jews became chattels of the kings, who extended them protection against the attacks of fanatic mobs at the price of their freedom and only in exchange for a heavy tribute.

This humiliating status did not save the Jews from cruel discriminations. In the 13th century, Jews were forced to wear a degrading yellow badge. They were forbidden to hold public office. Ritual murder accusations were leveled against them, even though these were denounced by Pope Innocent IV.

Persecutions of Jews increased at the time of the plague known as the Black Death from 1348-49. The Jews were accused of having caused the plague by poisoning the wells. The resulting widespread pogroms in many German towns caused Jews to seek shelter in Slavic countries. In 1421, Jews were expelled from Cologne. During the next two centuries, the Jewish population continued to be victimized with blood accusations, confiscations of property, forced baptism, burning of Jewish books, and physical attacks. The banishment of the Jews from important centers of trade and commerce


Also known as Gershom ben Judah of Mayence. An outstanding scholar of the late 10th and early 11th centuries, commentator on the Talmud, head of several academies in France and Germany. His learning earned him the title Me’or Hagolah, or “Light of the Exile.” He was recognized as the leading Jewish religious authority in Europe and his decisions on Jewish law were accepted as legally binding on all European Jews. Around the year 1000 he handed down numerous rabbinic rulings, forbidding the practice of polygamy, insisting on the consent of both parties to a divorce, prohibiting the opening of letters addressed to others, and modifying the laws relating to converts who had been forcibly baptized.

GERSHWIN, GEORGE (1898-1937).

Gershwin1.9" x 2.5"  Halftonep.92  Ch.GComposer and pianist. Born to immigrant Jewish parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gershwin had one of the meteoric careers in the history of American music. Beginning as a “Tin Pan Alley” tunester, he burst into serious music with a performance of his Rhapsody in Blue in 1924. After this critical success, Gershwin continued to compose for the popular stage, usually with his brother Ira. To the end of his life, however, he experimented with classic musical forms. His last work, Porgy and Bess, a “folk opera” whose score draws heavily on Negro spirituals, blues, and jazz motifs, has been acclaimed as a masterpiece throughout the world.

GERSHWIN, IRA (1896-1983).

Lyricist. Collaborated with his brother George to become a very popular songwriting team, writing the lyrics for Porgy & Bess and many other musicals that continue to be performed today. After his brother’s death he continued to write, mostly for motion pictures. He was nominated for three Academy Awards. In the years after his brother’s death, he remained committed to preserving his legacy.


See Levi ben Gershon.


Bill of divorcement, which by law must be drawn up at the request of the husband and presented to the wife in the presence of two witnesses. It must state that she is free to marry another. To protect the wife, rabbis ruled that her consent is necessary for the divorce to be valid. The earliest extant form of a get, uncovered at the Genizah in Cairo, dates from the year 1020.


Area in any city or town inhabited only by Jews. The term “ghetto” has many explanations: the Republic of Venice passed a law in 1516 ordering all Venetian Jews to be limited to one particular section of Venice, known as Ghetto; the word is derived from a Venetian workshop known as Geto, where weapons were made; it is an abbreviation of the Italian borghetto, meaning suburb.

From the first days of Exile, wherever Jews have lived they have kept to separate neighborhoods by their own choice as well as by decree. Jews often made their living from trade and preferred to live near the marketplace or other such sources of livelihood. Their religious and social needs also caused them to settle in groups. The idea of separating Jewish inhabitants from the rest of the population was conceived by the Catholic Church. But it was not until 1179 that the Third Lateran Council issued an edict forbidding Jews and Christians to live side by side. For a long time this decree was not carried out, but in the 13th century some countries began to limit the Jews to special districts. In 1239, King James I of Aragon relocated the Jews of Valencia in a specific district known as Juderia. In 1276, London Jews were assigned a special area called Jewry. In Germany, in the 13th century, Jews were limited to living in streets named Judengasse. In some towns in the south of France under the rule of the pope, the Lateran decree went into effect in the 14th century and the ghetto in these places was called Juiverie. In 1555, Pope Paul restricted the Jews of Rome to a dilapidated quarter beside the Tiber river known as Giudecca. Later, ghettos were instituted in other Italian towns as well, such as Toscana, Padua, and Mantua.

In the 15th century there were ghettos in various cities in Poland


A judge of Israel. He fought the Midianites who were oppressing the Children of Israel and defeated them decisively. In gratitude, the people offered to make Gideon king. Gideon, however, refused immediately, saying: “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23).


See Kabbalah.


Third letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, three.

GINSBERG, ALLEN (1926-1997).

One of the leading American poets of the second half of the 20th century. A founder of the Beat movement in the 1950’s and hero of the protest generation of the 1960’s, he chastised American materialism and militarism in poems like Howl, and memorialized his mother in his major poem Kaddish. His poetry is reminiscent of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.


U.S. Supreme Court justice. She was appointed by President Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1993. With moderate to liberal views, she is known as a pioneer in the movement for legal equality for women.

GINZBERG, LOUIS (1873-1953).

An outstanding Talmudic scholar, born in Lithuania, he served as Professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York from 1902 un_til his death. His important works are Gaonica, The Legends of the Jews, and Students, Scholars, and Saints. Ginzberg was also one of the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia published in 1901-06. His studies of the history of the Palestinian Talmud are valuable aids in understanding the course of the development of Jewish law and life during the Second Temple.


Author of the book Memoirs which preserved a portrait of Glückel’s personality, as well as a rich description of the conditions under which Jews lived in her day. Born in 17th-century Hamburg, Glückel was the wife and daughter of merchants. A capable businesswoman, she also managed to raise a dozen children. It was for them that she wrote her fascinating memoirs in Judeo-German. Her memoirs have been translated into German, English, and other languages.


See Sports.


See Archeology.