AARON (ca. 1300 B.C.E.).

Moses’ older brother and spokesman in Egypt. Together they appeared before Pharaoh when Aaron “cast down his staff before Pharaoh…and it became a serpent” (Exod. 7:10). Aaron is represented as the first high priest in Israel, having officiated in the Tabernacle built in the wilderness. He became the ancestor of all the priests and high priests, thus permanently dividing the tribe of Levi into two categories: the priests and the Levites, or servitors, both of whom served in the Sanctuary. (See also Kohen.)

AARONSOHN, AARON. (1876-1919).

Agricultural expert and early Zionist leader in Palestine. He conducted valuable experiments to improve crops cultivated in Palestine, and discovered wild wheat, a special type of grain sought by botanists the world over. During World War I, with his brother Alexander, his sister Sarah, and close friends, he joined the NILI, a secret organization which sought to aid Britain in conquering Palestine, in order to realize a Jewish homeland. Sarah was captured by the Turks who tortured her to find out who NILI’s members were. She refused to tell and finally shot herself. At the end of the war, Aaronsohn set out on a political mission to England. On May 15, 1919, on the way from London to Paris to the Peace Conference, his plane mysteriously disappeared. It is assumed that it fell into the English Channel. Aaronsohn left behind valuable botanical studies which were published after his untimely death. K’far Aaron, a village in Israel, as well as the Agricultural Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, are named in his honor.


Leader of extremist rebels in the Jewish uprising against Rome in 69-70 C.E. When his uncle, Rabbi Johanan Ben Zakkai, wanted to leave the beleaguered Jerusalem and establish a center of learning at Yavneh in southern Palestine, Abba Sikra saw to Rabbi Johanan’s safe passage through one of the city gates.


Son of Adam and Eve; a shepherd. When Abel’s offering was accepted by God, his brother, Cain, grew jealous and slew him. Then the Lord asked Cain, “Where is Abel, thy brother?” Cain answered, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?” As punishment, the Lord made Cain a “fugitive and a vagabond on the earth” (Gen. 4:1-4:16).


See Life, Sanctity of.

ABRAHAM (ca. 1940 B.C.E.)

Founder of the Jewish people; first of the patriarchs, who discarded idol worship for belief in one God. The Covenant between God and Israel began with Abraham. His story is told in Genesis 11-25, from his birth in Ur of Chaldea in southern Mesopotamia to his death and burial in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron in the land of Ca­naan. Abraham was commanded by God to leave his birthplace between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and to settle in “the land that I will show you.” He obeyed and set out with his family on the long journey to Canaan. When he came to Sh’chem, “the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, ‘Unto your seed will I give this land!’” (Gen. 12:7) Throughout Genesis 11:26-17:5, Abraham is called Av-Ram, “exalted father.” Then his name is changed to Av-Raham, “father of multitudes”—“for the father of a multitude of nations have I made you…And I will establish my covenant between Me and you, and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant.” As a sign of this everlasting contract, Abraham instituted circumcision of every eight-day-old male child.

 The biblical account of Abraham brings new dignity to the story of humankind. Through the covenant of Abraham, each person becomes a partner in a contract with God, obligated to serve righteously and obediently, receiving in return the Promised Land as inheritance.

 As the story of Abraham unfolds, his love of peace, sense of justice, and compassion for suffering are revealed in his acts. With great pa­tience, he settled the disputes between the sheep herders of Lot and his own men. With great daring, he pleaded with God not to destroy the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, even if there were only ten righteous people among them. In the story of Isaac’s sacrifice, Abra­ham’s sub­mission to God was test­ed. As com­manded, Abra­ham placed his son upon the altar, preparing to offer him up. An angel of God restrained him: “Lay not your hand upon the lad… for now I know you fear God.” Then Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram “caught up in a thicket by his horns.” He sacrificed the ram instead of  his Isaac. In Abraham’s time, sacrificing children to the gods was a com­mon ritual among heathens, but through his new faith learned that God forbade child sacrifice and that human life was sacred.


See Sports.


See Mendele Mocher Sefarim.


(1437-1508). Scholar, philosopher, and statesman. Don Isaac was an illustrious member of one of the most distinguished Sephardic Jewish families that traced its origin to King David. Born in Lisbon, Abravanel served as treasurer to King Alfonso V of Portugal. When Alfonso died, his successor accused Don Isaac of conspiring against the king, forcing Abravanel to flee to Spain in 1483. There he served King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in state financial affairs. When a decree expelling Jews from Spain was issued in 1492, he and other influential Jews pleaded before the court for its withdrawal, but to no avail. Abravanel was offered personal exemption from the decree, but chose to flee to Naples, where he again entered royal service.

Abravanel’s Jewish scholarship is shown in his commentaries on the Bible. Despite his firm faith in the divine revelation of the Bible, he saw clearly the importance of historical background in biblical exposition. Stirred by Jewish suffering, he wrote three works to perpetuate belief in the coming of the Messiah (See also Messianism). As a philosopher, he supported the principle of free will, and opposed the influence of Aristotle and Plato on Jewish thought. Abravanel was survived by three distinguished sons: Joseph, a physician and scholar; Judah Leon, also a physician; and Samuel, scholar and patron of Jewish learning.


Third son of David and his wife Maacha, the daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur. The Hebrew Av-Shalom, “Father of Peace,” is an ironic name for the son who stirred up a rebellion against his father in order to wrest the throne from him and who became a perennial symbol of a rebellious child. For four years Absalom secretly plotted and then openly set up military headquarters in Hebron. David withdrew from Jerusalem, a stratagem which proved successful, for it brought Absalom to “the forest of Ephraim,” east of the Jordan River, where David, long skilled in guerrilla fighting, had no difficulty in defeating his son. As Absalom fled from the battlefield on a mule, his long hair caught in the branches of an oak tree. His mule trotted on, leaving him helplessly trapped. He was killed by David’s general, Joab. Hearing the news of this act which he had expressly forbidden, David the King uttered a cry that has become a classic expression of a father’s grief: “O my son Ab­salom, my son…would I had died for thee…” (II Sam. 19:1).


See Kabbalah.


(1920-1998). First Jewish woman to serve in the U.S. Congress (1971-76) and first person elected on a women’s rights platform. Abzug was a peace activist, labor lawyer, lecturer, news commentator, and civil rights advocate. “Women,” she once said, “have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.”


See Talmud.


(t’amim, or trope). Signs above and underneath letters of the Scriptural texts, indicating how the text should be chanted to make the meaning clear and the reading pleasant. Thus, accents serve both as musical notes and as punctuation. The signs are the same in all books of the Bible, but are read differently in certain passages and sections. Jews of various countries have evolved different chants for them. This system of accents is said to date back to Ezra the Scribe (5th century B.C.E.) and the Great Assembly.


(Gabriel da Costa) (1585-1640). Uriel Acosta was born in Oporto, Portugal, to an aristocratic Marrano family that had been forcibly converted to Christianity. He came to doubt the teachings of Catholicism, but having no contact with Judaism he formed a highly personal view through his reading of the Bible. After his father’s death, he persuaded his family to move to Amsterdam and return to Judaism. There he began to express his ideas and wrote Proposals Against Tradition; in 1624 he developed these ideas further in Comparison of Pharisaic Tradition with the Scriptures. In this book Acosta expressed his rejection of the soul’s immortality, resurrection, and reward and punishment. These views resulted in the public burning of his books. The Amsterdam Jewish community placed him under “the great ban” in 1618. Everyone, including his brothers, shunned him. In 1633, when he could no longer bear the isolation, Acosta publicly renounced his opinions, only to revert back to his controversial beliefs. Again excommunicated, he led a solitary life for seven years. When this existence became unbearable, he again recanted and submitted to a harrowing ceremony of repentance in the Amsterdam synagogue. Acosta could not bear to live after this public humiliation. He wrote a short autobiography defending his views, then in 1640, committed suicide.

ACRE (Akko).

Seaport town on the northern hook of Haifa Bay. In Canaanite times it was a “strong-walled” Phoenician seaport allotted to the tribe of Asher (Judges 1:31), seized alternately by Egypt and Assyria. Since 800 B.C.E., it has served successively as a Greek and Roman port, Crusaders’ fortress, Moslem battlefield, and French trading center. After being destroyed by the Turks, Acre was rebuilt in 1749, only to be besieged by Napoleon. It continued to change hands until it was acquired by the British. In 1948, Acre fell to the State of Israel, which built a new Jewish town outside the walls. Its population of 45,600 includes Moslem, Maronite, Quaker, Druze, and Bahai minorities. With the advent of steamships, Haifa replaced Acre as a major port.


Hebrew for “man; son of the earth.” In the Bible, Adam is the first man, created “in the image of God” on the sixth day of Creation and given by the Lord “dominion over all the earth.” (For the story of Creation, see the first chapter of Genesis.)


Sixth month of the Jewish civil calendar. Traditionally known as a month of merriment since Purim falls on the 14th.

ADLER, CYRUS. (1863-1940)

Scholar of and authority on Far East civilizations and Semitic languages, and prominent leader in the American Jewish community. Adler was born in Van Buren, Ark., almost two years before the end of the Civil War. He played an important role in shaping the cultural life and in developing some of the great organizations of the American Jewish community as hewatched it grow from a few thousand to five million duringhis lifetime. He was a founder and active member of the American Jewish Historical Society and the Jewish Publication Society of America.

He served as president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City and of Dropsie College (See Annenberg Research Institute) in Philadelphia. As a young man, he taught Semitic languages at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Between 1888 and 1909, he served as director of the Ancient East department of the Washington National Museum. At the Smithsonian Institution he served as librarian (1892-1905) and assistant secretary (1905-08). He edited publications of Jewish learning, including Jews in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the U.S. He was a founder and president of the American Jewish Committee and the National Jewish Welfare Board. He was active in forming the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and served as its non-Zionist co-chair. His autobiography, I Have Considered the Days, is an engaging profile of his era and its many noteworthy leaders.


See Siddur.


Middle Eastern country lying between India, Pakistan, and Russia. Jews have lived in Afghanistan since before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 B.C.E. There is a legend that they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes. Little is known about the history of the Jewish community there, except that Jews have always been second-class citizens under the medieval despotism prevailing in Afghanistan. Until 1914, they were forced to live in sealed ghettos. After 1914, there was a brief period during which abuse was curtailed and their situation improved. However, in the early 1930’s, largely under the influence of several hundred German technicians working in the country, discriminatory measures were renewed. Jews were required to obtain special permits for travel, forbidden to write letters abroad, excluded from the civil service and most of the professions, banned from commerce, expelled from rural areas, and confined to the cities of Kabul, Herat, and Balkh. By the end of World War II, the number of Jews in Afghanistan had been reduced from about 12,000 to 5,000, largely through illegal emigration.

In 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the majority of Afghanistan Jewry expressed the desire to emigrate, but the government obstructed their emigration. Between 1949 and 1970, approximately 4,200 Afghan Jews reached Israel. In 1993, there were fewer than 100 Jews in the country.

By the end of 2004, only two Jews were left in Afghanistan, Zebulon Simentov and Isaac Levy (Born ca. 1920). In January 2005, Levy died. Simentov, now the last remaining Jew in Afganistan, is trying to recover confiscated Torah scrolls.


See Passover.


See Heaven and Hell.


(1928- ). Internationally renowned Israeli artist, known for his abstract, colorful painting which change colors when seen from different angles, known as kinetic and optical art. Agam has produced many works based on Jewish ritual objects and traditional Jewish themes.

AGNON, SHMUEL YOSEF (1888-1970).

Hebrew novelist. Born in Galicia, Agnon settled in Palestine in 1909, but lived in Germany from 1912 to 1923. His works are based chiefly upon traditional Jewish life in Europe. They are rich in Hasidic lore and legend, capturing the spirit and flavor of Jewish culture. Writing in Hebrew, then emerging as a modern tongue, Agnon’s prose has a charm of its own. Although abundant in realistic detail, it often has a dream-like quality.

Among Agnon’s finest novels are Hachnasat Kallah (The Bridal Canopy), Sippur Pashut (A Simple Story), and Oreah Natah La-lun (Lodging for a Night). In T’mol Shilshom (Only Yesterday), he draws upon his experiences in Palestine to create a fascinating epic. In December 1966 he became the first Hebrew writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, an award he shared with the German-Jewish poet Nelly Sachs.


Now chiefly city dwellers, Jews spent the first two millennia of their history as shepherds and farmers. Abraham came to Canaan in search of grazing land for his flocks. For several centuries his descendants were semi-nomadic, settling down to farm only at the time of the conquest of Canaan around 1200 B.C.E. Under the Judges and during the First and Second Commonwealths, most Israelites were farmers, breeding livestock and raising wheat, barley, grapes, olives, and vegetables.

The dispersion of the Jews by the Romans in the 1st century C.E. led to their separation from the land. In Babylonia, most exiles settled in cities and into handicraft and trade occupations. Jews were removed further from agriculture in the Middle Ages when most Christian princes forbade Jews to own land. Thus, by the beginning of the 19th century, less than one percent of Jews in the world were farmers.

At that time, however, a movement had arisen to bring the Jews back to the soil. Pondering the problem of antisemitism and the economic distress of East European Jewry, many thinkers concluded that a return to the soil might provide a solution. In 1804, Tsar Alexander I of Russia founded seven colonies expressly for Jewish subjects, as part of a plan for their segregation as well as rehabilitation. In the following decades several Jewish colonies were established in the Americas; due to lack of funds and experience, most failed. Not until the 1880’s and 1890’s were small but successful colonies founded in Palestine, Argentina, and the U.S.

In 1900, the Jewish Agricultural Society was established in the U.S. by joint action of the Jewish Colonization Association and the Baron de Hirsch Fund. During the first forty years of the Society’s existence, more than 13,000 Jewish farmers were assisted in land acquisition and development. Jewish agricultural communities are located in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states. The National Farm school was established in Doylestown, Pa., in 1896. An agricultural magazine, The Jewish Farmer, established in 1908, provides agricultural information in both Yiddish and English.

During the 20th century, the number of Jewish farmers has steadily increased, swelled by refugees from Eastern and Central Europe. In Israel, where land settlement has been the first goal of the Zionist movement, the number of Jewish farmers has risen from several hundred in 1900 to about 83,000 in 1984 (in a total work force of 1.3 million.) The Jewish farm population of the U.S. has increased from about 300 families in 1900 to more than 10,000 in 1960. In 1979, there were about 30,000 Jewish farmers in Argentina. Colonization on a smaller scale has taken place in Brazil, Australia, Poland, and the Balkans.


(ca. 10 B.C.E -44 C.E.).King of Judea. Son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod and Mariamne, at the age of six Agrippa was sent to Rome to be educated. He was a companion to the Roman crown prince Gaius Caligula and shared in the gay and frivolous court life. Accused of favoring the crown prince over the reigning Emperor Tiberius, he was thrown into prison. Upon Caligula’s ascent to the throne, he was released and appointed king of Galilee.

The Jews received Agrippa’s appointment with great joy. Having been subjected to Roman rule for 45 years, the appointment of Agrippa I signified liberation from foreign dominion and oppression. (When at one time he deplored the fact that he was not of pure Jewish stock, the scholars consoled him, saying, “Fear not, Agrippa, you are our brother.”) When Claudius replaced Caligula as emperor, Agrippa’s rule was extended to Samaria and Judea. A brief era of peace began, which recalled the glories of the Hasmonean period.

Agrippa planned to strengthen Jewish rule and eventually free Palestine from Roman yoke. The great hopes of his people for full independence were shattered when he died suddenly in 44 C.E. while attending the Roman games in Caesarea. It is assumed that he was poisoned by enemies of the Jews.


(ca. 28-93 C.E.).Son of Agrippa I, he was the last king to rule Palestine before the destruction of the Second Temple. He was reared in the same corrupt Roman court atmosphere as his father; however, unlike his father, Agrippa II was completely alienated from his people. The Roman rulers appointed him king of the eastern provinces of Palestine and entrusted him with the care of the Temple. All of western Palestine remained under Roman rule.

When the Jewish revolt broke out against foreign dominion in 70 C.E., Agrippa urged unconditional submission to Rome. His cooperation with the hated enemy angered the people, and together with his sister, he was forced to flee Jerusalem. He remained in the Roman camp until his death.


Worldwide organization of Orthodox Jews, founded in 1912 in Kattowitz, Poland. Before World War II, Agudath Israel was influential in many European countries, particularly in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. Its total membership was estimated at half a million. A rabbinical council of prominent Talmudical scholars, called Moetzet Gedolei Ha-Torah, was established to hand down decisions on Jewish law. Today, Agudah has headquarters in three world capitals: London, Jerusalem, and New York City.

Through a special fund, the Keren Ha-Torah, the movement has established and maintained many yeshivot and Talmud Torahs throughout the world. It has also promoted the Beth Jacob school system for girls in many countries, providing both religious and secular education for its students.

Agudath Israel is active in combating laws which interfere with traditional religious observance. It has opposed the passage of laws in Europe and the U.S. that prohibit ritual slaughter. It has also campaigned against changes in the calendar which would jeopardize the observance of Jewish holy days.

From its inception, Agudath Israel has opposed political Zionism. After the birth of Israel, however, the Agudah joined the first government of Israel and participated in subsequent government coalitions.

Prominent leaders of Agudath Israel included the late Jacob Rosenheim of Israel, the late Rabbi Aaron Kotler of Lakewood, N.J., and the late Rabbi Eliezer Silver of Cincinnati, Ohio.


(Ruled 876-853 B.C.E.).Seventh king of Israel; contemporary and ally of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre. This alliance, by securing Israel’s peace with a powerful neighbor, left Ahab free to resist an Assyrian attack successfully and win a victory over Ben Hadad II, King of Damascus. Three years later, Ahab was slain by a chance arrow in the battle for Ramot Gilead. Elijah‘s prophecy had foretold Ahab’s death as punishment for tolerating the Baal worship instituted by Jezebel, and for lawlessly executing Naboth, whose vineyard he desired.

“Ahab the Israelite” is mentioned in the “monolithic inscription” left by Shalmaneser III (858-825 B.C.E.) of Assyria. Here, Ahab is portrayed as a formidable foe commanding a force of 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers.

AHAD HA-AM (Asher Ginzberg)

(1856-1927).One of the foremost thinkers and essayists in Hebrew literature. Writing under the pseudonym Ahad Ha-Am, meaning “one of the people,” he taught cultural or “spiritual Zionism.” As “political Zionism” emerged under Herzl, Ahad Ha-Am argued in such essays as Lo Zeh ha-derekh (This Is Not the Way) that Israel must first become a spiritual and cultural center before it could develop into a viable Jewish state. His essays, collectively published as Al Parashat Derakhim(At the Crossroads) roused the Jewish public and stand as a landmark of Hebrew literature. His forceful, moral personality greatly influenced Zionism. Before World War I, Ahad Ha-am lived in England, where he played an important role in the events leading to the Balfour Declaration. At 66, he settled in Palestine, on a Tel Aviv street named in his honor.


See Esther, Book of.


See Shavuot.


Meaning binding or preparing for sacrifice; Abraham’s offering of Isaac as a sacrifice to God (Gen. 22).


(ca. 40-135 C.E.).Great Talmudic scholar and leader. It is told that until he was forty years of age, he was an ignorant shepherd. Rachel, the beautiful daughter of Kalba Sabbua, a rich Jerusalemite, fell in love with Akiva and secretly married him. Enraged that his daughter married beneath her station, her father immediately disinherited her. Rachel’s ardent wish was that Akiva study Jewish law. Despite their poverty, Rachel encouraged Akiva as he studied for many years in the academy. When he finally returned home followed by thousands of pupils, Rachel came to meet him. When his students, not knowing who she was, wanted to turn her away, Rabbi Akiva rebuked them, saying, “Let her be. Your wisdom, as well as mine, are due to her.”

Akiva’s brilliant and penetrating mind is revealed in his interpretation of Jewish law. He assembled and edited the teachings of previous scholars, and in arranging them by subject, laid the foundation for the editing of the Mishnah. A great Jewish patriot, he joined Bar Kokhba in inspiring the Jews to rebel against Roman rule, sixty years after the destruction of the Temple. Akiva saw the Messiah in Bar Kokhba (See Messianism), applying to him the biblical prediction of the coming of the Messianic redeemer of the Jews: “A star (kokhav) shall rise out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). However, the rebellion failed, and the Roman Emperor Hadrian prohibited, under penalty of death, the observance and study of Jewish law. Having defied the Emperor’s decree, Akiva was one of the ten martyrs sentenced to death by flaying. Accepting his fate to serve God with all his soul, he faced his end serenely. While the sage recited the traditional prayer of Shema (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”), he relinquished his spirit, setting a lasting example for the Jewish martyrs to come.


See Yom Kippur.


Jewish merchants in Mobile, Alabama date back to 1777. Later in 1840, the congregation Shaare Shamayim was organized there. German Jews settled in Selma in the 1840’s. In the 1960’s, American Jewish leaders, such as Heschel, took part in the struggle for civil rights in this state. There are Jewish communities in Birmingham (about 5,500), Mobile (1,100), Montgomery (1,200), and Huntsville (750).


Jews from California were instrumental in making this territory part of the United States and in establishing the Alaska Company which controlled the state’s main industry, the fur trade. Records of Jewish life date back to the mid-19th century. Today, most Jews (about 3,000) live in Anchorage, with a smaller community in Fairbanks (600).


Jews have been living in the northern region of Albania since Roman times. For many centuries, the region had been under Ottoman rule. Following the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, Jews fleeing eastward began to settle in seaports in Albania and to establish a Jewish community there. Exiled by the Turkish sultan in 1673, false messiah Sabbatai Zevi found refuge in Albania.

During World War II, under the German occupation, nearly 600 Jews from Albania were sent to their deaths in various concentration camps around Europe. Many Albanian citizens


Polish born Israeli singer and songwriter. Recording primarily in Hebrew, but also in Yiddish and Arabic, she is one the most important Israeli singers today, having released more than 50 albums with strong consistency since her debut in 1967 and still going strong.

ALBO, JOSEPH (1380-1435).

Spanish-Jewish philosopher who encapsulated Jewish dogma in his book Sefer Ha-Ikkarim (Book of Principles.) He based this summary on God’s existence and revelation, and on divine reward and punishment. .


“Father of Biblical Archeology.” Albright was the son of Christian missionaries. He paved the way for major Jewish archeologists like Glueck and Yadin. He directed the American School for Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and taught Semitic languages at Johns Hopkins University.

ALEXANDER JANNAEUS (Hebrew name, Jonathan).

Reigned 103-76 B.C.E. as king and high priest; son of Johanan Hyrcanos; first of the Hasmonean dynasty to be called king; and first to issue coins stamped in both Greek and Hebrew. He married Queen Salome Alexandra, sister of Simon ben Shetah, president of the Sanhedrin, or high court.

Jannaeus was a courageous warrior-king who extended Palestine’s borders by conquering the Mediterranean coast as far as the Egyptian border. He reconquered the eastern area from Lake Huleh to the Dead Sea and captured a number of cities beyond the eastern regions of the Jordan. In their dispute with the Pharisees, he sided with the Sadducees. This quarrel brought on a civil war and served to detract from the honor of king and country. During his last battle against the king of Arabia, Jannaeus died from a severe attack of malaria. He was buried near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.


King of Macedonia; conqueror of the ancient world. In his defeated provinces, Alexander introduced Greek forms of government, encouraged intermarriage among his followers and his new subjects, and spread the Greek language and customs. As a result, a new civilization, Hellenism, spread throughout Alexander’s empire. His attitude toward the Jews was friendly, and in Maccabean times, his name was used frequently among Jews. His many legends have been told in Talmudic literature. The Hellenism he introduced into Syria and Egypt had a deep influence on Judaism and its history.


City in northern Egypt where a tributary of the Nile feeds into the Mediterranean. Founded in 331 B.C.E. by Alexander the Great, the city soon became a great metropolis. Alexander the Great was friendly to the Jews, and Alexandria was the first Greek city to give them citizenship. Under the rule of the Ptolemy kings who succeeded Alexander in Egypt, and under the rule of the Romans who defeated Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies, the Jewish community was autonomous and prosperous. Jews held civic office and served as soldiers. With their population fluctuating between half a million to a million, Alexandrian Jews spoke Greek. Their Greek version of the Bible, the Septuagint, was used in their synagogue in place of the Hebrew. The Great Synagogue of Alexandria was said to hold 100,000 worshipers. The reader had to wave a flag to indicate when the people, some of whom could not hear him, should say the responses. Such sages as Philo lectured on Hellenistic Judaism (See Hellenism) to multitudes of interested pagans. Nevertheless, such heathens as the priest Apion instigated hatred of Jews to the point of riots. This hatred increased after Egypt became Christian. When Christian mobs destroyed the Jewish quarter of Alexandria, Hellenistic Judaism was doomed. Under Arab and Turkish rule, some Jews returned to Alexandria, but the center of Egyptian Jewry gradually moved to Cairo. Before 1956, the year in which thousands of Jews left for Israel, Alexandria had a Jewish population of about 15,000. Today, there are practically none. (See also Egypt.)


Known as the Rif; Talmudic scholar who lived and taught in Fez, North Africa. He was the forerunner of Maimonides in summarizing Jewish law.


Jewish communities have existed in Algeria since the 1st century C.E., and have lived under Moslem rule since the 7th century. Refugees from the Spanish Inquisition swelled the Jewish population in the 15th century, making the country an important center of Sephardic Jewry. In 1830, when Algeria became a French colony, Jews were granted French citizenship by the Cremieux Decree of 1870. During the seven-year political struggle leading to Algeria’s independence in July 1962, the Great Synagogue of Algiers was looted and many Jews were killed. Due to heavy emigration to France and some to Israel, the Jewish community declined from 135,000 in 1958 to 100 in 2007. Most live in the capital, Algiers.

ALHARIZI, JUDAH (1170-1235).

Spanish-Hebrew poet and translator. His entertaining style of poetry shed light on Jewish life in his time, according him a special place in medieval Hebrew literature.


Literally, going up. In the synagogue service, aliyah is the act of going up to the reading desk of the synagogue to read a portion of the Torah. In the Bible, three aliyot, or pilgrimages, to the Temple in Jerusalem were appointed for Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. In modern times, the term aliyah has been used to denote immigration to Israel.

ALKABETZ, SOLOMON (ca. 1505-1584).

Hebrew poet, Kabbalist, and biblical commentator. Alkabetz was born in Turkey but lived most of his life in Safed, Palestine, the 16th century center of mysticism. The best known of his poems, Lekhah Dodi (Come, My Beloved), is chanted in synagogues on Friday night. The poet expresses the love of the Jewish people for the Sabbath Bride and their longing for Zion to be rebuilt. Legend has it that every Friday afternoon, Alkabetz and his students, dressed in their Sabbath best, set out to welcome the Sabbath Queen. In the open field outside Safed they marched in procession at dusk, chanting psalms and Lekhah Dodi.


Serbian rabbi dedicated to the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine 100 years before the rise of Zionism. A forerunner of political Zionism, he proposed that the Jews obtain Palestine from the Turks through the intervention of England and France. He maintained that the Jews’ suffering was completely the result of their own passivity and inaction. Rabbi Alkalai also worked out a plan for redemption of Palestine that was similar to the plan adopted by the present Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901. Disappointed with the attitude of European Jewish leaders toward his ideas, he emigrated to Palestine at the age of 76, and there founded a society to resettle Jews on the land. He did not live to see his dream come true, dying in Jerusalem at the age of 80. A few days after Rabbi Alkalai’s funeral, some of his devoted followers bought the land which later became the site of Petach Tikvah, the first Jewish agricultural colony in modern Palestine.


British field marshal and veteran of many campaigns. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he was given command of the cavalry in France. During 1917-1918, he served as commander-in-chief of the Egyptian-based expeditionary force of Great Britain. In his victorious battle in Samaria on September 18-21, 1918, he invaded Palestine and captured Jerusalem, ending Turkish resistance. Jewish Legion troops took an active part in Allenby’s Palestine campaign.


French Jewish organization of international scope and influence; first to represent world Jewry on a political basis. Founded in 1860 by a group of seventeen Parisian Jews in protest against such antisemitic incidents as the Damascus affair and the Mortara case, the alliance expanded to world membership, becoming the Mediterranean area’s central educational agency and a powerful medium for the interests of world Jewry. In 1862, the Alliance founded a network of schools in the lands of the Middle East and North Africa for the purpose of uniting Mediterrean Jews with a common identity. The first school was set up in Tetuan, Spanish Morocco.

Today, the schools founded by the Alliance have an enrollment of about 20,000. Many Jewish children from the Middle East and North Africa have been educated in schools founded by the Alliance. In these schools, the children receive a secular as well as a Jewish education from teachers specially trained in schools maintained by the Alliance in Paris and Casablanca. Alliance schools have successfully combated some of the dreaded childhood diseases prevalent in the Mediterranean area, improving children’s overall health. In 1869, the alliance founded the first agricultural school in Palestine at Mikveh Israel. The Alliance maintains a vocational school and a school for deaf mutes in Jerusalem. To this day, the Alliance is a major educational force in the Jewish world.

ALLON, YIGAL (1918-1980).

Israeli army commander and Cabinet member. Born in Palestine, he was one of the founders and later commander-in-chief of the Palmach. He subsequently played a leading role in military operations during Israel’s War of Independence. A leader in the Labor Zionist and Kibbutz organizations, he was first elected to the Knesset in 1955. He was appointed Minister of Labor in 1961 and Deputy Prime Minister in 1968. He served as Israel’s Foreign Minister from 1974 to 1977.


From the Greek letters alpha and beta, those based on the Hebrew aleph and bet. The Hebrew alphabet has 22 basic letters, five having special final forms. Through the use of points, or dots, the sounds of the following letters are changed: bet, kaf, pe, shin, tav. In Sephardic pronunciation, the tav is not changed by the dot.

According to the authorities, the Hebrew alphabet came into being around 1500 B.C.E. Before that, the Egyptians used hieroglyphics, or picture writing, to express ideas or objects. Then some of the hieroglyphics were adapted into 22 sound symbols; the earliest examples of such a script come from inscriptions found in the Sinai peninsula. It is thought, however, that the first true alphabet was developed in Palestine. The Semitic alphabets were quite similar to one another, the Phoenician being closest to the Hebrew. The Phoenicians, mostly seafaring merchants, carried this script to many lands just before the 9th century B.C.E. Various peoples took this alphabet and altered it to suit their own language. According to tradition, the Greeks received this Hebrew-Canaanite alphabet from Cadmus, the Phoenician who was considered the Greek kadmi, Hebrew for “Easterner.” Like Hebrew, the oldest Greek inscriptions were written from right to left, using the 22 Hebrew letters in original order and with their original names, though these had no meaning in the Greek language. All European alphabets can be traced to this common origin. North of Canaan, in the territories that formerly belonged to Assyria, the alphabetic script developed a cursive and square form. Following the rapid diffusion of the Aramaic language, this square script, too, came into general use. According to tradition, the Jews came in contact with this “Assyrian” or Aramaic script during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C.E.; over time they adopted it, and still use it today. The old Hebrew script was still being copied on the Maccabean as well as the Bar Kokhba coins.

ALROY, DAVID (12th century).

Self-declared messiah to the Jews of Babylonia who led a revolt against Persia in 1160; born in Chaftan, Kurdistan. With his large following, he planned to capture Jerusalem as the first step to redeeming the Jewish people. He began his campaign with an attack on the citadel of his native town, was defeated and died, possibly at the hand of his own father-in-law. For a while his memory was kept alive by the Menahemites (“The Consolers”), a Jewish sect which greatly revered him. Folk stories endowed his personality with great beauty and valor. In the 19th century, this legend-encrusted figure became the hero of Benjamin Disraeli‘s novel, David Alroy. (See also Messianism.)


See Literature, Hebrew.


Literally, country folk. It became a derogatory phrase, meaning one ignorant and uneducated in Jewish matters. The term originated in the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These two leaders urged those who returned from the Babylonian Exile with them to separate themselves from “the people of the earth,” called Ammei Ha-Aretz. This separation was necessary to prevent Jews from assimilating and losing their identity. The Talmud has many definitions of an Am Ha-Aretz, such as: “One of the multitude which knows not the (Jewish) law,” and “he who has children and does not educate them in the Law.”


Aborigines who tried to prevent the Israelites from entering Canaan and who continued to wage war against them up to the time of David. Because of their cruelty, and because Haman (See Purim) was thought to be one of them, the Amalekites were branded by tradition as enemies whose “memory is to be blotted out.” (Told in Exod. 17:8, Deut. 25:17, and Esther 3:1.)


“So be it” or “verily”; biblical word spoken to confirm the statement of another, or chanted in affirmation of a prayer. It first occurs in the Book of Numbers. Amen is nearly universal, being used by Jews, Christians, and Moslems.


Agency that promotes cultural exchanges between Israel and the U.S. It was originally founded in 1939 by Edward A. Norman to unify American-Jewish fundraising for educational, cultural, and social service institutions in Palestine.


Established by the Bnai Zion order, the league is dedicated to promoting friendship and understanding between Americans and Israelis through the interchange of cultural, educational, artistic, and scientific knowledge. Its program and activities are channeled through the American-Israel Friendship House in New York City. Membership is open to all who subscribe to its principles, irrespective of race, creed, or religion. One of its ongoing projects is the High School Students Exchange Program.


Organization which defines Jews as members of a religious faith only, not as a people. It was founded in 1942 by Rabbi Louis Wolsey of Philadelphia. Its adherents were members of the Reform movement who were dissatisfied with the gradual acceptance of Zionism by the majority of Reform Jews. The Council waged a bitter campaign against the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. After the creation of the State of Israel they raised the issue of dual loyalties and dual citizenship. The Council has been charged with playing into the hands of hatemongers, as well as with encouraging assimilation. Following the Six-Day War of 1967, the Council all but ceased to exist.


American lobbying group for Israel that works actively on legislation affecting the State of Israel; established in 1954 in Washington, D.C. Widely supported among American Jews, it is considered one of the most effective lobbies in Washington.

Today, AIPAC has 100,000 members across all 50 states who are at the forefront of the most vexing issues facing Israel today: stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism and achieving peace. Above all, AIPAC works to ensure that U.S.-Israel relations are strong so that both countries can work together to meet these challenges effectively.


American Jewish organization, founded in 1906. At present, the AJC has 30 offices worldwide. The committee’s objectives, as stated in its charter of incorporation, are to prevent the violation of civil and religious rights of Jews everywhere; to take action when such violations occur; to “secure for Jews equality of economic, social, and educational opportunity”; and to relieve Jews who suffer from persecution and disasters.

Although the Committee initially opposed Jewish nationalism, a number of its leaders, particularly Louis Marshall, who served as president from 1912 to 1929, were instrumental in establishing the Jewish Agency for Palestine. In 1947, the AJC urged the U.S. to support the Palestine partition resolution in the UN.

With the cooperation of the Jewish Publication Society of America the Committee has published annually since 1909 the American Jewish Yearbook, a handbook of information on Jews around the world. It also founded Commentary, a monthly opinion magazine on Jewish affairs, now an independent magazine.


Founded in 1916, the Congress sent a delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference in 1918 to help secure Jewish rights all over the world. Though the Congress adjourned “permanently” in 1920, it was felt that it needed to continue, and so it was revived in 1922. During the Nazi period, the American Jewish Congress worked militantly against Nazism. It also worked consistently for Zionism, both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel, actively pursuing issues of social justice for all people.

The total membership is approximately 50,000. Its presidents, following Nathan Straus, have included Stephen S. Wise, Israel Goldstein, Joachim Prinz, Arthur J. Lelyveld, and Arthur Hertzberg.


The JDC, or “Joint” as it is universally known, was founded on November 27, 1914, to serve as the overall distribution agency for funds collected by different American Jewish groups for overseas relief. By 1917, it was conducting its own centralized fundraising campaign. From 1939 on, it received the bulk of its funds from the United Jewish Appeal.

Since 1914, the JDC has spent more than $1.2 billion for the relief of Jews everywhere in the world. In 1979, the Committee aided more than 435,000 Jews in more than 25 countries, mainly in North Africa, the Middle East, Israel, and Europe. The first half century of its existence may be divided into six periods: World War I, when the Jewish refugees’ status required urgent help in many parts of Europe; the postwar emergency period of 1918-1920, when food and clothing had to be distributed in huge quantities; the reconstruction period from 1921-1932, when JDC aided Jewish communities throughout the world to help themselves; the Nazi period, 1933-1945, when Jews had to be saved from death, moved to new countries, and fed and clothed until they were self-sufficient; and the emergency period after World War II, when the JDC bore its greatest burdens. Tens of thousands of Jewish displaced persons (DP’s) had to be helped to rebuild their lives. DP camps in Europe needed food, clothing, teachers, social workers, medical personnel


See Magen David Adom.

AMICHAI, YEHUDA (1924-2000).

Major Hebrew poet known for his nontraditional choice of subjects; Amichai’s innovative use of the Hebrew language. Drawing from and interfacing various strata of language, from classical Hebrew to the post-modern colloquial, Amichai became known as the “poet who plays with words. “Amichai’s poetry spans a range of emotions, from laughter to sadness to self-mockery. His work emphasizes the individual who, although conscious and integrally part of the collective experience, ultimately views the world through his personal lens.


See Prayer and Siddur.


Hero of a legend first published around 1350 that reflected the bloody persecutions of the Jews during the Crusades. The Archbishop of Mayence continually pressed Amnon, a distinguished and learned man of wealth among the Jews of Mayence in Germany, to convert to Christianity. Finally, Amnon asked the archbishop for three days to come to a decision. At the end of this period, Amnon did not appear before the archbishop because he regretted having given the impression that he was considering changing his faith. As punishment, the archbishop commanded that Amnon’s hands and feet be cut off. This happened just before the Jewish New Year, and Amnon, dying of his wounds, had himself carried into the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah during the services. As the cantor was about to recite the Kedusha, or Sanctification, Amnon stopped him, saying: “Pause that I may sanctify the most holy Name.” He then began the hymn starting with the words U’netaneh Tokef, We will celebrate the mighty holiness of this day. When he reached the words “and our Name hast Thou linked with Thine own,” Amnon died. The famous Rabbi Meshullam ben Kalonymus of Mayence (ca. 1000 C.E.) who published this poem, is considered its author. Since then, U’netaneh Tokef has been a part of Rosh Hashanah services.


Hebrew and Aramaic, meaning speaker or interpreter. The title “Amora” was given to all teachers of Jewish law in Palestine from about 200 C.E. to 500 C.E. The Amoraim continued the work of the Tannaim, the creators of the Mishnah. After the Mishnah was edited, many new problems requiring clarification arose in Jewish law. To help solve these problems, the Amoraim explained the Mishnah, discussing its rulings and reinterpreting its decisions. Their work was eventually incorporated into what is today known as the Gemara, which, together with the Mishnah, forms the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmud. The names of more than 3,000 Amoraim are mentioned in the Talmud.

AMOS (ca. 750 B.C.E.).

Third of the Minor Prophets in the Bible; first of the prophets known to have recorded their visions. Amos was a shepherd in the village of Tekoa nestling in the hills of the kingdom of Judah. He came to nearby Bethel, the principal religious center of the northern kingdom of Israel, to sell his sheep and fruits. There, Amos cried out against the injustice and poverty of the masses under Jeroboam II. In pity and sorrow, he predicted the punishment of Israel and its destruction by Assyria. Turning to Samaria, the political center of Israel, he accused the wrongdoers and warned them of the ruin they would bring on their nation. The main idea of Amos was justice for all humanity, not only for his own nation. He was the first to see God as the universal Lord of all the nations, not only of Israel. Israel must live up to a unique standard of righteousness, being the home of God’s chosen people. Amos taught also that God required not sacrifices, but justice, purity, and truth. He dreamed of a future golden age of peace, when “the exiles of my people Israel” will return home, rebuild the wasted cities, replant the vineyards, and never be uprooted again.


The first Jews to settle in the Netherlands‘ capital were refugees from persecution in Portugal and of the Spanish expulsion of 1492. They were given religious freedom but were barred from all professions except medicine. They became active in commerce and industry and, during the 17th century, established synagogues and schools, including the great yeshiva, Etz Hayim. The earliest waves of Ashkenazic Jews came from Poland in the wake of the Chmielniki pogroms in 1648. Shortly after, German Jews settled in Amsterdam. The entire community participated in the development of a rich cultural life. Outstanding among the many scholars of this period was Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, the diplomat, author, and printer who set up the first printing press in Amsterdam. The community accorded great power to its rabbis, who opposed the study of the Kabbalah, as they did the Messianic movements. They excommunicated the religious rebel Uriel Acosta in 1640 and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza in 1656.

In 1796, in the wake of the French Revolution, Jews were granted equal rights, attaining complete emancipation during the 19th century. They continued to play an important role in the economic life of the city, until the outbreak of World War II.

With the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933, a mass migration of Jewish refugees to the Netherlands began. When Hitler’s armies entered the Netherlands, there were approximately 80,000 Jews in Amsterdam. The familiar Nazi pattern of mass deportation and atrocities against Jews destroyed 85 percent of Dutch Jewry. When the Allied armies of liberation entered Amsterdam in 1945, they found about 25,000 Jewish survivors of this once great Jewish community. The most famous victim of Naziism in Amsterdam is Anne Frank, author of Diary of a Young Girl.

Since then, Amsterdam Jewry, with the assistance of the Netherlands government, has slowly recovered and reestablished itself. In 2007, about 15,000 Jews lived in the city. Schools for children and synagogue services were serving the community. The Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam celebrated its 350th anniversary in April 1986.


Founder of the Karaite sect, which rejects the authority of the Talmud and bases its beliefs on the Bible only. A sharp quarrel broke out between Anan and his younger brother, Hananiah (Josiah), over the office of “Prince of Exile.” The Jewish leaders supported Hananiah’s appointment, and it was duly confirmed by the Caliph of Baghdad. When Anan protested he was arrested. While in prison he made the acquaintance of the prominent Moslem theologian Abu Hanifah, who advised him to declare himself leader of a new religious sect. Anan did so, and as a result he was freed.

In 770, Anan wrote the Sefer ha-Mitzvot, or “Book of Commandments,” which became the basic text for the new sect. By recognizing Jesus and Mohammed as prophets he won the friendship of both Christians and Moslems. The members of his sect, originally called Ananites, came to be known as Karaites from the Hebrew Karaim or “[strict] readers of Scriptures.” Anan died in 800, but his sect exists to this day. (See also Karaites.)


Mal’ach in Hebrew. The Bible mentions angels as spiritual beings, ministering to God and appearing to men on special missions. Angels came to Abraham to predict the birth of a son, and to Lot to warn him of the imminent destruction of Sodom. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder “set up on the earth, and the top of it reached the heaven.” Similarly, an angel appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush.” Descriptions of angels are to be found in Isaiah, where they have six wings, and in Ezekiel. They are powerful, wise, and holy, but are subject to the will of God and obey His command. While the Book of Daniel names only the angels Michael and Gabriel, Talmudic and Midrashic literature mentions names of many angels, each one performing a specific task. In Jewish tradition a special place is occupied by the Angel of Death, the ministering angels who give praise to the Lord, and angels appointed to guard the nations of the world.


A philan­thropic organization of English Jews, with branches throughout the British empire. Shortly after being founded in 1871 in conjunction with the Alliance Israélite Universelle, it dissociated itself from the French organization. The Association aims to help Jews everywhere to “obtain and preserve full civic rights,” “to protect those who suffer for being Jews,” “to foster education of Jews particularly in the Middle East,” and “to support the upbuilding of Israel.” The Anglo-Jewish Association has contributed greatly to the support of Jewish schools throughout the Middle East (including Palestine) and in Shanghai. It worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews until 1946.


Leader of Warsaw ghetto uprising. In 1943, at the height of Nazi terror, the Warsaw ghetto was populated by 40,000 Jews; 460,000 had been systematically exterminated. Unless drastic action was taken, the survivors would be led like sheep to slaughter. The Jewish underground resolved at that moment to rise in open rebellion against their murderers.

A 24-year-old member of the Labor Zionist movement, Anielewicz chose to stay in Poland after Nazi occupation. Traveling from ghetto to ghetto in fear of his life, he spent the first four years of the occupation training young men in self-defense units.

Under Anielewicz’s able and inspiring command, the ghetto factions were welded into a single fighting force. During the Passover holiday of 1943, the ghetto fighters lashed out against their oppressors. For two weeks the poorly armed and heavily outnumbered “army” battled against the air and tank divisions that had been called in to quell the uprising. At the end of two weeks the ghetto stood no longer. Its defenders lay dead in the rubble. Among them was Anielewicz, and by his side as always was Mira, his wife.

The heroism of these defenders is commemorated in a massive monument erected at Yad Mordecai, a kibbutz in Israel named after Mordecai Anielewicz.


Formerly Dropsie College, the Institute was founded in 1907 in Philadelphia by Moses Aaron Dropsie, and became one of the institutions of higher Jewish learning in America. It is a non-sectarian, non-theological postgraduate institution, specializing in the science of Judaism. It offers courses leading to degrees of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, and Master of Arts. The Institute consists of three divisions: the interrelated Hebrew and Semitic studies in the Department of Hebrew and Cognate Learning; the School of Education, with parallel courses in New York City; and the Institute for Israel and the Middle East, which trains qualified personnel for government, social, and educational agencies in the U.S. and Israel. The Institute issues a number of scholarly publications, including the Jewish Quarterly Review. It was reorganized in 1986 and given its present name.

ANNENBERG, WALTER H. (1908-2002).

Leading American publisher and philanthropist, who gave $365 million to four schools. Publisher of TV Guide, Annenberg served as U.S. ambassador to England from 1969 to 1975.


Launched by B’nai B’rith in 1913, in the aftermath of the lynching in of Jewish businessman, Leo Frank, ADL was founded in 1913 to combat antisemitism. Its mandate was “to end the defamation of the Jewish people…to secure justice and fair treat­ment for all citizens alike.” The agency has grown into an international organization, headquar­tered in New York City with 30 regional offices in this country, a European office in Paris and Vienna, an Israel office in Jerusalem, affiliated offices in Latin America and Canada, and a consultant in Rome.

Both at home and abroad, the agency combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and dis­crimination, counteracts anti-Israel propaganda; alerts government officials and the public to threats to the democratic process. strengthens interfaith friendship and understanding; and works generally in behalf of Jewish concerns and interests.

In seeking “fair treatment for all citizens,” the agency has fought successfully against quotas barring Jews and other minorities from schools, jobs, and housing. Today, still dedicated to a system of merit, ADL opposes the reverse discrimination in­herent in the use of racial quotas as the criteria for access to employment and education.

ADL enlists the support of international public opinion in speaking out against oppression of Jews in the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and elsewhere, and condemns terrorist acts directed against Jewish communities in Western Europe. It also advocates the security of Israel and supports the peace process. It prepares an­nual audits of incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence.


See Maccabees.


The hatred of Jews. Probably, the oldest known form of bigotry, its purpose  is to use the Jews as scapegoats for a non-Jewish people’s problems. The purpose of antisemitism in its active political phase is to degrade the Jews by removing their civil, political, social, economic, and religious rights, and finally, as in the instance of the Nazis, by exterminating them. Jews are not the only people considered “Semites,” but the term “antisemitism applies exclusively to them. It was first used used in Germany in 1879, in a pamphlet by Wilhelm Marr ­titled “The Victory of Judaism Over Germanism.”  That same year, Marr founded the Antisemitic League. Of course, Jew hatred existed long before the use of the words antisemitism and antisemite. In the story of the biblical Book of Esther, Haman makes use of many of the classic techniques of antisemitism—libel, false accusations, and discrimination—to gain his ends. After the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome in 137 C.E., the emerging Christian religion rapidly developed strong antisemitic attitudes. As Christianity came into power in the Roman Em­pire, a dark age of antisemitism began for the Jewish people. Increasingly, Jews lost their civil and other rights, and oppression became widespread.

The Middle Ages. The Middle Ages was a period of discrimination, violent persecution, and expulsions for Jewish people, acts that are antisemitic in origin. There were some relatively good periods, beginning in the 7th century when Pope Gregory the Great actively opposed antisemitic violence. From that time until the beginning of the Crusades in 1096, the situation of the Jews in Christian Europe was tolerable. But the Crusaders, on their way to the Holy Land, “revenged” themselves upon the Jews, killing thousands of men, women, and children in pogroms. Jews were blamed for having started the Black Death, a plague which killed off millions of people in Europe beginning in 1348. The result was more bloody backlash against Jews.

 The Middle Ages did not end for the Jewish people until the end of the 18th century, when the spread of enlightenment, scientific knowledge, and democracy brought the break­down of ghetto walls and the beginnings of more objective judgment and equal op­portunity for Jews. Nevertheless, organized and individual antisemitism remained everywhere—less in France, England, and the United States, but more in Germany, Austria, and especially in Poland and Russia. The pogroms which erupted in Russia beginning in 1881 brought 2.1 million Jews to the New World by 1910.

 The Protocols of the elders of Zion. The most potent piece of antisemitic literature in the flood of hate-books and pamphlets which have appeared in the last century is undoubtedly the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. First pro­duced in 1901 by Sergius Nilus, a Russian mystic, as an adaptation of a satire of Napolean III by Maurice Joly of France, it was rapidly printed and distributed in various languages in Europe and later in the U.S. The Protocols claim to be the strategic plans made by the World Zionist Congress in 1897 for the Jewish conquest of the world. Despite repeated public proof that they were forgeries, the circula­tion of the Protocols continues in Arab countries and some other countries.  The most detailed history of the forgery is Hadassa Ben-Itto’s The Lie That Wouldn’t Die

 The most fateful outbreak of antisemitism in history occurred in Germany between 1933 and 1945. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party rose to ab­solute power in that country on a plat­form based on antisemitism. Since Jews were to blame for Germany’s problems, Hitler argued, the only solution was to exterminate them. Hitler and his followers almost succeeded. During World War II, six million Jews were killed by starvation, disease, “special killing actions,” and ultimately by the gas chambers, which murdered many thousand as day.  Some, Poles, Hungarians, Latvians, and others joined the Nazis in this massacre.

Antisemitism in the United States. The history of antisemitism in the U.S. may be simply charted. The first overt case of public antisemitism in the U.S. occurred in 1862, when General Ulysses S. Grant issued his notorious General Order No. 11, banning Jews from his army area. (This order was quickly revoked by President Abraham Lincoln.) The next major incident occurred in 1877, when it was learned that Jews were not welcome as guests at the largest hotel in Saratoga, N.Y. Through the years, until World War I, there was much subtle discrimination of Jews—in hotels, clubs, colleges, and jobs—but little organized antisemitism.

  A Board of Delegates of American Israelites was formed in 1859 to fight for Jewish rights. It never achieved great prominence, and in 1878 merged with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The most active Jew in Washington dur­ing this period was Simon Wolf, who advised the Presidents on Jewish problems.

 In 1906, the American Jewish Committee was formed to provide for the increasing need for activity to fight antisemitism and to secure equal rights for Jews. Later, other organizations joined this movement: the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, local Jewish community councils, and the Na­tional Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.

The most public case of antisemitism in the interim between the World Wars involved automobile magnate Henry Ford and his infamous newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, which reprinted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and carried on an active antisemitic campaign. After he was sued for libel in 1927, Ford apologized in a public letter to Louis Marshall, recalled all copies of the Dearborn Independent, and never again allowed himself to be involved in antisemitic activity.

 During the Nazi period, the German government sponsored widespread antisemitic propaganda and activity in the U.S. Most vocal and vicious, the German-American Bund achieved a fairly large membership, at least in the Yorkville section of New York. It was joined by organizations and individuals like the Silver Shirts of William D. Pelley, Gerald Winrod’s organization, Father Charles Coughlin of the Christian Front, Gerald L.K. Smith, and many others. They achieved a measure of success despite efforts by Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and persons  and persisted until the outbreak of World War II.

Between 1945 and 1968, memories of the Holocaust limited organized antisemitism in the U.S. to a “lunatic fringe.” Also, the rise and achievements of the State of Israel helped transform the image of the Jew in society. By the 1960’s American Jewry felt sufficiently secure to take a leading role in various social and civil rights causes. Many Jews participated in “freedom marches” and similar demonstrations for Black rights.

 Following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, part of the Black community became openly hostile to whites, especially Jews, who were accused of being slum landlords and ghetto store owners who created poor Blacks’ credit problems. Moreover, the goal of the Black militant movement was “national liberation,” and as such it allied with similar movements, including the so-called “Palestine Liberation” movement. From about that time, anti-Zionism became a convenient cover for a new antisemitism. In 1975, a United Nations General Assembly resolution formally declared that “Zionism is a form of racism,” Even though the resolution which was rescinded after its major proponent, the Soviet Union, fully collapsed in 1991, that view of Zionism still fuels antisemitism today.

 In addition to this, since the 1960s in general, a rhetoric of Holocaust Denial has emerged worldwide, starting in Europe and spreading to other parts of the world. Many western intellectuals have come out presenting what they called scientific proofs that the Holocaust did not occur, or at least not a nearly to the immense proportions widely known today. Such rhetoric continues to be produced by political figures and groups who insist that the Holocaust was used conveniently to push the Zionist agenda, while the specific agenda of these persons stays basically antisemitic.

 Theories of Origin. There are many theories about the origin of antisemitism. One is religious conflict, the traditional Christian dislike for Jews because they rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah (see Messianism) and, some allege, were responsible for his crucifixion. Many persons consider this historic fabrication to be the chief source of antisemitism. Another theory maintains that this hostility is due to the fact that Jews have remained a minority refusing to give up its exclusive identity and community.

 Neither of these theories provides a complete answer to this complicated question. Scientists have worked out some ideas to explain the basis of hatred and bigotry. They have found that unhappy, emotionally insecure people tend to be intolerant. Their feelings of inferiority breed hostility within them. They join groups through which they vent their feelings on other people, who then serve as scapegoats for their problems. Probably, antisemitism is the result of a combination of religious, social, and psychological reasons.

 Antisemitism Today. The latest political manifestation of Holocaust denial emanated in 2006 from Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in addition to denying the Holocaust called for “wiping Israel off the map.”  In France, many attacks on Jews, mostly by Muslims, have taken place.  Latent antisemitism has surfaced in other parts of Europe like Hungary as well. Antisemitic rhetoric is common among Muslim clerics and in Muslim school textbooks. In short, the virus of antisemitism keeps reappearing wherever a grievance against Jews, real or imagined, exists.

ANTOKOLSKI, MARK (1843-1902).

Russian sculptor. Born in the city of Vilna, Antokolski chose the career of sculpture against the wishes of his orthodox parents. After studying in St. Petersburg and Berlin, he moved to Paris. His statue of Ivan the Terrible made him famous at the age of 28. He made life-size statues of such thinkers as Socrates and Spinoza, as well as fine portrait busts (among his sitters was the aged novelist Count Leo Tolstoy). Well known is his Christ Before Pilate: with bowed head and bare feet, Jesus, a Jewish peasant, stands before his unseen judge. For his earliest work, The Jewish Tailor, made in high-relief, he received a silver medal. It shows a lean old craftsman in cap and gabardine, sitting cross-legged in the window of his tiny shop, holding his needle against the light to thread it.


Rabbinical term meaning skeptic or heretic, derived from the name of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose students argued against Judaism.


Books written during the time of the Second Temple and shortly after its destruction (ca. 200 B.C.E.-100 C.E.). These books describe future events through extraordinary and symbolic images and visions. Many parts of the Bible, such as the first chapters of Ezekiel and Daniel, contain apocalyptic references. Parts of the Apocrypha belong to this group, including the Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Apocalypse of Baruch, Psalms of Solomon, Book of Adam and Eve, Assumption of Moses, and others. Most of these books were created in times of danger and stress. They are full of mystic visions, prophesying Judgment Day and the coming of the Messianic Age.


From the Greek apokryphos, meaning “hidden, not recognized”; a series of books written during the last centuries B.C.E. and excluded from the Bible when the canon was set up ca. 90 C.E. Several of the Apocrypha were written at a later date. Some of them were written in Greek, and all were generally modeled after a book in the Bible. They compromise wisdom books such as Ben Sira, poems, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, and prayers such as that of Manasseh. The two historical Books of the Maccabees, as well as such instructive stories as the books of Tobit, Judith, and Susanna, are a part of the Apocrypha. In the Book of Judith, the heroine rescues a whole city from a besieging Assyrian army by killing its general, Holofernes. Also among the Apocrypha are prophecies or revelations of the unknown, called Apocalyptic writings. None of these books equals the Bible’s grandeur of ideas or beauty of writing, and many of them were lost and forgotten by Jews. Some survived only in Greek and were included by the early Church Fathers in the Catholic Bible.

APPELFELD, AHARON (1932-2018).

Leading Israeli author who survived the Holocaust as a child. His novels, dealing with Holocaust themes, are considered the finest of their kind in Hebrew literature. In 1983, he was awarded the Israel Prize, and his autobiography, The Story of a Life: A Memoir, won France’s Prix Médicis in 2004.


The Arabs are peoples living throughout the Middle East and North Africa. They speak various Arabic dialects and are for the most part of the Islamic faith.

Jewish and Arab tradition hold that the Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham. In ancient times there were several small but highly developed kingdoms in the Arabian peninsula. Most of the Arabs, however, were camel breeding nomads. Those mentioned in the Bible probably wandered northward from Arabia and lived on the fringe of the Jewish settlement in Palestine. The early Arab kingdoms fell into decay in the first centuries of the common era. It was only with the religious revolution of Mohammed in the 7th century that the Arabs emerged as a major force.

Scion of a wealthy merchant family, Mohammed declared himself the prophet of “the only true faith.” Known as Islam, this religion centered around Allah, the “one true God,” but accepted the religious writings of both Christians and Jews. Its prophets included Abraham, Moses, the biblical prophets, Jesus, and Mohammed. Mohammed believed it was his duty to convert humankind to Islam. To this end, he began a series of “Holy Wars.” Leading an army of fierce desert warriors, he and his successors conquered the entire Middle East from Egypt to Central Asia. Later, North Africa and Spain were brought under Islamic rule. The pagan people of the conquered countries were converted to Islam, taught the Arabic language, and made subjects of a single Arab empire.

At that time most Jews lived within the Arab empire. When both persuasion and persecution failed to shake their faith, the Arab rulers were forced to evolve a policy of some tolerance. Jews were generally accepted as second-class citizens. But this legal definition of their status did not put an end to persecution. Fanatic Moslem sects led the occasional violent outbursts of hatred which often led to massacres. On the whole, however, Jews were much better off in the Islamic world than in Christian Europe. Though they continued to study Hebrew, Arabic became their spoken tongue. They came and went freely in the markets of the east.

By the 10th century, Jews were important in the international trade flourishing from Spain to India. There were Jewish bankers, ministers, generals, and doctors at most Moslem courts. In addition, the Jewish community remained fairly independent, and the community head had an honored place in the government of the Caliphs.

Golden Age of Judeo-Arabic Culture. Especially distinguished during this era was the cultural life of the Jews. Between the 7th and 10th centuries the Arabs evolved one of the greatest civilizations in history. In addition to the development and study of their own religion, Arab scholars had worked fruitfully in the fields of philosophy, poetry, language, history, geography, medicine, astronomy, and other branches of science. Speaking Arabic and mixing freely with Arab scholars, Jews contributed to all these fields of learning. More important, they developed a culture of their own, based on their ancient traditions and on the research of their Moslem neighbors. In Babylonia, the heads of great Talmudic academies continued the work of their predecessors in interpreting the Jewish law. Saadiah Gaon, head of the Jewish community in Babylonia during the 10th century, not only translated the Bible into Arabic, but also published studies in philosophy, poetry, religion, and law. In the following century, the center of Jewish life shifted to Spain, and a series of brilliant figures participated there in creating the “Golden Age” of Jewish history. At this time, Maimonides, a physician by profession, was one of the great masters of philosophy. His great works include a codification of Jewish law and a justification of the Jewish religion in terms of ancient Greek philosophy. The greatest achievements of the Golden Age, however, were not in philosophy, but in poetry. Living in both Christian and Moslem Spain, such poets as Judah Ha-Levi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, and Moses Ibn Ezra created some of the most beautiful poetry in the Hebrew language. Their poems treat religious and secular subjects in forms derived from classical Arabic verse. They were all learned in science and philosophy and masters of classic Arabic prose as well as Hebrew and Jewish lore. Other poets and scholars in Babylonia, North Africa, and Tunis contributed to the flowering of Jewish culture.

The Golden Age of Judeo-Arabic culture came to an end with the decline of the entire Arab civilization in the 13th and 14th centuries. At that time, barbarian rulers gained domination over most of the Islamic empire. In the course of that period, the center of Jewish life passed from the shores of the Mediterranean to Europe proper. Many Jews continued to live on the shores of the Mediterranean but ceased to play a vital role in Jewish life. Until the rise of Jewish nationalism at the end of the 19th century, Mediterranean Jews lived as a subject people among their Arab neighbors who were under the dominion of foreign powers.

The Modern Arab Revival. The 19th and 20th centuries, which have witnessed the return of the Jews to Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state there, have also seen a negative change in Arab-Jewish relations. The Arab states, which were created after the defeat of the Ottoman-Turkish Empire in World War I, have firmly opposed the return of the Jews to their homeland. This opposition flared into open warfare in 1948, when the armies of five Arab nations invaded the newly-declared State of Israel. Despite four successive defeats on the battlefield, the Arabs did not accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state for more than 30 years. Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 finally signed peace treaties with Israel.

Today, there are two opposite trends in the Arab world regarding Israel. On the one hand, extremist Muslim groups and regimes in the Arab world refuse to recognize the Jewish State, and even seek its destruction. On the other hand, some more moderate Arab regimes like Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, and Jordan show readiness to make comprehensive peace with Israel and normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world.


A group of Semitic languages, known as Chaldaic in their most ancient form. The earliest surviving form of Aramaic dates ca. 900 B.C.E. The Assyro-Babylonian and Persian empires absorbed this language, and since Aramaic was closely related to Hebrew, it was picked up by the Jewish exiles in Babylonia in the 6th century B.C.E. When they returned to Judea, Jews brought the Aramaic tongue home with them. By 300 B.C.E. it was used in daily life, and many prayers were chanted in Aramaic. Aramaic was also the language of trade and diplomacy in the whole Middle East. Isolated portions of the Bible (Dan. 2:46, Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26, and Jer. 10:11) are written in a West Aramaic dialect. This is also the language of the Palestinian Talmud (except for the Mishnah, which is in Hebrew) and of the Midrashim. Aramaic is the language of the Babylonian Talmud and of an authorized translation of the Bible known as Targum Onkelos. Aramaic is the language of parts of the Siddur, or prayer book, of the Kaddish, and of a section of the Passover Haggadah, beginning with the words “This is the bread of affliction.” The Had Gadya (One Little Goat), the popular song sung toward the end of the Passover Seder, is also in Aramaic.


Mountain in northern Armenia, landing place of Noah’s ark in the biblical narrative (Gen. 8:4). Also a city planned on Grand Island, Niagara, N.Y., by Mordecai M. Noah in 1825.


Literally, four corners. A rectangular vestlet covering the chest and back, with ritual fringes, or tzitzit, attached to its corners, in remembrance of the biblical command that Jewish males wear a fringed garment (Num. 15:37-41). It is also called a tallit katan, or little tallit.


A triumphal arch overlooking the Roman Forum, built to celebrate the Roman victory over Judea after three years of bitter fighting from 67-70 C.E. On one of its inner panels the artist carved a scene from the triumphal procession of the victorious Roman legions. Soldiers crowned with laurel leaves are shown carrying the sacred objects they had plundered from the Temple in Jerusalem before destroying it. Their figures lean forward, straining against the weight of the golden table, the holy ark, the seven-branched menorah, and the musical instruments of the Levites. For centuries, Jews in Rome would walk long distances to avoid passing this memorial.


The scientific study of the material remains of the past. Long before the time of the Greeks, who first coined this term, people had been digging up the past, unearthing hidden passages to burial chambers, and passing on the oral history of much earlier generations.

In the 7th century B.C.E., Assurbanipal of Assyria was proud of his ability to decipher writings on ancient clay tablets, and sent his scribes far and wide to collect copies of early records and documents for his wonderful library at Nineveh. Nabonidus, who ruled Babylon in the 6th century B.C.E., made exploratory excavations in the age-old Ziggurat, or temple tower, which loomed up at Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. He read the foundation records of its ancient builders, and carefully carried out restorations, as told in his own inscriptions. The daughter of Nabonidus shared her father’s interest and maintained a small museum in which objects of great importance were kept. Similarly, a royal commission was appointed by Rameses IX of Egypt to examine the physical condition of ancient tombs and pyramids. This interest has remained unabated through the ages.

Modern archeological research emerged a little more than 150 years ago, and has ingeniously awakened the ancient past. Buried for thousands of years in clay tablets, papyri, scrolls, and inscriptions, long forgotten tongues have now been deciphered and revived. Whole cities and settlements have been found arranged one atop the other, forming artificial mounds, or tel in Hebrew. These mounds have been carefully excavated, sliced down like a layer-cake to reveal as many as seventeen different levels of culture. Objects of all types, secular and religious, have been found in the ruins of each layer. Even shards of pottery have been picked up and carefully restored. The styles and shapes then provide clues for dating other objects found on the same level. Charts of pottery vessels of almost every age and geographical area are available and as indispensable for the archeologist as the stamp album for the stamp collector.

Archeology uses both strict scientific methods and the latest technology: electronics, aerial photography, X-rays, and radio carbon. For example, X-rays penetrate the wrappings of Egyptian mummies, locating the exact positions of jewelry and sometimes determining the cause of death. Radio-carbon is used to determine the exact age of all organic matter.

The development of archeology has been made possible through the teamwork of scholars and experts of many different nations and religious backgrounds. Each group, with its own motivation, enables us to see more vividly the world of the Bible, the text which the great prophets preached and from which sprang Judaism and Christianity. On the other hand, Israelis study the Bible and biblical archaeology to obtain new and important knowledge of the land which they are now reclaiming and on which they plan to build a great future.

Every child in modern Israel is an amateur archeologist. Knowing the Hebrew Bible almost by heart, and equipped with maps and archeological guide books, children hike the length and breadth of their historic land, identifying ancient places and ruins, and recognizing the flowers, plants, and animals natural to that region.

In 1948, the young Israeli general Yigael Yadin was able to surround an invading Egyptian army by following an old Roman road in the Negev known to him from his studies in biblical archeology. Nelson Glueck, a famous Jewish scholar conducting a series of explorations in the Negev, has proven that hundreds of towns and settlements thrived in antiquity in an area which has for many centuries been the great wasteland of southern Palestine. He likewise unearthed King Solomon‘s copper mines and refineries near Elat, the port at the northern tip of the Red Sea. There he found that the ancient Israelites had anticipated some of our most modern methods for refining metals.

Daring military archeologists have reopened the ancient fortress of Masada, high in the rocks of the wilderness of Judah. Until recently, this legendary stronghold, famed for the last stand of the Zealots in the desperate war against the Romans in 70 C.E., could be seen only by aerial photography. Now the labyrinth of underground passages has been laid bare, revealing implements and vessels of all types, with interesting inscriptions or graffiti on the walls. Masada has become one of the great national shrines of the State of Israel.

In 1965, Yigael Yadin reported the discovery of part of the Hebrew original of the Apocryphal Book of Jubilees in Masada.

At Wadi Muraba’at near the Dead Sea, several stratified grottoes were found to contain, amidst a mass of other relics, some coins and a number of dated personal documents from 2nd century C.E. Written on papyrus and crude leather in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, these documents include a letter by Bar Kokhba, the leader of the last Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132-35 C.E. In this letter bearing the signature of Simeon ben Koseba, his authentic name, the rugged Jewish general warns his chief of staff, Joshua ben Galgola: if Galgola will not follow instructions regarding the prisoners of war and the requisitioning of private property, Bar Kokhba will fetter his legs with chains, as he has previously done to another disobedient subordinate. In 1959, an Israeli archeological expedition assisted by army helicopters uncovered another Bar Koseba letter in a cave at Nahal Heber in the Judean Desert.

The archeological findings of Israel may not be as spectacular as the Pyramids of Egypt or some of the other great monuments of the past. They do, however, shed light on the greatest and most enduring spiritual monument ever created, the Hebrew Bible, and on the subsequent history of its creators.

After the Six-Day War, extensive excavations were begun in many parts of the country, especially in the vicinity of the Western Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem. The discoveries in Jerusalem have been breathtaking. Artifacts dating back to the First Temple were discovered. Entire streets, markets, and homes were found underground, revealing facets of life during the time of King Solomon and King Herod, as well as the Byzantine, Crusader, Mamluk and Turkish periods. One such spectacular discovery is the Cardo, the Roman and Byzantine “shopping mall,” which has been reopened and once again features real-life shops. Another find is a silver amulet with the Priestly Benediction, dating back to the 7th century B.C.E., one of the oldest Hebrew biblical texts ever found. (See also Dead Sea Scrolls.)

ARENDT, HANNAH (1906-1975).

German-American political thinker. An authority on totalitarianism and Nazism, her views on Jewish behavior during the Holocaust caused great controversy.

ARENS, MOSHE (1925- ).

MIT educated, Arens moved from the U.S. to Israel in 1948 to teach aeronautical engineering at the Technion in Haifa. A member of Likud, he served as ambassador to the U.S., and later as defense and foreign minister.


Republic in southeastern South America. The first Jews arrived with early Spanish settlers in the 16th century. They were Marranos, forced converts who practiced their religion in secret. By the time of Argentina’s liberation from Spain in the early 19th century, the Marrano community had vanished. The earliest modern community was set up in 1868, but regular immigration did not begin until 1891. In that year Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (I.C.A.) to encourage the settlement of Jews upon the land. Swelled by waves of immigrants, the community grew from 1000 in 1890 to almost half a million at one point.

Most of Argentina’s Jews live in Buenos Aires and other urban centers. About half are engaged in trade, with businesses ranging from tiny shops to huge commercial establishments. A large percentage are workers in the leather, furniture, and garment industries. Many have entered the professions. Jews have played an especially important role in the economic life of the country. Among the ideas introduced by Jewish merchants were installment and direct sales, and the organization of cooperatives for both buying and selling. Within the Jewish community there are many cooperative banks, as well as cooperative business undertakings.

For many years, agriculture played an important part in the life of Argentinian Jewry. The first independent Jewish farm settlement was founded in 1899 by refugees from Russia. Other settlements were established and aided by the Jewish Colonization Association (I.C.A.). By 1940, there were 28,000 Jewish colonists on the pampas (farm regions) of Argentina. This was one of the largest Jewish farm communities in the world. Owing to the decline of the farm economy under the dictatorship of Juan Peron and to the tendency for children of settlers to move to the cities, the farm community has dwindled dramatically. Already by the last half of the 20th Century, the vast majority of Jews, members of the middle class, lived in urban centers, particularly Buenos Aires, and was engaged in business.

Buenos Aires, the capital of the country and home of most, has been one of the world’s leading centers of Yiddish culture. With Yiddish daily newspapers, weeklies, and numerous other periodicals, it has been a great center of Yiddish publishing. Hundreds of Yiddish writers, artists, musicians, and scholars lived in the city.

The Jewish Community of Buenos Aires, known as the Kehilla, is a truly unique organization. With its large membership, it has handled all aspects of communal life for the Jews of East European origins


There were few Jews in Arizona in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Only in recent decades has their number increased to nearly 83,000 in Phoenix, the capital, and 21,500 in Tucson. Those two communities have Jewish communal institutions. The Arizona Jewish Post is published in Tucson, the Jewish News in Phoenix.


See Synagogue.


According to tradition, the Ark contained the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. In ancient times, the Ark, carried by priests, led the people to battle. The Bible tells us that, when the Ark moved forward, Moses cried: “Rise up, O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered.” According to legend, the Ark was hidden under the Temple at the time of the Babylonian exile. The second Book of Maccabees relates that the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark on Mount Nebo, where it would remain until the coming of the Messiah. A Holy Ark found in every synagogue contains the Torah scrolls used in the services. The Ark traditionally faces east, toward Jerusalem. It is opened on special occasions when certain solemn prayers are recited. Great attention has been given to the structural beauty of the Ark, usually the most decorative part of the synagogue.


The Jewish community dates back to 1838. Only 1600 Jews live in Arkansas, mostly in Little Rock. Among the distinguished native sons of Arkansas is Cyrus Adler.


Zionist political and labor leader. Born in the Ukraine, Arlosoroff spent his youth and received his education in Germany. In 1924, he settled in Palestine and plunged immediately into its Labor Zionist movement. He became the movement’s political expert a year later at the age of 25. A brilliant young man, he was elected in 1931 to serve on the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine where he assumed charge of the Agency’s political work. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Arlosoroff was sent to Germany to negotiate with the Nazis. Since it was Nazi policy to expel Jews from Germany, Arlosoroff undertook to work out an agreement permitting as many Jews as possible to leave for Palestine, where the Jewish community was eager to receive them. After preliminary negotiations with Nazi leaders, Arlosoroff returned to Palestine where he reported to the Jewish leaders and to the British officials. But before he could resume negotiations, Arlosoroff was shot by an unknown assassin while walking with his wife on a Tel Aviv beach. The man convicted in the act was later released by a higher court, and it was never officially determined who fired the fatal shot on that June evening in 1933.


While Jews are considered primarily the “People of the Book,” Jewish artists, craftsmen, and architects abound throughout history. While the Second Commandment forbids the creation of graven images which can be worshiped in the pagan manner, its ban does not apply to architec­ture and so-called “applied arts.” The Book of Exodus describes in glowing terms the beauty of the Tabernacle, fashioned by Bezalel and Oholiab, but no part of it has survived. Excavations in Israel have, however, unearthed the remains of lavishly decorated palaces and other buildings dating back to the time of the Kings. Nothing remains of the magnificent temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem. Of the imposing temple erected by King Herod only a few fragments have been found. We can, however, see beautiful mosaic floors in ancient synagogues built after the destruction of Herod’s Temple, and the superb frescoes in the ruins of a small synagogue at Dura Europos on the Euphrates river in Syria.
Jews were famous in antiquity for gold­smithery. In the Middle Ages, however, arts and crafts flourished among Jews who were free from oppression for long periods in Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, and some Moslem countries in Asia and Africa. Jews were highly esteemed as dyers, lacemakers, bookbinders, and cartographers. They minted coins for Christian and Muslim rulers. Toward the end of the Middle Ages a pope for­bade Jewish smiths to manufacture Christian ceremonial objects, such as goblets and crucifixes, and barred them from binding Christian religious books.

From the Middle Ages to the Emancipa­tion, Jewish art was mainly ritual art for synagogues and home. The Torah Scroll was written—and sometimes illuminated, or ornamented—by special sofrim, or scribes. Some Hebrew Bibles had beautifully ornamented pages; others were provid­ed with initials illuminated in gold and with full-page miniatures showing biblical figures such as Adam, David, and other heroes. The Passover Hag­gadah lent itself to illustration more than any other book, as it was used not in the synagogue but at home, and religious restrictions imposed on the artist were not so severe.
The Torah mantle, generally of silk or velvet, was skillfully embroidered by pious women. Little religious art older than 400 years has come down to us. Among the exceptions are some Hanukkah lamps of brass from North Africa and Italy, probably the work of Jews. As a rule, the Christian guilds of Europe had a monopoly only over the works in the precious metals, gold and silver. The superb ritual silver objects of the 17th and 18th centuries are the works of Gentiles. While the Jewish patron gave a general description to the Christian craftsman on the construction of a par­ticular object, he did not mind if it was executed in the style of the period, whether Renaissance, Baroque, or Rococo.
Before the Emancipation, few Jews, mainly those converted to Christiani­ty, became painters and sculptors. Things changed in the 19th century, when western European art schools and academies opened their doors to all willing students. Some Jewish artists gave up their ties to Judaism, making art their religion. Jews took the lead in the fight against the old romantic and historical schools, introducing realism, open-air painting, and an appreciation of art’s social role.
These artists produced mainly portraits and land­scapes, or worked in wood, metal, or stone like their Gentile colleagues. Until about 1900, it was rare to see Jewish artists occupied with themes related to Judaism. The Russian Jewish sculptor Mark Antokolski and the Dutch Jew Joseph Israels represent the dichotomy of pursuing Jewish and universal themes. The Sephardic Jewish artist Camille Pissarro greatly influenced impressionist and post-impressionist art. There were some, though, who tried to translate the messages of the Jewish faith, the spirit of the holidays, and the great historical tradi­tions into pictorial terms. Maurycy Gottlieb became famous for his Yom Kippur painting.

Everything changed in the 20th century. Jewish art, as well as art created by Jewish artists, proliferated around the world. In Paris, the so-called  École Juive, or Jewish School, of painters and sculptors produced world renowned artists such as Amedeo Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine, and Jules Pascin. Of the great sculptors of the century, Sir Jacob Epstein of England, and Jacques Lipschitz of Europe, later the U.S., are among the best known.

Jewish artists in the U.S. have had a major influence on nearly all aspects of 20th century American art. Some, like Ben Shahn, pursued both Jewish and universal themes, particularly those related to social justice. Another example is Raphael Soyer, who depicted the downtrodden. Other leaders in innovative art were Mark Rothko, post modern abstract painter; Alexander Calder, famous for mobile sculpture; original pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Jim Dine; Malcah Zeldis and Morris Hirshfield, two uniquely styled painters; and Art Spiegelman, comic artist, famous for his Pulitzer Prize winning comic memoir Maus.

In Israel, art officially begins at the start of the 20th century with sculptor Boris Schatz, who founded the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem. In the pre-state era, artists such as Reuven Rubin and Nahum Gutman sought to create styles that reflected renewed Jewish life in the Middle East, laying the groundwork for Israeli art. Today, artistic activity in Israel, in nearly all forms, is vigorous and widespread. It encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also ritual objects, original jewelry, posters, stamps, and other objects in fabric, metal, and stone. Artist colonies thrive in Safed, Ein Hod, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, to mention a few. Among world renowned Israeli artists are Yaakov Agam, known for his kinetic and optic art; Israeli-born Moshe Safdie, a world-class architect famous for his habitat; and Shalom of Safed (Moskovitz), whose biblical and Jewish tradition themed  paintings are a leading example of Israeli art.



See Fast Days.


See Ashkelon.


A regimen of self-denial to help one avoid temptations and distractions that hinder spiritual development. The Nazirites and Rechabites of the Bible, who abstained from wine, were ancient examples of asceticism. Rechabites also refrained from living in houses and dwelt in tents instead. In the time of the Second Temple there was an ascetic sect called the Essenes. Fasting frequently or eating very little, wearing rough clothing, avoiding company, doing without money, these were practices among the ascetics. The growing influence of the Zohar and the Kabbalah during and after the Middle Ages, plus the increasingly difficult conditions of Jewish life, furthered asceticism. A practice favored by many ascetics was “putting oneself in exile.” The ascetic would leave home and family for a time, in order to appreciate more fully the exile of all Jewry. Jewish authorities such as Maimonides allowed limited asceticism for short periods, but opposed it as a way of life. A familiar ascetic figure was the matmid, one who devoted his days and nights to Torah study and allowed no other interests to distract him. The Mussar movement, which began in Lithuania about 1850, had ascetic leanings. But it placed less emphasis on self-inflicted suffering and more on the examination of the conscience as a means of self-improvement.

ASCH, SHOLOM (1880-1957).

Outstanding Yiddish novelist and dramatist. Asch spent his early youth in the small town of Kutno, Poland, where he received a traditional education. At the turn of the century he dedicated himself to literary work in Yiddish and Hebrew. One of his idyllic novels of the Jewish small town, Dos Shtetl, attracted great attention. His later plays and novels revealed him as a keen observer and vivid portrayer of Jewish life. Almost all of his important works have been translated into English and other languages: Motke the Thief, The Three Cities, Salvation, Uncle Moses, The Song of the Valley, and many other contemporary and historical novels and stories.

Asch has treated a wide range of subjects, including the saga of Jewish struggles and achievements in Europe, the U.S., and Palestine. He has caught the spirit of the revolutionary changes of our times; in his historical novels he has glorified Jewish martyrdom and piety. Some of his works based on New Testament figures, such as The Nazarene, are considered highly controversial. Two of his last novels portray the biblical figures of Moses and Isaiah. Asch lived for many years in the U.S., settled in Israel in 1956, and in October 1957, died while visiting London.


4,000-year-old port on coast of Israel. Neglected over the centuries, it now has a deep-water harbor, the largest in Israel. The town, now populated by about 200,000, is rapidly expanding through the growth of such industries as an electric power plant, a rayon factory, and an assembly plant for heavy vehicles.


Literally, happy or blessed. Eighth son of Jacob. The tribe of Asher was allotted territory from the Carmel and the lower Kishon plain as far north as the Phoenician capital of Sidon. Asher never captured Acco and Sidon from the Phoenicians, but settled largely in the Plain of Jezreel. Isaiah called their territory Galil ha-Goyim, “the district inhabited by many nations”; hence, this area came to be called Galilee.


Pagan goddess, distinct from Astarte (i.e. Ashtoreth, or Ishtar). Also refers to objects representing the goddess. Infamous for having been worshipped by Jews who reveled in idolatry, and denounced vehemently by many Hebrew prophets, most of all Jeremiah, she was considered to be the queen of heaven and wife of Baal.


Ancient Mediterranean port; one of the Five Towns of the Philistines. A modern Israeli city and resort area with about 140,000 residents, it has been developed with the aid of the South African Zionist Federation.


See Music.


Literally, Germans. The name was applied to Jews of Germany and Northern France beginning in the 10th century. In the middle of the 16th century, the term Ashkenazim came to include Jews of Eastern Europe as well. The Ashkenazim have developed a set of distinctive customs and rituals, different from those of the Sephardim, that is, Jews from Spain, Portugal, Mediterranean countries, and North Africa.

ASIMOV, ISAAC (1920-1992).

American scientist and author, considered to be the father of the science fiction genre. He wrote 100 books trying to become the first person to publish a book for every classification of the Dewey decimal system.


In rabbinical tradition, an evil spirit or demon.


Throughout Jewish history, Jews have tended to “assimilate,” adopting the language, manners, and customs of their neighbors, wherever they lived. At the same time, they continued to live a full Jewish life, producing great Jewish individuals and uniquely Jewish books. Individual Jews have left the Jewish community for other groups, but the bulk of the Jewish people has maintained its identity.

While the Jews lived in ghettos in medieval and post-medieval Europe, the ghetto walls protected them from assimilation. As the ghetto walls started to come down in the late 18th century, Jews began to discover a new world around them and soon learned that to achieve full equality they would have to conform to the general culture. A new movement, the Haskalah, or the Enlightenment, emerged, seeking to adapt to the European culture while remaining Jewish. During the French Revolution, French Jewish leaders agreed with the French liberals that the ultimate aim for Jews was to disappear completely as a national group. When Napoleon convened his Assembly of Jewish Notables, or French Sanhedrin, these Jewish leaders assured the emperor that first and last they were Frenchmen of Jewish descent.

In Germany, the Haskalah started when Moses Medelssohn translated the Bible into German. This translation introduced its Jewish readers to the German language, which opened the door to European culture. The generation that followed Mendelssohn used this culture to escape from the ghetto; in their headlong rush, large numbers were lost from Judaism altogether. Having adopted the German culture and way of life, they expected to be accepted into the “brotherhood of man.” Instead, they discovered that full citizenship and social and economic advancement were possible for Jews only after baptism


The Ashur of the Bible. The North Mesopotamian empire of the city of Asshur stretched along the fertile plain on the upper Tigris River and included the towns of Kalchu and Nineveh. Assyria became a great empire after 1300 B.C.E. when it extended southward and ruled Babylon for a short period. Its drive westward continued for the next eight centuries until it controlled the whole Mediterranean coast and Egypt. The first direct conflict between Israel and Assyria occurred around 854 B.C.E., when King Ahab together with the ruler of Damascus fought King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at Karkar. Among the great rulers of this empire who figure disastrously during the next two and a half centuries in the history of Israel and Judah are Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Assurbanipal. King Sargon defeated Israel, destroyed its capital, Samaria, and deported the flower of Israel’s population to Mesopotamia and Media. The history of Assyria as an independent empire came to an end when the Babylonians and the Medes took Asshur in 616 B.C.E. and Nineveh in 612 B.C.E, destroying them both.


The Bible contains a number of references to the heavenly bodies, their motions and appearance. God told Abraham to look toward the heavens and count the stars “if thou be able to count them


In the Bible (Ex. 21 and Num. 35), a place where an accidental killer could find refuge from the revenge of the deceased person’s relatives.


This capital of Greece had Jewish residents by the 1st century C.E. Even before this time the Athenians had voted a gold crown to the high priest Hyrcanus, and later to the Herodian kings and to Princess Berenice, in gratitude for the kindly treatment of Athenians in Judea. There were many Athenian proselytes and semi-proselytes. The Talmud has a number of stories about “the wise men of Athens.” In Byzantine and Turkish times Athens decayed, and few Jews lived there. In 1830, when after Greece’s liberation the first king was German, German Jews followed him to Athens. Sephardim from Greece and Syria, as well as Russian Jews after World War I, increased the Jewish community. During the persecution in World War II, many Athenian Gentiles hid Jews from the Germans. After the war, survivors and remnants from other Greek Jewish communities moved to Athens. In 2007, approximately 3,000 Jews, less than half of Greek Jewry, lived there.


See Yom Kippur.


See Sports.


Nazi Concentration Camp located near Oświęcim, a Polish town in southwestern Poland. It was a gruesome Death camp, where over one and a half million were killed, including over a million Jews.  Upon arrival, most people who were not selected to work were immediately murdered, mostly by poison gas. (See also Holocaust.)


Organized Jewish life in Australia began in 1828, when Jews in Sydney formed a congregation. At that time, the Jewish population numbered 300. As the colonization and settlement of Australia continued, Jewish settlement proceeded apace, and soon there were organized congregations in the principal cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth in western Australia. Most of the early Jewish immigrants came directly from England. Jewish immigration to Australia was spurred by the activities of the Montefiore, Levi, and Lazarus families, influential British Jews active in the economic development of the British dominion. Later, Australia was a haven for refugees fleeing Nazi tyranny, absorbing more Jewish immigrants in proportion to its pre-1938 Jewish population than any country except Israel. Since then, Australia has seen several influxes of Jews, such as from Egypt, following the political crisis in 1956 (see Israel), and from Iraq, in 1969. The next large immigrant group, Jewish people from the former Soviet Union, began arriving in the 1990s. Melbourne alone has a population of approximately 25,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union. Today, there are about 100,000 Jews in Australia, most of whom live in six major cities, with 50,000 in Sydney and 45,000 Melbourne. Organized in 1944, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry represents the entire Jewish community, serving as its mouthpiece on civil rights, welfare, and community status. Recent years have seen a reawakening of religious life, as well as increased interest in Jewish education. The Zionist movement is active and well organized, with close links among the various Zionist councils and local education boards of the Jewish schools. A number of Jews have played an active part in Australian life, including Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born Governor General, and Sir John Monash, who commanded the Australian Expeditionary Force in World War I. Three Jewish weeklies in English and two in Yiddish are published in Australia, in addition to numerous monthlies and organizational publications.


Jews in Austria constituted an important community in Europe, with traces going back to the 9th century. Their history is a series of immigrations and expulsions and a constant struggle for existence. In 1421, about 210 Jews were burned to death by the order of the Vienna Edict, while the rest were driven out. Gradually, they returned, but in 1670 there was another expulsion. At that time, a number of individual Jews were permitted to return to Austria on the condition that they would not form any congregation. Among these “privileged Jews” was Samson Wertheimer, rabbi and banker to the court. In 1782, Emperor Joseph II issued his Edict of Toleration, which revoked many anti-Jewish regulations, but was opposed by Orthodox Jewry because of its interference in religious and cultural affairs and its hidden aim of compulsory assimilation.

Following their participation in the 1848 revolutions, the Jews enjoyed a short-lived period of liberty. In 1867, they attained equal political rights, which they enjoyed until the Germans occupied Austria in 1938.

Jews contributed greatly to the development of Austrian economics, science, art, literature, and media. In purely Jewish matters, they were influenced by eminent scholars whose books were accepted by Jewry throughout the world. Vienna had the largest Jewish community in Austria. Others were located in Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Wiener-Neustadt and the Burgenland area.

The close of the 19th century witnessed the growth of the Zionist movement, due in no small measure to the fact that Theodor Herzl made his home in Vienna and served as literary editor and correspondent for the influential newspaper Die Neue Freie Presse. World War I brought many Jews to Austria from Galicia and Hungary; many remained after the war and exercised a strong influence on Jewish life in Austria. The Anschluss with Germany marked the beginning of the end for Austrian Jewry in March 1938. At that time, when Austria enthusiastically welcomed the German occupation, the Jewish population numbered 185,246. About 178,000 Jews lived in Vienna. By the end of World War II only 7,000 Jews remained: about 128,000 had fled the country, and about 50,000 were annihilated by the Austrians and Germans, many of them in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

There are approximately 9,000 Jews living in Austria, most of them living in Vienna and Graz. A majority of Jews who live in Vienna are registered with the Vienna Kultusgemeinde, central agency of the Austrian Jewish community. Postwar efforts of the community centered around negotiations for restitution and compensation of losses suffered under the Nazis. The Austrian Jewish community has had to contend with a resurgent antisemitism. Provisions for Jewish education have been lagging because of the dispersal of the children and their small numbers. Aided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is extremely active in relief and welfare work in Austria, the Kultusgemeinde maintains a Hebrew school, several Talmud Torahs, and a credit cooperative.

Bruno Kreisky, Jew, liberal reformist, and politician dedicated to human rights, served as Austrian chancellor in 1970-1983. Kreisky opposed Zionism as panacea to the problems of the world’s Jews; he cultivated friendly relations with Arab leaders; and had tense relationships with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and other Jewish figures.

Ronald S. Lauder was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Ambassador to Austria in April 1986 and served until October 1987. During his tenure, Lauder forged strong diplomatic bonds between the U.S. and Austria, while personally repudiating the Austrian President Kurt Waldheim. Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, for Waldheim’s involvement with the Nazi party during World War II.

Austrian Jews have contributed immensely to world thought and culture. Famous Austrian Jews include Sigmund Freud, the revolutionary psychoanalyst and thinker; Gustav Mahler, world-famous composer, and writers Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Werfel, Stefan Zweig, Jakob Wassermann, and famous Viennese Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

AUTO-DA-FE (ca. 1481-1810).

Portuguese, meaning act of faith. Tragic and justly infamous ceremony; climax of a heresy-hunting investigation by the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. Those condemned as heretics were led to public penance or execution, the latter usually by being burned at the stake.

The auto-da-fe took the form of a procession through the main streets of the city to the public square, usually in front of a church. It was led by hooded monks who were followed by the hapless prisoners. Those condemned to death carried lit candles, wore a pointed cap on their heads and a tunic called the san benito upon which the “crimes” of the victims were inscribed and various diabolic symbols were painted. Priests, monks, and soldiers brought up the rear of the procession.


Eleventh month of the Jewish civil calendar. (See also Calendar and Fast Days.)

A trespass or sinful act; opposite of mitzvah. The term does not include sin in general, but was applied to sins committed against one’s friend or against God. Judaism believes that man is not born with original sin, but rather, possesses the power of free will: “I have set before you life and death


See Ethics of the Fathers.


Sixteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, numerically, seventy.


Scholar and author. Azulai, known by his initials as Hida, traveled extensively throughout Europe. He was sent by the Jewish community in Jerusalem to gather funds for the poor scholars in the Holy Land. Azulai had received a thorough training in Talmud and Kabbalah and was endowed with a keen historical sense. He utilized his travels to visit famous libraries and to gather valuable information for his most important work, Shem Ha-Gedolim, in which he listed 1,500 scholars and authors and more than 2,000 books written from Talmudic times to his own day.


Literally, ruler, possessor. Pagan god of rain and fertility; foremost among Canaanite gods. Baal was not the name of one particular god, but the presiding deity of a given locality. He was killed each year by the hosts of Mot, the god of drought and death. Fertility and growth ceased until autumn, when Baal came to life, bringing back the rains. In spring, Baal married the goddess of fertility and war, returning fruitfulness to the land and its inhabitants. The Canaanites worshiped Baal with idolatry and fertility rites. The Bible records how judges and prophets opposed Baal worship among the people of Israel. (See also Elijah.)


Founder of Hasidism. The life of the pious Baal Shem (literally, “master of the name,” or “miracle worker”) has been the subject of so many legends and stories that it is often difficult to separate fact from myth. He left no written works, but his sayings were collected by disciples, especially Rabbi Baer of Mezhirich. Israel was orphaned at an early age and raised by the community. Though deeply religious, he was not an eager student, preferring solitary prayer and meditation. In his early life his occupations were varied: he was an assistant teacher in charge of Heder children, a synagogue helper, a ritual slaughterer, and even a charcoal burner. Upon his marriage to Anna Kuty, whose brother was the well-known scholar Rabbi Gershon Kutower, the Baal Shem moved to an isolated town in the Carpathian mountains. There he spent long hours with God and nature. Rabbi Gershon had given the couple a horse and wagon, and they made a bare livelihood by selling one wagonload of lime to the villagers every week. On his wedding day, Israel revealed to his bride that he was a divinely chosen tzaddik, or righteous man, but swore her to secrecy until the time was ripe for him to make himself known. He lived in obscurity until he was 36 years old. Then he began to travel through towns and villages, healing the sick and performing miracles.

Israel’s personality, piety, and imaginative expression gradually brought him fame. He became known as a man of deep religious feeling and enthusiasm, with a gift for communicating these emotions to the simplest and most ignorant person. His consideration and love for lowly people are illustrated by his comment to a disciple: “The lowliest person you can think of is dearer to me than your only son is to you.” His followers’ awe of him is apparent in legends. Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezhirich once asked Heaven to show him a man who was completely holy, and he was shown a fiery vision of the Baal Shem Tov. The image had no shred of matter; it was nothing but flame.

The Baal Shem yearned to go to the Holy Land, a longing which was never satisfied. In 1740, he settled in Podolia, a province in the Ukraine, where many scholars, rabbis, as well as common folk to form the nucleus of the Hasidic movement. Israel stressed devotion to God and dedicated prayer. He taught that joyful and enthusiastic worship, even that of an ignorant man, finds more favor in the eyes of the Maker than cold scholarship and dry knowledge of the Law. These teachings had great popular appeal and this new Hasidism which the Baal Shem had initiated spread like wildfire through East European Jewry.

BABEL, ISAAC (1894-1941).

Russian author; one of the great short story writers of the 20th century. He served in the Soviet cavalry during the Russian Revolution. Accused of betrayal, he perished in a prison camp.


The Bible, after the story of creation, tells of a tower built in Babylonia that reached to heaven to defy God. Incurring divine fury, the tower was destroyed, and humankind, which until then only spoke one language, was now made to speak many different languages to prevent future rebellion against God.

Ancient Asiatic land lying between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, today southern Iraq, Babylonia was the cradle of ancient civilization and the seat of empires, occupying an important place in Jewish history. Ur, the capital of the Sumerian Empire


See Stage and Screen.


Aramaic; literally, to cheer up, to make laugh. A professional merrymaker, dating back to the Middle Ages, whose duty was to entertain the guests at weddings. A badhan was a sort of poet who spontaneously made up and sang appropriate rhymes to suit the important persons he met at the wedding. One of the last badhanim to become well known was Eliakim Zunser (1836-1913). Many of Zunser’s lyrics were popular among Eastern European Jews.

BAECK, LEO (1873-1956).

Leader of German Jewry before and during the Holocaust, Baeck was one of the great theologians of the Reform movement. He explained his views of Judaism in his book Essence of Judaism, and later in This People Israel, which grew out of his experience at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. After the war he taught at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. A college in England, an institute in New York, and a high school in Haifa, Israel are named after him.


See Sports.


In the midst of World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote the following letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, of the Zionist Federation in England:

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achieve_ment of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this Declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

The three sentences of this document giving international recognition to Zionist aims were the result of three years of diplomatic negotiations reaching out from London to France, Italy, and the U.S. The Balfour Declaration was issued with the support of the French government, and with the backing of Woodrow Wilson, then President of the U.S. Official approval came from France on February 14, 1918; from Italy on May 9, 1918; and from President Wilson in a letter to Stephen S. Wise on August 31, 1918. The U.S. Congress voted in its favor, and President Harding approved the declaration on September 21, 1922. The Balfour Declaration became the basis for a mandate for the creation of Palestine. This mandate was given to Britain by the League of Nations and affirmed on July 24, 1922. The news of the Declaration was received with waves of joy and spontaneous celebrations all over the Jewish world, and today, November 2nd is celebrated as Balfour Day. (See also Zionism.)


One of the most representative and historically significant Jewish communities in the U.S., dating back to the late 18th century. The first synagogue was founded in 1830. German Jews settled in the 1840’s. During the Civil War, Baltimore Jewry was divided between North and South. Reform Rabbi David Einhorn supported the North, and had to flee the city, which was part of the South.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, a large influx of east European Jews settled in Baltimore. The poet Israel Efros founded the Baltimore Hebrew College (later Baltimore Hebrew University), and the Baltimore Jewish Times, one of the finest Jewish weeklies in America, was started in 1919. Baltimore became a stronghold of Zionism, with leaders like Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah. In 1933, the Ner Israel Rabbinical College was founded, making Baltimore a center of Orthodox Judaism. American culture was enriched by such Baltimorean Jews as Gertrude Stein, who helped shape the literary style of writers like Ernest Hemingway, and the poet Karl Shapiro. The novel Exodus, by Baltimorean writer Leon Uris, had a positive impact on explaining the birth of the State of Israel to the world.

Today, Baltimore has a well organized and diversified Jewish community of 92,000, with several day schools, and the full range of Jewish communal services.


Founded in 1919 in Baltimore; one of the first institutions in America to offer a full Hebrew teachers’ training program. In addition to the Teachers’ Training School, the college offers a four-year afternoon high school program and adult education courses.


See Numbers.


A leader of the Zealots, a party of extremists who were most responsible for the Judean rebellion against Rome from 67-70 C.E. Simon Bar Giora was a man of great physical strength, boundless courage, and ceaseless ambition. During the siege of Jerusalem, he fought ruthlessly not only against the Roman legions, but also against the moderate party in Jerusalem, until the commander of the garrison forced him to flee the city. Bar Giora fortified himself in Masada, a mountain fortress on the western shore of the Dead Sea. There he gathered a large army, and with the help of the Edomites, moved into Jerusalem and massacred many of his Zealot opponents. The incessant fighting among the Zealots stopped only when the Roman Emperor Titus surrounded Jerusalem in a bitter siege and Roman battering rams pounded down its walls. Then, Bar Giora fought the Romans with single-minded fury, but when the Temple was destroyed by Titus, he retreated to the Upper City. When that, too, was captured, Bar Giora hid in a cave and then tried to escape, but fell into the hands of the victorious Romans. As he was brought back to Rome with the other Judean captives, Bar Giora was forced to march in chains behind Titus’s chariot at the head of the triumphal procession. Later, he was executed as a chief of the rebellion.

BAR-ILAN (BERLIN), MEYER (1880-1949).

World Mizrachi leader. Born in Volozhin, Russia, Rabbi Bar-Ilan went to Berlin in 1910 where he served as general secretary of the world Mizrachi movement. In Berlin, he founded and edited the weekly Ha-Ivri. In 1913, he came to the United States where he developed local Mizrachi branches into a national organization of which he was president from 1916 to 1926. Afterward, he settled in Palestine. Bar-Ilan was a man of tremendous energy, with an erudition and attitude that embraced all Jewish life. In addition to playing a primary role in international Zionism, he edited Mizrachi’s Hebrew daily Ha-Tzofeh, organized support for Israeli Yeshivot, or Talmudic academies, and worked on the publication of a new edition of the Talmud. When the First Knesset, or parliament, convened, he was a leading representative of the religious bloc. On April 18, 1949, while pleading against the internationalization of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan died. In his honor are named the central World Mizrachi building in Tel Aviv, Bet Meir, the Berlin Forest, and the Mizrachi-sponsored Bar-Ilan University in Israel. His memoirs, Fun Volozhin Bis Yerushalayim (From Volozhin to Jerusalem), written in Yiddish, were first published in 1933.


See Music


Founded in 1955 as an “American University in Israel” with an initial class of eighty students; chartered by the Regents of the State of New York. Bar-Ilan is the only American-chartered university in Israel, being conducted and administrated in the manner of American universities. The essence and uniqueness of Bar-Ilan springs from the will of its founders to create in Israel a university espousing traditional teachings of Judaism. Secular training in liberal arts is blended with religious orientation, providing an environment in which the pursuit of knowledge is coupled with an understanding of heritage and a devotion to humanity. By 1996, the student body had grown to 20,000 men and women from Israel, the U.S., and nearly 35 other nations. In addition to baccalaureate programs, it now provides master’s and doctoral degrees in 32 disciplines. The Jacov Herzog School of Law, opened in 1970, seeks to integrate Jewish law into the analytic study of each area of the law. A new post-high school program, Tochnit Achat, has been developed for American students living in Israel. The university awards a number of maintenance and tuition scholarships.


Leader of the rebellion against the Romans (132-135 C.E.). His name, meaning “son of a star,” is believed to be derived from the Messianic interpretation of the prophecy, “There shall step forth a star out of Jacob.” Known also as Simeon ben Koziba, Bar Kokhba won numerous enthusiastic followers who believed in his mission to free Judea from the Roman Empire. Among his supporters were famous scholars and his host of disciples. In particular, Rabbi Akiva considered him the Messiah and changed his name from Ben Koziba to Bar Kokhba. At first, Bar Kokhba and his heroic men conducted guerilla warfare against the powerful garrison in Palestine. His army grew steadily, attracting zealous fighters from all over Palestine and the Diaspora. According to legend, he tested the valor of his soldiers by requiring each to cut off one of his fingers. After the rabbis protested this needless mutilation, Bar Kokhba devised a less cruel test. Every prospective soldier was required to uproot a cedar tree while charging on horseback. Within a short time the army was strong enough to meet the Roman legions in open battle. Over the next two years, the Jews captured ninety forts and a thousand cities and villages, including Jerusalem.

The Roman emperor Hadrian, fearing that the Jewish revolt would encourage the uprising of more subject countries, dispatched his best legions to squash the revolt. At the head of his legions he placed Julius Severus, the general who had distinguished himself in the campaign against Britain. Severus recaptured all the fortresses, including Jerusalem, forcing Bar Kokhba to concentrate on the mountain stronghold of Betar in the Judean hills. The siege of Betar lasted a year. After a bitter struggle, the Roman legions entered the city on the ninth of Av, 135 C.E. Bar Kokhba and his men continued fighting to the end, dying with sword in hand. The number of Jewish dead reached half a million. Scores of Jews were sold as slaves. The rest hid in caves or fled to neighboring countries. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina, in honor of Hadrian. The subjugation of Palestine was now complete, but the story of the Bar Kokhba revolt would become a living symbol of the Jewish desire for freedom and independence.


Literally, “son of the Commandment”; a boy who has reached the age of thirteen and is expected to accept adult religious responsibilities. The female equivalent of Bar Mitzvah is called Bat Mitzvah. This “coming of age” is the occasion for a ritual in the synagogue, where on the first Sabbath of his fourteenth year, the boy is called for the first time to read from the Torah and the prophets. It is a joyous occasion, accompanied by gifts for the bar mitzvah boy from friends and family. Traditionally, the Bar Mitzvah boy delivers a learned speech. Though the Bar Mitzvah is usually observed on the Sabbath, it may, in fact, take place any other day of the week when the Torah is read at the synagogue, i.e. Monday, Thursday, the New Moon. The beginnings of this ceremony are ancient. References to the custom are found as early as the 5th and 6th centuries. (See also Confirmation.)


See Music.


American Jewish immigrant pioneer. Barsimson left Holland with a Dutch passport and arrived in Nieuw Amsterdam on August 22, 1654. He was one of the 23 refugees who fled the threat of the Inquisition in Brazil to seek asylum in the Dutch West India Company’s settlement. During a lawsuit four years later he demanded and won the right to be exempt from giving testimony on the Sabbath.


American financier known as “advisor to Presidents.” During World War I, President Wilson entrusted him with the task of heading various commissions to direct the war industries of the entire nation. At the end of the war, Baruch served as a member of the American Peace Commission. He served on the President’s Agricultural Conference in 1922, and continued to give valued aid to American agriculture, helping to promote legislation for farm relief. Baruch was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisor on national problems, and is credited with planning the National Recovery Act of 1933. In World War II, Baruch acted as advisor to the war mobilization director, and in 1944 prepared a report for President Roosevelt on war and postwar plans. In 1946, he served as U.S. representative on the UN Atomic Energy Commission, and presented the American proposal for the international control of atomic energy on June 14, 1946. As a philanthropist, Baruch’s interests led him to contribute large sums for the investigation of the causes of war and for possible means of preventing its outbreak. Baruch wrote articles and books on a variety of subjects. His autobiography, My Own Story, was published in 1957. The School of Business and Civic Administration at Manhattan’s City College was renamed Baruch College after him.

BARZANI,ASENATH (1590 – 1670).

Renowned Jewish-Kurdish woman who lived in Mosul, Iraq. She was among the very first Jewish women in history known to have been given a rabbinic title. The daughter of the illustrious Rabbi Samuel Barzani, she studied Kabbalah, was a poet, and an expert on Jewish Literature.


Ancient town in Israel in the northern Negev, where Abraham dug a well and planted a tamarisk tree and where the biblical tribes of Israel gathered. Currently the site of Ben-Gurion University. In Roman and Byzantine times it was a prosperous station on the route from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Under Arab rule it declined, and during the 1948 Israeli War of Liberation it was a market town of about 3,000 Arabs, who fled after the Israeli occupation. Since then, it has developed into a bustling town of 375,000 residents, and has become the administrative center of the Negev. To this day, one can still see Bedouins riding their camels near Beersheba.

BEGIN, MENACHEM (1913-1992).

Israeli statesman, born in Russia. He received a nationalist-religious education and studied law in Warsaw. As a teenager, he became a devoted follower of Jabotinsky and an active member of the Betar, or Revisionist Zionist, youth movement. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, he was commander of Betar in Poland. In 1940, he was arrested by the Soviet secret police for his Zionist activities and sent to a Russian jail. Freed in 1942, he made his way to Palestine. A gifted orator, writer, and organizer, he became the commander of the Irgun Z’vai L’umi (IZL) in 1943, and led this underground organization in its fight against British rule. The IZL sought to sabotage British installations and speed up the termination of the British Mandate, without causing unnecessary loss of life.

After the establishment of Israel, Begin and his followers founded the Herut party (See Revisionist Zionism), a right-wing, strongly nationalist faction which he led in the Knesset for three decades. On the eve of the Six-Day War in 1967 he joined the National Unity Government as a minister without portfolio but left the cabinet in 1970 over a disagreement on foreign policy with Premier Golda Meir. In 1973, he became the leader of the Likud bloc which, led by Herut, opposed the Labor alignment. In May 1977, after almost 30 years in the opposition, Begin became Israel’s first non-socialist prime minister. He was the first Israeli chief of state to make peace with an Arab leader when he invited Egyptian President Sadat to Jerusalem in November 1977. He subsequently participated in the Camp David talks with President Carter, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1983, disappointed over the outcome of the Lebanon War, he resigned as prime minister and went into retirement. Until his death in 1992, he stayed away from public life.

BEILIS, MENDEL (1874-1934).

Central figure in a notorious ritual murder trial in 1913 in Kiev, Russia. Beilis, a worker in a brick kiln, was accused of murdering a Russian boy whose body had been found near the kiln in March 1911. Although an investigation soon established that the boy had been murdered by non-Jewish thieves, the “Beilis Affair” dragged on for more than two years. The government of Czarist Russia stepped in and accused Beilis of committing this crime to use the boy’s blood in the baking of matzos for Passover. To discredit the Jewish people, the antisemitic Russian government revived the centuries-old yet preposterous belief that Jews use Christian blood for such ritual purposes. The atmosphere surrounding the trial was charged with hate. Russian “experts” gave false testimony, and the judges and jury were prejudiced. Yet Beilis was acquitted thanks to his brilliant team of defense lawyers and because of international protests of the trial. Shortly after his acquittal, Beilis settled in Palestine, where he lived for eight years. He came to the U.S. in 1924 and lived there until his death in 1934 at Saratoga Springs.


Jewish history in Belgium before and during the Middle Ages is not a happy one. In 1370, after the Black Death, the brutal Brussels Massacre wiped out the Belgian Jewish community. Jewish life did not flourish until the beginning of the 18th century, when Belgium became part of Austria, subsequently of France and the Netherlands. In 1830, when Belgium was granted independence, religious equality was established, and for first time Jews were able to have their own communal organization with a chief rabbinate in Brussels.

When the Allied armies entered Belgium in late 1944, they found 19,000 Jewish survivors. These were the remnants of a community numbering 100,000 before the Nazi occupation. Another 30,000 survived by escaping, being hidden by Belgian neighbors, or by having false documents. In 2006, there were about 31,000 Jews living in Belgium, mainly in Brussels and Antwerp. The majority of Antwerp Jews work in the diamond industry. It is the center of Orthodox Jewry, while Brussels Jewry is mostly non-Orthodox. The Zionist Federation of Belgium is the only organized Jewish body conducting cultural, educational, and social programs on a nationwide basis. The federation’s biweekly paper is the Tribune Sioniste, the only Jewish publication in Belgium.

BELLOW, SAUL (1915-2005).

Leading American novelist, born in Canada. Bellow’s novels, mainly The Adventures of Augie March and Herzog (the main character, Moses Herzog, has strong Jewish roots), established him as one of the finest observers of the predicament of modern man, and won him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

BEN-GURION, DAVID (1886-1973).

Pioneer builder of the State of Israel and its first prime minister. Born David Gruen in Poland, he inherited from his father a strong love for Zion into which he blended his own socialist ideals. In 1903, at age 17, he was already one of the founders of the Socialist Zionist Party, Poale Zion, in Poland. Even as a youth, he manifested great determination to fulfill his ideals, and pursued his aims with unusual courage.

In 1906, at 20, Ben-Gurion went to Palestine where he worked as a common laborer, experiencing all the hardships of the young pioneer. He became active in the Galilee, which had scarcely been opened for Jewish colonization. Work was hard, and the danger of Arab attacks lurked everywhere. Ben-Gurion led in founding the Jewish self-defense movement, and took an active part in organizing the Socialist Zionist worker’s movement. When Turkey, which then ruled over Palestine, entered World War I, Ben-Gurion was expelled from Palestine. He came to the U.S. where he helped found the American Jewish Congress and organized the Jewish Legion, which he joined as a private. In 1921, he returned to Palestine and became general secretary of the Histadrut, or General Federation of Labor, participating at the same time in other Zionist activities. In 1933, he was elected to the Executive of the World Zionist Organization, and from 1940 on he acted as chairman.

Ben-Gurion played a decisive role in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel. Despite heavy pressure from the U.S. Department of State to postpone the proclamation of independence for Israel, he was largely instrumental in bringing it off as scheduled on May 14, 1948. As prime minister and minister of defense during the formative years of the state, he may be credited with many of its achievements. His scholarly articles and orations served the movement for years in clarifying Zionist ideals and aims. During his pioneering days, he wrote, “A land is built only by pioneers who know how to give their lives to realize their ideals.” He became the embodiment of this pioneering spirit. Ben-Gurion retired at age 67 to the isolation of the Negev, but returned to assume leadership in 1955. He initiated the Sinai Campaign. He retired from the premiership in 1963 and was succeeded by Levi Eshkol. In 1965, he broke away from Mapai and formed Rafi, or Israel Labor List. He resigned from the Knesset in 1970 and retired to his kibbutz, S’de Boker, where he engaged in study and writing until his death.

BEN SIRA (ca. 200 B.C.E.).

Joshua ben Simeon ben Eliezer ben Sira or Sirach. Author of a book of proverbs, Ben Sira lived in Jerusalem. The Book of Ben Sira, part of the Hebrew Wisdom Literature, presents through its proverbs an interesting record of Jewish social life of that time. It includes praise of the high priest’s function and of the Temple ritual. Originally written in Hebrew, the book was translated into Greek by a descendant of Ben Sira around 132 B.C.E. During the Middle Ages the Hebrew and Aramaic versions were lost. Finally in 1896, most of the original Hebrew text was discovered by Solomon Schechter among the fragments of the Cairo Genizah.

BEN YEHUDA, ELIEZER (1858-1922).

Father of the modern Hebrew language, Ben Yehuda’s life was an example of single-minded devotion to a cause: the revival of the ancient Hebrew language.

At the age of 19, Ben Yehuda left Lithuania, where he had been brought up in a traditional environment, to study medicine in Paris. At first he was attracted to socialism. Later, the struggle of the Balkan countries to gain their independence made him aware of the need for a Jewish national homeland. In 1880, Ben Yehuda decided to settle in Jerusalem where he immediately set out to realize his cherished ideal of adapting the Hebrew language to daily use. He was subjected to ridicule by many people who considered theIt took Ben Yehuda many years of persistent work to convince the skeptics that Hebrew could be revived. His home was the first in Palestine in which Hebrew was the only language spoken.

Ben Yehuda concentrated all his efforts on his monumental lifework: The Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, Old and New, which appeared initially in fifteen volumes. The sixteenth and seventeenth volumes appeared in 1959. Numerous words for daily use were coined by Ben Yehuda and became part of modern Hebrew. Ben Yehuda also published newspapers, composed textbooks for Hebrew schools, and was one of the founders of the Committee for the Hebrew language, now the Academy for the Hebrew Language.

BEN-ZVI, YITZHAK (1885-1963).

Second president of Israel, born in the Ukraine. At age 18 he went to Palestine. Upon his return to Russia in 1905, the year of widespread pogroms in many parts of Russia, he joined Ber Borochov in establishing the Socialist Zionist party, Poale Zion. The Tsarist government, troubled by revolutions, found the Jews a convenient scapegoat and in many cases actually encouraged attacks upon them. Ben-Zvi, along with his father and brother, helped organize Jewish self-defense units. The Russian police exiled the entire Ben-Zvi family to Siberia, but Yitzhak succeeded in eluding his captors and escaped from Russia. For about two years he engaged in intensive Zionist work in Germany and Switzerland. In 1907, he finally reached his destination Palestine. On his arrival, Ben-Zvi immediately became a spokesman for and leader of the Jewish workers in Palestine. He was among the founders of Hashomer, the earliest Jewish defense force in modern Palestine. During World War I he accompanied David Ben-Gurion to America, where he organized first the Hehalutz, or pioneer movement, and later the Jewish Legion, which fought with the British for the liberation of Palestine from Turkish rule. After the war, he returned to Palestine, where he participated in the establishment of the Histadrut, the Palestine Workers Union, and Knesset Yisrael, the organized Jewish community of Palestine. For fourteen years, from 1931 to 1945, Ben-Zvi was head of the Vaad Leumi, or National Council, the executive arm and official representative body of Palestine Jewry. With the establishment of Israel, Ben Zvi became a member of the Knesset, the state’s parliament. In 1953, he succeeded Chaim Weizmann as the second President of the State of Israel.

In addition to his political and communal activities, Ben-Zvi devoted a great deal of time to scholarly studies and writing. His books on the history of the Jews in the Holy Land and on the different ethnic groups that made up Palestine Jewry are regarded as authoritative and exhaustive studies. His wife, Rahel Yanait Ben Zvi (1884-1979), was a well-known Labor Zionist leader, pioneer, and educator in her own right.


Blessings addressed to God. Tradition ascribes them to the 120 elders of the Great Assembly in the time of Ezra. A total of 100 benedictions was to be recited daily. They are categorized into four groups: First, before sensory pleasures (tasting food or drink or enjoyment of a perfume); Second, for the privilege of fulfilling a mitzvah; Third, praising divine goodness upon hearing good or bad news, witnessing the wonders of nature, and giving thanks upon deliverance from sickness or danger (birkat hagomel), or upon joyous occasions and seasonal holidays (shehecheyanu); Fourth, during the daily prayers, such as the Shmone Esre, or 18 Benedictions, which include petitions for personal well-being and the welfare of the Jewish people in addition to blessings of praise and thanksgiving.


Literally, son of the right hand, of good fortune. Jacob‘s twelfth and youngest son; Rachel died giving birth to him. Founder of the warlike tribe of Benjamin that settled on a stretch of land reaching up from the river Jordan toward the hills of Jerusalem. Saul, the first king of Israel, was a Benjaminite.


(12th century). Merchant and traveler, often called the “Jewish Marco Polo.” He started out from Saragossa, Spain, in 1160 and spent 13 years traveling around the then-known world. He kept a lively diary in Hebrew, recording detailed descriptions of Jewish life in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The first English translation in 1840 of his journeys is highly esteemed for the historical and geographical light it sheds on the far away and little known Orient of that time. Benjamin’s vivid descriptions are particularly valuable because they include information on several peoples that disappeared completely once conquered by the Tatars.


Hebrew novelist and essayist. Born in Ukraine, he studied at the Yeshiva of Volozin and later at the University of Berlin. He was critical of Jewish religious tradition, which he found stifling, and under the influence of the German philosopher Nietzsche, he advocated a new approach to Judaism, emphasizing life and nature. Under the pen name Micah Joseph Ben-Gorion, he published twenty volumes. In his novels and short stories, he deals chiefly with small-town people, describing their struggles and passions with a mixture of realism and fable. His Hasidic tales and collections of Midrashic legends constitute a rich contribution to Hebrew letters.

BERENSON, BERNARD (1865-1959).

One of the world’s leading art historians. He was born in Lithuania, educated in the U.S., and lived in Italy where he embraced the Christian faith. His work includes Italian Painters of the Renaissance.


See Genesis.


Nazi concentration camp near Hanover, Germany, established by the Nazis in July 1943. Originally intended for Jews whom the German government wished to exchange for Germans in Allied territories, it became one of the infamous death camps. Anne Frank was among the victims of Bergen Belsen. The camp was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945. (See also Holocaust; World Federation of Bergen Belsen Associations.)


One of the great philosophers of the 20th century, Bergson was a French Jew removed from Judaism. His book Creative Evolution influenced many creative minds of his time. In 1927, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. When the Nazis occupied France, he protested against the antisemitic legislation they introduced.

See Sports.

BERLIN, IRVING (1888-1989).

One of the leading American songwriters of the 20th century (God Bless America, White Christmas), Berlin was born in Russia to a Jewish cantor. Without formal musical education, he managed to write more than 1,000 melodies, many of which have become American classics.

BERNHARDT, SARAH (1844-1923).

Known as the “Divine Sarah,” Bernhardt was the most famous actress in France in her day, and is still considered one of the great actresses of all time.


Composer, conductor, and pianist. Born in Lawrence, Mass., of middle-class Jewish parents, Bernstein was educated at Harvard University and embarked early on a musical career. At age 25 he became assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. A year later he was named conductor of the New York City Symphony Orchestra. In 1948, he became musical director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducting for soldiers at the front during Israel’s War of Liberation.

Bernstein’s numerous compositions, ranging from symphonies to scores for successful Broadway musicals (West Side Story), include a number of works based on traditional Jewish motifs. His first symphony, Jeremiah, is a moving score based on the cantillation for the Book of Lamentations; his synagogue music has similarly rendered age-old melodic material with modern techniques. He was professor of music at Brandeis University, head of the conducting department at the Berkshire Music Center, and conductor of the New York Philharmonic.


A noted Talmudic scholar, Bertinoro served as rabbi in several Italian communities. At age 36 he decided to go to Palestine. In Jerusalem he organized about 70 Jewish families into a community. With the arrival of exiles from Spain, the community grew rapidly in numbers and prestige. Bertinoro’s letters describing conditions in Palestine are of great historic importance. He is, however, best known for his commentary on the Mishnah. Its clarity of language and style and its comprehensive presentation made it one of the most popular commentaries on that work.


Second letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, two.


Literally, “court of law.” The term dates back to post-biblical times. Today it refers to a rabbinical court, where personal status matters, such as marriage, divorce, and conversion, are decided. Historically, Jews have voluntarily resorted to a bet din to settle financial and other disputes which they preferred not to bring before a state court. In Israel, the bet din or the rabbinical court handles personal issues, while the state legal system handles all other matters.


Literally, House of Study. Used to designate study halls for Jewish learning, the term is also used to describe one of the functions of the synagogue in Jewish life.


The two schools of thought, the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai represented the followers of two contemporary tannaim, or sages of the 1st century. Hillel was moderate, seeking compromise and accommodation. Shamai was the strict interpreter of the law, who refused to bend on many issues of Jewish law. In time, the views of Bet Hillel prevailed in most cases.


See Bar Kokhba.

See Revisionist Zionism.


Town in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem was the setting of the Book of Ruth, the home of David, and, according to New Testament tradition the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The architectural beauty of the Basilica, the Church of the Nativity, built in the 4th century, is still preserved. As the most important Christian shrine, Bethlehem is visited by many thousands of pilgrims, especially at Christmas time. Its population of about 22,000 consists mainly of Christian Arabs, in whose dress and features the influence of the Crusaders has been preserved. The holiest Jewish site in Bethlehem is the Tomb of Rachel. Under the Oslo Agreement, the town was put under Palestinian Authority rule.

BETTELHEIM, BRUNO (1903-1990).

World-renowned American child psychologist and educator. Born in Vienna, he spent a year in a Nazi concentration camp before he was released to go to the U.S. He wrote about this experience, and in later writings dealt with many other areas of human experience. His book Children of the Dream is a study of kibbutz-raised Israeli children.


School founded in Jerusalem in 1906 by the sculptor Boris Schatz for the development of the arts, home industry, and crafts in Palestine. It is named after Bezalel, chief architect of the Tabernacle (Exod. 31:1-6 and 35:30).

The school is closely associated with the Bezalel section of the Israel Museum, which contains a large selection of Jewish art objects and reproductions, many of which tour every corner of Israel. The Bezalel School is supported by the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) and the American Fund for Israel Institutions. In international art competitions, Bezalel students have received an average of twenty prizes a year.


One of the greatest Hebrew poets of modern times, Bialik is considered the national poet of Israel. At age 11, he had already studied Jewish philosophic works, concentrating on the Talmud. At 16, he entered the famous Yeshiva of Volozhin in Lithuania. Later, in one of his poems he immortalized the yeshiva student, or matmid, who dedicated himself to study, excluding all worldly matters from his thoughts. During the year he spent in Volozhin, the young Bialik drew closer to Zionism and to modern Hebrew literature. When the Russian government closed the Volozhin Yeshiva in 1891, he went to Odessa in southern Russia, drawn by its flourishing Hebrew literary center. In an anthology called Ha-Pardes, Bialik published his first poem, El Hatzipor, or “To the Bird,” expressing his boundless love for the old-new Zion. Other poems followed. His outstanding talent immediately impressed his readers. Here was poetry, deeply personal, yet touching the soul of the Jewish people. Like the ancient prophets, Bialik rebuked his people and exposed their weaknesses in fiery and sharp-edged verses. Yet the poet inspired the Jewish masses with hope, pride, and self-respect. His poem The City of Slaughter, written after the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, roused the younger generation to take up arms in self-defense. Bialik linked the past with the present in his poetic works. Drawing upon the rich sources of Jewish creativity, he gave new power and meaning to age-old traditions and ideals. He imparted unusual beauty and charm to folk themes, and created wonderful poems for children. In essays and stories, he was a master of Hebrew prose. He assumed a leading role in Jewish cultural life, a symbol of the national revival. At his magic touch, the Hebrew language became a vital cultural force. Together with his life-long friend J.C. Ravnitzky, Bialik popularized the rich treasury of the Talmudic and Midrashic legend, the Aggadah. In addition to poems, stories, and Talmudic legends he collected in Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Bialik wrote biblical legends in Vayehi ha-Yom, or “It Came to Pass,” recapturing their ancient charm and humor. He translated into Hebrew such classics as Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Schiller’s Wilhelm Tel.

Bialik was beloved and revered while yet in Russia. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he was forced to leave the country and went to Germany. In 1924, he settled in Palestine. His home in Tel Aviv on a street now named after him became a place of pilgrimage for Hebrew writers. In 1929, Bialik visited America, and was received with acclaim. During the last years of his life, as editor, publisher, and critic, he became the guiding spirit of every Hebrew cultural and literary activity. He participated actively in the work of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Committee for the Hebrew Language. The Oneg Shabbat gatherings in Tel Aviv, over which Bialik presided, became a celebrated institution. His home in Tel Aviv has been preserved as a cultural center. Mossad Bialik, one of the foremost publishing houses in Israel, and Bialik prizes for the best in Hebrew literature are symbolic monuments to his memory. The 21st day of Tammuz, the date of his death, is observed as a national memorial day in Israel.


From the Greek biblia, meaning books. In Hebrew TaNaKh, meaning Torah, Prophets, Writings. The Hebrew Bible came to have many names: the Holy Scriptures, the Book of Books, the Old Testament, Divine Revelation.

Canon. Sometime during the 1st century, the final decision was made as to which sacred books were to be considered part of the biblical canon, also known as the Holy Scriptures. The word “canon,” meaning standard, that was applied by scholars to the holy books, comes from the Greek kanones, meaning models of excellence.

Influence of the Bible. For Jews, the Bible has been the source of life, growth, and survival. They read in it the record of their people’s spiritual progress, from Abraham, the first to reject polytheism, to the prophets’ momentous vision of God as the loving Father of all creation. When the Jews were expelled from Palestine and became wanderers, the Bible became a way of life and a Jewish “portable homeland.”

The influence of the Bible was not limited to Judaism, but has extended to two other religions: Christianity and Islam. Mohammed, the creator of Islam, was so deeply influenced by the Bible that at first he thought of himself as a new prophet of Judaism. His mind was so filled with biblical stories that he traced his descent to Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. The theology of the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, shows Mohammed’s debt to the Bible and to Judaism. As Mohammedanism spread, the Bible influenced many people in the East.

Christianity took over the Hebrew Bible and added the New Testament. As Western civilization took shape, it absorbed the Hebrew Old Testament ideas. Biblical ideas


Movement formed after the pogroms of 1881 in Russia; composed mainly of university students who became the first pioneers to go to Palestine. The name “Bilu” is an abbreviation of the Hebrew words Bet Yaakov Lechu Venelcha


Literally, elevated platform or stage; the bimah is situated in the front of the synagogue or temple (in the Sephardic synagogue, it is in the center) sanctuary, where the service is conducted and the Torah is read.


. See Prayer.


Taglit; literally, discovery. Founded in 2000 by philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, Taglit-Birthright Israel is a program that offers college students free educational trips to Israel. The program has been enormously successful, having sent already tens of thousands of young Jews to Israel, and has begun to have a major impact on the commitment of young diaspora Jews to the Jewish state.


See Passover.

BLOCH, ERNEST (1880-1959).

Composer. Son of a Geneva clockmaker, Ernest Bloch studied in his native Switzerland and in Germany. Macbeth, an opera performed in Paris in 1910, gained him immediate critical acclaim. In 1916, he came to the U.S. where he spent the rest of his life. A large part of Bloch’s work, distinguished by passionate intensity of feeling and free play of melody, has been devoted to compositions on Jewish themes. These included Israel, a symphony; the Baal Shem Suite; Schelomo; and Avodat Hakodesh (Sacred Service), an oratorio based on the Sabbath synagogue service. Even his works with non-Jewish themes

BLOCK, HERBERT (1909-2001).

Known as “Herblock.” Leading American political cartoonist, whose cartoons have been appearing in the Washington Post since the end of World War II.


The false charge that Jews use Gentile blood in connection with holiday rituals, particularly on Passover. This falsehood has been hurled at Jews in various places since the 12th century. Though popes, Christian scholars, and judges have denounced the suggestion of such an act, about 200 cases of this accusation exist on record. Often, Jews were tortured to make them “confess their guilt.” As late as the 19th century, 39 such cases occurred in Europe and in the Near East. One of the most notorious cases of blood libel was the Beilis case in 1911. In 1928, this accusation turned up in the U.S., when a Christian child disappeared in Massena, N.Y. Some officials asked the rabbi whether ritual slaying was part of the Yom Kippur observance. This case so shocked the nation that the organization later to be known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews issued a statement declaring, “There is no custom


American businessman, philanthropist, founder of the company Bloomberg LP. He enter politics, and was elected as the 108th mayor of New York City. A Republican, he served three terms. leaving office in 2013.


Far-Eastern province of the former Soviet Union, north of Manchukuo, bordering the Amur River. The region was set aside by the Soviet government for Jewish colonization on March 28, 1928. On May 7, 1934, Birobidjan was officially declared an autonomous Jewish region. Yiddish was to be the official language of the area in all educational, cultural, and legal institutions. Jewish communists and communist sympathizers around the world hailed the project as a great Soviet contribution to the solution of the Jewish problem. However, the experiment proved unsuccessful. In contrast to Israel, this desolate region held no national appeal to the masses of Jews. Information about Jewish life in Birobidjan is currently difficult to obtain. However, it is estimated that of the 40,000 original settlers, about 4,200 Jews remain, a small minority of the total population. After World War II, no effort was made to reestablish a Jewish autonomous region in Birobidjan. The Yiddish schools have been eliminated and only one synagogue remains, without a rabbi.

BLUM, LEON (1872-1950).

French statesman, three-time premier of France, socialist leader, and writer. Blum’s father was a wealthy Alsatian merchant whose four sons grew up with a good Jewish background. Young Leon studied law, and by the age of 22 was a distinguished poet and writer. The Dreyfus case stirred Blum deeply, and he became active in the defense of the Jewish officer accused of treason by the French Army. In the course of this work in 1896, he met Jean Jaures, famous leader of the French Socialists. Under his influence, Blum joined the Socialist movement, and by the end of World War I he had become the outstanding leader of the Socialist party. From 1919 onward, Blum served in the Chamber of Deputies almost continuously. From 1936 to June 1937 and again in 1938, he was premier of France.

Under the threat of the growing Nazi power in Germany, the French Socialist Party joined the Communists in a Popular Front coalition during the late 1930’s. Blum successfully opposed all efforts at a merger with the Communists. During World War II, when Nazi Germany ruled France through the puppet Vichy government, Blum was imprisoned and brought to trial for treason in Riom. With remarkable courage, Leon Blum faced his accusers as “a Socialist among Fascists, a Jew among antisemites,” and turned accuser himself. He showed so effectively that the appeasers were the real traitors of France that the Vichy government stopped the trial. Blum was transferred from the French prison to a German concentration camp; at the approach of the Allied armies, he was sent to a camp in Italy. Then in his seventies, he managed to stay alive until the Allied victory brought his freedom in 1945. France immediately put him into public service again, and in the spring of 1946, he came to the U.S. on a mission for his country. In December of that year, he again became premier of France. Leon Blum always identified himself closely with Jewish causes and repeatedly aided Zionism. In 1929 in Zurich, he participated in forming the enlarged Jewish Agency for Palestine. The halutzim of Palestine were grateful to Leon Blum. On November 10, 1943, while he was behind the barbed wire of a concentration camp, a kibbutz in northern Galilee was named after him: Kfar Blum.


See Rachel.


On October 13, 1843, twelve German Jews living in New York City met together to form what they called a Bundes Brüder, or “Brothers of the Covenant.” Patterned after other lodges of the day, it had ritual, regalia, and benefits in the form of insurance and mutual aid. It later became known as the Indepen­dent Order of B’nai B’rith, and finally, after 1930, as B’nai B’rith International.

B’nai B’rith’s membership in the U.S. stands at 550,000 people, in ad­dition to the members of Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) and B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG), its junior af­filiates. It is organized into somewhat autonomous local lodges, women’s chapters, and district grand lodges. The supreme lodge establishes general policies for the order.

Over the years, B’nai B’rith has supported, in whole or in part, the following institutions: Bellefaire, an orphan home in Cleveland; the Jewish Children’s Home of New Orleans; the Touro Infirmary of New Orleans; the Jewish Or­phan Home of Atlanta; the Home for the Aged in Yonkers, N.Y.; the National Jewish Hospital in Denver; the Leo N. Levi Memorial Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark.; the B’nai B’rith Orphanage in Erie, Pa.; and the B’nai B’rith Home for the Aged in Memphis.

B’nai B’rith has always been interested in ad­vancing the rights of Jews, and working with government and other groups to combat anti-Jewish agitation at home and abroad. Today these activities, together with B’nai B’rith’s concern for the democratic rights of all people, center in the Anti-Defamation League, formed in 1913.

Cultural and educational activities are em­phasized by B’nai B’rith, both in local lodges and on a national scale, through speakers, bureaus, cultural programs, and publications. The National Jewish Monthly, published under various names since 1886, has had the largest circulation of any Jewish journal in the English language. B’nai B’rith sponsors an extensive adult education pro­gram, featuring the annual Wildacres Institutes for adults, held at various camps in the U.S.

There are affiliates in 37 countries, in­cluding Israel.


The first B’nai B’rith youth groups were founded in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1924. Known as Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), they quickly took root throughout the Midwest, and by 1925 were in­corporated as a national branch of the adult organization. In 1927, the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) were formed as a sister organization to the AZA. About fifteen years later, to satisfy the needs of college students and young war veterans, the B’nai B’rith Young Adults was founded. All three groups, joined in the overall Youth Organization since 1949, con­ducted programs designed to familiarize young Jews with their heritage and to prepare them for active participation in Jewish and general community life. In addition to leadership camps and study groups dealing with specifically Jewish affairs, the organization offers a broad range of social outlets and volunteer activities. Today BBYO is an independent organization with over 30,000 members in in fifteen countries.


Founded in 1760 when, following the accession of George III in 1760, the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities agreed upon the creation of a joint body to represent English Jewry at court. The board is organized on a synagogal basis and functions through committees. In addition to the administrative committees, specific committees deal with Israel affairs, charities, education, Shehitah (ritual slaughter), and defense against antisemitism.


The world’s largest central agency for Jewish education, BJE conducts extensive and varied services for Jewish school teachers, principals, parents, and students from the early childhood level through high school. These services include a network of Jewish Teachers’ Centers; guidance of schools’ production of multimedia materials; World Over magazine; scholarship aid to students; nutrition education; family education; and art and music programs for children.

BOHR, NIELS (1885-1962).

Born in Denmark, Bohr was one of the originators of the modern atomic theory. For his research in this field, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922. Bohr’s investigations of the fission of uranium paved the way for the modern atom bomb and atomic energy. From 1943 to 1945, he took an active part in the preparation of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos.


Region in central Asia, now part of Uzbekistan. Bokhara is the home of an ancient and colorful Jewish community, which believes itself descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Its ancestors are known to have come from Samarkand and other areas in Persia, where the Jews have lived since the destruction of the First Temple. The early records of Jewish life in this tiny country were destroyed during the invasion of the Huns in the 13th century. The Bokharan community is still Judeo-Persian in culture. It possesses a considerable literature in Tadjik, a Persian dialect which its members still speak. Until the conquest of Bokhara by Russia in the 19th century, the community was completely cut off from the rest of the Jewish world. In 1893, to escape persecution by the Tsar, a number of Bokharans settled in Jerusalem. The settlement has grown, but the bulk of Bokharan Jews


Republic in South America. In 1998, total general population was 7.4 million; Jewish population, 700. Jews were active in exploiting Bolivia’s rich silver mines during the early period of Spanish colonization in the 1500’s. All of them were Marranos, Jews who had been forced to convert to Catholicism and who practiced Judaism in secret. This community was stifled by the Inquisition, which was established in 1570. From that time until the rise of Hitler, few Jews lived in Bolivia. Between 1933 and 1939, however, Bolivia was the only country which did not restrict the immigration of Jews. As a result, 10,000 German refugees settled there. Today, there are only 500 Jews in Bolivia.


State of Israel Bonds is an international securities organization offering interest-bearing instruments issued by the government of Israel. The Israel Bonds organization was established in 1951 through the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who recognized the opportunity to secure long-term investment capital through the sale of securities. Since its inception, the organization has secured more than $16 billion in investment capital for the development of every aspect of Israel’s economy, including agriculture, commerce, and industry, transforming an underdeveloped country into a highly advanced industrialized nation in fewer than four decades. Recently, Bonds proceeds have supported the absorption of vast numbers of Jews immigrating to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

Israel’s steadily developing economy, its well-educated, highly-trained population, and its expanding role in world markets have led Israel Bonds to become firmly established in the North American, European, and Latin American investment communities. Israel Bonds are purchased by a broad spectrum of investors including corporations, banks, foundations, institutions, and individuals.


The idea of a divine book of life dates back to the Bible (Ex. 32:32). In the Talmud we are told that every year on Rosh Ha-shanah a set of books of life is opened in heaven, and the fate of each person is set for the coming year. This concept has been incorporated into the High Holy Day service.

BOROCHOV, DOV BER (1881-1917).

Labor Zionist leader, writer, and Yiddish philologist. He became active in the Zionist movement, joining the Poale Zion in 1905. Because of his activities, Borochov was arrested by the Russian police and made his escape from the country in 1907. He came to the U.S. in 1914, where he continued to be active in the Labor Zionist movement. He edited Der Yiddisher Kempfer and other publications and wrote books on Yiddish philology. His important theories on Socialism and Zionism were published in 1937 in Nationalism and the Class Struggle, a Marxist approach to the Jewish problem. Borochov returned to Russia after the Revolution in 1917, and died there shortly afterward. Ber Borochov was one of the founders of the World Confederation of Poale Zion in 1907, and Labor Zionism owes much to him. He formulated theories fusing Zionism and Socialism, and his ideas served greatly to win the sympathy of many labor and socialist circles for the Jewish upbuilding of Israel.


One of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston first saw Jews arrive in the mid-17th century, but a Jewish community did not start until the mid-19th century. The first synagogues were organized by German Jews. Around 1900, large Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe signaled the beginning of what is today one of the best organized and most representative and influential Jewish communities in the U.S.. The metropolitan area’s Jewish population is 235,000.

Boston may be the American leader in Jewish literacy, with 80% of its Jews having received some form of Jewish education. It has important Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and even Hasidic communities. It has a long tradition of producing rabbis, leaders, scholars, jurists, artists, and writers who have enriched both Jewish and general culture: Rabbi Louis Epstein, a leading Conservative scholar; Rabbi Ronald Gittelson, a leading Reform rabbi; Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, one of America’s greatest Talmudists; Louis Brandeis, a great American jurist; Leonard Bernstein, conductor and composer; Mike Wallace, a leading television journalist.

Boston has many Jewish communal institutions, including a Hebrew Teachers College. It is one of the main centers of Jewish learning in the U.S., with Judaica chairs in schools like Harvard and Boston University, and especially with its full-fledged institution of higher learning, Brandeis University, the first non-sectarian Jewish university in America. A Jewish weekly, The Jewish Advocate, has been published in Boston since 1903.


U.S. Senator from California. Boxer, a Democrat, entered the Senate in 1993, and was elected to her fourth term in 2010.  She is the Chief Deputy Whip in the Democratic Senate leadership. Previously, she spent 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and six years on the Marin County Board of Supervisors .


American jurist and Zionist leader. Born in Louisville, Ky., he received his early education at a private school in Louisville and an academy in Germany. He had little formal Jewish training in his childhood.

In 1877, Brandeis, at the age of 20, was graduated from the Harvard Law School with its highest honors. He began his private law practice in St. Louis, but soon settled in Boston where he lived and practiced law for about forty years. In law, Brandeis distinguished himself as “the people’s attorney.” He defended the citizens of Boston against the monopolies and unethical practices of public utility companies.

Brandeis’s defense of the common man against the encroachments of “big business” continued throughout his career. His book Other People’s Money had such an effect on President Wilson that in 1916 he appointed Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served for 23 years. His judicial opinions exerted a profound influence on American constitutional law. Brandeis often joined Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in minority dissenting opinions. These historic opinions changed American thought on social problems. Brandeis’s belief in the need for legal change to meet the new conditions of industrial society, and for public regulations to protect the public interest, foreshadowed the social legislation of the New Deal in the 1930’s.

In 1910, Brandeis’s interest in Jewish life was awakened by his contact with the Jewish garment workers of New York, when he served as mediator in a strike. His active participation in Zionism dates to the period closely preceding the World War I. As chairman of the Provisional Committee for General Zionist affairs from 1914 to 1918, he strengthened the World Zionist movement which had been disrupted by the war. He was influential in obtaining American approval of the Balfour Declaration. A businesslike Zionist, Brandeis stressed the practical aspects of the rebuilding of the Land of Israel. He helped found the Palestine Economic Corporation, and played an important part in the encouragement of the investment of private capital in Palestine. As a result of a disagreement with Chaim Weizmann on the proper methods to be employed in developing Palestine economically, he resigned from his Zionist offices in 1921. Brandeis remained, nevertheless, a devoted Zionist all his life, and was often consulted on important policy matters.


Founded in 1948 and located in Waltham, Mass., Brandeis University is the first Jewish-sponsored non-sectarian institution of higher learning in the Western Hemisphere. Named after the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis, it admits students without regard to race, color, or religious affiliation. Its first president was Abram Sachar, a Jewish scholar and former national director of the Hillel Foundation of B’nai B’rith. The religious requirements of Christians and Jewish students are respected in planning the school calendar and in the dining hall. In October 1955, Brandeis University dedicated a modern group of three chapels, for students of the Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths. This is a departure from the usual college practice of haing a single nondenominational chapel.


Federal republic; largest country in South America. Brazil, which was discovered by Portugal in 1500, was the home of the first organized Jewish community in the New World. Large numbers of Marranos, forced converts who observed their Jewish faith in secret, arrived early in the 16th century. They prospered in commerce and industry, but at the price of denying their Judaism publicly. Only when the Dutch conquered Pernambuco in 1630 were the Marranos able to declare their faith. Their congregations were enlarged by Jews from Holland, the West Indies, and North Africa. So extensive was their trade that Pernambuco came to be known as “the port of the Jews.” This happy interlude ended when the Portuguese recaptured Dutch Brazil in 1654, and expelled the Jews from the country. Most of the Brazilian Jews fled to Holland. Small groups found refuge in Surinam and Curacao in the Dutch West Indies. Twenty-three boarded a ship which bore them to New Amsterdam, where they became the nucleus of the famous Portuguese-Jewish community of New York.

So effective was the Portuguese persecution that for the next 175 years there was no indication of Jewish life in Brazil. After Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal in 1824, however, a small community of Marranos revealed its Judaism in Belem, far from the capital. Later in the century, two other small communities were founded in Brazil. Yet it is only at the turn of the 20th century that the “modern” community may be said to begin. At that time, the Jewish Colonization Association began to encourage European Jews to emigrate to Brazil and settle on farms. The farm colonies were not very successful. Most of their members settled in cities and founded communities there. These communities were enlarged by new immigrants, especially after the U.S. began to restrict its own immigration in 1924. Because of the opportunities it offered to newcomers, Brazil became the home of the second largest Jewish community in Latin America. Totaling 96,500 in 2007, it is second only to Argentina. Between 1957 and 1959, Brazil received some 3,000 immigrants from Egypt and 700 from Hungary.

The Brazilian Jewish community is a prosperous one. Most of its members are merchants or manufacturers; the remainder are largely skilled craftsmen. The large majority live in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, but there are Jews in every major city in the country. Since 1951, all sectors of the Jewish community have been represented in the World Jewish Congress by the Confederation of the Jewish Societies of Brazil.

The cultural activities within the community are varied. There are Yiddish newspapers and many Jewish periodicals in Portuguese. The larger communities have Jewish school systems and elaborate community organizations. Zionist feeling has run high, especially since the creation of the State of Israel. Educators from Israel play a large part in running the Jewish schools in Rio and Sao Paulo, although non-Zionists have their own schools. In addition, teachers from most of the Jewish schools are regularly sent to Israel for training. In 1954, an Israel-Brazilian Cultural Institute was inaugurated under the chairmanship of Brazil’s foreign minister. It grants scholarships to Brazil’s students who wish to study in Israel, and has set itself the task of popularizing Brazilian literature in Israel and Israel literature in Brazil. Another cultural institution of note is the Jewish-Brazilian Institute of Historical Research, which studies the history of the Jewish community in Brazil.


Zionist pioneer and Hebrew novelist who first attracted attention with his stories of the grim life in poverty-stricken small towns of Russia. His larger novels, Ba-Horef, Mi-Saviv La-Nekudah, are stories of the futile strivings of Jewish youth to improve their situation in Czarist Russia. In his later novels, he describes life in Palestine. Brenner lived for several years in London and edited there a Hebrew monthly, Ha-Meorer (The Awakener). He settled in Palestine in 1909, and there, deeply influenced by A.D. Gordon, followed Gordon’s ideas in advocating a just society and a life close to nature. Brenner advocated friendly relations with the Arabs, and lived and mingled freely with them. Ironically, he was killed in an Arab riot on May 1, 1921. One of the largest agricultural settlements, Givat Brenner, bears his name.

BRISCOE, ROBERT (1894-1969).

First Jew ever to serve as lord mayor of Dublin, Ireland (1956-57, 1961-62). Briscoe was active in the Irish Republican Movement during Ireland’s struggle for independence. He was also an ardent Zionist who supported Revisionist Zionism. His son, Benjamin Briscoe, was lord mayor of Dublin in 1989-90.


See Circumcision and Covenant.

BRODETSKY, SELIG (1888-1954).

Mathematician, Zionist leader. Brought to England from Russia at the age of five, Brodetsky was a professor of mathematics at the Universities of Bristol and Leeds. In 1921, he attended his first Zionist Congress; he was elected to the World Zionist Executive in 1928. Brodetsky was president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain from 1940 to 1949, and served as president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem from 1949 until 1951.

BRODSKY, JOSEPH (1940-1996).

Russian-born poet and essayist. Brodsky lived and wrote in the USSR until, in 1972, when he was exiled. He then moved to the U.S., where he taught in several universities, and eventually became a U.S. Citizen in 1980. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987, and served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1992.


See Sports.

BRONFMAN, EDGAR (1929- 2013).

President of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 until 2007, Bronfman was the son of Samuel Bronfman (1891-1971), one of Canada’s leading Jewish industrialists and communal leaders. Edgar Bronfman developed the Seagram Company founded by his father, and became an international Jewish leader as president of the Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress exerted influence on Jewish affairs around the world, mostly notably championing the plight of the Jews of the Soviet Union,  exposing of Austria’s president, Kurt Waldheim, as an ex-Nazi, and the discovery of bank accounts in Switzerland with funds belonging to Jewish victims of the Nazis.


Canadian businessman and philanthropist. Son of Samuel Bronfman and brother of Edgar (see Bronfman, Edgar). Edgar and he inherited the Seagram Company, the distillery founded by his father.  He became president in 1975 and then co-chairman until the company was sold in 2000. He was the principal owner of the Montreal Expos baseball team from 1968 until 1990.The team was sold to Major League Baseball and eventually moved and became the Washington Nationals, owned by businessman, Ted Lerner in 2004.

Bronfman and American philanthropist Michael Steinhardt co-founded Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that sends Jewish college students on free educational trips to Israel.

BROOKNER, ANITA (1928- 2016 ).

Novelist and art historian. Brookner’s novels have been described as “gloomy. ” Already in her 50’s when her first novel was published, she won the prestigious Brooker literary prize for her fourth, Hotel du Lac, published in 1984.

Her parents were Jewish immigrants to Britain, who changed their name from Bruckner.  She once told the Paris Review, “My family were Polish Jews, and we lived with my grandmother, with uncles and aunts and cousins all around, and I thought everybody lived like that. They were transplanted and fragile people, an unhappy brood…” During WWII, her family tried to help refugees from war-torn Europe.


See Stage and Screen.

BROZA, DAVID (1955 – ).

Israeli singer and songwriter. A song he recorded to promote his live shows then became a number one hit in Israel, and he became a star. In a short time, Broza gained immense popularity as a musical sensation worldwide, with strong audience bases in Israel, South America, and the U.S. alike. Today he continues to perform and record songs in Hebrew, English, and Spanish.

BUBER, MARTIN (1878-1965).

Jewish philosopher and scholar, who exerted great influence on Jewish and Zionist thought in Western Europe. He was born in Vienna. Most of his works are in German, some in Hebrew. From 1916 to 1924 he was the editor of Der Jude, a leading publication of Jewish thought, philosophy, and religion, published in Berlin. Buber’s religious philosophy has its roots in an ethical and social approach to man’s place in the world. Together with Franz Rosenzweig, he translated the Bible into German. Buber delved into Jewish mysticism and published collections of Hasidic tales, in which he brought to light the beauty and thought of Hasidism. After the rise of Nazism, Buber settled in Palestine. In 1938, he became a professor of social philosophy in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was the recipient of many honors from postwar Germany, including the Honor Prize of the City of Munich in 1960. Other honors included the Albert Schweitzer Medal.


Town in Germany. In 1937, the Nazis established a concentration camp there to provide slave labor for factories in central Germany. In November 1938, 10,000 German Jews arrived in Buchenwald; by 1944, the figure rose to nearly 100,000. Among the prominent political prisoners was the former French premier Leon Blum, who was liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. Many inmates died of hunger, disease, and maltreatment. (See also Holocaust.)


Jews lived in Bulgaria during the 2nd century C.E. By the end of the 12th century the Jews controlled Bulgarian trade with Venice. In 1335, King Ivan Alexander married a Jewish woman named Sarah, who on her baptism took the name Theodora. Her son Ivan Sisman III came to the throne in 1346, and continued his mother’s amiable attitude to the Jewish population. Bulgaria was conquered by Turkey in 1389, and soon became a haven for Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Since then, the majority of Bulgarian Jews have been Sephardim. During World War II, the Nazis exterminated the majority of the Jews of Bulgaria. Of the few Jews who survived at the end of the war, the majority emigrated to Israel in the mass exodus of 1949. After the fall of communism in 1989, the community was reconstituted. Currently, there are about 3,000 Jews in Bulgaria.


Jewish Socialist Party, founded in Russia in 1897. A militant group, the Bund worked for the overthrow of the Russian Tsarist government, organizing demonstrations and strikes. Some Bundists escaped to the U.S. and became active in the Jewish social movement in America. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, a part of the Bund joined the Jewish section of the Communist party. It established schools, conducted cultural work in the Yiddish language, and organized youth groups and workers’ cooperatives. Initially, the Bund bitterly opposed Zionism and considered it a “bourgeois utopia.” It was equally antagonistic to Hebrew as the Jewish national tongue. Remnants of the Bund are still active in America, Israel, and some European countries.


Burial customs date back to the stories of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible. In Jewish tradition, proper burial in the ground is one of the main life-cycle commandments. A corpse is to be treated with utmost respect, regardless who the person is, since, according to traditional belief, the soul is about to enter eternal rest, and the bones begin to wait for the eventual resurrection in the messianic age. Trained Jews (See Hevra Kadisha) purify the body and dress it in a simple white linen garment. A pious Jew stands by and recites Psalms. In Israel, no coffin is used, except for soldiers fallen in battle. In the Diaspora, a plain pine coffin is preferred, so as not to distinguish between rich and poor. Families often purchase a burial section in a Jewish cemetery for their members. A funeral service consists of prayers, a eulogy, and a Mourner’s Kaddish recited at the graveside. Mourning lasts for seven days (sitting shivah), and a memorial is erected before the end of the first year from the time of death.


See Hebrew Literature.


Town on Israel’s coast, south of Haifa, dating back to the 4th century B.C.E. It was named Caesarea by King Herod, in honor of Augustus Caesar. Herod built a major port and town, the remains of which are still there. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities flourished and declined in Caesarea over the ages. Today, the town has some of Israel’s most interesting archeological discoveries, and is growing into a major seaside resort.

CAHAN, ABRAHAM (1860-1952).

Socialist leader and founder and editor of the influential Yiddish newspaper in New York, The Forward. He studied for the rabbinate in his native Russia, but soon turned toward radical and socialist views. Upon his arrival in America in 1882, he found a fertile field for his ideas among immigrant Jewry. Cahan worked actively as labor organizer, lecturer, and editor of various Yiddish periodicals. In 1902, he became the editor of The Forward, a post he held until his death. A talented writer, he published successful short stories and novels in English, notably The Rise of David Levinsky. In this work Cahan described his generation’s problems in a way that has been recognized as a classic of immigrant literature in the U.S.


See Abel.


See Art.


Unlike the general, solar-based calendar, the Jewish calendar is lunar, consisting of twelve 29- and 30-day-long months, based on the new moon. Thus, the year has 354, rather than 365 days. To make up for this difference, the Jewish leap year has an additional month after Adar, called Second Adar, which occurs every third, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year. In ancient times, before astronomical calculations became mathematically exact, the people of Judea watched the skies for the appearance of the new moon. As soon as the new moon was spotted by witnesses, bonfires were lit on the hilltops to spread the news. Burning torches signaled from mountain to mountain, beginning with Jerusalem‘s Mount of Olives and on as far as the Babylonian frontier. In the Holy Land the Sanhedrin, the highest legislative and judicial council, set the dates of the holidays and the festivals, and fast messengers relayed the information as far as Babylonia. By the middle of the 4th century, persecution had made conditions in Palestine difficult and uncertain. The head of the scattered Sanhedrin, Hillel II, introduced then a final and fixed calendar. He published the mathematical and astronomical information for it and made it possible for all Jewish communities in the Dispersion to use this knowledge. This uniformity removed uncertainty from the date of the Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon, and the first day of the year from which the dates of all holidays are set.


Around the time of the Gold Rush in 1849, Jews discovered California. The first community was established in San Francisco, where the first West Coast Jewish paper, The Gleaner, was started in 1855. Soon communities were established in San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles. Today, there are close to one million Jews living in California, with 668,000 in Los Angeles, 210,000 in the San Francisco area (including San Jose), 75,000 in Orange County, and 70,000 in San Diego. Among the Jewish institutions of higher learning are the University of Judaism (Conservative) and the West Coast branch of the Hebrew Union College (Reform), both in Los Angeles. Jews have played a prominent role in the motion picture industry in Los Angeles, accounting for many of the producers who established the big studios, such as MGM, as well as for many of the actors (See Stage and Screen).

California is second only to New York as a center of Jewish life in the U.S., with many Reform and Conservative congregations, as well as Jewish cultural institutions, such as the Judah Magnes Art Museum in Berkeley and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. In the U.S. Senate, California has been represented by two Jewish women, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. Los Angeles also has a large, active community of Israeli expatriates.


See Ketubah, Scribe.


Jewish youth camps in the United States are a major source of social and sports activities, as well as Jewish living and learning. Every summer, many thousands of Jewish youth under the age of 18 participate in camp programs throughout the country. These programs are run by local Jewish federations and national Jewish organizations.

Founded in 1919, Camp Cejwin in Port Jervis, N.Y., was the pioneer of Jewish educational camps.

Ramah camps, run by the Conservative movement, are located in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, New York, Ontario (Canada), and Israel. Ramah also conducts an annual teen study program in Israel and a training institute for future counselors. Organized by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1947, Ramah offers a Jewish educational program conducted in Hebrew, with formal instruction in classical Hebrew texts.

The Reform movement has camps in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The program emphasizes innovative approaches to Jewish learning and worship, social justice, Israel, and Jewish culture.

B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) has camps in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which focus on leadership training and general Jewish experience. All of these organizations have summer youth programs in Israel.

The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies runs 16 camp sites in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Some 6,500 youngsters attend Federation camps. The best-known is Surprise Lake Camp in New York.

In recent years Orthodox groups


Son of Ham and grandson of Noah, ancestor of seven Canaanite tribes, sometimes identified with the Phoenicians. In the biblical account, Canaan, the coastal plain west of the Jordan, is the land God promised to Abraham, “To your seed will I give this land” (Gen. 12:17).

CANETTI, ELIAS (1905-1994).

Larger in area than the U.S., the British Dominion of Canada has only one-tenth of the U.S. population. In a population of over 30,000,000, about 375,000 are Jews, with 95,000 in Montreal and 180,000 in Toronto Until 1760, Canada formed a part of a vast French colony in which few Jews had been allowed to settle. In 1763, however, the British defeated the French and established British rule over the country. Several Jews had served as officers in the British army. One of them, Aaron Hart, settled in Trois Rivieres, a small town in the province of Quebec. Later, his son, Ezekiel Hart, was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada. His political opponents objected to his position in the legislature because, as a Jew, he refused to take the prescribed oath, “on my faith as a Christian.” For a while, the law was on their side, but in 1829, it was amended to extend equal political rights to Jews. In 1832, the Jews were granted full political equality


See Hazan.


Jewish children in Russia drafted for military service. In 1827, Czar Nicholas I extended military service to include Jews. The Russian conscripts served in the army for 25 years, beginning at age 18. Jewish children, however, were taken at the age of 12 and placed in “canton,” or district, schools of six years of preliminary training. They were sent as far away from any Jewish settlement as possible, and every effort was made to convert them to Christianity. Many cantonists did not survive the cruel treatment in these schools; many saved themselves by conversion. For this reason, Jews did everything in their power to keep their children from being taken into the Russian army. The government simply compelled the heads of each Jewish community to produce the community’s quota of children. The rich often tried to buy substitutes for their children, while informers and professional kidnappers added to the terror within the Jewish communities. This state of affairs lasted for 30 years until Alexander II abolished the system in 1857.


. See Hazan.


See Stage and Screen.

CANTOR, GEORGE (1845-1918).

German mathematician. Born to a converted family of Jewish extraction, he founded the theory of sets, which revolutionized modern mathematics.


U.S. Supreme Court justice. Born in New York City into a family of Sephardic Jews, Cardozo was graduated with high honors from Columbia College, and in 1891, received his degree in law from the Columbia University Law School. He practiced law in New York, and was elected justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1913. President Herbert Hoover appointed Cardozo to succeed Oliver Wendell Holmes as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1932.

Cardozo was a trustee of Columbia University; a member of the Board of Governors of the American Friends of the Hebrew University; and a member of the executive committees of the National Jewish Welfare Board and of the American Jewish Committee. He also distinguished himself in legal literature. His books include The Nature of the Judicial Process, Paradoxes of the Legal Sciences, and Law and Literature. In his writings, he always endeavored to reconcile the law with the spirit and needs of the times. Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was named after him.

CARLEBACH, SHLOMO (1925-1995).

Rabbi, teacher, neo-Hasidic composer. He became known in the 60’s to American and world Jewry as a revitalizer of Jewish faith, peoplehood, and music. His widely popular neo-Hasidic melodies, his participation in causes like the struggle for Soviet Jewry, his work with Jewish students on campus in the U.S. and Israel, and his unique style of storytelling contributed to this rebirth. Jews across the spectrum of the Jewish world have been influenced by his work, and some of his melodies remain popular to this day.

CARO, JOSEPH (1488-1575).

Born in Spain, Caro settled in Palestine, where he wrote the Shulhan Arukh


Oldest of American rabbinic associations (about 1,100 members), founded for Reform rabbis by Isaac Mayer Wise in 1889. A leading spokesman for Reform Judaism, the CCAR publishes prayer books, hymnals, a home prayerbook, proceedings of its annual conventions, reports of its commissions, and other volumes. Since 1954, the conference has had a permanent office in New York City. Membership includes Reform rabbis around the world.


See Shneerson.

CHAGALL, MARC (1899-1985).

Artist; born in a small town near Vitebsk, White Russia. As a young man Chagall settled in France. He is the most eminent member of the

CHAIN, ERNEST BORIS (1906-1979).

Biochemist, discoverer of the curative properties of penicillin and its adapter for use on the human body. Chain was born in Berlin to Russian-Jewish parents, and came to England in 1933. He worked at Cambridge and Oxford universities and was subsequently Director of the Instituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome. He returned to England to become a professor of biochemistry at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London.


In Hebrew, tsedakah, meaning righteousness or justice, since helping the needy is considered a duty. In biblical times, when the Jews were agriculturists, they gave charity by letting the poor glean, that is, gather the grain dropped in harvesting (see Ruth 2: 2-16). According to biblical law the corners of the field were to be left unreaped for the poor, who also had the right to all sheaves found uncollected. A tithe, or tenth, of all farm produce was offered to charity; untithed food could not be eaten. Biblical law required that the tithe be distributed to the needy, particularly “to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.”

By Talmudic times each community had a kuppah, or charity fund. The community had absolute power to levy taxes for this purpose. From the kuppah the community’s poor were given money for fourteen meals per week. Distinguished members of the community were collectors for the kuppah, and a board of three men was responsible for allocating the funds. Some rabbis divided charity into seven categories: feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; visiting the sick; burying the dead and comforting mourners; ransoming captives; educating orphans and housing the homeless; and providing dowries for poor brides.

The lending of money without interest, helping the non-Jewish poor in the community, and giving preference to women and students were all part of the system of Jewish charity. Maimonides listed eight degrees of charity: the lowest was to give grudgingly; the highest to help a person to become self-supporting.

Charity was also an important act leading to the pardoning of personal transgressions or sins. The Yom Kippur service states that “repentance and prayer and charity avert the harshness of God’s decree.” The Jew believes that to ask God to have pity upon one’s own misfortune, one must have pity for others’ misfortune. Charity is therefore distributed on the eve of Yom Kippur in atonement for one’s sins. Because charity is considered effective in redeeming the souls of the dead as well as of the living, alms are also generously distributed at funerals.

Gifts to the poor are not merely associated with mournful occasions and fear of punishment. Rather, they are a basic principle of Judaism and are offered on joyous occasions as well. Thus, the merry Purim festivities include the custom of mishloah manot, or the delivery of gifts to the poor, and it is customary to raise maot hittim, or wheat money, before Passover. This money is used to provide matzo, wine, and the other ritual needs of the holiday for those who cannot afford them. Similarly, the Passover Seder ceremony includes an invitation to “all the poor to come and eat.” In Eastern Europe it was common for the poor to be invited to all ritual celebrations.

In the U.S. today and throughout the Jewish world, charity continues to be one of the main aspects of organized Jewish life.


With more than 270,000 Jews, Chicago has the third largest Jewish population in the U.S. Organized Jewish life dates to the 1830’s when the first Jews arrived from central Europe. Reform temples were founded in the 1840’s and 1850’s, and today Chicago has more than 100 congregations of all three major movements.

Chicago’s institutions of higher learning include the Hebrew Theological College, the Jewish People’s Institute, and the College of Jewish Studies.

One of the most ethnic cities in the U.S., Chicago has absorbed Jewish immigration from many countries. The Skokie suburb is known for its active community of Holocaust survivors.

Chicago’s Jewry has supported many civic and Jewish causes and produced many outstanding personalities who have enriched Jewish and general culture. One example is Julius Rosenwald, who developed the Sears company and contributed millions to general and Jewish causes. Another is Saul Bellow, considered America’s most distinguished writer of the post-World War II era.


Republic on the west coast of South America. In 1998, the total population was 16 million; the Jewish population was 21,000. Like other Spanish colonies in South America, Chile had a flourishing Marrano community in the 16th and 17th centuries. But while the Inquisition succeeded in suppressing such communities elsewhere, Chile is still home to a group of colonial Jews. The Sabatarios, descendants of Marranos who fled to the interior to escape the Inquisition, survive in the mountain province of Cautin. Nothing was known of them until 1919, when a letter requesting admission to the South American Zionist Organization revealed their presence in the country. An investigation disclosed that, despite intermarriage with Spaniards and Indians and a total lack of contact with other Jewish communities, they had preserved a number of Jewish customs and beliefs.

Aside from the Sabatarios, however, the entire colonial community was lost. Jewish life in Chile was renewed only after 1810 when the country gained independence and offered guarantees of religious freedom. The first communities were small. At the time of World War I, there were about 3,000 Jews in Chile, mostly Sephardic Jews from Macedonia and the Balkans. The waves of immigration from Eastern and Central Europe in the following decades, increased the number of Jews to 30,000, and made Chile’s Jewish community the fourth largest in Latin America. It is also most highly organized. The Central Committee of the Jewish Community of Chile coordinates the activities of all local organizations, represents Chile’s Jews in the World Jewish Congress, and is recognized by the government as the spokesman for the community.

Jews in Chile are mainly engaged in trade, crafts, and small industry. They are more active in national politics than Jews in other South American republics. The degree of their cultural integration is shown by the fact that Nosotros, the leading Jewish periodical of the country, is published in Spanish, rather than Yiddish or Hebrew. Yet the Chilean Jews have shown concern for Israel, and the Zionist Federation, a central organization of all Zionist parties, is active in the Central Committee of the community.


Chinese Jewry consisted of two communities. The older group believed that its forbears reached China after the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.). Early Chinese documents indeed mention Jewish traders several centuries before the Common Era. Much later, in the 14th century, Marco Polo wrote of influential Jews at the court of Kublai Khan. After 1650, this community, which had preserved its religious traditions for more than 2,000 years, declined rapidly. By the middle of the 19th century its last synagogues


See Ukraine.


See Hofetz Haim.

CHOMSKY, NOAM (1928- ).

Leading authority on linguistics, the study of languages. The son of Jewish educator William Chomsky, he has been a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 1957 and has espoused many radical causes, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s.


According to the Bible, God entered into a convenant with Abraham and his descendants, to be God’s servants and witnesses in the world. This concept has been distorted through the ages to mean that Jews regard themselves as God’s chosen, thus superior to other people. In actual fact, this “chosenness” puts a heavy burden on the Jewish people, rather than endowing them with special privileges. The Hebrew prophets make it clear that being chosen does not mean being better than others, but rather having a special mission which requires a high moral code and an unshaken faith.


The most dominant religion of the Western world. Christianity originated in the Land of Israel with a Jew from the Galilee named Jesus, all of whose disciples were Jews, and was spread throughout the ancient world by another Jew named Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul. Today’s Catholic Church is more aware than ever of the common heritage of Jews and Christians, and recent Popes have referred to Jews as our “elder brothers.”

This, however, was not always the case with the relationship between the two religions. When Christianity first began to spread in the Roman Empire, the rabbis of the time regarded this new offshoot of Judaism as a heresy, and opposed it. As Jews lost their national independence and were scattered in the new Christian world, the Church doctrine developed strong anti-Jewish views, including the view that the Jews, rather than the Romans, were responsible for the death of Jesus, and therefore were cursed by God to roam the earth and find no rest or fulfilment. During the Middle Ages the Church was instrumental in introducing many restrictions against the Jews, and, in effect, forced them to become second-class residents of the host countries in Europe. Perhaps the most radical example of persecution against Jews by the Church was the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th and 16th centuries, which specialized in torture, often against innocents. It was not until the 19th century that Jews started to obtain citizenship rights, and even then the Church did not accept Jews as the equals of their Christian compatriots.

The church, however, never condemned the Jewish people to die, as did the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. Some argue that centuries of antisemitic preaching by the Church culminated in the Holocaust, but this may be only partially true. Today, a new era in Christian-Jewish relations has begun, due to the birth of Israel and the Church’s awareness of the Holocaust. The Vatican has officially condemned antisemitism and recognized the State of Israel, and many Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant, support the Jewish state.


The first and second Books of Chronicles form the last book of the Bible. Chronicles retells the history of the Jewish people from Creation to the close of the Babylonian exile. It omits the history of the northern Kingdom of Israel to concentrate on the history of the Kingdom of Judah and stress priestly duties and Temple ritual.


Performed upon the Jewish male child on the eighth day of life. In Genesis 17:10-14, God commands Abraham to circumcise the foreskin of all males of the house as the sign of the covenant between God and the children of Abraham. It has become a basic law among Jews. In times of persecution, Jews risked their lives to fulfill the commandment. Traditionally, the ceremony is performed by a trained mohel, or circumciser, the child being held by an honored guest, the sandek, or godfather, who occupies a seat designated as Elijah’s chair in honor of the prophet Elijah. This custom stems from the belief that the prophet is witness to the ritual. The circumcision ceremony is an occasion for rejoicing and feasting, accompanied by special blessings and prayers.


See Ohio.


See India.


See Kohen.

COHEN, ELI (1924-1965).

Israeli spy who penetrated the highest levels of government in Syria. He was caught and hanged in Damascus. He is considered a hero of modern Israel.

COHEN, HERMANN (1848-1918)

. German philosopher. The son of a cantor in a small Jewish community, he attended the Rabbinical Seminary at Breslau for a few years. However, he left the Seminary and instead devoted himself to the study of philosophy. In 1876, he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Marburg. At this time, Cohen entertained little interest in Judaism and devoted himself entirely to the development of his philosophic system, a modification of the system of Immanuel Kant. The antisemitic outburst of the historian Treitschke, in 1880, stirred Cohen’s Jewish consciousness, and he attempted to defend his people. An essay Love of Fellowman in the Talmud, written as a reply to a query of a court, about the Jewish attitude toward morality drew him still closer to Jewish matters. From that time on, Cohen wrote many essays on Jewish subjects which were later collected in three volumes. He also wrote a work on the Jewish religion called Die Religion der Vernunft (The Religion of Reason). In these works, he formulated his philosophical and ethical principles of Judaism. He dwelt especially on the high value of the Messianic idea


American philosopher. Of his numerous works, the leading ones are A Preface to Logic and Scientific Method and Reason and Nature. In addition, Cohen wrote many essays on the philosophy of law and was editor of the Modern Legal Philosophical Series.


Republic in northwestern South America. Marranos


Jews first settled in Colorado during the gold rush in the 1860’s, and some, like Simon Guggenheim, became active in developing silver and lead resources. Today, most of Colorado’s 79,000 Jews live in Denver (with smaller communities in Colorado Springs and Pueblo), where the Intermountain Jewish News is published. Major Jewish health institutions located in Denver include the National Jewish Hospital and the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society.


Discoverer of America. He was believed to be of Jewish origin. He had Jews in his crew, and was befriended by powerful Marranos in Spain, to whom he wrote letters bewailing his treatment. Columbus claimed descent from the dynasty of King David. His son Ferdinand stated that his father’s “progenitors were of the blood royal of Jerusalem, and it pleased him that his parents shall not be much known.”


See Mitzvah.


See Kahal.


See Holocaust.


Umbrella organization of close to thirty American Jewish organizations. First organized in 1954, the Conference represents American Jewry to the U.S. Government, and gets particularly involved in U.S.-Israel relations.


Synagogue ceremony in which boys and girls graduating from elementary religious school publicly recognize their dedication to Judaism. Originating in Germany, confirmation was introduced in the U.S. in 1847 and now takes place in all Reform, most Conservative, and some Orthodox synagogues. It is celebrated on the holiday of Shavuot to signify that the graduates confirm their loyalty to the Torah which, according to tradition, was given on Shavuot.


There are sporadic records of Jews living in the state in the 17th and 18th century. Not until the mid-19th century, however, were Jews permitted to establish synagogues. The first were organized in Hartford and New Haven. Today, there are some 112,000 Jews living in the state, mainly in the Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk areas. Jews have been active in the state’s economic, social, political, and cultural life. One of the best known was Senator Abraham Ribicoff. More recently, Joseph Lieberman has been serving as U.S. Senator from that state. There are many synagogues and a high level of philanthropic activities. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger is published in West Hartford, The Jewish Leader in New London.


See Judaism.

COPLAND, AARON (1900-1990).

Composer, pianist, conductor, and author. One of America’s leading musicians, Copland distinguished himself both as creative artist and as interpreter of modern music. His work as a composer developed from a dry, ironic modern idiom to more simplified melodic treatment. In both phases he made striking use of American jazz and folk motifs. Vitebsk, Study on a Jewish Melody and In the Beginning, a choral setting on the theme of Creation, are works on Jewish motifs.


See Kabbalah.


See Lithuania and Germany.


Republic in southern Central America. Costa Rica’s Jewish community was founded by settlers from Cura


See Kahal.


In biblical times a contract or agreement of friendship between persons or nations was completed in a ceremony in which the two parties walked between the two halves of an animal sacrifice (Gen. 15:9-11). In the biblical covenants between God and Israel, a sign accompanied each renewal of the contract. When God made a covenant with Noah after the flood, He set the rainbow as a sign that “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen. 9:13-15). In the covenant God made with Abraham, giving to him and to his children the land of Canaan for “an everlasting possession,” circumcision was the sign (Gen. 17:10). When the Lord renewed the covenant with the Children of Israel at Sinai, His sign was the Sabbath (Exod. 31:13). In the Bible, the Torah itself is called “the Book of the Covenant,” the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments “the tablets of the covenant,” a reminder that Israel’s part of the contract was faithfulness to God and righteous behavior toward men.

CRESCAS, HASDAI (ca. 1340-1412).

Spanish rabbi, statesman, and religious philosopher. The Talmudic scholarship of Hasdai Crescas was so highly valued that his contemporaries simply called him “the Rov [teacher] of Saragossa.” Crescas’ statesmanship was recognized when he served the Royal Court of Aragon, yet this did not save him from tragedy. His son was killed during the black year of 1391, when Spanish mobs, incited by the eloquence of a monk, raged in many cities and gave Jews a choice between death and giving up their faith. Crescas is best remembered for his philosophical work Or Adonai, “Light of the Lord.” This book described the major beliefs of Judaism as faith in God’s guidance and in Jewish destiny. Crescas opposed the philosophy of Aristotle and stressed his belief in free will. He is considered the last original Jewish thinker of the medieval period, and his work influenced deeply the 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza.


Statesman who devoted his life to furthering French democracy and equal rights for the Jews of France. He was instrumental in the abolition of a degrading oath which all French Jews were forced to take when appearing in court. Admitted to the bar in 1817, he became an outstanding orator, lawyer, statesman, and defender of human rights. Deeply aroused by the blood accusation against his fellow Jews in the Damascus affair, Crémieux actively intervened on behalf of the unfortunate victims. This close contact with the misery of Asian Jewry led him to form the Alliance Israélite Universelle to promote their welfare. He became president of this important organization and retained the post for life. In the turbulent political scene of 19th-century France, he held various government posts, including that of minister of justice, and in 1873, was made senator for life.


Peninsula in the former Soviet Union, on the shore of the Black Sea. Jews first settled there during the time of the Second Temple, more than two thousand years ago, possibly even earlier. Their numbers grew under Roman rule. Old Jewish inscriptions discovered in Crimea indicate that a substantial and prosperous Jewish population existed there at the beginning of the common era. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Khazar Kingdom flourished in the Crimea. First a pagan nation, the Khazars embraced Judaism at an early period in their history. This period of an independent Khazar state ended in 1016, when the Russians and Byzantines united to defeat the Khazars. Jewish communities survived the Tatar invasions in the 13th century. In later periods, prosperous Jewish tradesmen from the Crimea opened routes of commerce to Turkey, Russia, and Poland. When Czarist Russia annexed the region in 1784, most of the Jews were artisans and small traders. In addition to the Jewish population, Crimea had substantial Karaite communities. This sect, founded by Anan ben David during the 8th century, rejected Talmudic tradition, adhering only to biblical law.

In 1924, the Soviet government set aside some of the land of this area for Jewish colonization. Jewish families who had lost their means of livelihood because of the government ban on private enterprise emigrated to the Crimea. A special organization, Komzet, the Commission for the Rural Placement of Jewish Toilers, supervised the colonization. The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) extended financial and technical help to the settlers through the Agro-Joint. Before World War II, there were about 80,600 Jews in the Crimea, out of a total population of more than a million. Twenty-five thousand Jews engaged in agriculture. During Nazi occupation, all the Jewish colonies were destroyed, and most Jews perished. Only a small number returned to their homes after the war.

CRUSADES (1096-1291).

The Crusades were a series of Christian wars designed to free the Holy Land from Moslem rule. They were uniformly tragic in their effects upon the Jews. Crusaders were exempted from the payment of their debts to Jews. Inflamed to hatred against the “unbelievers” by both church and state, the armies of Crusaders, often no more than armed mobs, began their “holy war” by massacring Jewish communities in France, Germany, and England. Some Jews were forcibly baptized, others were killed for refusing baptism, still others were slain without the opportunity of choice. Emperor Henry IV permitted the forced converts to live as Jews again. A few bishops and archbishops tried to protect the Jews of their districts, but their efforts generally failed. In the Holy Land itself, the few surviving Jewish communities were almost entirely destroyed by the Crusaders. What the pagan Romans had left undone, the Christians completed. The afflicted European communities met the attacks in different ways. Jews of Treves submitted to forced baptism, and later renounced it; those of Cologne tried in vain to hide; those of Worms, Speyer, Mayence, and York took their own lives; those of the French city of Carentan died fighting. Rashi, who was in Troyes, France, during the First Crusade, escaped injury. His grandson, Rabbenu Jacob Tam, was badly wounded, almost killed, in the Second Crusade. Many of the kinnot, or poems of lamentation, composed in memory of the victims are still recited on the Fast of the Ninth of Av. As a result of the Crusades, tens of thousands of Jews were massacred, some communities were completely wiped out, and others never recovered their strength. Jewish trade with the Orient was broken, and Jews were gradually forced to earn their living by usury. Above all, suspicion of, prejudice against, and hatred toward them became deep-rooted and lingered on for centuries in the popular mind.


See Stage and Screen.


Until the 1959 revolution which ended in Fidel Castro’s transformation of Cuba into a socialist state, Jews numbered 10,000. In 2007, about 1000 Jews, mostly poor and elderly, remain in a population of 11 million. Cuba won freedom from Spain in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War. In the 16th century, Marranos, forced converts who practiced Judaism in secret, came to Cuba to escape persecution in other parts of Latin America. For a short time they prospered, playing an important part in developing Cuba’s sugar industry. Finally, the Inquisition, which sought to wipe out all non-Catholic faiths, reached the island, and the Marrano community disappeared. Although religious persecution ceased in 1783, it was not until Cuba gained its independence that Jews began to immigrate in large numbers. The first to come were American Jews, who formed an independent community. At about the same time, many Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Morocco arrived. The influx of East European Jews began only after 1924, when the U.S. shut its doors to immigrants. Strict immigration laws passed in the 1930’s prevented further growth of the community. Today, about half of Cuba’s Jews are descendants of the Sephardic immigrants; the rest are divided between a “North American” and an East European community.


See Warsaw.


See Passover.


Island in the Dutch West Indies where Jews who originally fled Spain and Portugal settled in the mid-17th century. Their synagogue is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Jews occupy positions of social, economic, and political importance on the island. (See also Netherlands Antilles.)


In Hebrew, minhag. A practice which, though not based on biblical or Talmudic law, has become, through long observance, as sacred and binding as a religious law. Customs have played an important part in the development of Halakhah, or Jewish religious law. The rabbis, seeking to achieve unanimity of practice and usage, established many customs of different times and places as laws. Many biblical laws, such as circumcision, began as customs before they became law. “The custom of Israel is law,” from Tosafot, is a familiar comment. Customs may vary from place to place, and the rabbis maintain that one must follow the local custom, and that sometimes a custom may even override a law. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews vary in many customs, such as Hebrew pronunciation, the text of some prayers, and holiday observances. Reform Jews have instituted new customs, such as the confirmation ceremony on Shavuot.


Island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises an area of 6,188 m2, and has a population of close to half a million, consisting chiefly of Greeks and Turks. In the Bible Cyprus is mentioned as Kittim. During the Maccabean period Jews lived on Cyprus. Alexander Jannaeus fought the king of Cyprus and conquered him. In the time of Trajan, Jews took an active part in the revolt against Rome. As a consequence, Jewish Cypriots were exterminated, and for many years Jews were forbidden to live on the island. At the advice of Don Joseph Nasi, the Turks captured the island in 1571 from the city-state of Venice. In 1878, during the time of Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli), the island was occupied by the British. In 1960, Cyprus gained independence. Several attempts made by the Jews of Cyprus to start farm settlements failed. In the 1930’s a number of families moved from Palestine to Cyprus, and engaged in its citrus fruit trade. After the World War II the British established detention camps on Cyprus for Jewish refugees who tried to enter Palestine illegally. Today, about 24 Jews lived on Cyprus, out of a total population of more than 7 million.

CYRUS (6th century B.C.E.).

One of the great conqueror-kings of the ancient world and founder of the Persian Empire. When this Median prince took Babylon in 539 B.C.E. he found there Jews who had been led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar 50 years earlier. Cyrus permitted them to return to Palestine and named Zerubbabel, grandson of Judea’s last king, governor of Jerusalem. He assigned a military guard to escort Zerubbabel to his capital. The returning exiles carried with them the plundered vessels of the Temple and funds for its reconstruction. Both were gifts of the emperor.


In 1993, by democratic vote, the nation of Czechoslovakia, bordering Poland on the north, Germany on the west, and Hungary on the east, was split into two countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic’s Jewish community in the regions of Moravia and Bohemia dates to the 10th century.

Jews first settled in a suburb of the capital city, Prague, and from there spread to other cities. Their numbers increased when they were joined by Jews fleeing the cruel attacks of the Crusaders in the countries of western and southern Europe. Jews prospered in the region, engaging in agriculture and various trades, until the mid-14th century when they suffered persecution and exile. They were accused of poisoning wells and desecrating the bread of the Holy Communion.

The religious war which broke out at this time between the students of Jan Hus and the Catholics brought further suffering to the Jews. In 1542, disaster was narrowly averted when pope Pius IV persuaded King Ferdinand I to cancel the edict ordering Jews out of Prague. After each tragic disturbance, the Jewish community rebuilt its life, and the community became famous for its outstanding scholars. Among these were Rabbi Judah Loew, scholar and saint also known as the Maharal, and Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, author of a commentary on the Mishnah. The country was for many years the cause of controversy between certain Slavic and German tribes. After continuous battles between the Slavic and the German rulers in the mid-17th century, it fell to the Hapsburg crown and became a part of the Austro-Hungary empire. In 1918, Czechoslovakia again won political independence.

The new republic, established after World War I by Thomas Masaryk, granted its Jewish citizens equal rights in practice as well as in theory. In 1938, there were about 400,000 Jews living in the new Czechoslovakia, in a general population of about 15 million. Jews were represented in the government, civil service, the armed forces, Parliament, trade and commerce, and the professions. A national-cultural Jewish life developed there, and numerous yeshivot and Hebrew schools flourished. Carpatho-Russia was, between the World Wars, an important center of Hasidism. Many Jews there engaged in farming. Some of the most famous Czechoslovak communities were Prague, Brno, Bratislava, Moravska Ostrava, and Mukacevo. In the 1930’s Czechoslovakia absorbed many Jewish refugees from Germany.

The Munich Pact of 1938, under which large areas were surrendered to Nazi Germany, brought tragedy to Jews in Czechoslovakia. In the area which was ceded to Germany, Czech Jews were persecuted as were other Jews throughout the German Reich. In 1939, the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, nullified its independence, and turned it into a puppet state. Some Czechoslovak Jews managed to emigrate to other countries, including Palestine, but large numbers suffered the fate of millions of other Jews, and were exterminated in the infamous death camps.

After World War II, the republic of Czechoslovakia was reestablished and its Jewish citizens were granted equal rights. But nearly all of the communities were without Jewish residents. In 1946, the Communist regime came into power, and most of the remaining Jews emigrated. In 1989, the Communist regime came to an end. The new president, Vaclav Havel, visited Israel in 1990 and has shown interest in furthering cultural ties between the two nations.In 1993, by democratic vote, the country split into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Currently, the Jewish population in the Czech Republic is estimated at about 4,000; most live in Prague and other large centers.

CZERNIAKOW, ADAM (1880-1942).

President of the Judenrat, or Jewish Council, in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Despite his many efforts to ward off the Nazi onslaught against half a million Jews in Warsaw, the systematic extermination of this major Jewish population center continued unhindered, and eventually Czerniakov committed suicide.


Village in Bavaria, Germany; site of the first Nazi concentration camp in 1933. Here the Nazis brought from Germany and elsewhere a variety of people, including Jews, who were brutalized and either killed or left to die, and conducted, among other things, medical experiments on humans. It was liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945.


Fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, four.


Syrian city, “half as old as time.” When Abraham fought King Chedorlaomer for the liberation of Lot, he pursued Chedorlaomer to Hobah, north of Damascus (Gen. 14:15). For intermittent periods beginning with David, Jewish kings ruled this capital of Aram. Finally, it fell to the Assyrian empire of Tiglat-Pileser in 732 B.C.E. Ruled at different times by almost every aggressive power of the Mid-East, Damascus fell to the Arabs and became their imperial city in 635 C.E. In 1516 C.E., Ottoman Turks held Damascus as one of their important ruling centers until World War I. To this day, the Jewish settlement of Damascus has been almost unbroken since the time of King Herod (40-4 B.C.E.). After World War I, Arab nationalism made life difficult for the Jews, and they began to move away, mostly to Israel. Once the Syrian government allowed Jews to emigrate in 1996, only 200 old and poor Jews remained.


In 1840, while Syria was under Egyptian rule, the Jewish community in Damascus was accused of killing a Franciscan friar, Father Tomaso, in order to use his blood for ritual purposes. Influenced by the French consul Ratti Menton, an inquiry was undertaken by the local governor. Jewish leaders of the community were arrested and tortured. One died in prison, and eight others were condemned to death. Isaac Adolphe Cr


Jacob‘s fifth son; founder of the tribe known for its fighting men. The tribe of Dan settled in the area around Ekron in the south of Canaan and along the coast north of Jaffa. Dan is also the name of a settlement established later by Danites in the north near the headwaters of the Jordan. The modern Kibbutz Dan was established in 1939 near the site of its ancient namesake.


As in all other ancient cultures, dance in Judaism reaches back to earliest recorded times. It is associated with personal, communal, and historical occasions, often of a religious nature. Invariably it was accompanied by instrumental music. Miriam and other women performed a victory dance after crossing of the Red Sea, and other women celebrated this way. Jewish dances are mainly folk dances, performed in a group, often in a circle rather than a solo performance, and most often by women.

With the birth of Hasidism (18th century), a new cultural phenomenon emerges: men dancing together, without women, mostly in a circle but also in pair or line formations. In fact, the Hasidim consider dance a form of expressing love and devotion to God.

Zionism seems to have borrowed the Hasidic dancing fervor in creating its own circle dance, the horah, and in borrowing folk dances from other cultures such as Russian, Polish, Romanian, and Middle Eastern (notably Yemenite). Dancing helped the early pioneers in Palestine overcome hardship and forged a group spirit.

Dance today has become an important aspect of Israeli culture, and there are Israeli folk dance groups there and around the world. Jews in general have incorporated dancing into all special life occasions, notably Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, and dancing has become a communal experience in all Jewish groups and communities.


The Book of Daniel is in the section of the Bible known as Writings. The book tells the story of the prophet Daniel who was taken captive to Babylon and trained for the king’s service. He became a favorite of King Belshazzar by interpreting his dreams. When the mysterious writing Mene, mene, tekel upharsin appeared on a wall in the King’s palace during a feast, Daniel explained that it foretold the downfall of the King. As a punishment, he was cast into a lion’s den but was miraculously saved from death. This story, written in Aramaic, occupies the first six chapters of the book. The last six chapters, written in Hebrew, are mystic revelations about the end of days, the day of judgment in which the wicked world powers would be destroyed and the Jewish people would be restored to their home.


Novel by George Eliot, published in 1877. It tells the story of Daniel Deronda, English-born and completely unaware of his Jewish ancestry, who finds his way back to Judaism and tries to recreate a Jewish state in Palestine. Written 20 years before Herzl‘s The Jewish State, Daniel Deronda makes a passionate plea for the “revival of the organic center” for the Jewish people.

DAVID (r.1010-970 B.C.E.).

Second king of Israel. A shepherd lad, David, youngest son of Jesse, was taken from grazing his father’s sheep near Bethlehem in Judah and brought to court to soothe King Saul. David played his harp to calm the king when he was depressed by an “evil spirit,” and Saul took a liking to him. A deep friendship also developed between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan. When the Philistine giant Goliath taunted and challenged Saul’s army, David killed the giant with a stone from his slingshot. He distinguished himself in battle and married Saul’s daughter Michal. The king grew jealous of David’s popularity and repeatedly tried to kill him. David became a refugee, hiding from Saul in the mountains and later among the Philistines. Yet he managed not to fight for the Philistines when they faced Saul in battle on Mt. Gilboa and defeated him. David mourned the death of Saul and his beloved friend Jonathan in a beautiful elegy (II Sam. 1:17-27).

Long before Saul’s death, the prophet Samuel anointed David secretly, and now his own tribe, Judah, chose him king. The other tribes had crowned Saul’s son Ishbaal, and the civil war that resulted lasted two years. On the death of Ishbaal, David was acclaimed king over all Israel and ruled for 40 years.

Under David’s reign, the tribes of Israel were united and became a nation. He defeated the Philistines so soundly that they were not heard from again for centuries. He subdued the surrounding Canaanite peoples, including Aram and its capital Damascus in the north. By defeating the Edomites in the south, David gave the Israelites an outlet to the Red Sea at Ezion-Geber. David’s crowning achievement was the capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites; he made this ancient city, sitting up on the rocky heights of Zion, the capital of Israel. There he built a splendid new tabernacle to which he brought up the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, David made Zion the center of worship and the holy city of religious pilgrimage. Jerusalem came to be called the City of David, the heart of his kingdom. David extended the boundaries of Israel to an area never again attained, except for a short period under the Hasmoneans.

King David suffered much grief. His greatest sorrow was the rebellion and death of his beloved son Absalom. David died at the age of 71, the beloved hero of his people leaving the throne of Israel to his son Solomon. He is remembered as a great warrior, as a loyal friend, and as the erring king who bowed with meekness to the prophet’s reprimand.

David is remembered as the “sweet singer of Israel”; author of the Psalms, or Tehillim; and the son of Jesse from whose stem the Messiah would spring to lead a scattered Israel back to Zion.


The Bible relates that David was buried in Jerusalem (I Kings 2:10). Though the site of the tomb is not certain, it is placed at the south of old Jerusalem, on what is erroneously called Mount Zion. Between 1948 and 1967, when the Western Wall was not accessible to Jews, pilgrimages were made to the tomb on Mount Zion.

DAYAN, MOSHE (1915-1981).

Israeli soldier and statesman. Born in Kibbutz Degania “A,” he received his early education at Nahalal, a settlement which his parents helped found. He joined the Haganah when still a boy. After the Arab disturbances in 1936, Dayan first served as an instructor in the Supernumerary Police Force and later with General Orde Charles Wingate‘s Special Night Squads. In 1939, he was arrested by the British authorities and served two years of a five-year sentence. He resumed his service in the Haganah and fought in the Syrian border area. In the invasion of Syria, then held by Vichy France, by the Allied forces, Dayan was seriously wounded, losing an eye.

In the War of Independence, Dayan commanded a battalion on the Syrian front. During the siege of Jerusalem he served as military commander. He participated in the Rhodes Armistice talks with the Kingdom of Jordan and served with the Mixed Armistice Commission. In 1953, after attending a course of military studies in England, he became Chief of Staff of the Israeli army with the rank of Major General, a position he held during the Sinai Campaign of 1956. He was released from active service in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1958. He was elected to the Knesset and served as minister of agriculture from 1959 to 1964. In 1967, he was appointed minister of defense. He played an important role in planning the strategy that brought Israel victory in the Six-Day War. He left his post when Golda Meir’s government resigned in 1974. In 1977, he quit the Labor party to become Israel’s foreign minister under Menachem Begin. In this position he played a key role in the negotiations between Israel and Egypt initiated by the visit of Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat to Jerusalem in November 1977. In 1965, he wrote the Diary of the Sinai Campaign.


Inland sea located at the lowest point on earth. It is 47 miles long by 9.5 miles wide, in the deepest pit of the Jordan depression, fed by the Jordan and Arnon rivers. Compressed between the mountains of Moab in the east and the Judean hills in the west, the Dead Sea was the stage for the tragic biblical drama of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction for their sins. Its historic character is reflected in its numerous names: in Hebrew, the Salt Sea, in Arabic, the Sea of Lot; and to Josephus Flavius, the Asphalt Sea. The Greeks, who called it the Dead Sea, believed that nothing could live in it, though microscopic life has recently been discovered in its silt. Its waters are so heavy that they hold the human body buoyant. The first attempt to tap the treasures of this “fluid mine” was made before World War II, when two plants were set up at northern and southern ends. The northern plant was destroyed by the Arabs in 1948, but the second at Sodom has been restored by Israel for the exploitation of its millions of tons of salt, potash, bromides, and other minerals. A winter health resort and hotels are located on the coast. In the last few decades, due to the diversion of its natural water sources for civilian use, the Dead Sea has been shrinking. Many possibilities have been studied of diverting water back into the Dead Sea, but more and more it seems in danger of disappearing in the not-too-distant future.


Ancient biblical manuscripts discovered in the spring of 1947 by Arab Bedouins in the Qumran caves at Ain Fashka on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. As part of a hidden library of hundreds of fragments and scrolls, seven leather manuscripts were salvaged, still wrapped in linen and enclosed in earthen jars. Briefly, they contain:

First, the Book of Isaiah in its entirety, written in 54 columns. This copy differs in some details from the Masoretic text in the Hebrew Bible.

Second, a second Isaiah Scroll, containing most of Chapters 38-66, is closer to the Bible text. This second copy was acquired by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem through the efforts of eminent archeologist Eliezer L. Sukenik. He also published the first accounts of his findings in two volumes. After much difficulty all seven scrolls came into the possession of the State of Israel.

Third, a Midrash on the Book of Habakkuk, consisting of a commentary on “the end of the days” and of the imminent visitation of God pronounced by the “Teacher of Righteousness,” prefaced by verses from the biblical book of Habakkuk.

Fourth, The Manual of Discipline, in two fragments, is a “constitution” of a religious sect, probably the Essenes, setting forth the righteous way of life and admonishing the members of the sect to battle for truth and virtue.

Fifth, The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, presumably a manual on the conduct of war on the religious and the military level. The “Sons of Light” are defined as “the sons of Levi, the sons of Judah and the sons of Benjamin,” while the “Sons of Darkness” include “the bands of Edomites, Moabites


Prophet and judge of Israel who held court “under the palm tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel on the mountain of Ephraim.” When Yabin, King of Chazor, oppressed the Children of Israel, Deborah summoned Barak to lead the tribes in the battle of Megiddo against the Canaanites. Deborah planned the strategy which brought Barak victory, though the Canaanite general, Sisera, had “900 chariots of iron.” She celebrated this victory with a stirring ode of thanksgiving (Judges 4 and 5).


See Ten Commandments


Few Jews lived in Delaware prior to the 1880’s when the first congregation was organized in Wilmington. Today, most of Delaware’s well-organized community of 13,500 Jews lives in that city. The Jewish Voice covers Jewish affairs in the state. The Dupont corporation, the most dominant company in Delaware, was the first major industrial corporation in the U.S. to engage a Jewish CEO, Irving S. Shapiro.


Jews have lived in Denmark since 1622, when King Christian IV invited them to migrate from the Netherlands to his country. Enjoying civic rights and the friendship of the rulers, they concentrated chiefly in the capital city, Copen­hagen. Danish Jews engaged widely in commerce, and a number of them attained wealth and influence. By the 18th century, leading Danish Jewish families had established close ties with the world of secular Danish culture.
The Jewish community of Denmark was the largest in the Scandinavian countries but small in proportion to the general popula­tion. Nevertheless, Jews of Denmark have played a significant role in that country’s culture, especially in literature, art, science, music, and the world of finance.

During World War I, Copenhagen served as a haven for many refugees from Eastern Europe. But on April 9, 1940, the Germans occupied Den­mark and attempted to persecute the Jews there. Both the government and the people of Den­mark protested and succeeded in preventing the maltreatment of their Jewish neighbors. In 1943, when the Danish people learned of Gestapo plans for the deportation and extermination of Danish Jewry, they organized a rescue plan: all Danish Jews were secretly gathered at the ports and smuggled in ships and boats to Sweden. Both the Swedish and Danish governments supported this humanitarian operation. As a result, the Germans seized no more than 467 people who were de­ported to Theresienstadt. What became known as “Little Dunkirk” was the only organized non-Jewish rescue operation during the Nazi period.

After the war, virtually all Danish Jews who escaped to Sweden were repatriated. Today, there were 6,500 Jews living in Denmark, more than 90% of whom lived in Copenhagen, the seat of the country’s only Jewish congregation. Danish Jews were active in the textile industry, publishing, and book selling. A Jewish elementary school in Copenhagen has existed since 1850, offering general as well as religious education. The Danish Jewish community was pro-Zionist and actively interested in Israel affairs.

DERRIDA, JACQUES (1930-2004).

Algerian-born Jewish French philosopher. The basic premise of deconstruction, a notion Derrida effectively founded and which underlies much of his thought, is that to promote one view of some sort entails suppressing a variety of equally pertinent other views, though these may seem peripheral. He was also very politically active, most famously in petitioning for the independence of Algeria.


See Michigan.


In Hebrew Devarim, or Words. Latinized version of the Greek, meaning repetition of the law. Fifth book of the Bible. Named in Hebrew after the second word of the opening verse of the book: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel on this side of the Jordan, in the wilderness.” The book is thought to be identified, in part, with the book of the Torah found in the Temple during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.). It retells the story of Israel from the time of the exodus from Egypt. This Book is also termed in Jewish tradition as Mishneh Torah, a “repetition of the laws” given in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. Many of the ethical ideas found in the earlier books of the Pentateuch reach their loftiest form in Deuteronomy. The book closes in noble verse as Moses bids farewell to the people and gives his blessings to the tribes one by one.

DEUTSCH, BABETTE (1895-1982).

20th century American poet. With her husband, Avrahm Yarmolinsky, she is also known for her translations of poets like Rilke, Pushkin, and Blok from German and Russian.


Leading Israeli museum since 1978, located on the Tel Aviv University campus. It has permanent and interactive displays of Jewish life, culture, and history, as well as temporary exhibits. It also maintains a research center with visual archives, a genealogical database documenting the Jewish communities of Europe and the world, and a Jewish music center.

Literally, attachment. Name given to the soul of the deceased, usually evil, which has entered a living person in order to find its salvation. Belief in the transmigration of the soul is ancient; it is mentioned in the Talmud. The books of the Kabbalah gave this belief widespread circulation. Special rites, or exorcism, were prescribed to drive out the evil spirit. By the use of holy names and assurances of salvation, certain “miracle workers” were believed to be capable of inducing the dybbuk to leave. S. Anski made use of the legend in his famous play The Dybbuk.


Code of law restricting the foods Jews may eat and controlling the prepara­tion of permitted foods. According to the story of Creation (Gen. 1:29), all fruits and vegetables may be eaten. The Bible separates animals into clean—tahor—and unclean—tameh (Lev. 1:1). Israel, as a holy people, is allowed to eat only the flesh of “clean” animals, mammals which chew the cud and have cloven hooves. Rabbis have restricted the birds considered fit for food, since it has been difficult to identify all those mentioned in Leviticus. Permitted animals, before they may be eaten, must be ritually slaughtered. Since the eating of blood is forbid­den, the meat must be soaked and salted to withdraw as much blood as possible. It is not per­missible to use the hindquarter of cattle unless cer­tain veins are removed. If the animal is sick, or if after slaughtering the vital organs show signs of fatal disease, the animal becomes “unclean.” Fish with both scales and fins may be eaten, but shellfish, reptiles, and insects are forbidden.

The products of unclean animals, such as their milk or eggs, are also unclean. In several places the Bible commands, “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in the milk of its mother” (Exod. 34:26; Deut. 14:21). From this comes the command to separate meat and dairy foods to the extent of us­ing separate utensils for their preparation and ser­ving. Explanations for the dietary laws are manifold. Some feel they are hygienic in origin, others that they are spiritual. Historically, they were important in helping Jews maintain their identity and added a measure of sanctity to their daily lives.


Benjamin Disraeli(First Earl of Beaconsfield.) British statesman and author. He was born in London to a long line of Jewish ancestors who had come to England after having been driven out of Spain by the Inquisition. Benjamin was twelve when his father, Isaac, a well-known writer, withdrew from his Sephardic congregation. Isaac had his son baptized because of the political and social discrimination practiced against Jews in England at that time. Yet Benjamin Disraeli never lost his pride in his Jewish ancestry. After completing his education, he spent three years traveling in southern Europe and the Near East. Impressions of his travels, particularly of the Holy Land, never left him. In Disraeli’s books all the heroes go to Palestine for inspiration. One of his novels, David Alroy, is the romantic story of the 12th century Jewish revolt against Persia led by Alroy, who planned to reconquer Jerusalem for the Jews.

Disraeli had a trigger-quick wit, and some of his novels, beginning with Vivian Greyin 1826, were amusing satires that made him the idol of London society. Disraeli’s career in British politics was remarkable. His political novels, pamphlets, and speeches helped reshape the Conservative Party, and his influence continued long after his death. He served for a time as leader of the House of Commons, and twice as chancellor of the exchequer. In 1868, and again from 1874 to 1880, he was Prime Minister. During these years, his domestic policies reflected Disraeli’s sympathy for the working class and resulted in a number of progressive health, housing, and factory laws. He consistently supported the struggle for obtaining the vote for Jews, despite opposition from his own party. His foreign policy was outstanding. Disraeli obtained for Britain a controlling interest in the Suez Canal in Egypt. He arranged to have Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India and brought about the cession of Cyprus to Great Britain. He enlarged and strengthened the power of the British Empire. His policies and courtliness brought him Queen Victoria’s deep affection, while his swift repartee and political and diplomatic victories made Benjamin Disraeli one of the most fascinating figures of the 19th century. For Jews, Disraeli had a rare tenderness and respect. Of them he wrote, “That is the aristocracy of nature, the purest race, the chosen people.”

DIZENGOFF, MEIR (1861-1936).

Zionist leader and mayor of Tel Aviv. Joining the Zionist movement in the 1880’s, Dizengoff visited Palestine several times before settling there in 1905. In 1909, he laid the cornerstone of Tel Aviv, the first all-Jewish city, and was elected its mayor in 1921. His devoted efforts were important in making Tel Aviv a flourishing city of 100,000 before he died in 1936.

DOCTOROW, E.L. (1931-2015 )

One of the leading American writers of the 20th Century, his innovative style often combines historical events and personalities with fictional elements, uniquely blending them.

The grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants, he once talked about growing up surrounded by talented Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi Germany.

By the time his first novel Welcome to Hard Times was published, he was already an significant figure in the publishing world, rising to post of editor-in-chief of Dial Press and working with many important writers including Norman Mailer.

He is the author of twelve novels and other essays, plays and assorted works. He is best known for his novels Ragtime, set in pre-WWI, Billy BathgateWorld’s Fair and The March. Several were made into motion pictures.



Republic occupying the major eastern section of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Before 1940, few Jews settled in the Dominican Republic, and those who did assimilated rapidly. For a brief period, it became one of the bright spots on the darkening horizons of European Jewry. At a time when most nations were severely restricting immigration, Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo announced that the Dominican Republic would welcome Jewish refugees. Speaking at an intergovernmental conference on refugees at Evian, France, in 1938, Trujillo offered full economic assistance and “equality of opportunities and of civil, legal, and economic rights” to all colonists. A farm colony was immediately established at Sosua in the Dominican Republic, and plans were made for transferring refugees from Europe. The outbreak of World War II, however, interfered with the project. Communications were difficult, and Jews could not escape from the countries under Nazi domination. Only 1,200 managed to reach the Dominican Republic. Of these, some 300 stayed on after the end of World War II. The Jewish population today is 100, living in Santo Domingo and Sosua. There is one synagogue in each of these cities. The Jewish Congregation of the Dominican Republic is the central Jewish organization recognized by the government.


See Music.


See Stage and Screen.


See Hasidism.


Money or valuables provided by the bride’s family. It was practiced throughout Jewish history, and it is still mentioned in the Ketubah, or marriage contract, although for most Jews it has become merely a symbolic gesture.


See Stage and Screen.


See Hannukah.

DREYFUS, ALFRED (1859-1935).

The only Jewish officer on the French General Staff, he became the center of one of the most famous cases in legal history and a crucial point in the battle against antisemitism in the modern world. In 1894, a French court-martial convicted Dreyfus of treason on the basis of documents alleged to have been written in his hand. Two years later, fearing that the army would be discredited, the government suppressed evidence that Dreyfus was not guilty and that the real spy was Major Ferdinand Esterhazy, another member of the general staff. In 1897, however, the issue was brought into the open, and the case became the center of a conflict that embroiled French politics for a decade. Those who insisted on Dreyfus’s guilt were both politically reactionary and openly antisemitic; winning the majority of voters to their side, they vanquished the liberal forces in the elections of 1898. The following year, however, a new prime minister permitted a second trial. Because Dreyfus’s innocence was common knowledge, it was expected that he would be acquitted. Nevertheless, the court found him “guilty with extenuating circumstances,” and sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment. Although he was pardoned by the President of France soon after, the battle for Dreyfus’s exoneration continued. Finally, in 1906, the Supreme Court of Appeals cleared the prisoner, and Dreyfus was reinstated as a major in the army. In 1998, the French government paid special tribute to Dreyfus and to his main defender, the celebrated writer Emile Zola.


See Annenberg Research Institute.


Followers of a religious sect which split from Islam in the 11th century. Most of them lived in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon before coming to Palestine. The Druzes in Israel are loyal citizens of the Jewish state.

DUBINSKY, DAVID (1892-1982).

One of America’s great labor leaders, Dubinsky was leader of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union from 1932 to 1966, and an organizer of the Liberal Party in 1944.


See Maggid of Dubno.


Russian Jewish historian. Dubnow developed his own interpretation of Jewish history, claiming that the spiritual powers of the Jewish people and their unity were preserved by the organized Jewish community during the 2,000 years of the Dispersion. Dubnow believed that the unity of the Jewish people did not depend upon a national territory, nor upon an independent state. This unity was kept alive by communal organizations within whose framework Jewish culture and religion had continued to grow for 2,000 years after the Dispersion. He therefore believed in cultural autonomy and self-government for the Jewish communities. Dubnow’s theories of Jewish nationalism resulted in the formation of the Jewish Peoples Party in Russia in 1906. At the Versailles Peace Conference after World War I, Dubnow’s theory of Diaspora Nationalism motivated the demand for minority rights for Jews of Eastern Europe. Dubnow’s History of the Jews of Russia and Poland was translated into English, and has been of considerable influence on the writing of Jewish history. His general History of the Jewish People, in ten volumes, was published in 1901.


Hebrew poet in Spain who wrote both religious and secular verse. He introduced Arabic meter into Hebrew poetry and played an important role in the development of Hebrew grammar.


Ancient city near the Euphrates where the ruins of a synagogue built in 245 were discovered in 1932 with pictures showing biblical scenes.


See Music.

EBAN, ABBA (1915-2002).

Abba EbanIsraeli statesman, Eban was born in Capetown, South Africa, and grew up in a Zionist home in England. He studied Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian at Cambridge University. Having distinguished himself in these subjects, he remained to teach them. During World War II he enlisted in the British Army, became an officer, and was assigned to Cairo headquarters. Part of Eban’s duties included flights to Palestine in order to stimulate the Jewish war effort there.

Eban settled in Jerusalem where his special background was utilized by its Jewish “shadow government” during the closing days of the British Mandate. In 1947, he was appointed liaison officer with the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine. After the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948, Eban pleaded successfully for the admission of Israel to the United Nations. One of the most eloquent spokespersons on the international scene, he served with distinction as head of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations. In 1950, he became Israel’s ambassador to the U. S. In 1953, he was deputy chairman of the U.N. assembly. From 1958 until 1966 he was president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 1960, he was appointed Minister of Education and Culture; in 1963, Deputy Prime Minister; and in 1966, Foreign Minister of the State of Israel, a post he held until the fall of Golda Meir‘s government in 1974.


Greek for Kohelet. Seventh book of Writings in the Bible. The suggested Hebrew meaning of Kohelet, its author, is “the Assembler.” One of several Wisdom books, the central idea that “all is vanity” is expressed in pithy sayings. Mostly prose, it has passages of great poetic beauty.


Republic on the northern Pacific coast of South America. There are about 900 Jews in a population near 13 million. In Spanish colonial times Ecuador was the home of Marranos, forced Catholic converts who practiced their Jewish faith in secret. Their settlement disappeared, and nothing is known of it. In the 20th century, Jews from Europe founded a new community in Ecuador consisting of two distinct settlements in Quito and Guayaquil. Each is separately affiliated with the World Jewish Congress. Each settlement has Zionist groups and a B’nai B’rith organization, but educational facilities are poor. In recent years, there has been a tendency for Jews to emigrate to other South American countries.


Small tribe in southern Palestine, conquered and forcibly converted to Judaism by Johanan Hyrcanus. Traditionally, they are descendants of Esau, who lived by hunting.


In many ways, Jewish history is the story of the education of a people. From the beginning, many great Jewish leaders were also great teachers who spoke to the world through the Jewish people. When the world’s mystery and wonder were fresh in the human mind, the patriarch Abraham thought about its mystery and wondered about its Creator. He discarded his father’s idols and began to teach his tribe to believe in one God. Thus, the founder of the Jewish people was also the first teacher in Jewish history. Moses, the Lawgiver who led the people to freedom, was called rabbenu, our teacher. He taught the children of Israel during their years of wandering, and he designated times when the people should come together and study. When the Children of Israel settled in the Promised Land and were ruled by judges, there were no schools, so knowledge was handed down by word of mouth from father to son, mother to daughter. The Judges, priests, and Levites taught the people to reject the idols of their Canaanite neighbors and follow the laws of Moses. Then the greatest teachers of all time, the prophets of Israel, brought to the people a lofty vision of God and taught that to serve Him people must love peace and justice and act rightly toward one another.

A knowledge of reading and writing was common in Israel’s earliest days. When he wanted some information during one of his military expeditions, Gideon, the fifth of the Judges, found a simple boy who knew enough to “write down for him the princes of Sukkot, and the elders thereof, seventy and seven men.” Perhaps the earliest formal schools in ancient Israel were those that trained the priests and Levites in the complicated laws and rituals of bringing sacrifices and conducting Temple services. By the 6th century B.C.E., after the return from the Babylonian exile, scribes or soferim had become the teachers of the people, who were required to come regularly to the Temple courts for instruction. Synagogues, or houses of prayer, then sprang up all over Judea and served dually as schools. Around 75 B.C.E., Simeon ben Shetah, the head of the Sanhedrin, a judicial and legislative body, established a system of high schools in all large towns for boys older than 15. Fewer than 100 years later, the high priest, Joshua ben Gamala, set up a system of elementary schools in every town for boys at least age five. The historian Josephus Flavius boasted that in Jerusalem alone there were more than 300 schools for children.

Education came to be of utmost importance in the life of the people. After the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, the rabbis taught that study, like prayer, was a form of worship and a substitute for sacrifices. During the Talmudic period in Babylonia, the rabbis set up a complete, lifelong system of education that began at the age of five or six. Few details were overlooked, and there was even a place for athletics. In the 6th century, one rabbi stressed that 25 pupils were the ideal number for a class. If there were 40 children, he urged that an assistant teacher be added, and for 50 he advised two teachers. The Bet Ha-Sefer, or House of the Book, was the Bible school for the youngest children. At age 10 they were expected to enter the Bet Talmud or Bet Ha-Knesset, or House of Assembly, for the study of the Talmud. These schools taught languages and mathematics; such subjects as astronomy, botany, and zoology were required for certain Talmudic studies.

The highest schools of this system were the great academies of Babylonia, where the scholars studied and created the Talmud. One great teacher, Abba Arikha, founded an academy at Sura that lasted, with brief interruptions, for eight centuries. The academy at Sura was never idle or empty. Scholars who had to work all day studied there in the early morning and late evening. In March and September, when there was little work in the fields, the Sura academy held Kallot, or seminars, for farmers and businessmen. There were even scholarships for worthy students who could not afford to take two months off from work and travel to attend the Kallot in Sura.

The education system begun in Palestine and developed in Babylonia moved with the people wherever they went. By the 11th century, persecution and intolerance had driven the Jews out of Babylonia. The great centers dwindled and almost disappeared, and Jews set up new communities in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. New subjects of study were added to the system, others were subtracted, without changing its core. In 12th century Arab Spain, philosophy and Arabic were added to the studies in the higher schools. In Italy the new subjects were Latin, Italian, and logic. To escape the bloody path of the Crusades, Jews began to migrate from Germany to Poland in the 12th century. The Kahal, or community organization, in Poland was a strong one. Education was made compulsory for children from six to thirteen years of age, and the system was controlled by a board of study called the Hevra Talmud Torah. This hevra prescribed the studies for the heder, or elementary private school, as well as for the Talmud Torah, the community free school. The yeshiva, or Talmudic academy, was also supervised by the hevra. The head, or Rosh Yeshiva, was selected by them. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, when Jewish life became constricted and was limited to the ghetto, education also narrowed, and languages and sciences were no longer studied. These subjects were reintroduced during the Haskalah, or enlightenment period. Education for girls was not required at any period. Yet the woman of outstanding abilities usually managed to get an education. Ordinary women shared deeply the general reverence for learning and often made great sacrifices that their sons might become scholars.

During the 20th century, Orthodoxy began providing formal Jewish education for girls and women. One of the outstanding movements working to this end is the Beth Jacob movement, which since its founding by Sara Schenirer in Cracow in the early 1920’s has spread around the world.

The average male Jew could always read and write, since even the poorest child could get an elementary education. For bright young students who had no means of support, the community provided food and shelter, so that they could devote themselves completely to study at the yeshiva. As a result, ignorance was rare among Jews. During the Middle Ages, when even princes and nobles were illiterate, the Jewish community had many scholars and honored them above other men. Until recent times, Jewish education was considered a lifetime process: the young studied all day, while the adults studied during their leisure hours, evenings, Sabbaths, and holidays. When Jews dreamed of Paradise, study held a place in their vision. (See also Jewish Education in the United States.)

EFROS, ISRAEL (1890-1981).

Hebrew poet, scholar, and educator. He was born in Poland and immigrated to the U.S. in 1906. He wrote Hebrew poetry and translated Shakespeare into Hebrew and Bialik into English. In 1919 he founded the Baltimore Hebrew College. In 1955, he settled in Israel and became rector of Tel Aviv University.


Egypt’s recorded history goes back to about 4000 B.C.E. A close neighbor of Israel, Egypt has been linked with Jews and their history from the beginning. The patriarchs all stayed in Egypt for various periods of time. Bondage in Egypt and the Exodus mark the beginnings of Jewish history. Historians believe that the first Hebrew migration to Egypt probably took place during the rule of the Semitic Hyksos dynasty of the 18th to 16th centuries B.C.E. The Tel El-Amarna tablets, discovered in 1887, show that the Pharaohs had set up governors in many towns of Canaan, evidence of their domination of the country. One of the Amarna tablets is a letter from the ruler of Jerusalem. In it, he complains to Pharaoh that the Habiru, or Hebrews, are invading and conquering the land.

Relations between Egypt and the Jewish people continued throughout the period of the Jewish Monarchy. Solomon married an Egyptian princess and made a trade treaty with Egypt. After Solomon’s death, when the northern tribes broke off and established their own kingdom, the Pharaoh Shishak came to their aid by attacking Jerusalem. Two centuries later in 608 B.C.E., Josiah, King of Judah, died in battle at Megiddo when he tried to block the march of Pharaoh Necho through his territory. Josiah’s son Jehoahaz ruled Judah for only three months. The Egyptians deposed him and set his brother Jehoiakim on the throne.

After the First Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.E., the exiled prophet Jeremiah found Jewish colonies in Upper and Lower Egypt. Papyri, discovered in Elephantine, an island on the Nile, describe the life of its Jewish colony and its Jewish temple in the 5th century B.C.E. After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 B.C.E., Jewish immigrants streamed into Egypt where they prospered and established themselves under Hellenist rule. The Alexandrian Jewish community grew until in time it numbered almost one million; in Alexandria, a great Hellenistic Jewish civilization developed (See Hellenism). Jews spoke Greek and tried to work out a viable compromise between Jewish and Greek culture. The philosopher Philo is the best known representative of this movement. During the Syrian oppression of Judea, the refugee High Priest Onias founded a Temple in Heliopolis, a city near the Nile. At this time in the 3rd century B.C.E., the Bible, translated into Greek at Alexandria, known as the Septuagint version, came to exert a great influence, serving both the Jews of the Hellenistic period and the rising Christian Church.

At the same time, the security of Egyptian Jewry was threatened by a great deal of antisemitic feeling among the Greek population. Sometimes Greek riots and attacks on the Jewish community had to be stopped by the governing Roman authorities. Developments in Judea also influenced the security of Egyptian Jewry. Refugees from the Judean revolt against Rome stirred up a Jewish rebellion in Egypt in 72 C.E., and again in 115-117 C.E., when Alexandrian Jewry was massacred.

As the Roman Empire became Christian, the situation of Egyptian Jewry deteriorated. In 415 C.E., Alexandrian masses, inflamed by Bishop Cyril, broke out in violent riots and forced hundreds of Jews to undergo baptism. During the following two centuries, the Alexandrian Jewish community dwindled in importance. With the Arab invasion of 639 the situation improved slightly. Under Moslem rule, the community, centered mainly in the new city of Cairo, became Arab in character and culture. Documents found in the Cairo Genizah, a storehouse of worn-out books, describe in detail the life of the community. Though the traditional Moslem code treated Jews as inferiors, Jewish cultural life reached a high level. Saadiah Gaon, the greatest scholar of his day, was a native of the Fayyum in Egypt. The Jewish community came to be governed by an exilarch, and significant academies of learning were established. Except for the period of bitter persecution under Caliph Hakim from 995-1021, conditions were favorable. When Maimonides arrived in Egypt in 1165, the great scholar found an appreciative Jewish environment. Maimonides became court physician to the Sultan Saladin, and a number of his great works were written during this period. Maimonides took a leading part in Jewish life in Egypt, and his descendants were dominant there for a long time.

After the Turkish occupation of Egypt in 1517, the Egyptian Jewish community managed to sustain itself, but did not achieve economic or cultural advancement. It was not until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 that economic prosperity and Western influence reached the Jewish community, then numbering about 75,000. Many Jews became wealthy businessmen, even pashas and senators. The majority, however, remained poor peddlers and craftsmen, segregated in the Jewish quarters of Alexandria and Cairo. During World War I, many Jews from Palestine fled to Egypt to escape Turkish persecution. Their influence and the development of Arab nationalism stirred Egyptian Jewry from its lethargy. They began to migrate to Palestine and Europe, and the community declined. Many Egyptian Jews who had European citizenship also suffered because of the general anti-European reaction of the period, and because an anti-Zionist policy had been adopted.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the position of the Jews in Egypt became increasingly difficult. Jews were arrested and robbed. After the Sinai Campaign of 1956 President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed a law that in effect deprived all Zionists of Egyptian citizenship. Jews were imprisoned and expelled for security reasons. Large numbers of Jews were able to immigrate to Israel by way of Europe.

In 1967 and again in 1973 (See Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War), Egypt went to war against Israel with the avowed aim of destroying the Jewish state. In November 1977, Anwar el-Sadat, who had succeeded Nasser as president of Egypt in 1970, surprised the world with the announcement that he would visit Israel and discuss the possibility of peace with the Jewish State. He arrived in Jerusalem late on November 18, 1977, and on the next day addressed the Knesset. This marked the beginning of peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel. In September 1978, Sadat met with Israel’s prime minister Menachem Begin under the auspices of U.S. President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, Maryland., to draw up a framework for a peace treaty. A formal peace treaty, the Camp David Accords, was signed in 1979 by Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, and Jimmy Carter. However, Sadat was assassinated in October 1981 by Arab fundamentalists who opposed his policy of Israeli-Egyptian rapprochement. Despite the treaty, relations between Israel and Egypt have remained strained under the leadership of Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak. The Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt, however, has endured.

Common public opinion in Egypt has often shown signs of antisemitism. The government, however, trying to maintain a lukewarm diplomatic composure, has appeared to assist Israel with matters along the Egyptian border, pushing Palestinian leaders toward peaceful resolution, supporting the Israeli disengagement from Gaza settlements, and blocking the escape of terrorists from th
e Gaza region. The Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt continues to endure, but it is a cold peace. After an al-Qaeda bomb killed 31 tourists at the Hilton in the Egyptian resort town of Taba in 2004, a rare cooperation between Israel and Egypt was exhibited when groups from both countries helped in the rescue and hospitalization efforts.

Currently there are only about 100 Jews in Egypt. The Cairo synagogue has been recently restored and was reopened in 2005 as a monument for some 1,200 years of Jewish history.

EHRLICH, PAUL (1845-1915).

German scientist. His achievements


Renowned rabbi and Kabbalist. Born in Cracow, Poland, he gained fame as a Talmudist early in his life. At age 21, he became head of a yeshiva in Prague. His comments on the Shulhan Arukh and his sermons, collected in his Yaarot Devash (Forests of Honey), are classics in rabbinic literature.


See Holocaust.


See Prayer.


See Baltimore.

EINSTEIN, ALBERT (1879-1955).

Theoretical physicist. The most outstanding physicist of modern times, Albert Einstein was almost as revered for his honesty, humility, and humanitarianism as for his theories about the nature of the universe. Born in Ulm, Germany, he received his scientific education in Switzerland, where he was naturalized in 1901. While working at the Patent Office in Berne, he prepared four scientific papers that gained him international acclaim before he was 26. In the years that followed, Einstein lectured and taught in Prague, Zurich, Leyden, and Berlin. In 1916, he published his famous general theory of relativity, which has been described as “the greatest intellectual revolution since Newton”; six years later he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on photoelectric effects. With the rise of Hitler to power in 1933, he left Berlin, where he had held a distinguished position since 1914, and settled in the U.S. From 1933 until his death in 1955, he served as professor of theoretical physics at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Studies.

In 1939, Einstein called the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the possibilities of atomic warfare; his own theories played a crucial part in unbinding the energies of the atom. It was, in fact, the great irony of Einstein’s life that his work for the advancement of human understanding of the world had also advanced human capacity for deadly warfare. Having experienced antisemitism early in life and realizing the evils of Prussian militarism, Einstein had early become a crusader for peace and harmony in human relations. He did not hesitate to speak out against injustice. After World War I, he headed the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations, withdrawing in protest against the League’s failure to take strong measures against Italian Fascism. As the clouds of Nazism gathered over Germany, Einstein spoke out against antisemitism and the Nazi threat to intellectual freedom. In the U. S., too, Einstein was an outspoken defender of freedom of thought. To the end, he advocated international cooperation, and even world government, in the hope that the human race might learn to live in peace. He devoted much energy during the last decade of his life to making the world aware of the great dangers threatening it, as the result of his own work in discovering the destructive potential of atomic power.

Einstein was never a practicing Jew. From the 1920’s onward, however, he expressed his devotion to his people by dedicating considerable effort to Zionism and especially to the development of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He first visited the U.S. in 1921 on a tour with Chaim Weizmann on behalf of the university, and sat on its board of governors until his death. After the death of Weizmann, Einstein was proposed as a candidate for the presidency of the State of Israel; Einstein refused on the ground that he was not qualified to fill the position.


Smallest of the Central American republics. Only 100 Jews of a total population of more than 4 million live in the capital, San Salvador. There are Zionist groups and a central, legally recognized organization, the Comunidad Israelita, or Jewish Community.


Derived from th Hebrewword for terebinth. Seaport on the Gulf of Elat, or Aqaba; a finger of the Red Sea, where the borders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia meet. About 950 B.C.E. Solomon built the twin cities of Elat and Ezion Geber for his navy and copper industry. With the discovery of a sea route around Africa to India, Elat was abandoned. Developed by Israel as a seaport window to East African and Asian markets, Elat now boasts a growing population of 45,000. The nearby Timna copper mines are expanding production, and the port is growing. Elat is also a winter resort, noted for its coral reefs and exotic tropical fish.

See Antisemitism.


See Tannaim.


See Tannaim.


The prophet Elijah the Tishbite lived at the time of Ahab from 874-853 B.C.E., the king who “did what is evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and permitted her to build an altar and sanctuary to Baal in Samaria.

The biblical story of Elijah, from his first startling appearance before the king, prophesying drought in the land, to his end when he is whirled to heaven in a chariot of fire, established the image of the prophet for ages to come. A gaunt figure clothed in goatskin, Elijah prophesied drought and disappeared into the desert to be fed by ravens. When the punishing drought came, the people cried out for rain. Yet the king did not forbid the idol worship, and Elijah challenged the Baal priests to prove that theirs was the true god. The dramatic public duel on Mt. Carmel between Elijah and 450 priests of Baal ended in the humiliation of the latter. The Lord answered Elijah’s prayers. The king and people saw a fire descend from heaven to consume the offering on Elijah’s altar. Then a heavy rain fell and the drought ended (I Kings 18).

Still, the struggle went on. Elijah had to flee from the anger of Queen Jezebel who threatened his life. Ahab desired the fine vineyard of Naboth who refused to sell it. Jezebel had Naboth executed on false charges. When Ahab came to take possession of the dead man’s vineyard, Elijah appeared before him and cried out: “Hast thou murdered and also taken possession?

ELIJAH, GAON OF VILNA (1720-1797).

Great Talmudist and revered spiritual leader of Lithuanian Jewry. Tradition has it that at the age of 10 he was already well versed in the Talmud and had outgrown the need for instructors. The title “Gaon” was given him because of his extraordinary genius. The Gaon brought a new approach to Talmud study by stressing the factual and logical interpretation of the Bible text and Jewish law. In brief and concise marginal notes to Talmudic and Midrashic literature he shed light on the most difficult passages. His power of concentration and perseverance was extraordinary. It is related that for 50 years he slept no more than two hours a night. Although he gave his entire life to sacred studies, he recognized the necessity for secular learning. This recognition represented a revolutionary idea for the rabbis of his time, who generally considered worldly study as damaging to the traditional Jewish way of life. He wrote a work on mathematics and a Hebrew grammar.

Elijah’s fame spread quickly, but he remained a most unassuming and modest man. Sternly pious, he led a life of self-denial, shunning all fame and offers of rabbinical posts. He lived in seclusion on a tiny allowance granted to him and his family by the town’s Jewish community. The spread of Hasidism drew him out of his retirement. He feared that this new movement would lead its followers astray, and therefore he advocated the harshest measures against them. His favorite pupil, Rabbi Hayim of Volozhin, established a rabbinical college at Volozhin where the Gaon of Vilna’s methods of study were put into practice.

ELISHA BEN ABUYAH (ca. 80-150 C.E.).

Scholar and teacher of the Law. Though he was one of the most learned men of his time, Jewish tradition regards him as a traitor and apostate. He was the son of a wealthy Jerusalem family, and excelled early in both secular and rabbinic learning. He lectured at the academies of Jerusalem and was a close friend of Rabbi Akiva, as well as teacher and friend of Rabbi Meir. He is said to have turned to Greek mysticism and to have informed on his fellow-Jews to the Romans. Because of this reprehensible act his name is scarcely ever mentioned in the Talmud, all his sayings being attributed to Aher, “the other.” Modern scholars believe that he was a Sadducee rather than a convert to a gentile religion. This, they feel, would have been sufficient ground for his excommunication by the dominant Pharisee faction, which demanded complete conformity during a period when the Jewish people were struggling for spiritual survival.

ELISHA (Late 9th century B.C.E.).

Biblical prophet on whose shoulders Elijah placed his mantle as his successor (I Kings 19:19). Elisha was the son of a wealthy landowner who lived east of the Jordan. Like Elijah, he wanted to rid Israel of Baal worship. He therefore secretly anointed Jehu, a general in the army, as king of Israel. Jehu led a revolt against Jehoram, son of Ahab, destroying him as well as his mother Jezebel, the idolatrous queen. Then Jehu exterminated the priests of Baal.

Elisha mingled with the people, helping them and winning their love. No other prophet in Israel is reputed to have performed as many miracles as Elisha. He is said to have divided the waters of the Jordan, resurrected a child, and healed the Syrian captain Naaman of leprosy. The many stories of Elisha’s miracle-working reflect the people’s love for the prophet who healed the sick and helped the poor. (II Kings 1-9:4, 13:14-21.)


Last month of the Jewish civil calendar. Preceding the High Holy Days, it is a month of spiritual preparation and penitence.


The removal of restrictions against the Jews in the western world during the late 18th to early 20th centuries, especially during the 19th century. A major factor in this process was the French Revolution in 1789, which brought emancipation to the general population of France and Europe. Until that time, Jews had lived for more than a thousand years under the restrictive rule of Christian Europe, which had prevented Jews from fully participating in the social and economic order, forced them to live in secluded areas called ghettos, and in effect accorded them the status of outsiders. In the New World, particularly in North America, the Jews enjoyed much better status than in Europe. But gradually after 1789, the civil, social, and economic status of Jews throughout Europe, beginning in Western Europe, began to improve, while in Russia this did not occur until after the Communist Revolution in 1917. This is not to say that Jews in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries achieved equality. While European societies changed during that time, attitudes toward Jews and Judaism remained ambiguous at best and outright hostile at worst. Emancipation in Europe did not realize the idealistic goals of the French or Russian revolutions. Rather, it ended in the death fields and death camps of World War II.


See Israel.


A religious Zionist women’s organization started in 1948 as Hapoel Hamizrachi Women’s Organization, the name Emunah was adopted in 1978 to affect a unity with its sister countries throughout the world.

It is a national movement of 25,000 religious Zionists, encompassing 80 chapters throughout the U.S. Emunah of America supports an extensive network of 187 institutions in Israel which includes daycare centers, vocational training schools, teacher schools, and children’s villages. Additionally, Emunah provides social welfare services through its “Self-Help” programs for indigent and immigrant mothers, parental guidance programs, absorption and integration services for new immigrants, psychological counseling, community centers, and aid to the elderly.


Island Kingdom off the northwestern coast of Europe. In 2006, it was the home of 297,000 Jews, less than one percent of the total population of more than 60 million. The first Jews in England were financiers who followed William the Conqueror from France at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. By the middle of the following century, their number had grown to 5,000, with thriving communities in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Norwich, Winchester, Lincoln, and other towns. Within another century, there were 70 “Jew Streets” in England. With the expulsion from England in 1290, 16,000 Jews had to seek homes elsewhere.

During this period, England lived under the feudal system. As in all feudal societies, Jews had no official rights. Officially, they were the property, or “chattel,” of the king. Because they paid heavy taxes to his treasury, it was in his interest to protect them. But the king was not a kind protector. When he needed money, he had no scruples about confiscating the property of “his Jews,” or taxing them to the point of bankruptcy. Despite these handicaps, English Jewry prospered for about 80 years after the conquest and suffered no serious persecution. The majority were not rich, but some of them were great bankers and merchants who founded Talmudic academies and wielded much influence with the king. Before 100 years had passed, however, anti-Jewish feeling began to emerge. In 1144, a charge of ritual murder


The treatment of Jewish characters that appear throughout English literature runs the gamut from blatant antisemitism to great respect and admiration. Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, perhaps the most famous Jewish character in English literature, is commonly seen as an evil person, yet a closer examination reveals that there is more than meets the eye. In Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Fagin the Jew is a corrupter of youth, yet other Dickens Jewish characters are virtuous. Some English writers, like Hilaire Belloc are outright antisemitic, while T.S. Eliot may be considered a latent one. On the other hand, great English poets of the 19th century such as Wordsworth, Byron, and Browning admired and idealized Jews and their culture, and Sir Walter Scott presented the romantic figure of Rebecca in Ivanhoe. For the most part, Jews in English literature have been presented as extremes of either virtue or vice, rather than realistic flesh and blood people with a mixture of both.


See Haskalah.


On July 4, 1976, during the height of Arab terrorism against Israel, an Air France plane was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists in Greece and taken to Entebbe in eastern Africa. After releasing the non-Jewish passengers, some 102 passengers, mostly Israelis, were held hostage. Israel sent an air rescue force which flew 2,500 miles at night over Arab and African countries, landed at the Entebbe airport, and rescued the hostages. The commander of the force, Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, was the only Israeli casualty.


See Kohen.


Younger of Joseph‘s sons; founder of the warlike “half tribe of Ephraim” that settled almost in the middle of the Promised Land on a narrow stretch between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Joshua, the leader who succeeded Moses, came from the tribe of Ephraim. The first king of Israel after the division of the kingdom into two rival states, Jeroboam ben Nebat, was also an Ephraimite. So important was the part played by this tribe in the affairs of Israel that Ephraim came to be another name for the northern kingdom.

EPSTEIN, SIR JACOB (1880-1959).

Sculptor. Born of immigrant parents in New York, he moved to England where his early work in stone was at first controversial. However, in 1954, he was knighted. Epstein chose biblical subjects such as Adam, Jacob and the Angel, and Lucifer, for his monumental sculptures. He is also widely known for his busts which, dispensing with superficialities and nonessentials, analyze the sitter’s personality. Those who have sat for him include George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, Albert Einstein, and Chaim Weizmann.


See Israel, State of.


See Jacob.

ESHKOL (SHKOLNIK), LEVI (1895-1969).

Israeli labor leader and statesman. Born in the Ukraine, he settled in Palestine in 1914, where he worked in various kibbutzim and became active in HaPoel HaTzair (See Labor Zionism). Mapai member of the Knesset since 1949, he was Minister of Agriculture from 1951 to 1952 and Minister of Finance from 1952 to 1963 before becoming Prime Minister and Minister of Defense in 1963. During his term of office the Six-Day War broke out, and he turned over the defense portfolio to Moshe Dayan. He remained prime minister until his death.


Sect of pious, ascetic Jews during the time of the Second Temple. Evidence of the existence of the sect dates from the Hasmonean period. The members of the group dedicated themselves to a life of simplicity and purity. They lived close to nature and shared in common their worldly possessions. The Essenes settled in isolated areas in the Judean desert and in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. They eked out a modest living by cultivating the land and through their craftsmanship. Trade was prohibited for they considered it dishonest. Similarly, they refused to produce instruments of death and destruction.

The Essenes were known for their strict observance of the ritual of daily immersion in cold water. Purity of the soul was made conditional upon purity of body. The whole community ate together. Their meals, consisting of bread and vegetables, represented a solemn ritual. Keeping absolute silence throughout their meals, they resembled priests performing their rites during the sacred services in the Temple. New members who wished to join the sect had to go through rigorous tests and initiation rites in order to prove their worthiness. Patience, perseverance, modesty, righteousness, purity of character, and above all, love of truth and readiness to aid the poor and downtrodden were the qualities required of every candidate.

The Essenes’ closeness to nature led them to recognize medicinal herbs, and they acquired a reputation as healers and soothsayers. The Essenes refused to divulge their secrets, rules, or knowledge even under threat of death. Although opposed to war, they hated oppression and many joined the fight against the Romans. In recent years, scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea revealed a rich and valuable literature of sects similar to the Essenes.


The megillah, or scroll of Esther, tells the story of the beautiful Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, or Myrtle. She was an orphan who lived with her wise cousin Mordecai in the capital city Shushan. When King Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.E.) deposed Queen Vashti, he chose Esther to take her place. Neither the King nor his wicked minister Haman the Agagite, knew that Esther was Jewish. Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews of Persia. Queen Esther, after fasting and praying for guidance, pleaded with the King and saved her people from destruction. Purim is the festival celebrated to commemorate this deliverance. The Fast of Esther is observed on the 13th of Adar in memory of the three days the Jews of Persia fasted at Esther’s request. The Scroll of Esther is read in the synagogue on the evening and the morning of Purim.


In Hebrew, Pirke Avot. Section of the Mishnah. This book is a collection of moral and religious teachings by the rabbis who contributed to the Mishnah. One of the six chapters from the Ethics of the Fathers is read on the afternoon of every Sabbath between Passover and Rosh Hashanah. The original purpose for the compilation of the Ethics was to teach right conduct and to show the divine source of the traditional law. An enlarged version is called the Avot de Rabbi Natan.

Rather than a legal document, an ethical will in Judaism refers to instructions written down during one’s lifetime for one’s children on how to preserve certain aspects of the Jewish heritage or how to live according to certain precepts. Such instructions, albeit verbal, are common in the Bible. During and after the Middle Ages ethical wills appeared in written form, some of which became important historical documents (such as Ibn Tibbon‘s). Recently in the U.S. the tradition of writing an ethical will was revived.


See Hebrew Literature.


In referring to Ethiopian Jews, the term Falashas, meaning foreigners or invaders, is considered a derogatory term. They are Jews originating in separate small villages west of Lake Taana in Ethiopia. Although Christian missionaries succeeded in converting tens of thousands, almost 20,000 remained true to their faith. In 1991, Operation Solomon, a covert airlift operation, brought the large part of the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel. By 1993, most Ethiopian Jews had been moved, and today no more than 100 remain in Ethiopia.

The integration of the Ethiopian population into Israeli society, however, has been slow. Many Ethiopians are plagued by poverty and a continual sense of alienation in what should be their national home. It is thought that unlike the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were considerably more involved in socio-political affairs in their places of origin, the Ethiopian community, used to living separately, was not prepared to enter Israel’s cosmopolitan scene. Despite hardships, the Ethiopian community has produced a young generation that is wholly given to the State of Israel, of whom those who serve in the Israeli army are exceedingly dedicated soldiers. Today, many social aid efforts to help the Ethiopian community in Israel continue, and there is much hope for the future.


See Sukkot.


The first woman according to the Bible, created from one of Adam‘s ribs. Eve is tempted by the snake to taste of the forbidden fruit, whereby the first human couple is banished from the Garden of Eden.


Superstition dating back to the Talmud and common among non-Jews as well, according to which someone may be cursed by someone else’s evil glance. Amulets were used to ward off the evil eye.


Resh Galuta, or Prince of the Captivity. Title held by the head of the Babylonian Jewish community until the 11th century C.E. Jews of Babylonia had the right to govern themselves according to Jewish law, and the exilarch therefore appointed judges and was the court of final appeal. The exilarch collected and allocated taxes and represented the Jewish community at the Babylonian court. Since, in addition, the exilarch claimed direct descent from the House of David and for a thousand years the office was transmitted from father to son, they were personages of great authority. (See Babylonia.)


See Galut.


From Greek, meaning “going out.” In Hebrew the second book of the Bible is called Shemot, or Names, because it begins with the words, “Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt with Jacob.” Exodus tells the story of the Egyptian oppression of the Israelites, the appearance of Moses, the ten plagues, and the exodus from Egypt. It describes how God revealed Himselfin thunder and lightning to the Children of Israel standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai and gave them first the Ten Commandments, the laws they were to live by, and finally the covenant, or promise of the Land of Canaan. The story of the Golden Calf and the making of the Tabernacle are in the closing chapters of the book.


Literally, whom God makes strong. Third of the major prophets, Ezekiel, son of Buzi, was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. He too witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea, and went into exile to Babylonia. Like Jeremiah, he also believed deeply in each person’s individual responsibility to God. His prophecies have great poetic beauty and mystic power; the mystical concept of the Divine Chariot in the Kabbalah drew its imagery from Ezekiel’s first vision. His most famous chapter, 37, is the symbolic vision of a valley of dry bones that are resurrected and rise again as “a mighty army,” a prophecy of the rebirth of Israel.


This biblical book tells of Ezra the Scribe who led the Jews who had returned from Babylonian exile to Judea in the 5th century B.C.E.


One of two leaders of the return from the Babylonian captivity in the 5th century B.C.E. He was a teacher of the Law and, presumably, author of the Book of Ezra in the Bible. About 458 B.C.E., 60 years after the Return and the rebuilding of the Temple, social and religious conditions in Judea deteriorated, causing great concern among Babylonian Jewry. Ezra, a priest and learned scribe, or sofer, led a mission of Babylonian Jewish notables to Judea to correct this condition. He carried an authorization from King Artaxerxes to appoint officials and act as an administrator. Ezra acted vigorously; he instituted religious reforms that preserved the identity and continuity of the Jewish people. By his act, the scribes took over the responsibility of teaching the people. Ezra called an assembly of the people in the Temple courts where portions of the Torah were read out loud to them. The Levites circulated among the people explaining the text, and the people pledged obedience. This was the First Great Assembly, an institution that continued for about two centuries. Not the least of Ezra’s achievements was the custom he began of reading Portions from the Torah on Sabbaths, Mondays, and Thursdays. This was a form of worship and teaching which spread from the Temple to synagogues all over the Land. It is no wonder that, in the Talmud, Ezra has been compared to Moses.


See Hebrew Literature.


Tribe of Ethiopian Jews living in separate small villages west of Lake Taana. Although during the past hundred years Christian missionaries have succeeded in converting tens of thousands of Falashas, almost 20,000 remained true to their faith. By 1993, most had been brought to Israel through a special rescue operation. Their absorption into Israeli society was hindered by their differing Jewish customs.


The family unit is central to the Jewish religion and life. In biblical times, extended families lived together within a tribal structure, and polygamy was practiced. In post-biblical times, polygamy disappeared for the most part and was forbidden in Europe around the year 1000 (See Gerhsom, Rabbenu). Among both European and Sephardic Jews in Israel and elsewhere the tradition of extended families living in the same community and maintaining strong ties has continued to this day. In the U.S., however, because of the general trend of young adults relocating due to career opportunities, the extended family structure has broken down, negatively impacting Jewish continuity. The synagogue, especially through the havurah movement since the 1970’s, has had a certain measure of success in addressing this problem.


See Agriculture.


Fasting has always been a part of the profound process of soul purification for Jews. Purity of thought and action were considered the key to happiness in both this world and the next. According to Jewish belief, God keeps a strict accounting of each person’s deeds, and in accordance with this record, He metes out justice. If one wishes to ward off divine punishment, he must repent of his sins and cleanse himself of them. When he repents, he first recognizes his transgressions and confesses them to God. This may be done at all times, but is especially auspicious during the Ten Days of Awe and Repentance following the New Year. Therefore the prayers of these days include long confessions of sin and pleading for forgiveness, chanted by the congregation in unison.

In addition to confession and repentance, man must actively atone, or make up, for his misdeeds. The chief way of atoning is the fast, in which man “torments his flesh” and begs forgiveness. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the chief fast day when observant Jews abstain from food and drink for 24 hours. Pious Jews, however, observe additional fast days. Mondays and Thursdays are favored for this purpose, since they are the days when the Torah is read in the synagogue. Any other day may be chosen for fasting, with the exception of Sabbath and holidays, when fasting is forbidden. When a fast day falls on a Sabbath its observance is postponed until the next day, except in the case of Yom Kippur, which takes precedence over the Sabbath.

In addition to the fasts of purification and atonement, there are a series of fast days that are associated with mournful events in Jewish history, especially with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. Since it is believed that these catastrophes were punishments for the sins of Israel, such fast days are occasions for repentance as well as mourning. They are marked by fasting and the recitation of special prayers and lamentations. Their sadness, however, is tempered by faith that the Messiah was born on the day the Temple was destroyed, and will one day come to redeem the people of Israel from the misery of the exile that began with the Destruction.

The most mournful of these fast days, and the “blackest day in the Jewish calendar,” is Tisha b’Av, or the Ninth of Av. Tisha b’Av is the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples: the First by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., the Second by Titus in 70 C.E. The fast lasts from sundown of the eighth of Av to sunset the next day. During the morning hours until noon, both work and study are forbidden. The Book of Lamentations, the Prophet Jeremiah‘s outpouring of grief at the destruction of the First Temple, is chanted. Many kinnot, or lamentations, of later origin are also read. Some of these recall other calamities which befell Jews on this day, such as the massacres of whole Jewish communities during the Crusades.

Three other fasts are observed in commemoration of events connected with the destruction of the Temple. The 17th of Tammuz marks the day on which the enemy broke through the walls of Jerusalem and entered the city. The three-week interval between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha b’Av are observed as weeks of mourning. The Fast of Gedaliah, on the third day of Tishri, commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor of Judea in the days that followed the destruction of the First Temple. After Gedaliah’s murder, the last vestiges of self-government were taken from the Jews. The 10th of Tevet was the day on which Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem. These three fast days are observed from sunrise to sunset, rather than from sundown of the preceding day to sunset of that day itself.

FAST, HOWARD (1914-2003).

American author. A very prolific historical novelist, his best-selling books often touched upon the idea of the struggle for freedom including My Glorious Brothers (about the Maccabees) and a biography of Haym Salomon. Other well know works include Citizen Tom PaineFreedom Road and Spartacus. He also wrote detective novels under the pen-name, E. V. Cunningham.

Fast, was a strong advocate of communism, and his activities caused him to spend a few months in Federal prison for failing to cooperate with Congress. His novels were blacklisted by mainstream publishers.  In 1956, disillusioned  by truth of Stalin’s brutality  and growing anti-antisemitism in the Soviet Union, he publicly broke with the Communist party. After that, some of his earlier books gain renewed popularity.


See Judaism, Conservative.


Hebrew writer in Russia, whose novel Le’an (Whither) dramatized the hopelessness of Jewish life in eastern Europe at the time, thus presaging Zionism.


U.S. Democratic Senator from California since 1992. She served as mayor of San Francisco and became known as a moderate liberal who, while supporting pro-choice and environmental protection, was nevertheless a hard-liner on crime and supported curbs on illegal immigration.

FEINSTEIN, MOSHE (1895-1986).

The leading Orthodox rabbinical authority of his time, whose rulings on Jewish law were accepted worldwide. He headed the Tiferes Yerushalayim yeshiva in New York for many years. His decisions were published in a multi-volume collection titled Igros Moshe (Moshe’s Letters).


American rabbi and founder of the Jewish Publication Society and the American Jewish Historical Society.

FERBER, EDNA (1887-1968).

American writer whose book Showboat became a classic American musical and film. She wrote about the diversity of American life in books like Giant and Ice Palace.


German-born novelist and dramatist, famous for his book The Jew S


Term used by the Nazis to describe their secret plan to murder Jews in Europe.


(1895-1991). American scholar and rabbi who served as chancellor of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary. He was an expert on the post-biblical Mishnaic period.


European republic between Sweden and the former Soviet Union. In a population of 5 million, there are about 1,200 Jews, living mostly in Helsinki. Jews settled there under Swedish rule in the 18th century. After Finland became Russian territory in 1809, the only Jews permitted to settle were ex-servicemen and their families. There was never severe persecution as in Russia proper, but Jews suffered many restrictions. After the Finns gained independence in 1917, they granted the Jews full equality. All the Jews of Viipuri, which was annexed by Russia in the war of 1939-40, moved to Finnish territory. Finland was the only part of Europe under Nazi domination from 1941 to 1944 where Jews did not suffer from persecution. Most Finnish Jews are engaged in commerce and trade. Their small numbers and distance from other Jewish communities made a full Jewish life difficult.


See Shavuot.


See Pidyon Ha-ben.

FISCHER, BOBBY (1943- ).

In 1972, he became the first American to win the chess world championship. A grandmaster at age 15, he is considered one of the greatest chess players of all time.


The word “flag” is mentioned many times in the Bible. Each tribe had its own standard, though there is no description of the design or color. No information is available about Jewish flags during the First or Second Commonwealth. Not until the 16th century did a specific Jewish flag appear. In 1524, Pope Clement VI received a mysterious visitor in Rome. He was David Reubeni, who claimed to be a forerunner of the Messiah. He brought with him a white flag, embroidered with silver and golden letters.

In modern times, Theodor Herzl, founder of political Zionism, suggested in the book The Jewish State (1895) that the Zionist organization adopt a flag showing seven gold stars against a white background. The white was to signify new and pure life, the seven stars the seven-hour workday. Instead, the Zionist movement chose a white flag with two horizontal stripes of blue and a blue Star of David in the center, inspired by the traditional prayer shawl. By a special act of the government, on November 12, 1948, this flag became the official standard of the new state.


With close to 700,000 Jews, Florida has become the state with the third largest Jewish population in the U.S., after New York and California. The first Jew associated with Florida was Moses Levy who in 1819 sought to settle Jews there. His son David Yulee was the first Jew elected to the U.S. Congress. The first Jewish community was organized in Jacksonville in 1850, and the first synagogue was founded in Pensacola in 1875. Before the Civil War there were few Jews in Florida, but as Miami began to develop as a winter resort, a steady increase of Jewish population began. Today, there are major Jewish communities in Miami (145,000), Fort Lauderdale (174,000) Boca Raton-Delray (84,000), Hollywood (63,000), and Palm Beach (63,000). These communities support a large number of temples and synagogues, mostly Reform and Conservative, Jewish community centers, and charitable Jewish organizations.


Traditions handed down for generations, including customs, legends, superstitions, beliefs, and folk songs current among the folk or common people.

Jewish folklore is varied and rich in content, partly because it has absorbed the folkways of many other peoples. In addition, the Jewish people’s close tie to the Bible and the long periods of persecution and isolation gave rise to a distinctively Jewish folklore. The Talmud and Midrash, as well as theological, ethical, and moral works of later centuries, contain a wealth of customs and beliefs. The legend of the Golem and of the 36 anonymous righteous men (Lamed Vav) for whose sake the world survives, tales about the Dybbuk, and superstitions about the Evil Eye, or Ayin-Hara, are a few examples.

In the modern period beginning in the mid-18th century, Jewish emancipation and assimilation have led to the disappearance of many of these traditions. The Nazis’ destruction of the Jewish culture centers in Eastern Europe during World War II aided the process. A number of individuals and institutions have collected and published volumes on Jewish folkways. The YIVO Institute of Jewish Research in New York and the new Yad Vashem Institute in Israel are currently making important contributions to the collection and study of Jewish folklore.


See Sukkot.


The first Jews to reach France probably traveled in the wake of conquering Roman legions. Historical records show that, in the 7th century, Jewish farmers, artisans, and merchants had settled in most French provinces. During the reign of Charlemagne from 768-814, Jews controlled the country’s import-export trade and enjoyed considerable civil and religious freedom. A century later, when Charlemagne’s empire began to break up, harsh restrictions were imposed. Then the Crusades, beginning in 1096, brought persecution and often death. Entire communities were martyred for their faith. The Church brought every possible charge against them. Beginning in 1171, when all the Jews of Blois were burnt at the stake, the community was beset with blood accusations and repeated charges that Jews desecrated Catholic forms of worship. Four years later, the French king ordered 24 wagon loads of the Talmud burnt publicly in Paris after a “disputation” on the merits of the Jewish faith. Nonetheless, two great centers of learning flourished in medieval France: one in the northeast, mainly in Champagne, the other in the south, in Provence and Languedoc. Rashi, the “Prince of Bible commentators,” was perhaps the greatest French Jewish scholar.

Persecution by both church and state culminated in the decree of 1394, expelling the entire community from France. Nevertheless, scattered settlements remained, especially in the south. These grew during the following centuries, as ever greater numbers of Spanish and Portuguese refugees from the Inquisition sought haven in France. A further addition came in 1648, when Alsace, with its ancient Jewish community, was annexed by France. By the time of the Revolution of 1789, France was home to 40,000 Jews, most of whom were forced to live in ghettos where they were deprived of all legal rights.

The revolution wrought a radical change in this respect. A decree promulgated in 1791 declared Jews to be full citizens of France. Napoleon, however, soon curbed this freedom. Calling a Sanhedrin of Jewish notables, he gained approval for a program that placed Jews directly under his control. He then proceeded to restrict their economic and political activities.

These restrictions remained in force after the emperor’s downfall; it was not, in fact, until 1846 that the last of the disabilities was removed. Yet even then the battle against antisemitism had not ended: as Jews began to take a prominent place in the social, cultural, and political life of France, reactionary elements in the Church and army began a campaign to undermine the Jewish position. The strength of these elements was shown in the 1890’s, when the conviction on falsified charges of treason of a Jewish army officer named Dreyfus set off a conflict between the liberal and reactionary forces in the country. It took almost a decade, and the efforts of such men as Emile Zola, to free Dreyfus, despite clear evidence of innocence. His exoneration, however, marked the defeat of Church and army, and the beginning of a new era in the history of France, as well as French Jewry.

The subjugation of France by Germany in 1940 brought about a revival of antisemitism on a scale never before known to the country: the entire Nazi program of racism became law. Yet with the help of the French population, more Jews survived the war in France than in any other West European country. Since the war, the life of the Jewish community has returned to pre-war normalcy. Again, Jews such as Pierre Mendes France, who served as premier in 1955, have risen to eminence. In 1998, there were about 525,000 Jews in France, many of them refugees of World War II. This figure includes those who came to France since 1961 from North Africa: 100,000 from Algeria, 30,000 from Tunisia and Morocco. Jewish life is organized in consistories, boards of one rabbi and four laymen, concerned with Jewish affairs in each of the seven districts into which the community is divided. A central consistory, made up of the chief rabbi and a representative of each consistory, coordinates activities on a national level, and serves as a link between the Jewish community and the ministry of public worship. Since 1860, the Alliance Isra

FRANK, ANNE (1929-1945).

Anne FrankJewish Dutch girl. Hiding from the Nazis during the occupation of Holland, she wrote a diary of the events and her thoughts, showing extraordinarily mature understanding. She and her family were captured in Summer 1944, and she was sent to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp where she died in 1945. The diary, published as The Diary of Anne Frank is still widely-read and also staged as drama in many countries. It is probably the best known Jewish book to come out of the Holocaust.

FRANK, JACOB (1726-1791).

False messiah and leader of a sect that brought pain and strife during half a century of Jewish life. Jacob Frank spent the formative years of his life in Romania and Turkey. Having little education, his contact through his father with secret followers of Sabbatai Zevi, the 17th-century false messiah, proved to be a decisive influence on his unstable personality. He assumed the role of a messiah and went to Poland where he proclaimed himself a reincarnation of Sabbatai Zevi. Polish Jewry was reeling from the cruel blows of Cossack pogroms and were vunerable to the idea of a messiah who would save them. He began to teach the Kabbalah and represented himself as the reincarnation of all the prophets and messiahs who had come before him. He and his disciples outraged the Jewish community with their immoral and unorthodox behavior; finally, the local authorities banished Frank from Poland. Wherever Frank went, he brought trouble and calumny upon the Jewish people, causing a revival of the old accusation that Jews used human blood for ritual purposes. To discipline Frank and his followers, a conference of rabbis met in 1756. They banned the Frankist sect from the Jewish community and forbade the study of the Kabbalah by anyone under 30 years of age. The Frankists appealed to the Catholic bishop Dembowsky, claiming that they were Kabbalists at war with the Talmud which was full of error and blasphemy. They hinted that their beliefs resembled Christian tenets. The bishop summoned the rabbis to answer the charges against the Talmud in a public debate. As a result, thousands of copies of the Talmud were seized and publicly burned. Eventually, Frank and a thousand of his followers were baptized. Great pomp attended these baptisms, to which Frank came dressed in magnificent Turkish robes. But the Church, never trusting these converts, watched them closely and later imprisoned Frank for conversion under false pretenses. The Frankist sect survived him for a time but no longer had any importance.


German rabbi who sought to liberalize Judaism. He took a moderate position between Geiger‘s Reform and Samson Raphael Hirsch‘s modern Orthdoxy, since he was unwilling to go to the Reform extreme of giving up such things as Hebrew as the language of prayer.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice. He came to the U.S. from Vienna at the age of 12, and earned his law degree at Harvard University in 1906. While at Harvard he was deeply influenced by the new liberal doctrines of a group of rising lawyers that included Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis. These doctrines formed the basis of his later teachings. While holding the professorship at Harvard, Frankfurter served intermittently in various government departments. His brilliant plea in defense of the convicted anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927 earned him a national reputation and brought him to the forefront of American liberalism. During the Roosevelt administration (1933-1945), Frankfurter and many of the young lawyers he had trained played influential roles in drafting much of the liberal legislation of the “New Deal.” Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1939, he advocated “judicial restraint” and deference to the will of the people. He resigned in 1962 due to ill health. Throughout his career he took an active interest in Jewish and Zionist affairs; in 1919, he was legal advisor to the Zionist delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference.

FRANKL, VIKTOR (1905-1997).

Psychotherapist. His logotherapy, or therapy through finding meaning in one’s life, evolved from his experience in Auschwitz where he survived because he was determined to be reunited with his wife. He describes this experience in his widely read book Man’s Search for Meaning.

FRANKLIN, SIDNEY (1903-1976).

Bullfighter, born in Brooklyn. He went to Mexico at age 18 and learned the art of bullfighting. In 1929, he went to Spain where, according to Ernest Hemingway, he became one of the best matadors of his day.

FREIER, RECHA (1892-1984).

Initiator of Youth Aliyah. A teacher and the wife of a Berlin rabbi, she began in 1932 to help Jewish youth in Germany prepare for agricultural life in Palestine. After 1933, she organized similar training in other countries. She settled in Palestine in 1941.

FREUD, ANNA (1895-1982).

Child psychologist. Daughter of Sigmund Freud, she left Austria in 1938 after the Nazi occupation and took her father to England, where she developed her child psychoanalysis, and became a renowned authority on child and adolescent psychology.

FREUD, SIGMUND (1856-1939).

Founder of psychoanalysis. Freud was born in Austria to a scholarly, aloof father and a vivacious mother who was usually the center of attention in the household. He graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School, and one of his earliest original research projects in 1884 resulted in his discovery of the anesthetic properties of cocaine. Even as a general practitioner, Freud was interested in nervous disturbances. In collaboration with Joseph Breuer, he published Selected Papers on Hysteria in 1895. Before these studies of hypnosis as a means of studying the origins of hysteria were published, Freud replaced the use of hypnosis with his method of “free association” which became a basic technique of psychoanalysis. In 1900, with the publication of his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud ended his career as a general practitioner and devoted himself completely to the development and practice of psychoanalysis. His investigations into the unconscious strata of the mind helped to raise the curtain on the mysteries of the human personality and have laid the foundations for later investigations.

Freud was the first to demonstrate the importance of earliest childhood experiences and the crucial importance of the sexual life of the individual in the development of personality. The ideas presented in his books were hotly rejected and disputed. Freud’s work remained unrecognized in his native Austria until late in his life, the first acclaim coming to him from Germany and English-speaking countries. After the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938 he settled in England.

Freud was constantly aware of being a Jew, though his attitude toward Jewishness was highly complicated, both negative and positive. He was a member of B’nai B’rith in Vienna. At a time when antisemitism was widespread in Vienna, a friend asked Freud whether he ought to baptize his newborn son. Freud advised against this action. “If you do not let your son grow up as a Jew,” he said, “you will deprive him of those sources of energy which cannot be replaced by anything else. He will have to struggle as a Jew, and you ought to develop in him all the energy he will need for that struggle. Do not deprive him of that advantage.”

FRIEDAN, BETTY (1921- ).

Born Naomi Goldstein, she is often called the founder of the women’s movement. Her book The Feminine Mystique, which revealed the unsatisfying lives of American middle-class housewives, made her one of the main figures of feminism in the U.S. In 1966, she co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW).


See Sports.

FRIEDMAN, MILTON (1912-2006).

American conservative economist. He became one of the leading economists of the post-war era. He advocated minimal government control and saw money supply rather than fiscal policy as controlling the business cycle. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976, and was invited by Prime Minister Begin to help transform Israel’s economy into a free market economy.

FROMM, ERICH (1900-1980).

German-born American psychoanalyst and social philosopher. He wrote about the major social issues of the 20th century, such as the causes of Naziism in Escape from Freedom, the meaning of religion in our time in Psychoanalysis and Religion, and the meaning of love in The Art of Loving.


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.


Scion of a distinguished Jewish family in Russia, he was intensely interested in Jewish learning. Baron Guenzburg became a patron of Jewish scholarship and amassed one of the largest collections of Jewish books and rare manuscripts. To serve Jewish learning, he founded an academy for Jewish studies in St. Petersburg.


Many cultures believe in a supreme being or beings who rule the world. Yet the God of the Hebrew Bible creates the world not on a whim, as happens in other cultures, but for a moral purpose (see Genesis, chap. 1). He then becomes known to certain people, beginning with Abraham. He makes a covenant with him and promises to redeem his offspring. Known also as the God of Israel (See God, Names of), this God becomes the center of both Christianity and Islam, faiths which, together with Judaism, are considered the three major monotheistic religions of the world. They all accept the one single transcendental God who does not have any human or physical qualities and is beyond human understanding. When Moses tries to identify God, he is told, “I am what I am.” In other words, God is nameless and remains outside human experience, while in effect, as attested by the Book of Psalms, nature, history, and human experience reveal God’s existence and power.

GOLDBERG, ARTHUR J. (1908-1990).

While God is unknowable and nameless, the Talmud states that there are 100 names for God in the Bible. As Maimonides explains it, these names do not reveal the identity or essence of God, but are only ways for human beings to relate to God and achieve a limited understanding of the Almighty. Some names, such as El and Elohim, simply mean the supreme being. Adonai, meaning Lord, is the way of pronouncing YHWH, the way God’s name appears most often in the Bible, yet, consisting of four consonants, cannot be pronounced. In biblical times, the only one who could pronounce it was the High Priest (See Kohen). Other names of God refer to God’s attributes, such as the Creator, Redeemer, and The Holy One. Others refer to God’s relationship with the people Israel: Redeemer of Israel, Lover of Israel. Additional names of God appear in the Kabbalah.

American jurist and statesman. Goldberg became Secretary of Labor in 1961 and was appointed to the Supreme Court the following year, succeeding Felix Frankfurter. Appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1965, a position he held until 1968, he was a staunch supporter of Israel.


When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Law, the Israelites asked Aaron to build a golden calf as a visible form of God that they could worship. This act of rebellion against God is considered the major sin of the Jewish people, for which Moses had to obtain special forgiveness from God.


One of the founders of Yiddish theater, a playwright, and artist. He organized theatrical troupes which entertained Jewish masses in the Old and the New World for more than a generation. Goldfaden also published a book of Hebrew poetry. In 1887, he paid his first visit to America, where he settled in 1903. Goldfaden’s plays became classics of the Yiddish stage.

GOLDMANN, NAHUM (1894-1982).

World Zionist leader. In 1936, he helped found the World Zionist Congress, which he headed from 1953 to 1977. As chairman of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, he was largely instrumental in reaching the reparation agreement with West Germany in 1952. He was the author of two autobiographical volumes and many essays and articles in German, Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.


Statue or image into which life is breathed by supernatural means. The most famous Golem in Jewish history is the one believed to have been created by Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague (ca. 1525-1609). This Golem served the rabbi and the Jewish community as a spy and intelligence agent. He succeeded in arresting a group of people who were spreading false tales about Jews. It was said that Rabbi Loew used to remove the spirit of life from his Golem every Friday so that the creature would not desecrate the Sabbath. The Golem is reputed to have crumbled to pieces; its remains, according to legend, still exist in the “Golem’s room” in an ancient synagogue in Prague.


Philistine Giant in the Bible slain by the boy David.

GOMPERS, SAMUEL (1850-1924).

American labor leader. Founder and first president of the American Federation of Labor in 1886. He served as its president until his death. Gompers refused to participate in any socialistic and political projects, insisting that better wages, shorter hours, and other benefits were the proper aim of trade unions. He came to be recognized as a great public figure, and during World War I served as the head of the War Committee on Labor. Gompers persuaded the A.F.L. to support Zionism.


See Music.


South African novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She wrote about Apartheid and advocated black rule in South Africa.


Labor Zionist thinker and writer. Gordon believed in self-fulfillment through work in the Jewish homeland. With many followers and admirers, he was a source of inspiration and courage to his young comrades and worked at their side despite his age. His influence also extended to the next generation. Gordon expressed his ideals in many articles, purporting that close association with nature was the basis for a healthy and just society.

GORDON, JUDAH LEIB (1831-1892).

Hebrew poet. No other literary personality of the 19th century exerted greater influence on Hebrew readers than did J.L. Gordon. He began as a romantic poet, using biblical themes, and later treated tragic moments in Jewish history. His historical poems are noted for their vigor and dramatic quality. A proponent of the Haskalah, he called upon his fellow Jews to leave their self-imposed ghetto life and avail themselves of the educational and cultural opportunities which the gentile world offered them.


See Sports.

See Art.


See Prayer.

GRAETZ, HEINRICH (1817-1891).

German-Jewish historian. Graetz lived at a time of great change in Jewish history. The ghetto walls were coming down, and Jews were mingling in the general life of Europe. His History of the Jews, completed in 1876 as a rare combination of scholarship and readability, remains to this day a basic source for understanding the history of the Jews.


Founded in Philadelphia in 1897 through a grant by H. Gratz, it is the oldest existing training institution for Hebrew teachers in the U.S., providing a four-year college course leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in Hebrew literature and a teacher’s diploma.

GRATZ, REBECCA (1781-1869).

Educator noted for her beauty, charm, and good works. Portraits of her were painted by famous artists, and her published Letters are rich in descriptions of her home city, Philadelphia, and times. In 1838, she established the Hebrew Sunday School Society, the first school of its kind. It is said that she was the inspiration for the “Jewess” Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.


See Talmud.


See England.


Jewish settlement in Greece dating back to the 2nd century B.C.E. Documents of the 12th and 13th centuries indicate Jews were noted for their silk and dyeing industries. Greek Jewry flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries, producing many renowned rabbis and Talmudic scholars. Salonika, which became part of Greece in 1912, was a center of Sephardic Jewry. In the late 19th century, 80,000 of its 120,000 Ladino-speaking inhabitants were Jewish. The massacres and deportations during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II virtually annihilated the Jewish community, which dwindled from 75,000 in 1939 to about 5,000 in 2007.


See Sports.

GREENBERG, HAYIM (1889-1953).

Labor Zionist leader, intellectual, and writer. He was the acknowledged intellectual leader of Labor Zionism in America, serving as editor of its weekly, Der Yiddisher Kempfer, and the English monthly, the Jewish Frontier. During World War II, he was chairman of the Executive Council, and during the UN deliberations in 1947 on the establishment of Israel he helped win over many of the Latin American delegates to the Jewish cause. At his death, he was mourned as a leader of great spiritual force.

GREENBERG, URI ZVI (1895-1981).

One of the greatest Hebrew poets of our time who wrote passionately and eloquently about the rebuilding of Israel and the tragedy of the Holocaust. Born in Galicia in a Hasidic family, Greenberg at first wrote lyric poetry. In 1924, he came to Palestine, where he identified with the pioneer builders of the land. His later poems are inspired with the vision of Jewish sovereignty over all of historical Palestine. During World War II he wrote powerful and dramatic poems on the Nazi slaughter of the Jewish people, published in the volume Streets of the River. He was a member of the Herut Party. (See also Hebrew Literature and Revisionist Zionism.)


American economist; since 1987, chairman of the Federal Reserve, the agency which controls the nation’s money supply. Greenspan believes in limiting the growth of money supply, and has presided over a prosperous U.S. economy in the late 1990’s.


Leading Israeli novelist and writer of children books. Grossman’s major novel, See Under Love, deals with the Holocaust, while The Yellow Wind covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is an outspoken critic of many Israeli policies toward Palestinians.


Republic in the northernmost portion of Central America. In 2006, there were about 1,000 Jews in a total population of about 13 million. A community of Marranos, forced Catholic converts who practiced their Jewish faith in secret, conducted a thriving export trade from Guatemala in the 16th century, when Guatemala was a Spanish colony. The Inquisition, established in Mexico in 1570, eventually led to the disappearance of this early Marrano community. During the 1860’s a small group of German Jews from Mexico and Cuba, as well as Sephardim from Turkey and France, settled here. They have been joined by immigrants from East Europe after World War II. All organizations are represented within the Comunidad Israelita, or Jewish Community.


Family of American Jewish industrialists, public servants, and philanthropists. Mayer Guggenheim (1828-1905) came to the U.S. from Switzerland in 1847. By 1900, he and his seven sons controlled one of the country’s great mining empires in Colorado. Simon Guggenheim (1867-1941), the sixth son, was U.S. Senator from Colorado from 1907 to 1913. He established the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, with endowments of more than $10 million to aid scholars and artists. Solomon Guggenheim (1861-1930), a collector of non-objective paintings, set up a fund “for the promotion of art and education in art.” Daniel (1856-1930), Mayer’s second son, contributed to the development of aviation. Together with his son, Harry Frank, who was U.S. Ambassador to Cuba from 1929 to 1933, Daniel established a foundation for aeronautical research. Other beneficiaries of Guggenheim aid include the New York Botanical Gardens, the New York Guggenheim Concerts, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Hebrew Union College.


Literally “bloc of the faithful,” this movement started after the Six-Day War in 1967 among religious settlers of the West Bank who were dedicated to the “Greater Land of Israel” concept, which opposes any territorial concessions to the Palestinians.


See Music.


(1085-1142). Hebrew poet of the Middle Ages. Born in Spain when it was under Christian rule, he went to study at the academy of Isaac Al-Fasi in Lucena, near Cordova, in Moslem Spain. Having acquired an extensive knowledge of the Talmud, philosophy, Arabic literature, and medicine, he returned to his native town to be a practicing physician. In his youth, Judah’s joy of life was expressed in the poems he composed on love and the beauty of nature. Few Hebrew poems can rival the gracefulness, style, brilliance of expression, and tenderness found in the best of his poetry. His religious poems, on the other hand, are radiant with nobility of spirit and longing for the living God.

But he reserved his deepest passion and burning love for Zion; only in the land of Israel’s glorious past could the poet find peace and fulfillment. Judah realized his dream. He set out first by boat to Egypt, then to Palestine. This trip enriched Hebrew literature with ardent and powerful songs of the sea. Legend has it that when Judah reached the ruins of the Temple and he knelt at the Wailing Wall, an Arab horseman trampled him to death.

Many of Judah’s poems became part of the Jewish prayer book. His philosophic work The Kuzari greatly influenced Jewish thinking, attempting to prove the Jewish religion superior to the contemporary philosophic systems. Unlike Jewish philosophers before him, Judah Ha-Levi did not find it necessary to reconcile the Jewish religion with philosophic thought. For him, Jewish tradition needs no confirmation by reason; ethical perfection is best attained by religious observance. The Kuzari was written in the form of a discussion at the court of the king of the Khazars among representatives of the three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The king is finally convinced of the superiority of the Jewish religion. The Kuzari also stresses the intimate bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, expressing the thought that “Jerusalem will be built when the children of Israel strongly desire it.”


Literally, he who brings out. Referring to God’s bringing bread from the earth, this blessing is said before every meal.


Literally, working youth. A youth organization affiliated with the Histadrut, founded in 1924. Its members study handicrafts or prepare for agricultural settlement. It has branches through Israel, including the Arab and Druze sectors.


Literally, Zionist Youth. It started as a pioneering youth organization in Eastern Europe. Most of its members perished during the Holocaust. After the war it flourished in Latin America and western Europe. It has seven kibbutzim and five youth villages in Israel.


Literally, the young guard. Left-wing Zionist youth organization, first started in Poland in 1913. It became a major founder of kibbutzim in Israel and became prominent in Europe before the war. For a time it came under the influence of Marxism, which it eventually disavowed. It advocated close cooperation between Jews and Arabs. It was a major force in the founding of Israel, the Palmach, and the Haganah.

HABAKKUK (c. 630 B.C.E.).

Eighth of the twelve minor prophets. In the first chapter of his book, Habakkuk foresees the Chaldean invasion of Judea. In the second, he cries out against injustice; the third and final chapter is a striking poetic prayer.


Literally, stage. Renowned Hebrew theater in Israel, founded by a group of enthusiastic young artists in Moscow in 1918. In 1928, the Habimah made its permanent home in Palestine. Its repertoire has since grown to more than 100 plays. Its artistry has been acclaimed repeatedly during its several tours of Europe and in its visits to the U.S. It is now Israel’s national theater.


Middle Eastern desert tribes mentioned in 15th century B.C.E. documents found in Egypt. Some scholars believe they might be the ancient Hebrews.


World organization of Zionist youth. In the U.S. it resulted from a reorganization of Poale Zion (See Labor Zionism) in 1935.


The largest Zionist organization in the world, with more than 300,000 members in 1,500 chapters and groups in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It supports health and educational projects in Israel, including Hadassah  Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, youth resettlement programs, the Hadassah College of Technology, and the Hadassah Career Counseling Institute. Through its Young Judea movement with its network of clubs, summer camps, and Israel programs, Hadassah seeks to ensure a strong Zionist and Jewish commitment among American youth. It also mobilizes support for its medical work through Hadassah International, an organization of friends of the Medical Center in more than 30 countries around the world.

When Hadassah’s two American-trained nurses arrived in Palestine in 1913, the country was suffering from a high infant mortality rate, trachoma (a dreaded eye disease), malaria, and other diseases. The first project set up by the two nurses was a small welfare station in Jerusalem for maternity care and treatment of trachoma. In 1916, during World War I, Hadassah was chosen to provide a medical unit for Palestine. In 1918, the unit established a permanent hospital in Tiberias, took over the old Rothschild Hospital in Jerusalem and opened the first nurses training school in the country. The first infant welfare station was opened in 1921.

From these modest beginnings, Hadassah expanded its work, covering Palestine, now Israel, with a network of medical services and a variety of agricultural and vocational education programs. Through the Jewish National Fund, Hadassah has participated in the reclamation of thousands of acres of wastelands and in afforestation. Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadasssah, was the guiding spirit of Youth Aliyah from its inception in 1934 until her death in 1945. Hadassah is the largest organizational contributor to Youth Aliyah and has helped resettle more than 275,000 youngsters from some 80 nations.

Hadassah’s Medical Work. The Hadassah Medical Organization practices the principle of equality of treatment of patients regardless of race, faith, or ability to pay. Hadassah’s medical and health services are now consolidated into three facilities in Jerusalem: the 700-bed Medical Center at Ein Karem, the 300-bed community hospital on Mount Scopus, and a community health center at Kiryat HaYovel. Half a million patients are cared for annually in these institutions, and a full range of health disciplines is covered in Hadassah’s 105 medical, surgical, and health departments.

Also on the Ein Karem campus are the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School; the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, cofounded with Alpha Omega; the Hebrew University_Hadassah School of Occupational Therapy, the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine; and the Henrietta Szold Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Nursing. The Moshe Sharett Institute of Oncology provides advanced treatment for people with cancer. Inside the hospital’s Abbell Synagogue are magnificent stained-glass windows created for Hadassah by the artist Marc Chagall.

The Hadassah Medical Organization is renowned for its pacesetting work in teaching, healing, and research, setting standards in Israel for health care and medical education. The Medical Center houses the country’s first trauma unit and is the designated center for bone marrow transplantation. Twelve percent of the Medical Center’s work force is newly arrived Russian immigrants, most of whom have been retrained under Hadassah auspices.

For many years Hadassah has outreached to developing countries in Africa. Hadassah ophthalmologists have carried out thousands of eye operations in 11 different African countries. Together with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Hadassah established a hospital in Zaire. Hadassah physicians have assisted in establishing bone marrow facilities in the Far East and South America.

Hadassah’s Education and Child Rescue Programs. Hadassah early on recognized the need to provide quality vocational education and job training for the young people of Palestine. In 1942, it established the Seligsberg Vocational High School for Girls in Jerusalem. Two years later, the Brandeis Vocational Center for Boys opened. The high academic standards and creative approaches in these schools became the model for vocational programs in Israel. In 1969, the schools were merged into a coed high school integrating technical studies with academics. Recently, Hadassah transferred the school to the city of Jerusalem.

In 1970, Hadassah founded the first two-year college in Israel with the goal of providing professional and technological training in an academic setting that would allow students to compete in careers that promised jobs and a stable future. Today, the college offers courses in such highly technical fields as computer science, x-ray and imaging technology, printing, laboratory medicine, industrial design, and television professions.

Each year, more than 35,000 clients use Hadassah’s Career Counseling Institute, established in 1944, for its testing, counseling, and evaluation services.

Hadassah is co-owner with Youth Aliyah of Hadassah-Neurim, a residential village for Israeli teenagers, and sponsors day centers where troubled youngsters can receive technical training that will enable them to become useful and productive citizens. Special funds made available by have helped Youth Aliyah educate and absorb Ethiopian youth.

Hadassah in the United States. From Hadassah’s inception, its Jewish education program has been basic to its work. Through study groups, classes, and quality educational materials produced by Hadassah, members examine such topics as Zionism, Judaism, Jewish history and culture, Hebrew language and literature, and women’s issues. The monthly Hadassah Magazine features prize-winning articles on Hadassah’s work and on Jewish life in Israel and the rest of the world. Through its Zionist Affairs program, Hadassah serves as a resource center, educating members on issues that directly concern Israel and its relations with the U.S. Hadassah also works actively on the American scene as an advocate for democratic principles and as a force for freedom and equal rights.

Through its peer-led Zionist youth movement, Hadassah has helped thousands of young Americans become committed Jews and ardent Zionists. Cultural programs, sports and recreational activities, traditional religious observances, and summer and year-long Israel experiences instill in Young Judeans a lasting identification with Judaism and Zionism.


The largest women’s Zionist organization in Canada, was formed in 1919 by women and subsequently became a Federation of World Wizo. Its 320 chapters in 65 centers across Canada with a membership of 17,000, carrying on fundraising and educational activities. In Israel it supports 14 nurseries, two kindergartens, two youth clubs and the Haifa Community College, four women’s clubs, and two large schools: the Children’s and Youth Village at Hadassim and the Agricultural Secondary School and Village at Nahalal, which have graduated thousands of students to become productive citizens of Israel. As sole agency for Youth Aliyah in Canada, it supports and maintains the Acco Educational and Vocational Youth Village, the Magdiel Comprehensive Secondary School and Youth Village, the Nathanya Day Center, the Child Guidance and Hadassah-WIZO Canada Research Institute in Jerusalem, and the Abe and Sophie Bronfman School in Nehalim.

Canadian Hadassah-WIZO has given study centers and other facilities to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has assisted the Asaf Harofe Hospital in many phases of its development.

Hadassah-WIZO of Canada also has planted three forests in Israel through the Jewish National Fund.


From Hebrew, meaning conclusion. The section from the Prophets recited at the conclusion of the reading from the Torah, or Five Books of Moses, on the Sabbath, holidays, and during afternoon services on fast days. Each portion of the Torah has a specific Haftorah of its own; there is some connection, however remote, between the Torah reading and the Haftarah. Some Sabbath days are named after the Haftarah reading, such as Shabbat Hazon (Sabbath of Vision), when the first chapter of Isaiah, which begins with the words “The vision,” is read.

The Talmud says that the practice of Haftarah readings on the Sabbath goes back to the 1st century C.E. The early Tannaim gradually arranged for the addition of a specific Haftarah for each portion of the Torah.


Defense force of Jews in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1920, in the early days of the British mandatory regime in Palestine, the Arabs attacked the small Jewish settlement of Tel-Hai, near the Syrian border. A few defenders, headed by Joseph Trumpeldor, held Tel-Hai but fell in its defense. The Arabs intensified their attacks. The bloody outbreaks in Jerusalem on Passover 1920 and those in Tel Aviv in May 1921, convinced Jews that they could not depend on the British Army for protection, but that they must organize for self-defense. Thus, despite a British ban on Jewish arms, the secret Haganah (Army of Defense) was formed during the 1920’s.

In 1929, an attempt was made, under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haij Amin el Husseini, to undermine the Yishuv, the Jewish community of Palestine. The Arabs massacred more than 50 yeshiva students in the Arab town of Hebron, and killed a number of Jews in old Jerusalem and Safed, all of them unarmed and defenseless. Their attacks on new settlements, however, were repelled by the Haganah.

The Arabs repeated their efforts to destroy the Yishuv in 1936. For 32 months, Arab bands harassed Jewish settlements. They caused considerable damage to property and took 500 lives. These repeated widespread Arab attacks hastened the formation of a large and powerful Jewish fighting force. First, units of Jewish special police were organized, and later Special Night Squads (SNS) were trained and led by the colorful British officer Orde Wingate. A master tactician, a Bible scholar, and an ally of the Jews, he developed commando methods to defeat the Arab bands. These SNS groups served as a training unit for the famous Palmach, the Jewish striking force.

On the eve of World War II, the Haganah forces numbered close to 15,000 men. The Yishuv was ready to make its contribution to the victory over the Nazis. Out of a total population of 500,000, 36,000 men and women registered for military and auxiliary services. Palestinian Jews joined all branches of military service and gained valuable experience as sailors, pilots, gunners, and draughtsmen. A Jewish Death Battalion of Commandos took part in the Abyssinian campaigns against the Italian invaders. Some units rendered outstanding service to the British Eighth Army that drove the Nazis out of North Africa.

All in all, close to 30,000 Palestinian Jews served in the Allied armed forces. On September 18, 1944, a Jewish Brigade was formed. Units of the Brigade participated in the campaigns in Italy. When the war ended, and before the Brigade was demobilized, it came to the aid of survivors of the Holocaust, strengthening their determination to reach the shores of the Jewish homeland.

The doors of Palestine were closed to Jewish immigrants by the British, who sought to appease the Arabs. The task of organizing the illegal entry of Jews into Palestine fell to the Haganah. After the war, it established an “illegal” underground immigration system through which Jews from all over Europe streamed to Palestine. A number of ships carrying Jewish immigrants to Palestine were intercepted and bitter fights ensued.

The issue of free immigration became the central point of the struggle between the British Administration and Palestinian Jews. The British concentrated a force of 100,000 in the area to “pacify” the Jews. Searches for hidden arms were carried on day and night. Haganah leaders were arrested and sent to detention camps, but the Jewish resistance movement continued to grow.

After the partition of Palestine by the UN decision of November 29, 1947, the Arabs embarked on an all-out campaign to destroy the Yishuv. The armies of seven Arab states invaded Palestine. Overnight, the Haganah was transformed into the Israel Defense Forces and held the invading Arab armies at bay. Despite meager equipment and arms, the Israeli artillery, air force, and navy gave an excellent account of themselves and secured the present borders of the Jewish state.


When Sarah appeared to be barren, she gave Abraham her maid Hagar, who bore him Ishmael. Hagar was sent away by divine decree. Her son became the progenitor of the Arab people.


From Hebrew, meaning narration. The book containing the Passover Seder service. Written in Hebrew with some passages in Aramaic, the Haggadah tells the story of the exodus from Egypt. The original Seder probably consisted of the eating of the Paschal lamb, followed by an informal narration of the Passover story by the head of the house. During the period of the Second Temple, when daily and Sabbath prayers were assuming a standard form, there was a need for a uniform way of fulfilling the commandment of “telling” the Passover story. The first suggestions for the planning of the Seder service appear in the Talmud, where such parts of the present-day Haggadah as the Four Cups of wine and the Four Sons are mentioned. By 200 C.E., the Haggadah had a fairly fixed form; as time went on, additional material such as psalms were added. The Passover service became so long that sometime during the Middle Ages it was divided into two parts. The first part, including the Four Questions, narration of the exodus, and explanations of symbols, was recited before the meal. The second part consisted of the Grace, psalms, and songs after the meal. To make sure everyone understood the Haggadah, it was translated into many languages and often illustrated with biblical scenes and pictures of the Seder service. Many editions of the Haggadah have been written and printed throughout the world. The earliest manuscript available is from the 13th century; the earliest extant printed Haggadah carries the date 1505.


One of the minor prophets in the Bible. He encouraged Zerubbabel, governor of Judea after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile, and urged the rebuilding of the Temple. Haggai’s prophecy that the Second Temple would be more beautiful than the first was fulfilled.


See Bible.

HAI GAON (939-1038).

Head of the academy of Pumbeditha, Babylonia, Hai Gaon was the foremost authority of Talmudic law in his time. He was the last of the Geonim in Babylonia. In addition to his vast knowledge of Jewish law, he was familiar with Greek philosophy and Arabic literature and wrote poems and commentaries on the Bible.


Israel’s principal port, situated where the mountains meet the sea. Metropolitan Haifa has a population of 475,000. The city extends over the foot, slopes, and crest of Mount Carmel. Greater Haifa also includes Haifa Bay between the Kishon and Naaman rivers, with its oil refineries and heavy industries, as well as a chain of suburbs and villages. The lower city, fringing the harbor, is the mercantile center. Hadar Hacarmel is the residential and shopping section, interspersed with parks and gardens. Mount Carmel with its splendid forests, terraces of Persian gardens, and white villas commands a matchless view of the city, the sea, and the broad sweep of the bay, with snow-capped Mount Hermon in the hazy distance.

Haifa is not mentioned in the Bible, and is referred to only casually in the Talmud as a fishing village. Herzl called it the “city of the future” when it was still a small town of twisted streets. Until recent times it was cast in the shade by its rival Acre.

Its first Jewish community consisted of Moroccan and Algerian Jews who settled there in 1833. Once, it was linked with Damascus by the Hedjaz railway, and later to Cairo. Haifa’s growth has been phenomenal, spurred by the construction of the deep sea harbor by the British mandatory government. When the British departed in 1948, the Jewish population took over the city, which has become the metropolis of northern Israel.

The city of Haifa has two institutions of higher learning, the Technion and the University of Haifa.


Several Spanish Jewish families settled in Haiti in the 16th century. They were driven out when the French, who did not favor Jewish colonists, took the island from the Spanish in 1683. Because the predominantly Black republic of Haiti does not favor white immigration, few Jews have settled here, however, a number arrived during World War II. Currently, there are 100 Jews out of a population of about 6 million. All are engaged in commerce. There is no organized Jewish community in this island republic.


Term applied to Jewish law as interpreted by the masters of the Talmud and later authorities. The legal framework of Jewish tradition, especially the Mishnah and rabbinic laws, is known as Halacha, as distinguished from the legendary and narrative portions of the Talmud, called Aggadah.


Literally, encircling. During the Sukkot festival, culminating with Simchat Torah, people march around with the scroll of Torah carrying a lulav and an etrog, reminiscent of the procession around the altar in the time of the Temple.

Braided egg bread for the Friday night Sabbath meal, symbolic of the bread offering in the Temple.


Literally, hymns of praise. Consists of Psalms 113-118, which were sung by the Levites in the Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot, and later Hanukkah. Hallel became part of the synagogue morning service for those days and New Moons. During the chanting of Hallel on Sukkot the lulav, or palm branch, is waved. Some congregations recite Hallel on Passover after the evening service, and it is also part of the Seder, or Passover service. (See also Prayer.)

HALPERN, ROSE (1895-1978).

American Zionist leader. She headed Hadassah (1932-34, 1947-52) and became head of the American division of the World Jewish Congress in 1969.


Literally, distribution. A system for the support of Jews in Palestine with funds raised abroad. The tradition of subsidizing Palestinian Jews goes back to Talmudic times when higher institutions of Jewish learning received such support. Systematic halukah began in 1600, when fairly large numbers of Jews settled in the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron, and Tiberias to pray for the coming of the Messiah. Lacking means of support, they sent messengers, or meshulahim, to raise money in the Diaspora. During the 19th century halukah contributions came from the entire Jewish world. When the Zionist movement replaced Messianic longings with the ideal of self-help, halukah fell into disrepute. It still exists, but its scope has been reduced to a minimum.


Literally, pioneers. The term came into widespread use after World War I, when Joseph Trumpeldor helped found the Hechalutz movement in Russia. Inspired by the ideal of rebuilding Palestine as a Jewish homeland, Halutzim came from coun_tries ravaged by war and revolutions. To reach their goal, Russian Halutzim traveled dangerous roads over the Balkan lands and Caucasian mountains. Halutzim made up the bulk of the Third Aliyah, or immigration, to Palestine from 1918 to 1924. They undertook the most difficult tasks, building roads, draining swamps, and establishing colonies.

The first World Conference of the Hechalutz movement took place in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, in 1921. The movement established hakhsharot, or training farms, in many countries, particularly in Poland and other East European nations. The farms prepared the young Halutzim for agricultural life in Palestine, learning Hebrew and receiving a deeper knowledge of their people’s history. Before World War II, Hechalutz members numbered in the tens of thousands. At the present time, Hechalutz organizations exist in North and Latin America, North and South Africa, and several European countries.


Literally, warm or hot. Second son of Noah, whose descendants are described in Gen. 10:6-20 as inhabiting the southernmost regions of the earth.


See Purim.


See Passover.


American industrialist and art collector. He had business deals with Soviet Russia and became the owner of Occidental Petroleum Company, the world’s largest privately-owned oil company. An art museum in Los Angeles is named after him.

See Music.


Mother of the prophet Samuel, Hannah is famous for her story of barrenness and miraculous birth, which is recited on Rosh Hashanah.


The Feast of Dedication and Lights, which falls on the 25th of Kislev and lasts for eight days. It marks the rededication of the Temple by Judah Maccabee in 165 B.C.E. after his victory over the Syrians who had defiled the sanctuary. Tradition relates that Judah could find only a single cruse of oil which had not been contaminated by the enemy. Although it contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day, a miracle took place, and it burned for eight. Therefore, candles are lit throughout the holiday, one on the eve of the first day, two on the eve of the second, and so forth, until eight are kindled on the last evening.

A feast of liberation symbolizing the victory of the few over the many and of the weak over the strong, Hanukkah is one of the most joyful Jewish holidays. Gifts are given to children at candle-lighting time, and it is customary to play with a small top, or the dreidel, inscribed with the Hebrew letters N, G, H, and S. These stand for the words, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, meaning, “A great miracle happened there.”

In the synagogue, the Torah is read every day of Hanukkah, and Hallel, or Hymns of Praise, consisting of Psalms 113-118, is chanted. One of the hymns sung after the candles are lit is Maoz Zur (Rock of Ages). The prayer of Al Ha-Nissim (For the Miracles), which recounts the story of Hanukkah, is added to the Eighteen Benedictions and the usual order of Grace after meals.

The story of Hanukkah, which tells of the evil decrees of Antiochus Epiphanes against the Jews and the triumph of the Maccabees over their enemies, is related in the Book of the Maccabees of the Apocrypha. The second book contains the story of Hannah and her seven children who refused to bow before an idol and suffered a martyr’s death at the hands of Antiochus’ henchmen.

HARBY, ISAAC (1788-1828).

Critic, playwright, precursor of Reform Judaism. Born in Charleston, S.C., Harby received a thorough classical education, studied law, and became a journalist. His critical essays and dramatic plays brought him considerable reputation. In 1824, he organized the Reform Society of Israelites, which sought to make changes in the traditional synagogue service. This organization lasted less than a decade; but it pointed the way to the later Reform movement in American Judaism.


See Stage and Screen.


See Spain.


Literally, the watchman. From the beginning of modern Jewish settlement in Palestine in 1882, the settlers were exposed to attacks by their Arab neighbors. They resisted vigorously, and the Arabs soon realized that they faced a new type of Jew. Unlike their predecessors who had come to Palestine only to pray and die, the new settlers refused to be intimidated by physical threats. Some of these early heroic defenders became legends. They often fought the Arab marauders single-handed. At the same time they learned Arabic, studied Arab ways of thinking and living, and succeeded in establishing friendly relations with their Arab neighbors.

The first organized self-defense group was established in Palestine in 1907. The valor of this group of watchmen, which called itself Hashomer, soon became famous throughout Palestine. Galloping on their thoroughbred horses along the narrow paths of the Galilee mountains and valleys, the Shomrim were romantic figures. They paid a heavy price for their daring. Many of them fell fighting off armed marauders. They were also among the first to establish frontier settlements in Palestine; K’far Giladi in the north was an outstanding example.


Religious movement which began in the 18th century. At that time, life for the masses of Jews in the Ukraine and southern Europe was bitter and difficult. Jewish communities were destroyed or annihilated by the Cossack and peasant uprisings, and most Jews lived in stark poverty. Economically helpless, they were unable to acquire much learning. The scholarly rabbis and community leaders looked down upon the illiterate and semi-literate masses who spent their lives in poverty and ignorance.

To the common people who craved spiritual uplift, the personality and teachings of Israel Baal Shem Tov offered hope and dignity. The “Baal Shem” (ca. 1700-1760), founder of the Hasidic movement, placed prayer and faith on an equal level with scholarship and knowledge of the Law. Hasidism, therefore, appealed greatly to these “forgotten” Jews, for they no longer had to feel inferior to the scholar. Even the ignorant person, the Baal Shem taught, could find grace in the eyes of God if he prayed with purity of heart, devotion, and enthusiasm. Hasidism also introduced the idea of serving God with joy and happiness. It was opposed to excessive mourning and fasting as weakening to both the body and the soul.

The Hasidic movement encouraged a close bond among its followers. Mutual trust and companionship fostered a spirit of brotherhood. In the center of the closely knit group stood the tzaddik, or righteous man, the spiritual leader of the community who had reached a close union with God. He served as an intermediary between the Heavenly Power and man. His disciples’ admiration for the tzaddik and the faith in his powers were boundless. The Hasidism believed that through prayers the tzaddik could alter the decrees of God and even perform miracles. The position and ability of the tzaddik were believed to be hereditary. This trust and loyalty in the leader was at times carried to excess, and obscured the true meaning of Hasidism.

The Hasidic movement spread rapidly through the Ukraine, Poland, Galicia, and penetrated even the fortress of Jewish scholarship, Lithuania. The stress on prayer by the new popular movement; its lesser emphasis on Talmudic study; the creation of separate houses of prayer with some changes in liturgy; the extreme reliance on the tzaddik; and the inspired singing and dancing which was new to traditional services of the time: all of these deviations aroused bitter opposition from the Mitnagdim, the opponents of Hasidism. The opposition to the movement spread to many communities. Rabbis and leaders were alarmed at the rapid growth of Hasidism. The memory of the tragic Sabbatai Zevi affair contributed to the rabbis’ fear that Hasidism might cause a rift in Judaism. The greatest rabbinical authority of the 18th century, the Gaon Elijah of Vilna, shared this distrust of Hasidism. In a letter to all Jewish communities in Lithuania, he urged an all-out campaign against the Hasidic movement. This internal conflict at times took on ugly forms; false accusations were made to the governmental authorities, opponents were excommunicated, and physical violence was not uncommon.

Yet all these persecutions did not stop the advance of Hasidism. Opposing rabbis and leaders finally realized that the new movement did not represent a threat to Jewish unity. Hasidism, on the other hand, recognized the value of the study of the law, while retaining its own character and appeal to the Jewish masses. In fact, Hasidism today is associated with extreme Orthodoxy, and its followers often wear distinct garb and oppose secular studies.

After the death of the Baal Shem Tov, the movement was led by his disciple, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezhirich (1710-1772), also known as the great Maggid, or preacher. His “court” at the small town of Mezhirich became the center for the movement. Thousands of Jews flocked there to benefit from his wisdom and learning. His position as a scholar, preacher, and mystic contributed greatly toward the popular spread of Hasidism: eventually, it came to influence scholars as well.

Numerous disciples of Ber of Mezhirich established themselves as tzaddikim in their own right. They settled in various towns where they gained followers and influenced large numbers. Each one of them left an individual mark on Hasidism. Prominent among the famous Hasidic rabbis was Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev (1740-1809). His love for the individual was the predominant facet in his personality. In moving prayers, he appealed to God to put an end to the suffering of the Jewish people. His devotion to simple people and his kindness and understanding for the weaknesses of human nature became the subjects of numerous legends.

Another great disciple of Dov Ber of Mezhirich was Shneour Zalman (1748-1812), known as the Rabbi of Ladi. He introduced to Hasidism a more rational concept of Judaism, based on a profound knowledge of the Talmud and the Kabbalah, or teachings of Jewish mysticism. In the Tanya, Shneour Zalman formulated the three bases of his form of Hasidism: Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge (Chabad). Shneour Zalman emphasized scholarship as one of the pillars of Hasidism. He was among those falsely denounced for plotting against the Russian government. He was imprisoned and not released until his innocence had been clearly established. The branch of Hasidism begun by Shneour Zalman eventually became known as the Chabad or Lubavitch movement. (See Shneerson.)

One of the most original and creative Hasidic teachers was Nachman of Bratzlav, the grandson of the Baal Shem. Close to nature and poetic, he preached the doctrine of simple and direct faith. For a short time he lived in Palestine and for the remainder of his life cherished a burning love for Zion. Nachman was a master of parable and fairytales in which he displayed a rich imagination and a deep morality.

Hasidism branched out in different directions and assumed various forms. The movement produced great teachers who enriched Jewish values and exerted great influence on the spiritual life of Jews for 200 years. Pinkhas of Koretz, Elimelekh of Lizhensk, Jacob Yitzhak of Lublin (“The Seer”), Mendel of Kotzk, and many others were leaders who extended the influence and scope of Hasidism. To this day, Hasidism remains a vital force among Jews around the world. Many Hasidic rebbes who survived the Holocaust resettled in the U.S. and Israel and established new communities. In modern times, Hasidism has served as a source of inspiration for such non-Hasidic literary masters as Peretz, Berditchevsky, Asch, and Agnon. Jewish culture as a whole owes a great debt to the movement. Almost every form of artistic expression


See Maccabees.


Literally, The Hope. The national anthem of Israel. Written in 1878 by the poet Naphtali Herz Imber and set to music by Samuel Cohen, it was adopted as the Zionist national anthem early in the 20th century. Since then, it has been accepted by Jews throughout the world. Ha-Tikvah expresses the eternal hope of Israel to live as a free nation in the land of Zion. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, Ha-Tikvah, with a slight change of the wording in its last two lines, became the national anthem.

. See Sabbath.


Literally, fellowship. Small groups of Jews who meet for study and fellowship, begun after the destruction of the Second Temple in the 1st century C.E. In the U.S. in the late 1960’s, because of their discontent with organized Jewish life and the alienation of individuals and families in society, Jews inside and outside the organized community formed such groups to revitalize the Jewish experience. Some of those Havurot have endured as a new expression of the grassroots American Jewish experience.


. Fiftieth state of the U.S., admitted on August 21, 1959, there were about 7,000 Jews in Hawaii, most of them in Honolulu, comprising less than one percent of the general population. The majority came to the Islands during the past 20 years. Community life centers around Temple Emanu-El which conducts a religious school and adult education courses.


Originally, at the time of the Talmud, the hazan was a caretaker of the synagogue and a functionary at the religious ceremonials. Today, the term hazan, or cantor, is applied to one who chants the religious services at temple and synagogue.

Modern cantonal music had its origin in the work of the Jewish Italian rabbi and composer, Salomon Rossi. Salomon Sulzer, Louis Lewandowsky, and many other hazanim in the 19th century helped develop the cantonal music used extensively in the synagogue to this day. Among the great cantors of our time, Rosenblatt, Kusevitsky, and Oysher stand out.

HAZAZ, CHAIM (1898-1973).

One of the great masters of Hebrew prose. He won early recognition with his portrayal of life in a Jewish small town during the Russian revolution and civil war of 1917. His range of writing embraces Jewish life in many countries and generations. One of his penetrating satirical novels on the life of Yemenite Jewry has been translated into English and published as Mori Said. Born in Ukraine, he settled in Palestine in 1931.


Fortress on a hill in northeastern Galilee; site of one of the major archeological discoveries of our time (See Yadin). It revealed several ancient civilizations, inspiring James Michener’s The Source, a historical novel about Jews and Israel.


In the Hebrew Bible there is little mention of life after death. Basically, life in ancient Israel was here and now, and posterity simply meant the perpetuation of life through one’s descendants. In the story of creation, life begins in the Garden of Eden, or paradise, which lasts for only one generation (See Adam and Eve). Later, we find allusions to a netherworld called Sheol, where one goes after death, but it is never explained in any detail.

It is not until the post-biblical period that new beliefs in life after death and in reward and punishment in the next life begin to emerge. These new beliefs coincided with similar ideas in Christianity, the new religion of that time to which those beliefs were central. But even in Talmudic literature the ideas about heaven and hell remain vague, more allegorical than dogmatic. In Hebrew “heaven” is referred to as Gan Eden, or Garden of Eden, and “hell” is gehinom, the name of a valley outside Jerusalem where the scapegoat was sacrificed on Yom Kippur. In one Talmudic story, heaven is described as the place where the righteous people sit in a circle with crowns on their heads and learn divine wisdom directly from God.

In the Middle Ages, a time of supernatural belief and superstition, the idea of heaven and hell became well established and quite vivid, and many Jews lived in fear of hell and deep hope for heaven. In modern times, however, Reform Jews choose to believe in the immortality of the soul, while the Orthodox continue to believe in heaven and hell. Conservative Judaism leaves this belief to the individual.

A belief related to heaven and hell is the resurrection of the dead, one of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of the Jewish faith. Yet even Maimonides vacillates when he discusses this belief. Another related idea is the transmigration of souls, which appears in the Kabbalah as gilgul neshamot.

Regardless, however, of individuals’ belief in heaven and hell, the focus of Judaism has always been on life here and now, the time during which one must live a worthy life.


Hebrew belongs to the northern group of Semitic languages, which also includes Aramaic, Assyrian, Arabic, and Syriac. Most of the ancient peoples in the lands adjoining Palestine—the Moabites, Amorites, and Edomites—seem to have spoken a common language.
The ancient Ugaritic tablets dating back to the 14th century B.C.E. and found in the city of Ugarit in Northern Syria, and the Moabite Stone of King Mesha from 9th century B.C.E. are both written in Hebrew or in a closely related dialect. Although Hebrew under­went many modifications in the course of genera­tions, it has retained its ancient structure and character. It is basically the same language today as 3,500 years ago in the days of the Patriarchs. The rich literature of the Bible has preserved for us some of the ancient forms of the language as well as its basic characteristics.

The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters, all consonants. Vowel signs were invented much later for easier reading and are placed under and above the consonants. However, even in ancient times, some letters, such as Aleph, He, Vav, and Yod, served the purpose of vowels. All the parts of speech and word forms are based on a root, generally con­sisting of three letters. This root is expanded by means of prefixes and suffixes, as well as by changes in sound or vocalization. A verb may be used in several and sometimes all of the seven conjugations, giving the language flexibility.

Biblical Hebrew is distinguished by its simplicity and directness. It is vivid and expressive, lending itself beautifully to the poetic form. At the same time, it has few abstract forms, adjectives, and adverbs.

During the Babylonian Exile (586 B.C.E.) the development of Hebrew was marked by the ever­-increasing influence of the Aramaic language on Hebrew grammar and vocabulary. During the period of the Second Temple, Mishnaic Hebrew came into being. The language of the Mishnah essentially follows the rules of biblical Hebrew, but it is enriched with new words and grammatical forms. Greek and Latin terms were assimilated and given Hebraic form. The language became more descriptive and now better equipped to express ideas, both practical and abstract.

Although Hebrew was rarely used again as an everyday language until the growth of modern Zionism in the 19th century, it continued as the language of prayer and literature. Jews at all times displayed love and affection for Hebrew as their holy tongue, in which the Bible was written and the Law proclaimed. It was a reminder of the days of their independence and glory. Throughout the ages, poets, scholars, philosophers, gram­marians, and translators all contributed to the development of Hebrew. In the Middle Ages, Hebrew was influenced by Arabic. The scientific works translated into Hebrew from the Arabic enriched the Hebrew vocabulary and increased its power to express new ideas.

A revival of the Hebrew literature and language took place in the 19th century. This revival was marked in the beginning by a return to biblical Hebrew. But in the course of time, it was recognized that classical Hebrew re­quired expansion and modification if it was to be used as a modern tongue. It became necessary to coin new words and expressions and to adapt old ones for modern needs.
In the 1880’s, Eliezer Ben Yehudah pioneered in the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. His example was taken up enthusiastically by many followers. Hebrew-speaking groups were formed throughout the world. A mass of technical and scientific terms in all fields of human endeavor were created. The ancient tongue has displayed remarkable adaptability to modern needs. Today, Hebrew keeps pace with the steady progress of science and technology. It is the living language of the State of Israel.


Hebrew literature from the biblical days to the present embraces a period of approximately 3,500 years. The Bible, the cornerstone of the Jewish religion, law, and ethics, has been the source of inspiration for Hebrew literary activity throughout Jewish history. The monumental works of the Talmud and Midrashic literature are essentially interpretations of and commentaries on the Bible, or writings stimulated by it.

The books of the Bible were not the only spiritual and literary treasures of this early period in Jewish history. The Bible itself mentions the Book of Wars of the Lord, The Book of the Righteous, and the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel, all of which have been lost in antiquity. It is likely that many more such epic works have similarly disappeared.

The period following the return of the Jews from Babylonia (538 B.C.E.) and the reestablishment of the Jewish commonwealth witnessed the revival of Hebrew literary activity. Many works followed the pattern and character of the Bible. Because they were of a later period, these works were not deemed worthy to be included among the sacred books of the Bible. Most of the Apocrypha, as these books are called, were written in Hebrew and represent a link between the Bible and the subsequent Midrashic literature. Parts of the original Hebrew text of one of the Apocryphal Wisdom books, Ben Sira, have recently been recovered. Other Apocrypha have come down to us in their Greek, Latin and Syriac translations. Of great historical and literary value are the recently found Dead Sea Scrolls


Reform rabbinical seminary founded in Cincinnati in 1875 by Isaac Mayer Wise. After two earlier failures, Wise succeeded in starting the school under the auspices of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations which he helped establish in 1873. Meeting first in the basement of Rabbi Wise’s Temple Bnei Jeshurun, the school graduated four rabbis in its first class in 1883. Since its founding the school has ordained more than 1,879 Reform rabbis, of which 72 are women.

Merged in 1950 with the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, the school, now known as HUC-JIR, has four campuses: one in Cincinnati which includes the American Jewish Archives; another in New York which includes the Jewish Institute of Religion building; a third in Los Angeles, and a fourth in Jerusalem. The New York and Los Angeles campuses include schools for the training of cantors and religious teachers; in addition, the Los Angeles campus has a training school for pro_fessional workers in American Jewish community agencies. In 1996, Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman became president of HUC, replacing Dr. Alfred Gottschalk. He was succeeded by Rabbi David Ellenson, current President.


Its six Faculties


Fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, five.

HEIFETZ, JASCHA (1901-1987).

Violin virtuoso. A child prodigy, Heifetz entered the Royal Society of Music in Vilna, Russia, before he was four. His first concert was held two years later; by the age of nine he was appearing with the great orchestras of Europe. Enthusiastic response to his New York debut in 1917 led him to settle in the U.S. Although Heifetz’s technique was perfected before he was 18, his career showed con_tinuous musical development. His own experiments in composition are believed to have contributed to this development. Heifetz is considered one of the most brilliant violinists of the concert stage.

HEINE, HEINRICH (1797-1856).

One of the greatest German poets. The French Revolution, which started eight years before Heine’s birth, shook the ghettos of Germany, influenced Heine and made him a poet of liberty. Sent to Goettingen to study law, he obtained his degree only after baptism, because the University of Goettingen did not grant degrees to Jews. Bitterness entered Heine’s soul and made his pen razor-sharp. He never practiced law, instead traveled and wrote his exquisite Harzreise (The Harz Journey) in 1826. Heine’s brilliant political satires attacked tyranny in high places. A pamphlet against the German nobility made him a fugitive. He settled in Paris where he lived and wrote until his death. He spent the last ten years of his life on his “mattress-grave,” suffering from a crippling disease.

Heine’s lyrical poems are masterpieces of world literature. Even the Nazis who burned his books could not erase the love of these poems from the people. Since the Germans persisted in singing Die Lorelei, it was reprinted without the author’s name. Heine’s baptism was never more than expedient. He called it “the admission ticket to European civilization.” His work is full of references, sometimes tender, sometimes ironic, to his Jewishness and to Judaism. Heine’s Jewish sensitivity emerges as tense drama in the unfinished novel Rabbi of Bacharach; it flashes with superb irony in the play Almansor, whose Moslem character disguises Jewish themes. Heine’s Hebrew Melodies contain some of the best Jewish poems ever written outside the Hebrew language.


See Heaven and Hell.


Greek civilization of antiquity. It was Alexander the Great‘s policy to introduce the Hellenistic culture in the vanquished countries of the Near East. Adopting elements of Near Eastern cultures, Hellenism lost much of its pure Greek spirit. However, it held a great attraction for the conquered people, who were fascinated by the Greek language, arts and science, and the Hellenist cult of body perfection. Of the Near East cultures only Judaism opposed Hellenism. The Greek belief in many gods and Hellenistic sensuality conflicted with Jewish monotheism and strict morality. The struggle between Hebraism and Hellenism came to a head in the Maccabean rebellion. Hebraism was victorious, the Judeans regained their independence, and the spread of Hellenism was checked in Judea.

The large Jewish communities in the Hellenistic kingdoms in Asia, particularly Alexandria and Antioch, were deeply influenced by Hellenism. They became largely Greek-speaking, and the Bible was translated into Greek and called the Sep_tuagint for their use. A Greco-Jewish philosophy developed; the interpretation of the Bible by Philo of Alexandria is outstanding. Traces of Greek influence remain in some of the Jewish Wisdom literature of this period, such as Apocrypha, and in such words as synagogue, sanhedrin, and parnas which passed into the language spoken by Jews.

HELLER, JOSEPH (1923-1999).

American novelist. Best known for his satire Catch 22, Heller draws on his Jewish background in other satirical novels such as Good As Gold and in his memoirs.


See Prague.

HELLMAN, LILLIAN (1905-1984).

American playwright. Known for plays like The Children’s Hour, she was involved in the dramatization of the Diary of Anne Frank.


In the Bible this term applied to that which is accursed, put under a ban, and therefore not fit for use. Later, it came to mean excommunication or expulsion from the community. The person upon whom the herem was pronounced was alienated from all social and trade relations with other Jews. In extreme cases the offender was denied such basic Jewish rights as marriage into a Jewish family, circumcision for his children, or even a Jewish burial. However, the religious authorities resorted to such extreme measures only when they felt that the future of Judaism was at stake. Such was the case in the 17th century, for example, when the herem was pronounced on the followers of the false messiah, Sabattai Zevi.

During and after the Middle Ages the herem was used extensively by religious authorities to ensure obedience to their religious decisions. The most celebrated herem was introduced by Rabbenu Gershom and forbade Jews under penalty of excommunication from taking more than one wife in marriage, or divorcing a woman against her will.

In later centuries the powerful weapon of the herem was wielded more capriciously.

WOUK, HERMAN (1915-2019).

American author. Best known for The Caine Mutiny and writing about Judaism for the secular public.

Born into an Orthodox Jewish immigrant family from Minsk, Belarus. The middle of three children, his younger brother Victor was a brilliant electrical engineer.

When Wouk was 13, his grandfather, Rabbi Mendel Leib Levine, immigrated to America and this had a strong impact in Wouk’s Jewish education and inspired Wouk’s lifelong dedication to Judaism. Wouk said “When my grandfather came he brought a whole different attitude into our lives … What he said was in his action. There is nothing more important than being a Jew. Nothing.”

For much of his life, Wouk studied the Talmud daily and led a weekly Talmud class. Wouk attended and supported many synagogues throughout his life. Kesher Israel Georgetown Synagogue in Washington D.C. is known as “Herman Wouk’s synagogue.” Wouk called it “the best little shul in America.” Later he attended Chabad of Palm Springs. Wouk was a dedicated supporter of Israel and was awarded the Bar-Ilan University Guardian of Zion Award in 1998.

He attended Columbia University and studied psychology and literature, graduating in 1934. While at Columbia he wrote a humor column for the campus newspaper and edited the Jester, a humor magazine. He later received an honorary degree from Yeshiva University in 1954.

Wouk started his writing career in radio. From 1936-1941, he wrote jokes and sketches for radio host Fred Allen. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a radio officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers in the Pacific where he participated in eight campaigns, won several battle stars, and achieved the rank of lieutenant. Wouk’s experiences in the U.S. Navy strongly influenced his later writings, and he was presented with the United States Navy Lone Sailor Award in 1987.

Herman Wouk was a prolific author and he remained an immensely popular and influential author throughout his life. The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1952. Wouk appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1955 when Marjorie Morningstar was published. He won the Jewish Book Council Lifetime Literary Achievement Award (1999), and the Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction (2008).

Many of his books became bestsellers and Book of the Month Club selection. Among his most popular novels are The Winds of War (1971), and War and Remembrance (1978). His autobiography and last book, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author, was published in 2016.

Herman Wouk helped adapt several of these books into movies, television, or theatre. In 1952, The Caine Mutiny was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and was adapted into a Broadway play “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Marjorie Morningstar was adapted into a movie in 1958 starring Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly. The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were both turned into television miniseries.

Wouk also wrote non-fiction, most notably This is My God: The Jewish Way of Life (1959) which is an attempt to explain Judaism to Gentiles and more secular Jews. It is still popular today.

His Judaism and Jewish background was important and made significant appearances in his other works as well as he tapped into his own heritage and Orthodox Jewish upbringing. This makes him fairly unique among popular writers.

HEROD THE GREAT (ca. 73-4 B.C.E.).

King of Judea. Son of Antipater and grandson of Antipas, rulers of Edom. Antipater was the friend and advisor of Hyrcanus II. When the Romans conquered Palestine, Antipater was appointed to an important political post. As a result of his influence, his son Herod became governor of Galilee. Herod married Mariamne, granddaughter of Hyrcanus, in order to be related to the Hasmonean family. He was friendly with the Romans and won their favor by his loyalty. In the year 40 B.C.E., the Roman Senate crowned him king of Judea. The Jews hated Herod not only because he was an Edomite and a friend of their Roman enemies but because he did not respect their religion. He waged war against Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus of the house of the Hasmonean dynasty who demanded the throne of Judea for himself. In this battle (37 B.C.E.) Herod captured Jerusalem, put Antigonus to death, and destroyed the Hasmonean house. He showed no mercy even for his own wife and children whom he ordered killed some years later.

Herod deprived the Sanhedrin of its executive powers, but allowed it to function in religious matters. With the Romans’ permission, he extended the borders of Palestine from Damascus to Egypt, developed foreign trade, and built Samaria and Caesarea. He won fame for rebuilding the Temple (20-19 B.C.E.), which he decorated lavishly. He had beautiful buildings constructed in Jerusalem, too. Nevertheless, the people’s hatred of the tyrant was not lessened by these acts. Legend has it that, feeling death at hand, he commanded his men to execute a number of Jewish leaders the day he died, in order to lessen the popular joy at his passing. This final act of cruelty, however, was not carried out.

HERTZ, HEINRICH (1857-1894).

German physicist; pupil of the German scholar Helmholtz. He became world-famous through his experiments on the propagation of electrical waves. These experiments proved the electromagnetic theory of light that had been developed in 1865 by the British physicist Maxwell. Hertz’s work paved the way for the era of electronics, culminating in the discovery of wireless telegraphy, radio, and television.


Chief Rabbi of the British Empire from 1913 to his death. Hertz was one of the leaders of the Mizrachi Organization in England. He assisted in obtaining the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which proclaimed Palestine as a Jewish homeland. During World War II he worked untiringly to save Jews from death in Nazi-occupied lands. Of his written works, the best known are The Book of Jewish Thoughts, a translation and commentary on the Torah, and a translation and commentary on the prayer book.

HERTZBERG, ARTHUR (1921-2006).

American rabbi and leader. Known for his book The Zionist Idea, he headed the American Jewish Congress from 1972 to 1978.


Founder of modern political Zionism. Born in Budapest to an affluent intellectual Jewish family, he was educated at the University of Vienna, admitted to the bar in 1884, and shortly afterward turned to writing. He became a journalist and playwright, particularly famous for his feuilletons, a special type of literary column. In 1891, Herzl became the Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse, the leading liberal newspaper of that day. All his life, he had faced the antisemitism of fellow students and professors. At first he advocated assimilation. But later in Paris he tried to counteract this hatred by writing a play on antisemitism, The New Ghetto. But then the Dreyfus Case occurred, shocking Herzl and changing the whole course of his life. As a newspaper correspondent, Herzl attended the trial and discovered that it was not Dreyfus the army captain, but Dreyfus the Jew who was on trial. Deeply shaken, Herzl took action. He proposed a solution to the problem of antisemitism: the creation of a Jewish State. He started to write down his ideas as he tried to put them into action. While writing Judenstaat (The Jewish State), he began to search for financial support and leadership. Herzl first approached the philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch who dismissed the idea as “fantastic.” Herzl then wrote to Albert Rothschild of Vienna and got no reply at all. The paper he reported for, the Neue Freie Presse, refused to print any articles about a Jewish state. In 1895, it looked as though Herzl’s ideas would never take hold, but then Max Nordau, the Paris physician who was famous as a writer and social philosopher, encouraged him to continue with his cause.

In 1896, Herzl’s Judenstaat was published. Popular response grew, and in January 1897, Herzl issued a call for a Zionist congress. The first Zionist Congress met in Basle, Switzerland, on August 27, 1897. The congress was attended by 204 delegates from 17 countries. Herzl, a magnetic figure, stood before them and declared that “Zionism was the Jewish people on the march.” He reported his efforts to get European nations’ approval and assistance for the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine by obtaining a “charter” from Turkey. He won over the Duke of Baden, uncle of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He went to Constantinople and negotiated with important Turkish ministers, and he was received by King Ferdinand of Bulgaria. In London, he won over the Jewish masses and interested the writer Israel Zangwill. Finally, to provide a forum which would serve as the voice of Zionism, he founded with his own funds the journal Die Welt. During three days of deliberation, the first Zionist Congress created the World Zionist Organization and formulated the Basle Program, stating that “Zionism aims to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.” For this purpose the Congress decided to obtain the necessary backing of various governments as a legal foundation for the Jewish homeland. Herzl was elected president of the World Zionist Organization. The next, and last, seven years of his life were years of feverish work. At the next five Zionist Congresses (1898-1903), over which he presided, the policies and institutions of the movement were hammered out. The Jewish Colonial Trust (the Zionist banking arm) and the Jewish National Fund (its land purchasing agency) were established. Herzl conducted diplomatic negotiations and was received by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, by Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey, and by British statesmen. In the midst of it all, he wrote the novel Altneuland, a Utopian vision of the Zionist state. To obtain a promise of diplomatic support in Turkey, Herzl traveled to Russia where he was received by two key members of the Government, Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve and Finance Minister Sergei Witte. Traveling through Russia, Herzl saw the dreadful suffering of Russian Jews, who were subjected to periodic pogroms. He was so deeply affected that he decided to accept the British offer of Uganda in East Africa as a temporary asylum for Russian Jewry. In August 1903, Herzl presided over a Zionist Congress for the last time. This time 592 delegates attended, and the democratic temper was clearly demonstrated. The Uganda project was rejected after painful sessions. The delegates wanted the Land of Israel or nothing, and the Zionist movement seemed badly split. Herzl continued working for a “charter” for Palestine. In January 1904, he was received by King of Italy Victor Emmanuel III, who responded favorably. Pope Pius X, however, gave Herzl a clear “no.” In April 1904, Herzl met with Zionist executives and made every effort to unify the movement. Worn out, his heart failing, he attended some of the sessions with an ice pack under his frock coat. On July 3, 1904, he died, but the work he had begun carried on. Fifty years after the first Zionist Congress, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. Over a year later, Theodor Herzl’s remains were flown from Vienna to Israel. The author of the Jewish State was laid to rest on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on August 17, 1949.

Israeli soldier and statesman. Born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog, he immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and obtained a thorough schooling in religious and secular studies. In 1939, he enlisted in the British army and participated in the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945. He returned to Palestine in 1947 and rejoined the Haganah. Upon formation of the Israel Defense Forces in 1948, Herzog served as chief of military intelligence until 1950 and as defense attach


American Jewish religious philosopher. He is considered a neo-hasidist. In eloquent and inspiring language, his writings about the Sabbath, the prophets, and man and God had a deep effect on his generation. During the 1960’s he was active in the civil rights movement and later in the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

HESS, MOSES (1812-1875).

Political leader, writer, and forerunner of modern Zionism. He was born in Bonn, Germany, and died in Paris. As a youth he was attracted to the study of philosophy and later participated in the Socialist movement with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Then he turned to Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of the German Socialist Democratic Party, and became active in the workers’ movement. After the failure of the 1848 Revolution in Germany, Hess settled in Paris, where he began to study the problem of the Jewish people and to think about its destiny. In 1962, he published a small book titled Rome and Jerusalem in which he wrote that Jewish national consciousness could not be erased, as the German Jewish Reform movement attempted. Humankind is a family of many nations, and small peoples have the right to an equal place in it. Every cultural group has something to contribute to world civilization, he said, and Jewish people, too, have much to contribute. The only solution to the Jewish question is the settlement of Palestine, under the protection of some European power. His ideas in Rome and Jerusalem came to be a basic part of Zionist thinking, and for them Moses Hess is remembered.


Eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, eight.


A group of Jews that performs the traditional preparations for burial of the dead.


See United Hias Service.


See Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.


See Kohen.


(ca. 1st century B.C.E.). Talmudic authority. Born in Babylonia, he came to Palestine to study Law. His fame as a brilliant scholar grew, and he became the leader of the Pharisees and head of the liberal school of interpretation of the Jewish law. Many legends are told about Hillel’s devotion to learning, simplicity, and modesty. In his youth, he was a laborer, spending a large portion of his earnings on his tuition. Once, when he lacked the price of admission to the house of study, he climbed onto the roof and through the skylight listened to the discussions of the rabbis. He became so absorbed that he did not mind the snow that covered him almost completely. Half-frozen, he was finally noticed by the scholars inside, taken down, and revived.

In his interpretation of the law, Hillel’s first consideration was the welfare of the people. He established regulations which were aimed at reconciling the ancient law with new conditions. One of these, the “prosbul,” made it possible for the poor to borrow money at the approach of the seventh, or sabbatical, year when people were reluctant to lend money, since all debts were canceled during that year.

There is a tradition that Hillel was a descendant of the House of David. His saintliness and scholarship earned him the love and respect of his countrymen. King Herod appointed him head of the Sanhedrin. He remained the spiritual leader of the Jews for a period of 40 years. His utterances reveal his nobility of character. His love of peace was great. He said, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving thy fellow creatures, and drawing them close to the Torah.” His tolerance is illustrated by the story of the heathen who asked Hillel to teach him all of the principles of Judaism while he stood on one foot. Hillel replied, “Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do unto you. This is the whole law; the rest is commentary.” As contrasted with his great opponent Shammai, Hillel stands out as the liberal interpreter of Jewish law.


Formerly B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. A network of cultural, religious, and social centers for Jewish college youth. The first Hillel Foundation was set up at the University of Illinois in 1924 to make Jewish life and culture vital and meaningful to col­lege students. Taken up as a national project by B’nai B’rith in 1925, the Foundation, now, main­tains 120 foundations and affiliates on more than 300 campuses in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe (including Russia), Israel, and Australia. In addi­tion, it has professorships of Judaic studies in American universities. Hillel campus programs include cultural, religious, fellowship, community service, personal guidance, and interfaith activities. To stimulate discussion and understanding of Jewish life and thought, the foundation published a series of Hillel Little Books. What is the Jewish Heritage, by Ludwig Lewisohn, was the first.


See B’nai B’rith.

Financier and philanthropist. From a titled and wealthy family, he became one of the richest men in Europe by investing his inheritance in railroads, banking, and other industries. When his plan to improve the deplorable condition of Russian Jews failed to receive the Czar’s approval, he formed the Jewish Colonization Association in order to resettle Jews in various parts of the world and to establish colonies in North and South America, particularly Argentina. Hirsch believed that the condition of Jews could be greatly improved if they were to become farmers and industrial workers in less densely populated areas of the world. To this end, he established agriculture and industrial schools in both Europe and the New World. Baron de Hirsch gave millions of dollars to charitable causes of all sorts. In 1887, his only son died. “I have lost my son but not my heir,” he said. “Humanity is my heir.”


German rabbi and champion of neo-Orthodoxy. Hirsch was vehemently opposed to the Reform movement and advocated the separation of his followers from any community where Reform Judaism had gained the upper hand. Due to his initiative, the German Parliament in 1876 legalized the secession of Orthodox Jews from the Jewish community. In 1836, Hirsch published an uncompromising defense of the institutions and laws of Judaism and a statement of his theories on neo-Orthodoxy. In opposition to the German Reform movement, Hirsch maintained that the acceptance of biblical and Talmudic authority was necessary to a true understanding of Judaism. He felt Judaism needed a reinterpretation and spiritualization of the traditional laws and practices to give them deeper meaning and significance in the modern world. Hirsch founded a day school which combined a thorough Jewish education with modern secular training. He published Horeb, a book on the religious duties of the Jewish people in exile, and voluminous commentaries on the Pentateuch and the Book of Psalms. A commentary on the Jewish prayer book, based on his writings, was published after his death.


General Federation of Jewish Labor in Israel. Founded in 1920 by representatives of 4,500 Jewish workers in Palestine, the Histadrut has become the most powerful non-governmental organization in Israel, an institution unique in the history of labor movements. David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and Joseph Sprinzak were among the early founders and leaders of the organization. By 1993, the Histadrut membership was about 1.8 million. Each member pays dues to the federation and receives in return full medical coverage through Kupat Holim, or the Workers’ Sick Fund, old age and disability benefits, and the right to participate in all its cultural and social activities and elections. On joining the Histadrut, the worker automatically becomes a member of the General Cooperative Association of Israel, founded by the Histadrut to facilitate the growth of new industries. Most of Israel’s consumers’ and producers’ cooperatives belong to it. About 25% of Israel’s GNP is attributed to Histadrut owned and centrally-managed enterprises. Most workers also belong to one of 35 trade and industrial unions affiliated with the Histadrut. These unions include both skilled and unskilled laborers, as well as professional, academic, and clerical workers. Through coordination of bargaining policy, the Histadrut has striven to maintain uniform standards throughout Israel. Nationally, the Histadrut has been active in preparing labor legislation for consideration by the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. The Histadrut also maintains local labor councils in towns and villages; a Working Women’s Council; a Working Youth Organization; an Agricultural Workers’ Center; and Shikun Ovdim, which builds low-cost homes for workers and their families. Its cultural activities has included publication of two daily newspapers, Daver and Omer, the latter a publication for newcomers; Ohel, a full-scale repertory theater; Hapoel, a national sports organization; a publishing house; vocational and general schools for both children and adults; libraries; and a department for the organization of lectures, concerts, and discussion groups. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Histadrut has accepted Israel’s Arabs for membership in its unions; the Israel Labor League, an all-Arab union, is a Histadrut affiliate. To facilitate the integration of Arabs into the economic and cultural life of Israel, the Histadrut maintains a special Arab Department.


American organization of Hebraists, founded in New York in 1916 to promote the Hebrew language. It publishes Hadoar, the only Hebrew-language weekly outside Israel.

HOFETZ HAIM (ca. 1837-1933).

Scholar, author, and one of the prominent leaders of Polish Orthodox Jewry. Born Israel Meir Kahan in Zhitil, Poland, he derived his surname from his book Hofetz Haim (He Who Desires Life), a treatise against slander. Rabbi Kahan founded a yeshiva in Radin and, refusing important rabbinical positions, devoted his time to writing and teaching. When World War I erupted, he was active in raising funds for the support of Polish and Russian Jewry. Often he interceded in their behalf before the Russian government. In 1930, he personally protested to the Polish government against government interference with Jewish religious and economic rights. A learned man, he was the author of thirty books on Jewish ethics and law. Mishnah Berurah, a six-volume treatise on Joseph Karo‘s Orah Haim, is a highly valuable manual for rabbis today.


See Stage and Screen.


Days between the beginning and the end of the festival, which are only semi-holidays.


See Netherlands.

In the Jewish people’s long history of martyrdom, the catastrophe that eventuated from the six years of Nazi conquest in Europe between 1939 and 1945 was unprecedented in suffering and death. The Jewish people lost more than 6 million people, or two-thirds of its European community, and one-third of the entire Jewish people.

On February 24, 1920, an ex-corporal in the German army named Adolf Hitler and a group of professional antisemitic agitators, including Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, and Gottfried Feder, met in a Munich beer hall and founded the National Socialist Party. (Streicher and Rosenberg were later sentenced to death by hanging by the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg in October 1946. Hitler escaped the world’s verdict by committing suicide in his private bunker in Berlin at the end of April 1945.)

Nazi Program. The core of the National Socialist Party (Nazi) program was the racist doctrine that “only he in whose veins German blood flows” might be considered a citizen of Germany, and therefore “no Jew can belong to the German nation.” Antisemitism was the emotional foundation of the Nazi movement; every member of the Nazi party was an antisemite.

Hitler, the Fuehrer, or dictatorial leader, of the Nazi Party, announced his antisemitism as well as his inhumanity proudly: “Yes, we are barbarians! We want to be barbarians! It is an honorable title. We shall rejuvenate the world! This world is near its end


. See Israel.


The first Jews to reach Honduras were East Europeans who came from other Latin American countries in the 1920’s. In 1998, there were fewer than 50 Jews in Honduras, in a general population of 5.5 million. Almost all live in Tegucigalpa, the capital, and engage in trade.


Concert pianist. Born in Kiev, Russia, Horowitz studied music at the conservatory in his native city. He performed his first solo concert in 1921 and made his American debut seven years later. He settled in New York, and in 1933 married Wanda Toscanini, daughter of the famous conductor. A great interpreter of classical music, Horowitz has appeared with outstanding orchestras everywhere. His numerous recordings have made him a household name.

HOSEA (c. 784-725 B.C.E.).

First of the minor prophets. He lived in the turbulent idolatrous northern Kingdom of Israel when it was at the height of its power under the rule of Jeroboam II. Hosea’s prophecies thunder against moral, religious, and political evils as offenses against God. He predicted the doom of Israel as punishment for its idol worship and social injustice. Yet he loved his people and saw visions of its restoration after the punishment. Then a reconciliation between Israel and God would come about, arising out of God’s love of Israel and all humanity. Hosea’s all-consuming ideal is love; in striking phrases he compares God to a loving father and faithful husband.

Hosea’s words (2:21-22) are recited by the observant Jew when he puts on his tefillin, or phylacteries, each morning. As he winds the thong of the hand phylactery three times around his middle finger, he pledges himself anew to the three-fold ideal first pronounced by Hosea.


See Sukkot.

HOUDINI, HARRY (1874-1926).

World’s most famous magician. Born Ehrich Weiss, he was known mainly as an escape artist, who could be chained inside a water-filled tank and still be able to escape. His exploits have never been surpassed.


Literally, Lovers of Zion. A 19th-century East European organization for the settlement of Jews in Palestine. A direct reaction to the widespread pogroms in Tsarist Russia, it grew out of the thinking and writing of a few men and from scattered colonization societies that began to spring up in the 1860’s. The Hoveve Zion federation was organized formally at a conference in Kattowitz, Silesia, in November 1884. (See also Zionism.)


Violinist. Huberman began to study the violin in his native Warsaw at the age of six and made his first public appearance a year later. He pursued a successful career in Germany until Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. In 1936, he visited Palestine, where he conceived the idea of founding a Palestine Symphony Orchestra. Owing to his unstinting efforts, the orchestra was founded, and Arturo Toscanini conducted its first concert in December 1936. This was the forerunner of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.


Jews lived in Hungary as far back as Roman times, when the area was part of the Roman province of Dacia. Conquest of the land by invading Magyars in 897 meant for Jews continuous plunder and persecution at the hands of Catholic kings. Under Turkish rule from 1526 to 1686, the situation of the Jewish populace greatly improved. Austrian domination, however, again changed their circumstances for the worse. France Joseph II (1741-1790) emancipated the Jews, but his decree was carried out only partially. A number of Jews fought on the side of Hungary against Austria in the revolution of 1848.

At that time there was a severe struggle between the Orthodox and Reform elements of Hungarian Jewry, which led to a split in 1871. Three congregational groupings emerged: Orthodox, Reform, and “status quo.” Modern Hungarian Jewry has been characterized by sharp contrasts: on the one hand, extreme piety; on the other, extreme assimilation, even to the point of conversion to Christianity.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Hungarian Jews were occupying important positions in the economic and cultural life of the country, in the arts, the press, and the sciences. However, the interval between the two World Wars was marked by the growth of antisemitism.

Before World War II ended, the Germans had occupied Hungary. In the summer of 1944 they transported 400,000 local Jews to Auschwitz.

The end of the war found some 120,000 Jewish survivors in Hungary, of whom about 80,000 lived in Budapest. The Jewish community, like the rest of the population, was in dire economic straits. In addition, antisemitism was no less virulent than at the height of the Nazi terror. When Hungary came under Soviet domination in 1948, Jews suffered especially from directives aimed at eliminating middle-class elements from the nation’s economy. Although official Communist doctrine forbade antisemitism, an unusually high percentage of Jews were included in the mass deportations of “undesirables” from the larger cities begun in 1951 and continued into 1952. The Hungarian Zionist movement was outlawed. All contact with Western Jewry and Israel was severed. Emigration was barred. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, responsible until 1953 for most welfare and economic aid to the Jewish community, was forced to leave. The Hungarian uprising of October-November 1956 was accompanied by some anti-Jewish acts, and 18,000 to 20,000 Jews fled the country, streaming mainly into Austria. The Jewish population today numbers 50,000. Eighty percent of the Hungarian Jews live in the capital, Budapest. There are also small communities in Debrecen, Miklosc, and Szeged. The community has a high proportion of Holocaust survivors.


See Marriage Customs.


Of all the Hasmonean rulers who reestablished and strengthened the independence of Judea, Johanan Hyrcanus was the most successful. Son of Simon the Maccabee, Hyrcanus ruled from 135 to 104 B.C.E. His defeat of the allied Samaritans and Syrians and conquest of their cities ended forever the threat of Syrian rule and extended the borders of Judea to the west and north. Hyrcanus turned next to the south and conquered the Edomites, forcing them to accept Judaism. During his thirty-year rule, the Second Jewish Commonwealth attained its greatest independence and power. At the end of his rule, he came into conflict with the Pharisees, one of the two political parties that had developed in Judea. The Pharisees wanted to deprive him of his position as high priest, but this group paid heavily for their opposition to Hyrcanus, who drew closer to their opponents, the Sadducees.

IBN EZRA, ABRAHAM (1092-1167).

Hebrew poet, philosopher, and Bible commentator. Born in Toledo, Spain, he traveled widely, visiting Italy, France, England, North Africa, and the Middle East. Ibn Ezra contributed greatly to the spread of Arab-Jewish culture among Western European Jews. He suffered poverty and often complained bitterly about his situation in biting satirical poems. His Bible commentaries are distinguished by their logical and penetrating interpretation of biblical language and content. Also of considerable importance are his books on mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, and Hebrew grammar. Ibn Ezra’s grammatical works were translated into Latin. In contrast to most of the Jewish scholars in Spain, he wrote in Hebrew, not Arabic. As a poet, Abraham Ibn Ezra did not measure up to the stature of the great Hebrew masters during the “Golden Age” in Spain. Yet some of his liturgical poems possess depth of feeling. He composed remarkable hymns on creation and on the qualities of angels. His poetic darts of ridicule and wit strike at the root of human weaknesses. Ibn Ezra’s contrasting qualities are revealed in his truly moving religious poetry on the one hand, and the rhymed riddles and puzzles

IBN EZRA, MOSES (ca. 1070-1150).

Hebrew poet and contemporary of Judah Ha-Levi. He came from a famous Jewish family in Granada, Spain. At first he was fascinated by the beauty of nature and the pleasures of life. After experiencing rejection and disappointment in love, he took to wandering. He wrote so many religious poems pleading for forgiveness that he became known as Hasallach, or the penitential poet. A master of form and literary technique, Ibn Ezra made excellent use of the riches of the Hebrew language in his secular and religious poetry. His book Shirat Yisrael (The Poetry of Israel) is of great value for the study of Hebrew poetry and its Arabic influences.


Medieval Hebrew poet and philosopher. Born in Malaga, Spain, he was orphaned as a child. At 16, his genius had already become evident. The tragic experiences of his short life—poverty, illness, and loneliness—are reflected in his subtle and pessimistic poems. His outstanding creative intelligence is revealed in his philosophical works as well. Many of Ibn Gabirol’s poems, or piyyutim, became part of Jewish religious liturgy. His Keter Malkhut, a paean to the greatness of God, is recited on Yom Kippur Eve.

  As a penetrating philosopher, Ibn Gabirol in­fluenced both Christian theology and Jewish mystic thought. His philosophic work Fons Vitae (Source of Life), originally written in Arabic and later translated into Latin, was for centuries credited to “Avicebron”; it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Jewish scholar Solomon Munk discovered a fragmentary Hebrew translation by means of which he was able to prove that Avicebron was ac­tually Ibn Gabirol. Ibn Gabirol’s end is surrounded by mystery. An envious Arabic poet was said to have murdered him and buried his remains under a fig tree. To the astonishment of all, the tree bore unusually beautiful fruit. The king questioned the owner about his marvelous tree until he broke down and confessed his crime.

IBN JANNAH, JONAH (990-1050).

Scholar and Hebrew grammarian. A physician by profession, he practiced medicine first in Cordova, Spain. When the Berbers destroyed Cordova, he settled in Saragossa.

Ibn Jannah’s primary interest, however, was the study of Hebrew grammar. He wrote two important books, classics of their kind, one on grammatical construction and the other on sources of the Hebrew language. These books were translated from the Arabic into Hebrew by Judah Ibn Tibbon.


(Mid- 11th century). Philosopher and dayan (rabbinical judge) of Saragossa, Spain, Ibn Pakuda is best known for his classic book on Jewish ethics, Hovot ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart). Little is known about his life, except that he was deeply learned and well acquainted with both Arabic and Jewish philosophical and scientific writing. In his work he urges humans to love and accept God with their hearts. Yet one must also exercise his reason in order to understand his obligations in this world. Ibn Pakuda believes that gratitude to God for His marvelous universe requires us to live ethically. Ibn Pakuda also wrote several beautiful hymns and poems; especially noteworthy is the Admonition to his soul that begins with the verse from the Psalms, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”


Jewish statesman in Spain, whose support of Jewish scholarship helped promote important Jewish scholars and writers in Spain during the “Golden Age.”


Famous family from Spain that lived mostly in Southern France during the 12th and 13th centuries. They are best known as translators of Arabic works into Hebrew. In doing so, they enriched the Hebrew language by creating new words and expressions for philosophic and scientific terms previously unknown in Hebrew. They also made available the works of outstanding Jewish philosophers and scholars to a wider public that could not read Arabic. Some noteworthy family members are:

Judah Ben Saul (1120-1190), who practiced medicine at Lunel in Southern France. Among the works he translated are Emunot Vedeot (Beliefs and Opinions) by Saadiah Gaon; Hovot haLevavot (Duties of the Heart) by Bahya Ibn Pakuda, and the Kuzari by Judah Ha-Levi.

Judah ben Samuel (1150-1230), who was the most important of all translators. He rendered into Hebrew MaimonidesMoreh Nebuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) and other works. Judah corresponded with this great scholar and philosopher, discussing various problems that arose with the translations.

Moses ben Samuel (1240-1283), who was a practicing physician in Provence. He translated Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah (Peirush Hamishnayot), his Sefer Hamitzvot, and Milot Hahigayon (Terms of Logic), as well as scientific and philosophic works from the Arabic.


Jewish life in Idaho started around 1860. From 1915 to 1919, Moses Alexander served as the first and, so far, only Jewish governor of the state. Today, Idaho has about 1,100 Jews, half of whom live in Boise, with only one active Jewish congregation and school.


Throughout antiquity, Jews lived in a world that worshiped visible objects, such as statues of stone and wood representing the powers ruling the world. While each idol-worshiping group or nation accepted the validity of other groups’ idols, Jews rejected all idols as false gods and considered their one invisible god as the only true ruler of the universe. Throughout the Bible there is conflict between idolatry and Jewish monotheism. With the birth of Christianity and later Islam, two religions also based on the belief in one divine power ruling the universe, idolatry became less accepted.


With a Jewish population of some 280,000, more than 265,000 live in Chicago alone, while the rest are spread in small communities of a few hundred each. Though the first Jews reached Illinois in the 18th century, Jews did not start settling throughout the state until the second half of the 19th. More than 100,000 arrived at the turn of the century, and most settled in Chicago. Henry Horner served as governor from 1932 to 1940.


Author of Ha-Tikvah, Imber was a poet and an incurable wanderer. He left his home in Galicia when quite young and roamed Europe. In 1878, he wrote Ha-Tikvah (The Hope), a poem of nine stanzas expressing the Jewish longing to return to the Land of Israel. Ha-Tikvah is now the national anthem of the State of Israel. Imber lived in Palestine from 1882 until 1887, when he went to Europe and England. Later, he came to the U.S. and traveled all over the country, writing Hebrew poems and articles for many Jewish magazines. He died in New York.


Hebrew scholar and satirical poet. Immanuel, named Ha-Romi because he was born in Rome, came from a rich and distinguished Jewish family. In his youth, he studied the Talmud as well as mathematics, astronomy, medicine and languages. He served as secretary to the Jewish community of Rome, and excelled as an orator. However, Immanuel’s biting tongue made him many enemies, and he was forced to resign his position. Shortly afterward, he lost all his possessions and took to wandering. Immanuel’s best known work, Mahberot Immanuel, is a collection of poems written in narrative sequence. The section titled “Tofet and Eden” is modeled after Dante’s Divine Comedy. He also wrote in Italian, one of the first to introduce the sonnet into Hebrew poetry. Some Talmudic scholars were critical of his writings, because of the frivolous and irreverent nature of some of the passages in his Mahberot.


See Yetzer ha-rah, ha-tov.


Republic in southern Asia. In 1998, India’s 5,000 Jews fell into three distinct groups: the Bene Israel (Sons of Israel), Jews of Cochin, and a series of loosely organized communities from Persia and the west. The Bene Israel, largest of the groups, speak Maharati, wear Indian dress, and are divided into caste-like groups of “black” and “white” Jews who have separate synagogues and do not intermarry. They believe they settled in the Bombay District in about 175 B.C.E. around the Maccabean uprising in Palestine. When first discovered by the West about 200 years ago, they knew no Hebrew and owned no prayer books. Shema Yisrael, one of the few prayers they remembered, was recited at all their religious ceremonies. Several thousand of them have emigrated to Israel.

Indian Jews of Iraqi origin, the second largest group, live predominantly in Bombay and Calcutta and engage mainly in commerce. They are descendants of Jews who followed their leader David Sassoon from Iraq to India in 1832 where he founded the house of Sassoon, known for its great wealth and generous contributions to Jewish charitable causes.

Cochin Jews, the third largest group, who live in Cochin and other cities on the Malabar Coast, came from Persia and Arab countries during the early Middle Ages. They spoke Malayalam, the language of the Dravidians, India’s original inhabitants. Hebrew, however, was known and used in their strictly Orthodox religious ritual. The first written record of Cochin Jews is a copper inscription dated 1020 C.E., in which the maharajah of the district grants privileges of nobility to the head of the community. The “white,” “black,” and “brown” Jews of Cochin all believe they stem from exiles who left Palestine in 70 C.E. after the destruction of the Second Temple. It is more probable that the “black” Jews arrived in India after the Moslem conquest of Persia in the 7th century, and that the “whites” came after the expulsion from Spain in 1492.

The smallest group is of European origin, consisting of refugees who emigrated to India to escape Hitler’s persecutions in Germany in 1933.

Jews of India live in comparative freedom and security. Many of them have risen to high ranks in the armed services; others have prospered in business and the professions.


Jewish traders arrived in the mid-18th century, but settlement did not start for another 100 years. Indiana, mainly a rural state, never achieved large Jewish settlement. Of the 18,000 Jews who live in the state, some 10,000 live in Indianapolis, 2,200 in Fort Wayne, 2,000 in South Bend, and 1,000 in Bloomington. The last is home to Indiana University, which has a well-known Judaic studies program. Indianapolis has well-established congregations and Jewish organizations. Indiana Jews have been active in civil and philanthropic life in the state.


In Hebrew, Kibbutz Galuyot. The hope for the reunion of the people of Israel in the land of Israel is fundamental to the prophetic idea of redemption: “The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing into Zion; and joy shall be upon their head” (Isa. 51:11). For centuries Jewish prayers echoed the fervent desire for the ingathering of the exiles: “Sound the great trumpet for our freedom


The special courts set up by the Catholic Church to check the spread of heretical opinion among the faithful, first formed in the 13th century. It was most active, however, in Spain, where it began in 1480. In time, the dreaded activities of this agency of the Church came to be directed mainly at ferreting out the Marranos, Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity and were found secretly observing the practices of Judaism.

It is estimated that in 350 years of Inquisition activities (roughly from 1480 to 1821), about 400,000 Jews were brought before these ecclesiastical tribunals; 30,000 were put to death. Punishment was carried out in public squares to serve both as a warning and a demonstration of “the glory of the Church.” Hence, an inquisitorial execution was known as auto-da-fe, an act of faith. Most notorious of the inquisitors was Thomas de Torquemada, who was largely responsible for the edict issued by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain on the Ninth of Ab 1492, expelling all Jews from Spanish territory.


One of the smaller Jewish communities in the U.S. with about 6,000, there are 2,800 Jews in Des Moines, 1,300 in Iowa City, 400 in Sioux City, and 400 in Cedar Rapids. Jews first arrived in Iowa in the 1830’s, and in the beginning of the 20th century, some 1,500 Jews were sent by the U.S. Government to live in Iowa.


Iran, the ancient Persia, included at its height of power Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and the mountainous lands east and south. Jews first came under Persian rule in 539 B.C.E. when King Cyrus conquered Babylonia. The Judean captives, exiled to Babylonia after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E., welcomed the Persian rulers. Forty thousand of them returned to Judea and rebuilt their homeland. For two centuries of Persian rule, the Jewish communities of Persian Babylonia flourished, and close links were maintained with the communities of Judea. In later centuries, when the Persian Empire fell successively under Greek, Parthian, and Arab domination, Jews continued to live in its territories, notably in the Babylonian cities of Sura and Pumbeditha, where great academies flourished and where the immense work of compiling the Talmud was completed in 500 C.E.

During the 12th century, there were large Jewish communities in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, and Hamadan, part of present-day Iran. Under the Safavid Dynasty from 1499 to 1736, Jews suffered severe discriminatory measures against them. Many converted to Islam, living secretly as Jews. Some fled to Afghanistan and Palestine where their descendants are still to be found. The Kadar Dynasty from 1795 to 1925 continued the harsh anti-Jewish policy of the Safavids. They considered the Jews ritually unclean, humiliated them, and taxed them heavily. Under this treatment, the Jewish community declined. In the late 19th century, the situation for Persian Jewry improved somewhat when Western European Jews interceded on their behalf. In 1898, the first school of the Alliance Isra


Jews in Iraq constitute the oldest Jewish community in the world aside from Israel. Iraq, the Babylonia of the Bible and the Talmud, was the Jews’ first land of exile, to which they were driven from Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar after he had destroyed the First Temple in 597 B.C.E. The Babylonian Talmud was composed there. But due to repeated unrest and disorder in the country caused by a series of wars, Jews steadily emigrated to India and to Persia where they created communities, known as Baghdad Jews, which still exist today. In the 7th century, Arabs conquered the country. Under Harun-al-Rashid’s rule from 786 to 809, the scholars and leaders of the Talmudic academies began to make contact with the various Jewish communities in Europe. Their influence extended to Jews in both Europe and North Africa.

In 1534, Turkey conquered that area which today comprises the land of Iraq and ruled it until 1917 when Great Britain won it. In 1932, the independent kingdom of Iraq was established. Both under the British mandate and under Iraqi sovereign rule, Jews lived in comparative freedom. A good number enjoyed prosperity and even wealth, especially in the capital city of Baghdad. About 50,000 Jews resided there, representing approximately 20 percent of the population.

Spiritually, the Jewish community in Iraq had deteriorated since its original growth and development. The Alliance Isra


The earliest evidence of Jewish settlement in Ireland is a grant made in 1232 to a certain Peter de Rivall, giving him “custody of the King’s Jews in Ireland.” In 1290, Irish Jews, like their English brethren, were expelled from Ireland and did not return until around 1655, the days of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth. It was then that the first Sephardic community was founded in Dublin; Jewish settlement in Ireland has been small but continuous ever since.

In 2006, most of Ireland’s 1,200 Jews live in Dublin, the capital city. They are mostly shopkeepers and tradesmen. The clothing and furniture industries were introduced into Ireland by Lithuanian immigrants. Dublin, with its two large and four small synagogues, its charitable organizations, and Talmud Torah, is the center of religious and cultural life of Irish Jewry. More than half of Northern Ireland’s Jews live in the capital city of Belfast, whose present Jewish community was founded in 1870. An earlier Jewish community was founded there a century before, but later dissolved.


Underground military force organized by the Revisionists in April 1937 to combat British repressions in Palestine and the Arabs’ growing rule of terror. The Revisionists were impatient with the policy of restraint practiced by Jewish leaders in Palestine in the face of constant Arab attacks. The Irgun was guided by two fundamental principles: that a Jewish state had to be established in the immediate future, and that every Jew had a natural right to come to Palestine. The Irgun believed the time was right for military action in order to achieve the legitimate aim of establishing a Jewish state. The Irgun’s symbol, a hand gripping a rifle over a map of Palestine that included eastern Palestine, began to appear on all the organization’s posters.

In 1938, a member of the Irgun, Shlomo Ben Yosef, was accused of attacking an Arab vehicle in retaliation for numerous killings of Jews. He was sentenced to the gallows. Ben Yosef became a symbol of the determination of Irgun members to fight to the death for the cause of Jewish liberation.

When World War II broke out and the free world was engaged in a deadly struggle with the Nazi armies, the Irgun committed its small force to fight the common enemy on the side of the British. The first Irgun commander, David Raziel, was killed in 1941 in a commando operation in Iraq. Command of Irgun was then taken over by Yaakov Meridor, and later in 1943, by Menachem Begin. In February 1944, the Irgun called for the end of the British mandate, the freeing of Palestine from “foreign domination,” and the immediate establishment of a provisional government. The British began a ruthless campaign to destroy the Irgun. Several hundred of its members were arrested and exiled to Eritrea, a British colony in Northeast Africa. The arrests swelled to thousands after the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel, the administrative offices of the Palestine (British) government. Each Irgun exploit was countered by an act of British repression. In the spring of 1947, Dov Gruner and four other members of Irgun were hanged at the Acre prison.

Though the Jewish Agency and the Haganah frequently condemned Irgun for its extremist policies, there was a short period after World War II when Haganah and Irgun cooperated in the struggle against the British. This happened when the British Labor party, on coming to power in 1945, failed to fulfill its preelection promises to open Palestine without restrictions to survivors of the Holocaust. To allegations that Irgun was a terrorist organization, Begin replied that Irgun’s aim was not to cause loss of life, but to hasten the British evacuation of Palestine. After the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Irgun, numbering several thousand, cooperated with Haganah in fighting off Arab invaders.

Open hostility briefly erupted between the Irgun and the Haganah (by then the official army of the State of Israel) in June 1948 when the Irgun brought to Israel the S.S. Altalena, a boat carrying volunteers and munitions for use in the War of Independence. The Haganah claimed that it had not authorized the landing and unloading of the boat; its leaders feared that the Irgun would start a revolt to topple Israel’s provisional government. The Irgun insisted that they had kept the Haganah informed about the boat and that the Haganah leaders with whom they had consulted had raised no objections to the arrangement. The Altalena was sunk by the Haganah, but contrary to the fears of some, Irgun did not put up a fight against Haganah. On September 21, 1948, the Israel government ordered the Irgun disbanded. Most of its members were incorporated into the Israel Defense Forces.


From the Hebrew Yitzhak, meaning laughter; second of the three patriarchs. In his youth, Isaac was willing to serve as a sacrifice. He married his cousin Rebecca, who bore him twins, Esau and Jacob. He prospered and the Lord renewed His promise to give Canaan to the Hebrews by telling Isaac, “To you and to your seed I give all these lands


See Spector, Yitzchak Elchanan.

ISAAC, JULES (1877-1963).

French Jewish historian. Having lost his entire family during the Nazi occupation of France, he became interested in the roots of antisemitism and wrote the books Jesus and Israel and the Genesis of Antisemitism, which played a decisive role in the Vatican’s decision under Pope John XXIII to change the attitude of the Church toward the Jewish people.


First of the major prophets in the Bible. Isaish, son of Amoz prophesied during the 8th century B.C.E. in Jerusalem, from the death of King Uzziah until the middle of Hezekiah’s reign. He protested strongly against moral laxity and injustice. His great visions include world peace at the end of days (2:1-4) and the vision of the divine presence in the Temple (6:1-5). Isaiah maintained that God is more interested in justice to the weak and the poor than the offerings of sacrifices in the Temple.

Three major events are reflected in Isaiah’s prophecies: the invasion of the kingdom of Judah by the armies of Israel and Damascus for the purpose of forcing King Ahaz into an anti-Assyrian alliance in 734 B.C.E.; the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.E.; and Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 B.C.E. Throughout this time, the small kingdom of Judah faced a dual danger: the risk of being swallowed up by neighboring empires, and spiritual destruction through the loss of its belief in one God. Isaiah’s political wisdom impelled him to advise strict isolation for Judea and avoidance of entangling alliances with foreign nations. In chapters 40 to 66, called by some authorities the Second Isaiah, the prophet comforts the exiled, suffering, and despairing people in the great poem beginning, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God” (chapters 40-44).


Son of Abraham and Sarah‘s maid, Hagar. He was Isaac‘s older half-brother, and is considered the father of the Arab people, who are sometimes referred to as Ishmaelites.


Also known as Mohammedanism; youngest of the three monotheistic religions of our time. Islam was founded by Mohammed, son of Abdallah, a camel driver of Mecca, Arabia. He was born in 571 C.E. and died in 632. Islam’s holy book, the Koran, which is in its entirety the work of the founder, is based to a large extent on the Old and New Testaments, whose contents must have been transmitted to the illiterate Mohammed in oral form colored by the interpretations of the rabbinic commentators and the Church Fathers. Though it incorporates elements of both Judaism and Christianity, accepting both Moses and Jesus as prophets, the faith of Mohammed is closer to Judaism than to Christianity. It insists that there is only one God and rejects the idea of a son of God or a Trinity. It allows no sculptured figures or painted pictures to appear in its houses of worship. It forbids its communicants from eating pork or drinking liquor. It subscribes to the doctrines of life after death, a day of judgment, reward and punishment, and paradise and hell. Mohammed is, according to Islam, the last and greatest of all prophets and his Koran, which deviates in a number of places from the data of the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, is the correct version of the Word of God.

Today, some 800 million Muslims live in a belt of countries extending in a continuous line from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east. Their five fundamental duties are to declare that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet; to recite the five daily prayers; to give alms; to fast during the month of Ramadan (during the periods of daylight only); and to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during a lifetime.

Islam is divided into sects, the two most important being the Sunnites, or traditionalists, and the Shi’ites, the more mystically inclined followers of the Caliph Ali. It is theoretically tolerant of Jews and Christians, but in practice Moslem states treat non-Muslims as second-class citizens.

The position of Jews has been more favorable under Islam than under Christian rule. During the Middle Ages, when the Muslim civilization peaked, there was often close cultural collaboration between Jewish and Muslim scientists and thinkers. At the courts of such enlightened Muslim princes as Abdurrahman of Spain in the 10th century, Saladin the Great of Egypt in the 12th century, and Suleiman and Selim of Turkey in the 16th century, gifted Jews were influential and eminent. This situation, however, was neither universal nor permanent, proven by the fact that Maimonides was compelled by the fanatical Almohades to leave his native city when he refused to renounce Judaism in favor of Islam.


Literally, one who strives with God. The name given to Jacob after he wrestled with the angel (Gen. 32:28); the collective name of the twelve tribes. Later, it became the name of the northern Kingdom of Israel (931 B.C.E.-721 B.C.E.), formed when the ten tribes seceded after the death of King Solomon. Eventually, the name came to be applied to the Jewish people as a whole. The land of their origin was known as Eretz Israel, the “Land of Israel”; the modern state is named Medinat Israel.


In Hebrew, Tz’va Haganah L’Yisrael. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) grew out of the Haganah, the Jewish self-defense organization formed during the period of the British Mandate and the Jewish Brigade, a military unit which fought alongside the Allied Forces during World War II. Its purpose was to defend Jewish life and property in Palestine against Arab marauders. Since its creation in 1948, Israel’s army has been called upon four times to fight for the survival of the country: in 1948, 1956, 1967, and in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In February 1991, the IDF planned to launch an air and ground attack on western Iraq to put an end to the Scud missile attacks against Israel, but the U.S. dissuaded Israel from doing so.

The IDF must be constantly on the alert to defend Israel’s borders against attacks from hostile neighbors. The IDF has a nucleus of career soldiers, but it is basically a citizens’ army. All men from the age of 18 to 29 and women from 18 to 26 are called for regular service of up to 30 months for men and 20 months for women. Married women, mothers, and pregnant mothers are exempted from the draft. Women from strictly Orthodox homes who have religious objections to serving in the army must perform national services as teachers or nurses. Israeli Arabs are exempt, but Druzes are drafted at their own request, and a number of Muslims and Christians have volunteered. Following their term of national service, men and women without children are in the Reserves until the ages of 55 and 34, respectively, and men must report each year for various periods of training. With this arrangement, able-bodied citizens can be mobilized for combat within hours if a national emergency erupts.

Organization. The IDF includes all three branches of modern armed services: army, navy, and air force. Ranks are uniform throughout, under the orders of one General Staff, headed by a chief of staff with the rank of lieutenant-general. The General Staff consists of the chiefs of the General Staff, Manpower, Logistics and Intelligence, the Commanders of the Navy and Air Force, and the officers who command the Northern, Central, and Southern regional commands into which the country is divided.

Women in the Army. The women’s force, known as Hen (an abbreviation of Hel Nashim, or Women’s Force); the word hen also happens to be the Hebrew word for charm. This force provides non-combatant personnel such as nurses, mechanics, communication workers, and other specialists, thus freeing the men for active combat duty. Some women serve as combat personnel.

Nahal (No’ar Halutzi Lohem). This pioneer youth group combines soldiering with pioneering. After a few months of intensive military training, Nahal groups are assigned to agricultural settlements for about a year to gain practical experience in farming. A Nahal group joins a frontier settlement or sets up one of its own, often in areas too dangerous or difficult for settlement by civilians.

Gadna (G’dude HaNo’ar). The “Youth Battalions” are pre-military organizations for boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18, supervised jointly by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Education and Culture. Training is along scout lines, and there are also naval and air sections. Emphasis is placed on pioneering and practical training in agriculture. Many developing countries, especially in Africa and South America, have formed youth movements modeled on Nahal and Gadna.

Role of the Army in Education and Citizenship. In addition to fulfilling Israel’s defense needs, the Army helps weld the many different elements of the country’s population into a unified whole. Soldiers are taught Hebrew, Jewish history, and the geography of the country. In this manner the Army has helped new immigrants become integrated into Israeli life. No soldier leaves the army without getting a basic education. Soldiers are also trained in trades of their choice so that they return to civilian life better prepared for the productive work necessary for the nation’s continued growth and welfare.


The State of Israel is a democracy, and its government represents the people and is responsible to them in periodic elections. There are a number of forms of democratic government, such as the American, or presidential system, and the European, or parliamentary system. The government of Israel is parliamentary.

Legislature. The Knesset, or Parliament of Israel, is the unicameral legislative branch of the government. The 120 representatives to the Knesset are elected to serve four-year terms in free, secret elections. If the government fails to hold the confidence of the Knesset (See Executive), an election may be held before the four-year term is over. All citizens, men and women, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, 18 years of age or older, have the right to vote. Both the Cabinet and the Knesset members may introduce new bills. A bill becomes a law after it has passed three readings and been published in the official Reshumot, similar to the American Congressional Record.

Proportional Representation. Israel has many political parties, and Knesset members are elected according to proportional representation. This means that each party presents to the country its own list of candidates, and the voters cast their ballots not for an individual candidate but for the whole party list. The number of members each party elects to the Knesset is proportional to the percentage of the popular vote it receives. As of 2007, no party in Israel has ever received an absolute majority. As a result, several parties combine to form a working majority in the Knesset. This coalition works out a program for which it assumes collective responsibility. Severe disagreements among the members of the coalition bring about resignations, and the coalition loses its legislative majority. The Knesset must then be dissolved and new elections called.

Executive. The Cabinet is the executive branch of the government, and its task is to carry out and administer the laws enacted by the Knesset. Under the Israeli system, the Cabinet is directly responsible to the Knesset. It has no veto power and can continue in office as long as it retains the confidence of the Knesset. If defeated in a vote of confidence the Cabinet must resign, and a new one must be formed. If the Knesset cannot form a new Cabinet which has its confidence, it must turn to the people and call for new elections.

Prime Minister’s Office. The cabinet is headed by the prime minister who is the chief executive. His office coordinates the work of all the ministries and administers the civil service. The smooth and efficient working of the whole machinery of government is the responsibility of the prime minister.

Presidency. The President of Israel, unlike the American President, has little actual power. Serving as a symbol of the people’s unity, he is not chosen in the competitive general elections, but is elected in a secret ballot by an absolute majority of the Knesset. The president’s term of office is five years, but there is no limit on the number of times he may be reelected. The duties of the president are largely honorary. These include the task of summoning a member of the Knesset, usually the leader of the majority party, to form a new government. Upon the recommendation of competent bodies, he appoints judges, diplomatic representatives, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and the comptroller. It is also in his power to grant amnesty to prisoners and to commute their sentences. Major documents, such as treaties with foreign states, are signed by the President together with the prime minister or another competent minister.

Judiciary. Israel’s judicial system is made up of two branches, civil and religious. There are Jewish, Christian, and Moslem religious courts, so that the followers of each religion come under the jurisdiction of a religious court of their own faith. Matters of marriage and divorce are under the sole jurisdiction of the religious courts.

Judicial authority is independent of the executive and legislative branches of government, as is essential in a democracy. Judges are appointed for life, and the appointments are made by the President on the recommendation of an eight-member committee. The President and two members of the Supreme Court, the minister of justice, and one other Cabinet member, two members of the Knesset selected by that entire body, and two lawyers chosen by the Bar Association serve on that committee.

The highest court of appeal is the ten-member Supreme Court. This court sits also as a high court of justice to which a citizen may bring his complaints against the authorities, and the court acts to protect the rights of the individual citizen. The Supreme Court of Israel, unlike that of the United States, does not have the power to review laws and declare them unconstitutional because Israel has no written constitution. Israel inherited its legal code when the state came into being in 1948.

This code is a mixture of British common law, remnants of Turkish Ottoman law, decrees of the British mandatory administration, and new laws enacted by the Knesset. By a resolution passed by the Knesset on June 13, 1950, a committee on constitution and law was authorized to prepare a draft constitution. As each article of this draft constitution is completed, it must be submitted to the Knesset for approval. When all the articles are approved, they will form the state constitution.

Political Parties. Israeli political parties date back to the beginning of the Zionist movement. From the early days of Zionism in Europe, Zionists ranged along a broad political spectrum, from the extreme left socialists to the extreme right nationalists. In the middle were religious and general Zionist parties. When Israel was founded in 1948, the socialist Mapai (See Labor Zionism and Ben-Gurion) got 46 seats, and formed a government coalition with the United Religious Front (16; See Mizrachi and Agudath Israel), the Progressive Party (5; See General Zionism), the Sephardic Party (4), and the Arab Party (2). The opposition consisted of the Mapam (19; See Hashomer Ha-tzair), Herut (14; See Revisionist Zionism), General Zionists (7; See General Zionism), the Israeli Communist Party (4; non-Zionist), and assorted small parties won one or two Knesset seats.

For the next 30 years, Mapai remained in power, while the political map kept changing, with splinter groups forming in nearly every party, and with parties reorganizing and renaming themselves. The General Zionists and the Progressives were absorbed by Herut, now called Likud. The Mizrachi became the NRP (National Religious Party), the Sephardic Party became Shas, Mapam became Meretz, the communists disappeared within the United Arab List, the newly arrived Russian Jews in the 90’s formed their own party (Yisrael Be’aliya). The ruling Mapai became the Israel Labor Party. In the 1990s, the two main players were Likud, which first came into power in 1977 (See Begin), and Labor. In 1996, Likud (32 seats) formed a government coalition with Shas (10), NRP (9), Yisrael Be’aliya
(7), and two smaller parties with 4 seats each. The opposition consisted of Labor (34), Meretz (9), United Arab List (4), and a few small parties.

In 2006, a new party named Kadima emerged under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who left the Likud. It won handily, and formed a goverment together with Labor and other parties (See Olmert).


See Hasidism.

ISRAELS, JOSEPH (1824-1911).

Artist. This Dutch Jew was among the first painters to free his palette from the influence of the dark studio and to execute his sketches in the open air. He was also among the first to capture the spirit of the common people, the humble fishermen in little villages and to paint them at work and at leisure, in happiness and grief. Israels painted many Jewish subjects; notable among them is A Son of the Old People, a sad old clothes dealer sitting before his modest shop, and The Old Scribe, based on a sketch he made while traveling through Tangier, North Africa.


Literally, reward bringer. Fifth son of Jacob and Leah; ancestor of the tribe that settled on the west bank of the Jordan near the Sea of Galilee.


Italy’s Jewish community is the oldest with a continuous history in Europe. During the 2nd century B.C.E. Jewish farmers and traders lived in Rome, Naples, Venice, and other cities. For several hundred years they shared the rights that Rome liberally granted to members of conquered nations. When Christianity became the state religion in the 4th century, these privileges were revoked. Restrictions were relaxed, however, after the fall of Rome. By the 9th century Jews were playing an important part in the commercial life of Italy. In addition to trade, they worked in all the handicrafts and professions; it was only later that Jews were forced into the field of money-lending. During the early Middle Ages, Jewish prosperity and freedom permitted the establishment of great academies at Bari and Otranto, where Italian Jewish grammarians, Talmudists, philosophers, physicians, and poets became famous.

Although many of the decrees which plagued other medieval Jewries had their origin in Rome, Italian Jews were long spared their enforcement. Not until the 13th century did Pope Innocent III succeed in implementing discriminatory measures. Yet even these measures, and the popular outbreaks that became frequent in the following centuries, did not succeed in crippling the economic and cultural life of Jews. Italy was then organized in independent city-states; Rome did not have the power to enforce its decrees in the powerful commercial centers where Jewish merchants contributed to the wealth of the community. In addition, the Renaissance spirit of tolerance had already been born. Papal Rome found room for a thriving center of Jewish culture. Immanuel ben Solomon of Rome (ca. 1270-1330) dedicated Hebrew verses to his friend Dante; scholars such as Pico della Mirandola studied Hebrew with Jewish colleagues in the faculties of medicine, law, and philosophy at the great Italian universities. Between 1230 and 1550, poets, scholars and philosophers writing in Hebrew, Latin, and Italian created a “golden age” of Jewish learning paralleled only in Muslim Spain.

By the mid-16th century, this renaissance began to fade. Italy, torn by civil strife, fell prey to French and Spanish invaders. The Spanish Jews who had swelled the Italian community after their exile from Spain in 1492 were overtaken by the Inquisition, which accompanied the Spanish invaders to Italy. Rome, threatened by the Reformation in the north, adopted the fanatical tactics of the Spanish Inquisition to stamp out heresy at home. The expulsion of the Jewish community from Genoa was the first sign of the change. Soon after, Pope Julius III (1550-1555) ordered the Talmud burned in the streets of Rome and nearly succeeded in expelling the Jews from the Eternal City. His successor confined the Jews of the Papal States to ghettos. As part of a campaign to convert the Jews to Catholicism, the entire community was forced to attend special church sermons.

Many Jews fled from Rome; those who remained suffered from discrimination. The leadership of Italian Jewry then fell to the communities of Venice, Ferrara, and Mantua. A printing press was founded at Mantua, where a new edition of the Talmud appeared in 1590. Also published were popular and scholarly works by writers such as Azariah dei Rossi of Ferrara. Within several decades, however, Spanish and Austrian invaders decimated the communities of Ferrara and Mantua as well, leaving Jews of Venice to bear the burden of Jewish culture. For a century and a half Venetian Jewry produced a line of distinguished scholars and poets. The last and greatest of these was Moses Haim Luzzato, KabbaIist, linguist, scholar and poet. Leghorn (Livorno), where the Jews had some autonomy until the 19th century, remained a center of Kabbalistic learning.

Napoleon’s conquest of Italy in 1797 was the start of the emancipation of Italian Jewry. As in France, he convened a “Sanhedrin” to organize the affairs of the Jewish community and granted full civil rights to Jews. Napoleon’s defeat and the strong reaction that followed led to a revival of the Inquisition. The national movement, which sought the liberation of Italy from foreign rule and the unification of its many states, soon provided a rallying point for Jewish hopes. Espousing the cause of civil rights for all, it drew many young Jews to its ranks. With the final unification of all Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II in 1870, Jews were again granted full citizenship.

The Jews of Italy were grateful for their freedom. Having fought valiantly for independence, they remained ardent patriots and threw themselves vigorously into public life. Within a short time they were finding important positions in government, politics, and society. The urge to take full advantage of their newly acquired rights was so strong that large sections of Italian Jewry began to lose touch with the Jewish community. Intermarriage became common, especially among the upper classes, and the number of conversions was great. Though closely organized communities remained, and scholars maintained the “enlightened” tradition of Jewish scholarship established by Samuel David Luzzato earlier in the century, the threat of assimilation was serious.

But the period of unrestricted freedom was short-lived. The Italian Fascist movement was founded in 1919, and in 1923, Benito Mussolini came to power. At first Mussolini fought the antisemitic elements in his party, which was supported by many influential Jews.

In the hope that the ties of Italian Jews with other Mediterranean and Balkan Jewish communities would be aid his plan for imperialist expansion, he encouraged Zionism and helped German-Jewish refugees settle in Italy. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Mussolini took a stand against Nazi antisemitism. By 1936, however, Mussolini found himself in need of German aid for his Abyssinian war and began to adopt the racist Nazi doctrines. By the outbreak of World War II, Jews had been banned from the army, government service, professions, and many branches of trade. Jewish schools, which Mussolini had encouraged and subsidized, were closed. All large-scale Jewish businesses were confiscated, and Jews were forbidden to hold land of any value. Toward the end of the war, when the Italian defense system had broken down and German troops moved into the country, Hitler proposed the deportation and destruction of Italy’s Jewry. Official antisemitism had never struck deep roots among the people, however, and the Italian Jews found protection among their neighbors. The Allied forces invaded and the war was over before Hitler’s plan could be executed.

With the overthrow of Mussolini, Jewish rights were restored. After the war, Italy was the temporary home of more than 35,000 refugees, all but 1,500 of whom left for Israel and other countries. Because of its location, Italy was for a while the chief sailing point for “illegal” immigrants on their way to Israel.

Today, there are close to 30,000 Jews living in Italy, a little below the prewar total. They live under the law of 1930 which requires that all Jews affiliate with the official Jewish community to which they pay taxes. Rome has the largest concentration with 13,000; Milan follows with 8,000. The rest of the Jewish population is scattered in 21 other cities, only six of which have communities of more than 1,000. This dispersion again raises the problem of assimilation, a problem which community leaders tried to solve by means of an intensive educational program. The educational system now includes Jewish day schools in eight cities, a rabbinical seminary in Rome
, and special courses for Hebrew teachers. In Rome, a vocational training school is maintained by ORT. A monthly magazine is published by the community. There is an active Zionist organization, and close ties are maintained with Israel.

In recent years, Italy has been almost completely free of antisemitic activities, and Jews have again achieved prominence in national life. Alberto Moravia, Paolo Milano, Carlo Levi, and Primo Levi are leading literary figures. Jews are prominent in the professions and several branches of the economy.

Italy has served as an important transition place for the massive immigration from the former Soviet Union to Israel during the last two decades.


Eighth month of the Jewish civil calendar, falling during the Omer. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on the fifth of Iyar.


Writer and founder of Revisionist Zionism. He came from an assimilated Jewish family in Odessa, Russia. He studied law and Russian literature. As a student he won recognition as a Russian writer and orator. At the age of 25, he was already a leading figure among Russian Zionists. During the early part of World War I, he served as war correspondent in France for an important Moscow newspaper. When Turkey entered the war in 1915 and drove many Palestinian Jews into exile, Jabotinsky conceived the idea of a Jewish Legion that would fight on the side of the Allies and help capture Palestine from the Turks. In his efforts to establish such a legion he approached the British, Italian, and French authorities. Success came finally in June 1917 when the British officially announced the formation of Jewish battalions to serve with the British Royal Fusiliers in the Palestine campaign. Jabotinsky, who enlisted as a private, was the only foreigner to be made an honorary lieutenant by the British during World War I.

After the end of the war, Jabotinsky remained in Palestine, and in 1919, when the country was threatened with Arab riots, he joined Pinhas Rutenberg in organizing a Jewish self-defense corps. On April 4, 1920, Arab rioters attacked the Jewish quarter in old Jerusalem, and the self-defense corps tried to defend the area. The British arrested them and later tried them before a military court. Jabotinsky and twenty comrades were sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. There was great public protest, and after three and a half months in the Acre prison, Jabotinsky was freed. He returned to England and joined the Executive of the World Zionist Organization. On this body he differed sharply with its leader, Chaim Weizmann, whom he considered too conciliatory toward Britain, and he resigned in 1921. In 1925, he organized the Revisionist Zionist party. His program pressed for the speedy creation of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan. The last years of Jabotinsky’s life were shadowed by Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and the beginning of World War II. He who had fought the British for so long because they obstructed the realization of the Jewish homeland in Palestine now pleaded for a Jewish army to fight on the side of England against Hitler. He died in 1940 before the formation of the Jewish Brigade.

Jabotinsky was a brilliant, versatile writer in six languages. He wrote the novel Samson the Nazirite and translated voluminously from Hebrew into Russian and from English, French, and Italian into Hebrew. Jabotinsky was a master of prose in English, French, and Yiddish. As an orator he was dramatic and incisive with a magnetic personality.


Literally, one who supplants another. The younger of Isaac and Rebecca‘s twin sons; third of the biblical patriarchs. Jacob bought the family birthright from his elder brother, Esau, “for a mess of pottage,” and with his mother’s help received the blessing of the firstborn from his father, whose eyes were dimmed by age. Jacob then fled from Esau’s anger to his mother’s father, Bethuel, in Padan Aram. On his way he slept in a field with a stone for his pillow and had a strange dream: he saw a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending it. God promised Jacob that he would inherit the land upon which he had slept. When Jacob arose in the morning, he called the place Bethel, meaning “House of God.”

In Haran, Jacob served his uncle Laban for twenty years, marrying Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Then he started back to the land of his fathers, taking with him his wives and children, his flocks and rich possessions. On the banks of the river Jabbok he wrestled all night with an angel and received the name of Israel. His brother Esau came to meet him, and Jacob made peace with him. Later, on the way to Bethel, God appeared to Jacob and confirmed his promise to give him the Land of Canaan as an inheritance. There, his beloved wife Rachel died giving birth to his twelfth and youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob lived in Canaan with his twelve sons and prospered, until grief came to him in his old age: his favorite son, Joseph, disappeared, having been sold by his envious brothers as a slave to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt. Eventually Jacob and his sons settled in Egypt, where Joseph had become the Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Jacob died in Egypt in his 147th year. His body was borne to Canaan where he was buried in the patriarchal burial place, the cave of Machpelah.


German mathematician, born of Jewish parents. Along with the Norwegian Abel, Jacobi established the theory of elliptic functions. Jacobi was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.


Biblical Joppa. Situated on a steep rocky promontory 116 feet above the sea, it was Israel‘s oldest seaport and the natural outlet for Jerusalem, with whose fate it was linked. King Hiram of Tyre floated the cedars of Lebanon down to Jaffa for the building of Solomon’s Temple. From Jaffa the prophet Jonah set out for Tarshish. Although allotted to Dan during the conquest of Canaan, Jaffa did not become a Jewish city until after the Maccabean victory. Ships from Jaffa played a part in the Bar Kokhba insurrection against Rome. Jaffa figures in the history of the Crusades and in Napoleon’s invasion. Its modern Jewish community dates to the early 19th century. Jaffa remained, however, an Arab town with a Jewish minority until it was captured by Israel in 1948 and incorporated into Tel Aviv. Most of the Arabs fled, leaving only 4,000 behind. The city has become a center for the new Jewish immigrants. The “Jaffa orange” developed in the coastal area of Israel is internationally famous.


Island country in the Far East consisting of four main islands and many smaller ones, lying off the northeast coast of Asia. By the 9th century C.E., Jewish merchants from the West were trading in Japan, but no permanent colony had been established. Legends that some Japanese clans are of Jewish origin may refer to the descendants of these early visitors. After Japan was opened to the West by Commodore Perry in 1854, Jews came from Europe, Turkey, Iraq, and India. The first synagogue was built in Nagasaki in the 1890’s. It belonged to Russian Jews. A Sephardic colony was soon settled in Kobe and is still there. Yokohama was settled next, then Tokyo. Jewish refugees from Germany arrived during the 1930’s. At first there was no antisemitism, but Japan’s signing of the Axis Pact with the Nazis brought familiar trouble. Many Polish and Lithuanian Jews, including the entire Mir yeshiva en route to the Americas were caught in Japan by World War II. They were sent to the Hongkow ghetto in Shanghai. Although some Jews left Japan at the end of the war, others entered when the Communist conquest of China imperiled Jewish life there. The arrival of American Jewish chaplains to serve the occupation forces stimulated Japanese interest in Judaism. Several Japan-Israel Friendship Societies were formed. In 2007, there were about 1,000 Jews in Japan.

JAVITS, JACOB K. (1904-1986).

U.S. Senator and attorney. Javits grew up on New York‘s Lower East Side with his immigrant parents. After receiving a law degree from New York University in 1926, he was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1927 and practiced law in New York until his appointment as special assistant to the chief of the Chemical Warfare Service. He began his political career in 1946 when he was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City’s 21st Congressional District. In 1954, Javits was elected New York State Attorney General and, in 1956, U.S. Senator from New York. Throughout his career, Javits favored increased foreign aid, national housing, and rent control legislation. He drafted a Selective Immigration Act establishing an immigration quota based on skills of prospective immigrants rather than their national origins. Javits took a consistently pro-Israel stand. He was a member of the Board of Overseers of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

JEREMIAH (ca. 640-580 B.C.E.).

Second of the major prophets. His book is a masterpiece of biblical literature. Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, a priest of Anathoth, witnessed the tragic events in the history of Judea that ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and in the exile to Babylonia. He is deeply affected by his people’s betrayal of their God. His prophecies foretell the doom of his people as punishment for their sins. Jeremiah envisions a universal God governing all humankind, forgiving even those sins that had been “written with a pen of iron and a point of diamond.” The people will survive only if they uphold justice, and each person is responsible for his own acts. At the end of days the Lord will bring the people of Israel back from their captivity, and a righteous Israel will dwell in safety in its own land (Jer. 33:14-16). Jeremiah’s love for his people is unsurpassed in the Bible. With the birth of the state of Israel, Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding Israel’s return to its land was fulfilled a second time.


Literally, the Moon City or Fragrance. Also known in the Bible as the City of Palms. Situated five miles north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is a rich tropical oasis in the salt encrusted plain, nourished by the springs of Elisha and other rivulets. It is 820 feet below sea level. The strategic key to Jerusalem and all Canaan from the east, it was stormed by Joshua and all the succeeding conquerors attacking the land from that direction. Destroyed and rebuilt many times, modern Jericho stands on the foundation of the Crusaders’ city. It is now a small town where a thousand farmers live in mud huts. Orange groves and banana trees replace the balsams, sycamores, and palms of antiquity.


Capital of Israel, ever since David established his throne there about 1000 B.C.E.; the Holy City of Judaism, from the time David had the Ark of the Covenant borne in triumph into Jerusalem and Solomon built the Temple to house it on Mount Moriah. Jerusalem has also been called Zion, the citadel of peace and faith, since the days of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

The city is situated in the heart of the hills of Judea more than 2,000 feet high. It sits at the crossroads where the highway running from north to south intersects the road leading from the sea to the Jordan. A triad of hills


See Stage and Screen.


Galilean Jew who lived in the beginning of the common era, during the Roman rule of Judea. Contemporary Jewish sources do not provide any information about his life, which is described in the New Testament, written after his death. Some of the teachings of Jesus concerning kindness and tolerance are reminiscent of the Jewish sage Hillel, who preceded him. While Jesus himself did not found a religion, but rather lived and died a Jew, the stories about him and the sayings and parables attributed to him were compelling enough to give rise to a worldwide religion called Christianity (Christ means messiah or savior). Jesus lived at a time when there was great turmoil and messianic fervor in Judea, and the stories about him can be understood against the background of an entire people yearning for salvation or redemption.


From the Hebrew Yehudah, or Judah, meaning “Praise to the Lord.” Judah was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from the fourth son of Jacob. After the exile to Babylonia, the term Jew came to be used synonymously with Hebrew and Israelite.


Term which has become popular in the U.S. with the recent increase of conversions to Judaism. Refers to those who choose to become Jewish, unlike those who are Jews by birth.


Originally, the World Zionist Organization was designated as the Jewish Agency in the mandate for Palestine given by the League of Nations to Britain and ratified in 1922. According to Article IV of the mandate, the World Zionist Organization was the appropriate Jewish agency “for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine” in matters concerning the establishing of the Jewish national home. In order to speed the work of building, a movement began among Zionists in 1923 to obtain the support of all Jews, including non-Zionists, for the national home in Palestine. To achieve this aim, it was suggested that an extended Jewish Agency be created with 50 percent non-Zionist representation. This idea, actively supported by Chaim Weizmann, had many opponents who feared that Zionism would be weakened by the non-Zionists. The discussions lasted until 1929 when at the 16th Congress in Zurich, the enlarged Jewish Agency was launched, and its constituent assembly met immediately. Among those who took part in it as non-Zionists were Louis Marshall from the U.S., Sir (later Viscount) Herbert Samuel and Lord Melchett from England, Albert Einstein and Oscar Wasserman from Germany, and Leon Blum from France. After the death of the two outstanding non-Zionists, Louis Marshall and Lord Melchett, many of the non-Zionists drifted away and the Jewish Agency Executive became almost identical with the World Zionist Executive. (See Zionism.)


An infantry brigade in the British army during the close of World War II, formed to enable Jews from Palestine to fight against the Nazis. The Brigade saw action in Italy in 1945, then made contact with Holocaust survivors and helped start the process of rescuing them and taking them to Palestine.


Anglo-Jewish weekly, founded in London in 1841. Over the years the journal has acquired an unchallenged position as the central press organ of Anglo-Jewry, and one of the best Jewish newspapers in the world.


Founded in 1891 by Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a wealthy French philanthropist, who felt that antisemitism could be lessened if Jews were dispersed geographically and occupationally, especially to farm areas. This organization, known as ICA, aided immigration and agricultural projects for Jews in many places, including southern Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Poland, and the U.S. Since 1932, ICA funds, originally more than $10 million, have also been used to aid refugees and to supplement the work of other groups that help immigrants.


First organized under the name Young Men Hebrew Association (YMHA) in the mid-19th century in cities such as Baltimore and New York, most have become known as JCC’s, or Jewish Community Centers, and today there are close to 300 such centers throughout the U.S.

The JCC’s have made a great contribution to Jewish communal life in the U.S., unlike the synagogue which is basically a religious center with added social activities.


Militant Jewish group in the U.S. Founded in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1968, the JDL was originally organized to protect Jews in poor neighborhoods from physical attacks. Later, under the leadership of Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York by an Arab in 1990, and using the slogan “Never Again” with reference to the Holocaust, the JDL engaged in sometimes violent demonstrations and employed physical force to draw public attention to the plight of Jews in Soviet Russia and in Arab lands and to the precarious situation of the State of Israel.


The vast majority of Jewish children in the U.S. who receive Jewish education, attend Jewish school after public school hours. It is estimated that between 60% and 70% receive some kind of Jewish education during their school years, quite remarkable considering that Jewish education is voluntary in the U.S. No one can force parents to send their children to a Jewish school. But the vast majority of American Jews do so because they believe, as Jews have always believed, that a Jewish education is essential for their children to understand what it means to be a Jew and respect themselves.

While almost all American Jews agree on the need for Jewish education, they differ as to the kind of Jewish education that is best for their children. Thus, different types of Jewish schools function on the American scene.

Congregational Schools. The majority of American Jewish children attend synagogue schools conducted by various Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations. The synagogues conduct two types of schools.

Week-Day Afternoon Schools. Children attend from three to five days a week after public school hours and receive from three to eight hours of instruction weekly. These are conducted largely by the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues. The Hebrew language, prayers, Jewish customs and ceremonies, Jewish history, and the Bible are the major subjects studied. These schools conduct their own children’s services on the Sabbath and holidays, and many of them also conduct a variety of club activities. The course of study covers four to six years.

The One-Day-A-Week School (Sunday School). Children attend either Saturday or Sunday mornings and receive from one to three hours of instruction. These are conducted chiefly by the Reform synagogues, and more than 35% of the total number of children attending Jewish schools are enrolled in this type of school. Jewish history, Bible, and Jewish customs and ceremonies are the major subjects studied. More and more synagogues are adding one or two sessions a week for Hebrew studies. Most of the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues also have one-day-a-week departments attended by young children before they enter the weekday Hebrew school. In the Reform religious schools, the course of study usually leads to confirmation at age sixteen.

The Yeshivot Ketanot, or All-Day Schools. This fulltime program combines Jewish studies and all subjects covered by the general public school. This type of school offers the most thorough Jewish education. Pupils receive about fifteen hours a week of instruction in Jewish studies (in the Hebrew language or Yiddish, in some instances), prayers, the Bible in its original Hebrew, Mishnah, Talmud, Jewish history, and Jewish laws and customs. This has been the fastest growing type of school in recent years. In 1935, there were 17 such schools in three communities. In 1959, there were over 230 such schools in more than 50 communities. Today, there are more than 500 such schools in the U.S. Most of these day schools are Orthodox institutions, but in recent years the Conservative movement has developed its Solomon Schechter Day School program, the Reform movement has begun to establish its own day schools, and there are non-denominational day schools in many large Jewish communities, some of which rival the best private schools in the U.S. Many consider the day school the best hope for Jewish survival outside Israel.

The Communal Talmud Torah is a non-synagogue weekday Hebrew school that children attend five days a week after public school hours and receive from six to ten hours of instruction weekly. The subjects covered are similar to those in the congregational weekday afternoon school. The communal Talmud Torah, the most flourishing type of school a generation ago, has declined rapidly in recent years and been replaced largely by the congregational school and the all-day school. It is still found in the larger Jewish communities.

Yiddish Schools are sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle and the Sholom Aleichem Folk Institute, national organizations which originated among Jewish socialists. In these schools, Yiddish is the language of instruction. Children attend three to five afternoons a week and study Yiddish language and literature, Jewish history, Jewish holidays, and the Bible in Yiddish. In some of these schools, Hebrew is taught in the upper grades. The Jewish National Workers Alliance (Labor Zionists) conducted similar schools, except that in these schools Hebrew as well as Yiddish was taught from the outset. These are generally small schools, and only a small percentage of the total number of Jewish children attend them.

Yeshivot. During the 20th century, especially with the destruction of European Jewry, yeshivot, or Talmudical academies or rabbinical colleges, have assumed a place of increasing importance in American Jewish religious life. Some of these institutions were transferred to the U.S. from Europe. Among the most prominent American Yeshivot are the Yeshiva of Mir, the United Lubavitcher Yeshivot, Yeshiva and Mesivtah Chaim Berlin, Yeshiva and Mesivtah Tifereth Jerusalem and Yeshiva and Mesivtah Torah Vodaath (all in the New York area), the Yeshiva of Lakewood, N.J., the Yeshiva of Spring Valley, N.Y., the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland., and the Yeshiva of Telz in Cleveland.

History. The various systems of Jewish education now existing in the U.S. did not come into being all at once, but rather developed gradually with the growth of the American Jewish community. Jews came to this country from different countries, each group bringing its own traditions and ways. The schools they set up at the beginning followed the patterns of their homelands, but soon these schools were modified to conform more closely with the type of schools that were growing up on the American scene.

The first Jewish school in the U.S., the Yeshivah Minchat Areb, was founded as an all-day school in 1731, and was associated with the first synagogue established in New York City. At first, only Hebrew subjects were taught, but later general subjects, such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and Spanish, were added. At this time, the Jewish community was responsible for the education of its children just as other religious groups provided education for their children. As time went on, these schools became private schools where the attention was given mostly to general subjects and little to Hebrew subjects. In the early 1800’s, synagogues began to provide some instruction in Hebrew subjects after school. For a brief period from 1845 to 1855, a number of all-day schools similar to present-day yeshivot began and flourished, but they went out of existence soon after that. After 1850, the free public school became the generally accepted type of school, attracting the greater proportion of American children. Almost all Jewish children attended public schools for their general education, and the Jewish school became largely supplementary.

In 1838, the first Sunday school was established in Philadelphia and became the most widely accepted type of school by Jews during the last half of the 19th century. The majority of Jews who immigrated to America during this period came from Germany, from where they brought Reform Judaism. They minimized the importance of Hebrew and considered one day a week of instruction sufficient. They patterned their Jewish religious schools after the Protestant Sunday Schools which had grown up in America.

After 1880, when Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe swelled into the millions, the heder entered the American scene. This was a private one-teacher school, conducted by poorly trained teachers. Gradually the heder gave way to the Talmud Torah, also an East European type of school, but on a much higher plane. The Talmud Torah was well organized and provided a rich program of instruction. Its teachers were well trained, its textbooks challenging, and its school buildings new and substantial. Hebrew was taught as a living language. The Zionist goal of establishing Palestine as a Jewish homeland was an important part of its program. Talmud Torah became the heart of intensive Jewish education in America and held that position until recently. Shortly before World War II the congregational and all-day schools supplanted the Talmud Torah to a large extent. During the period after 1880 the Yiddish schools were also organized.

As schools grew and became better organized, the demand for American-trained teachers increased. In 1867, the first teacher training school, Maimonides College, was established in Philadelphia. Thirty years later, Gratz College was established in Philadelphia for the same purpose. There are now fourteen recognized teacher training schools throughout the country.

In 1910, New York City’s Jewish community established the Bureau of Jewish Education, the first of more than 40 community bureaus of Jewish education which now exist in the U.S. These central bureaus were established to meet the problems that the individual schools could not handle alone. In many instances, these bureaus of Jewish education give subsidies to schools to enable them to provide more scholarships. They help schools get qualified teachers; they prepare better textbooks and other teaching materials to improve instruction; they offer expert guidance to help teachers improve their methods; and they provide other services through which the community helps its Jewish schools to improve.

In today’s Jewish school, teachers use well prepared and colorful textbooks, workbooks, filmstrips, records, movies, and other modern teaching aids. In today’s Jewish classroom children learn not only from books, but also through play, art, dance, and other activities.

Jewish education has spread to the summer camps. In various parts of the country there are camps where Hebrew is spoken as a matter of course, and children actually attend classes for part of the morning. Other camps provide a rich program of Jewish educational activities, such as Sabbath services, Jewish music, dance, arts, and drama. Thousands of Jewish children today take their Jewish education with them on vacation and make camp life a richer and more meaningful experience. (See also Education in Jewish History.)


Comprehensive educational agency in American Jewish life, founded in 1938. JESNA aims to advance instructional and professional standards, engage in research and experimentation, stimulate communal responsibility, certify teachers, provide supervisory and administrative personnel conduct local surveys, supply educational materials, and assist other national agencies. It publishes newsletters, bulletins, curricula programs, and the widely distributed Pedagogic Reporter and Jewish Audio-Visual Review; and it sponsors the National Council of Jewish Audio-Materials. The Association organizes local and national conferences on Jewish education, and sponsors the National Curriculum Research Institute.


See Legion, Jewish.


Located in the former family mansion of Felix M. Warburg, presented to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America by his widow, in memory of her husband, her father, Jacob H. Schiff, and her brother, Mortimer L. Schiff. The present building on New York‘s Fifth Avenue was first opened to the public in May 1947. The museum’s collections, which started in 1904, now comprise more than 9,000 objects. The Jewish Museum is dedicated to the exhibition of Jewish ceremonial art and the promotion of the visual values in Judaism. The first floor is reserved for temporary exhibits of artistic and historical merit. The second and third floors are devoted to the display of part of the museum’s collections of Jewish ceremonial art; the fourth contains a display of coins, plaques, and medals, as well as a Junior Gallery of interest to young visitors. In 1963, a modern wing, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Albert A. List, was completed on an adjacent Fifth Avenue plot. It provides more room for the museum collections and serves as a showcase for young modern artists.


(Keren Kayemet LeIsrael). Agency responsible for afforestation and land reclamation in Israel, established in 1901 by the World Zionist Organization at its fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Its initial purpose was to purchase land in Palestine through small donations from Jews around the world. The JNF’s principles were greatly influenced by the agricultural laws of the Bible. They provided that land purchased by the JNF must remain the inalienable possession of the Jewish people. It cannot be sold or mortgaged; it may be leased only to individual pioneers or groups of settlers at a normal rental period of 49 years, renewable only by the original contractor. In 1903, the Jewish National Fund made its first land purchases in the lower Galilee and continued to make purchases that would form the foundation of what would become the State of Israel. These purchases determined the future sites of forests, cities, kibbutzim, universities, settlements, and strategic outposts. Many of the first Jewish settlements in Palestine were founded with the aid of the JNF which, in addition to land, provided farm equipment, livestock, and expert advice. Arab riots and the British Mandatory government’s legal restriction on land purchase failed to curtail JNF land acquisition. The United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine drew Israel’s borders along the lines of the JNF’s land holdings. After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, JNF work shifted from land purchase to reclamation and afforestation. The JNF’s major projects have included the reclamation of thousands of acres for agriculture, recreation, housing, industry, tourism, reservoirs, and roads. The JNF’s historic achievements include the planting of more than 200 million trees; the reclamation of 875,000 acres of difficult terrain for farming, housing, and industry; the preparation of land for 1,100 rural villages; the building of more than 3,750 miles of rural roads, and the creation of 440 major parks and picnic areas throughout Israel. Thirty percent of Israel’s population lives on land which the JNF has prepared.


Founded in 1888, the JPS‘s purpose was the “publication and dissemination of literature, scientific and religious works, and also the giving of instruction in the practices of the Jewish religion, history and literature.” Its first publication was an Outline of Jewish History; in 1890, its first popular success, Israel Zangwill‘s Children of the Ghetto, appeared in 1892. The next year, plans for a new translation of the Bible began, a task not completed until 1917. Another translation of the books of the Bible was released in the 1960’s. Beginning in 1899, the JPS published the American Jewish Yearbook, now prepared by the American Jewish Committee with the JPS collaborating in its distribution. Several important series have been published by the JPS. These include the Schiff Memorial Library of Jewish Classics; a Historical Jewish Communities series; a series of commentaries on the Bible; and a series of children’s books. Among the Editors of the JPS have been Henrietta Szold, Solomon Graysel, Chaim Potok, Maier Deshell, and Ellen Frankel.


Seminary of Conservative Judaism for the training of rabbis, teachers, and cantors. Founded in 1887 with a class of seven students, its program now includes projects for the advancement of Jewish scholarship and research. Rabbi Sabato Morais, first Seminary president, and H. Pereira Mendes, its cofounder, were also its first instructors. In 1902, Solomon Schechter was brought from Cambridge University in England to become the second president of the Seminary. The establishment of the Seminary Library by Judge Mayer Sulzberger came under Schechter’s auspices, and he transformed the Rabbinical School into a graduate institution. Upon Schechter’s death in 1915, Cyrus Adler succeeded to the presidency. The Seminary then moved into its new buildings on Morningside Heights in New York City, where it presently resides. Since 1940, Louis Finkelstein became president of the Seminary in 1945, having been chancellor. The Seminary chancellor in 1979 was Gerson D. Cohen, succeeded by Ismar Schorsch in 1986. Among the activities launched by Finkelstein was the Institute for Religious and Social Studies which aims “to develop a keener awareness of the unique contributions which the various religious traditions have made to the advancement of civilization.”

Besides the Rabbinical School, the Seminary includes a Teacher’s Institute, Cantor’s Institute, Seminary College of Jewish Studies, Seminary College of Jewish Music, and the Seminary School of Jewish Studies. The University of Judaism in Los Angeles operates on the West Coast. The Bet Midrash/Seminary of Judaic Studies in Jerusalem is its Israeli affiliate. Other global affiliates include the Seminario Rabbínico Latino Americano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of Hungary in Budapest.

     In more than a hundred years of existence, it has graduated thousands of rabbis and teachers who now serve synagogues and schools through­out the U.S. and Canada.

    The Rabbinical Assembly of America is the organization for rabbinical graduates of the Seminary. Two programs with strong ties to the Jewish Theo­logical Seminary are the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs which strive to instill ideals of Judaism into the lives of its members and promote youth-oriented projects.


Organization of Jewish men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. The JWV is an outgrowth of the Hebrew Union Veterans Organization, founded in 1896 by 78 Jewish veterans of the Civil War. Limited to veterans of the Civil War, its membership became depleted over the years, and the remnants were ultimately absorbed into the Hebrew Veterans of the War with Spain, organized as an independent veterans’ group after the Spanish-American War. After World War I this organization changed its name to Hebrew Veterans of the Wars of the Republic to include veterans of all wars. The organization adopted its present name in 1929.

The Jewish War Veterans has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and a post in every major city and many suburbs throughout the U.S. It is the official representative of Jewish soldiers and sailors confined to the various hospitals for veterans under the care of the U.S. Veterans’ Administration. It aids the families of deceased Jewish veterans to obtain their entitled benefits. It officially represents American Jewry at patriotic functions. In its program to promote Americanism, the JWV is vigilant of ideologies which pose a threat to American freedom. Each year it presents an award for Americanism.


Rabbinical seminary in London, England. It is the main agency for training Orthodox rabbis, cantors, and teachers in Great Britain. The college, now known as London School of Jewish Studies was founded in 1855 by Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, and has been incorporated into the University of London. According to the constitution of the college, the chief rabbi of Great Britain is always its president. The college library, particularly rich in items on Anglo-Jewish history, is larger than that of any other European theological seminary.


Biblical queen in 9th century B.C.E.; wife of King Ahab. She is considered one of the evil persons in the Bible, who brought Baal worship to Israel. In English, her name became synonymous with a scheming and devious woman.


Third book in the biblical section Writings. The theme of Job is divine justice, asking and discussing the question “Why do the righteous suffer?” Job of Uz, a good man, suddenly has a series of terrible misfortunes: he loses his wealth, his children die, and he becomes ill with a loathsome disease. Three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to console him. They assume that his troubles have come to him as punishment for his sins, and urge Job to confess his guilt and accept his suffering as God’s righteous judgment. Job insists that he is innocent and pours out the bitterness of his soul. Finally, a fourth friend, Elihu, son of Barachel, scolds Job for lacking trust in God. The book has a happy ending. Job learns that humans cannot really understand the mystery of the Lord’s ways, when God speaks to him “out of a whirlwind” and restores his health and happiness. Job has more sons and daughters and lives to be 140. With its magnificent poetic description of Job’s trials and his patient faith, together with the majestic descriptions of Divine power, the Book of Job is the greatest of the Wisdom books in the Bible.


Second of the minor prophets in the Bible. The Book of Joel calls the people of Judea to repent because the Judgment Day is at hand. It ends with the promise that the enemies of Israel will be overturned, Jerusalem and Judah will be restored, and God will dwell in the midst of His people once again.


See Music.


(1st century C.E.).Religious leader. A student of Hillel and a member of the Sanhedrin, Ben Zakkai advocated a policy of peace with the Romans. The Talmud relates that during the siege of Jerusalem for no reason was anyone allowed to leave the city except to bury the dead. Ben Zakkai instructed his disciples to carry him in a coffin across the city walls. There he met the Roman commander Vespasian who granted him permission to open a Talmudical academy at Yavneh. There, he continued the work of the Sanhedrin, instituting laws and regulations that exerted a lasting influence on the development of Jewish spiritual values.


(John of Gis_chala, 1st century C.E.)One of the leaders of the Judean rebellion against Rome, 66-70 C.E., Johanan was a man of frail body and peaceful habits. An attack on his town forced him to take up arms and transformed him into one of the fiercest opponents of Roman tyranny. After Gush Halav fell to the Roman legions, Johanan fled to Jerusalem with several thousand followers. There he joined in the ruthless struggle between the peace party and the Zealots, who favored war. Only after Titus had already laid siege to Jerusalem did Johanan join forces with Bar Giora, another Zealot leader, for defense of the capital. After five months of heroic fighting, Jerusalem was taken by sheer force of numbers. Johanan was among the last to be captured. He was forced to march in Titus’s triumphal entry into Rome and later sentenced to life imprisonment as a rebel.


See American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.


See Music.


Literally, dove. Fifth and perhaps most familiar of the minor prophets in the Bible. The first two chapters of the book of Jonah tell how the prophet unwillingly set out on his mission to save the people of Nineveh, how he was swallowed by a great fish and prayed for salvation, and how he was spewed out safely on the shore. The third chapter tells how Jonah obeys the word of the Lord and prophesies the destruction of Nineveh because of its wickedness, and how the people repented. The final chapter describes Jonah’s displeasure because God forgave the people of Nineveh and his prophecy of destruction did not come true. It also tells how the Lord taught Jonah the meaning of mercy and forgiveness.


In Hebrew, Yarden. Israel’s largest river, flowing into the Red Sea. It is the natural border between Israel and Jordan.


Modern name for kingdom of Transjordan, which was formed in 1922. In 1948, Jordan annexed the territory on the West Bank originally assigned in 1947 for a new Arab state under the UN partition resolution and also occupied the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1967, Israeli forces occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank territory. In 1994, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel.


Literally, He (i.e. God) will add. Son of Jacob and Rachel. The favorite child, he was given “a coat of many colors” to wear. Both a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams, Joseph aroused the jealousy of his brothers and was sold as a slave to an Egypt-bound caravan. In Egypt he gained a position of authority on the estate of his master, Potiphar, but was imprisoned because of a false accusation by Potiphar’s wife. His old skill at interpreting dreams brought his release from prison and his rise to the office of the Pharaoh’s viceroy and governor of Egypt. The stories of his dramatic reunion with his family which came down to Egypt during the years of famine in Canaan and the comfort he brought to his father who had thought Joseph dead form the final chapter in his story. Joseph was not forgotten by his people. Years later, when they fled Egypt to return to their Promised Land, they took Joseph’s embalmed body along on their 40-year journey to Canaan and gave him final burial near Shechem. Rabbinic tales and Jewish folklore have spangled the Joseph story with numerous legends. Folk plays on the theme of his life came into being as traditional entertainment for Purim, to be performed by strolling players or the townspeople themselves. The imagination of humankind has been gripped by the story, and countless dramas and tales have been written about Joseph, culminating in Thomas Mann’s great trilogy, Joseph and His Brothers.

JOSEPHUS FLAVIUS (ca. 37-ca. 105).

Soldier and historian. Born in Jerusalem, Joseph ben Mattathias came from a priestly family and was educated in the schools of the Pharisees. At age 26 he was sent on a mission to Rome where he remained for two years at the court of Nero. Returning home in 65 C.E., Josephus found the country in open rebellion against Roman rule. Entrusted with the command of Galilee, he fortified its cities against Vespasian and his invading Roman legions. From the beginning, Joseph’s loyalty was suspected by Johanan of Gush Halav, leader of the extremist Zeolot party, and the feud between them was bitter. Vespasian invaded Galilee in 67 and conquered the fortresses one by one. In Jotapata, Josephus held out for three months. When the garrison was captured, Josephus saved his life by surrendering. He won his way into Vespasian’s good graces by predicting that he would become emperor of Rome. The prediction came true, Vespasian returned to Rome to mount the imperial throne, and Titus took over command of the war in Judea. During the siege of Jerusalem, Titus used Josephus to urge the Jews to surrender. After the fall of Jerusalem, Joseph accompanied Titus to Rome, and was rewarded by the favor of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian and Titus. In gratitude, he took their name and called himself Josephus Flavius. Josephus appears to have been torn between his inescapable Jewishness and his need to please the Romans. He turned to writing and wrote first The Judean Wars (against Rome). Then he wrote the Antiquities of the Jews, a history glorifying the Jewish people. In Against Apion, a reply to the Alexandrian schoolmaster and antisemite, Josephus passionately defended Jews against slander. Vita is the autobiography that Josephus wrote to answer the charges made against him by another Jewish historian, Justus of Galilee. The writings of Justus on the Jewish revolt have been lost. The books of Josephus have survived, and serve as the only source of knowledge for a good part of the Jewish history of that period.


Literally, the Lord will help. According to the Bible, Joshua, the son of Nun, was chosen by Moses to be his successor. Joshua led Israel across the Jordan in about 1260 B.C.E., conquered the Jericho fortress, and defeated the six hostile Canaanite tribes. After six years of battle, he began the division of the conquered territory among the tribes. The Book of Joshua is the sixth in the Bible, following Deuteronomy; it tells the story of the conquest and division of Canaan, and ends with Joshua’s farewell address and death.


See Tannaim.


Literally, Praise to the Lord. Fourth son of Jacob, born of Leah; founder of the tribe of Judah, whose emblem was the lion. Just as Judah came to be the leader of all the sons of Jacob, so the tribe of Judah took the leading role in the life of the people. Much of Chapter 15 in Joshua is devoted to a description of Judah’s territory, which extended from the end of the Salt Sea in the south to the Great Sea in the west and was crowned with Jerusalem on its heights. Judah was also the name of the southern kingdom, which included the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and part of Benjamin. This kingdom came into being after the northern tribes had seceded at the death of Solomon, forming their own northern kingdom of Israel.


See Ha-levi, Judah.


The southern kingdom which included the territory belonging to the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and part of Benjamin. The kingdom of Judah came into being after the northern tribes had seceded from the House of David at the death of Solomon, forming their own northern kingdom of Israel.


See Maccabees.

JUDAH THE PRINCE (Yehudah Hanasi; ca.135-222 C.E.)

Also called Rabbi and Rabenu ha-Kadosh, our Holy Rabbi. His life work consisted of editing, compiling, and classifying the Mishnah, the entire body of Jewish oral law which had been accumulated during the preceding four centuries. He arranged the Mishnah in six sections, each one dealing with a particular set of laws. This work exerted a crucial influence on the development of the religious, cultural, and social life of the Jewish people.

Judah the Prince was born on the day Rabbi Akiba died, a coincidence symbolic of the continuity of Jewish scholarship. A descendant of Hillel, who established a famous school of interpreters of the Law, he succeeded his father as Nasi, or head of the Sanhedrin, the highest legislative and judicial council of the time. His preoccupation with Jewish law did not prevent the great rabbi and scholar from acquiring a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture. But it was his vast knowledge of Jewish law that earned him the recognition of the scholars of his time. His learning as well as his wealth added dignity and splendor to his leadership of the Jewish people as head of the Sanhedrin. Even the Roman authorities respected his station. His house resembled a royal court. Yet Rabbi Judah himself was a modest and self-denying person, highly responsive to the needs of his fellow man. In time of famine, he distributed his wealth freely to the poor. His main interests lay in learning and in his students whom he loved deeply. “I learned much from my teachers,” he once said, “much more from my comrades, and most of all from my students.”

Judah the Prince lived first in Bet Shearim and then in Zippori, Galilee. He was the last of the Tannaim, closing a great period of Jewish scholarship.


Judaism is based on the Bible, each age reinterpreting and redefining biblical laws. The Talmud is the result of such a process of interpretation. Changing conditions and circumstances resulted in further interpretations by rabbinic authorities of every generation. Hence, Judaism never froze into a fixed and rigid philosophy and was always more concerned with the practice of the commandments regulating human’s relations with each other and with God.

Orthodox Judaism. The way of life that adheres to the traditional aspects of Judaism came to be called “Orthodox” in the early 19th century when Reform and Conservative Judaisms, which differ somewhat from the original tradition of Judaism, developed. Orthodox Jews continued to follow the laws, customs, and ceremonies prescribed in the Shulhan Arukh. This code of Jewish law, however, deals only with obligatory practices. In addition, there are many customs which have evolved over the ages. These customs have been so hallowed by time and tradition that they now have almost the binding force of law for the communities in which they are practiced. Numerous collections of such customs have been made, and many of them have become an organic part of Jewish life.

At the center of the Orthodox way of life lies the idea that God chose His people Israel from among the nations and bestowed His law upon them as a symbol of this love. In receiving the Torah, the Jews took upon themselves the task of becoming “a nation of priests and a sacred folk” by dedicating themselves to fulfilling the ideals of justice and holiness embodied in the Law. For the Orthodox Jew, the Law embodies all the rules for the good life. When he or she acts according to the letter and spirit of the Law, the Jew realizes the will of God and reflects upon the goodness of God and the love lavished by Him upon Israel and all humankind. In fact, a large number of customs and ceremonies observed by Orthodox Jews serve directly to remind them of this love.

Conservative Judaism. The history of Conservative Judaism began with the Historical School of Jewish Learning founded by Zechariah Frankel in Germany in 1850. Frankel held that Judaism was a living spirit which had undergone many changes in its long history to adjust itself to the changes in its surroundings. The Historical School he initiated aimed to use modern scientific methods to study the Jewish past. As long as every effort was made to preserve and understand the Jewish tradition, Frankel believed that in the future, as in the past, changes in customs or ceremonies would evolve naturally in the spirit of Judaism, as well as in the spirit of the times.

A leader of this school of thought was Sabato Morais, a founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. When Solomon Schechter assumed the leadership of the Seminary, Conservative Judaism in America was greatly strengthened. Schechter felt that “Universal Israel” had always permitted differences of opinion because of the all-embracing unity of Judaism, past, present, and future. This unity together with tradition and scholarship constituted, he believed, a fertile soil for the growth of a program for Conservative Judaism. The religious movement known as Reconstructionism was first formulated by a member of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s faculty, Dr. Mordecai M. Kaplan.

Reform Judaism. Early Reform Judaism was rooted in the period of political emancipation and cultural adaption of European Jewry from the middle of the 18th through the 19th century. Israel Jacobson in the German province of Westphalia was perhaps the first leader to express the current desire for modifications in Judaism. He introduced a number of changes into his synagogue: a mixed choir, a few prayers recited in German, and a sermon in German.

When he moved to Berlin in 1815, Israel Jacobson instituted these innovations in a new synagogue founded by him and the banker Jacob Beer. It was, however, the scholar Abraham Geiger who laid the ideological foundation for Reform Judaism. Geiger saw Judaism as an historical, developing faith and rejected basic beliefs and practices that he believed were contradictory to modern scientific thought.

The first to found Reform institutions in the U.S. was Isaac Mayer Wise. The principles he advocated formed the basis for the Pittsburgh Platform adopted by a conference of rabbis in 1885. These principles emphasized the prophetic ideas of the Bible and declared some of the biblical and Talmudic regulations no longer applicable. The Platform separated Jewish religion from Jewish nationalism and rejected a return to Palestine and the belief in a personal Messiah. For the Messianic era of peace and perfection it substituted the hope for a perfect world achieved by cultural and scientific progress. Reform Judaism thought of Jews as a group with a mission to spread godliness in the world. A revision of these principles took place in 1937 at the meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in Columbus, Ohio. The conference defined Judaism as the “historical religious experience of the Jewish people,” thereby including not only Jewish belief and ethic, but also traditional culture and peoplehood. Today the Reform movement sponsors ARZA, or American Reform Zionist organization, which is dedicated to the cause of Israel. Since the 1960’s, there have been two major ideological trends within Reform. On the one hand, many Reform rabbis have become more traditional and observant, and have even advocated a “Reform Halachah.” On the other hand, other Reform rabbis, including the former leader of the movement, Alexander Schindler, broke ranks with the other Jewish movements by introducing new concepts such as patrilineal descent (recognizing one as a Jew even if not born to a Jewish mother, only a Jewish father). Moreover, a growing number of Reform rabbis began to officiate at marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

A somewhat similar phenomenon could also be detected in the Conservative movement, where the approval of the ordination of women drove a wedge between traditionalist and liberal Conservative rabbis. In the Orthodox camp, a trend toward the right could be seen among some young rabbis, who refuse to recognize the validity of non-Orthodox movements, while others have been seeking dialogue and reconciliation.


From German, meaning Jewish Council. During World War II, the Nazi occupiers of Europe set up a Judenrat in every Jewish community, whether as large as the half million Jews of Warsaw or as small as a village of a handful of families. The members of the Judenrat were put in the painful position of serving their own people’s executioners, and while many of them sought to alleviate their people’s situation, there was little they could do.

JUDGES (12th and 11th centuries B.C.E.).

The Book of Judges spans the period from the death of Joshua to the time when Saul was anointed king. The conquest of Canaan under Joshua had been incomplete. The tribes of Israel had not reached the coast which remained occupied by the Phoenicians and the Philistines. In the Great Plain the unconquered fortresses of Taanach, Megiddo, and Beth-Shean were arranged as a formidable barrier separating the tribes of Dan, Asher, Zebulun, Naphtali, and Issachar in the north, from the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah in the south. Aloof across the Jordan, Reuben tended its sheep, and Gad dallied in Gilead. The physical separation, as well as the nature of tribal society, prevented the Judges from effecting the unification of the people, even though they were popular heroes. During their era, Mesopotamian enemies from the north, the Moabites from across the Jordan in the south, and the nomad Midianites from Sinai subjugated the Israelites for varying periods of time. In such times of crisis, the Judges were called to leadership by the people and their battles eventually extended Israelite mastery of the Land. There were sixteen Judges. Two of them, Deborah and Samuel, were also prophets. One, Eli, was a priest, while Samson was a folk-hero rather than a military or religious leader. Another kind of battle characterized the period of the Judges: the battle of Israel’s religion of one God against the fertility and nature gods of Canaan. In both these struggles, the Judges were the leaders of the people.


See Hebrew Literature.


Literally, received tradition. Refers to Jewish mysticism. In an attempt to fathom the mysteries of God and Creation, the Kabbalists developed a complete philosophic system during the Middle Ages. The Talmud contains mystical interpretations of the biblical story of Creation. With the appearance of the Zohar in the 13th century, the study of the Kabbalah gained popularity. Among the earliest mystic works are the Alphabet of Rabbi Akiba and Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation) attributed to Abraham. The Sefer Yetzirah attaches great mystic power to numbers and enumerates the ten sefirot, or diven emanations, which later assumed great importance in the Kabbalistic system. God, the En Sof, or Infinite One, makes His divine existence known by means of these ten emanations. The first sefirah is called Keter (Crown). The others follow in this order: Hokhmah (Wisdom); Binah (Intelligence); Hesed (Mercy); Din (Judgment) or Gevurah (Strength); Tiferet (Beauty); Netzah (Victory); Hod (Glory); Yesod (Foundation); and Malkhut (Kingdom).

Jewish mysticism attracted remarkable personalities, some of whom considered themselves Messiahs. Abraham Abulafia (1240-1291), who regarded himself as a forerunner of the Messiah, even attempted to convert the Pope to Judaism.

Kabbalistic teachings gained in intensity and scope in 16th-century Safed. This town in upper Galilee in Palestine became a center of Jewish mysticism; among its foremost teachers of Kabbalah was Isaac Luria (1534-1572). A practical or miracle-working mystic, Luria claimed that the secrets of Creation had been revealed to him by the prophet Elijah. Luria believed that human beings could attain identification with the Divine Spirit through intense concentration, or kavanah. This theory was described by Luria’s disciple Hayim Vital in his book Etz Hayim (The Tree of Life). Other Lurianic ideas transmitted by Vital are tzimtzum, literally contraction, whereby the infinite God reduces Himself to enter the world; shevirat ha-kelim, or breaking the vessels, referring to the destructive impact of God’s creation, which gave rise to evil; this evil is countered by tikkun, or restoration, which is done by a person releasing the holy sparks of the divine within oneself.

Another famous Kabbalist, Moses Cordovero, formulated Kabbalistic teachings in a philosophic system. His contemporary Isaiah Horowitz (1555-1625) interpreted the teachings of Judaism in the light of Kabbalah. He sought, with the other inspired mystics of his generation, to hasten the coming of the Messiah.

The teachings of the Kabbalah contributed to the rise of Messianic hopes and in time influenced Hasidism profoundly. Hasidic religious fervor is based on Kabbalistic teachings. Jewish folklore thrived on the Kabbalah’s poetic and magical elements, and many non-religious Jews, as well as non-Jews, have been and still are influenced by it.

In the United States in recent years a pop-culture version of Kabbalah has become popular among Hollywood stars and others.


Literally, santification. One of the most ancient prayers in the Jewish prayer book, generally recited in the synagogue during religious services. It became popular as the mourner’s prayer. Kaddish is traditionally recited in the presence of a minyan, or quorum of ten adult male Jews. The essential part of the prayer is the verse from Psalm 113 in its Aramaic version: “Let His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.” The mourner’s Kaddish is recited at synagogue services for eleven months and on every anniversary of the relative’s death.

The so-called Rabbinical Kaddish is recited at the close of a lesson or the completion of the study of any portion of the Talmudic law.

The Kaddish glorifies the name of the Lord, reaffirms faith in the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and calls for peace in the house of Israel. Beautiful and stirring melodies accompany the reciting of the Kaddish on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


Eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, twenty.

KAFKA, FRANZ (1882-1924).

Writer. Born in Prague, he was a strange genius whose short life was unhappy. From his youth he lived only for his writing. Kafka’s family life was difficult; he never succeeded in gaining his father’s approval, nor did he agree with his father’s views. Kafka never married. His first engagement was broken after several years when he became ill with tuberculosis. The second woman he fell in love with was forbidden to marry him. This personal unhappiness and Kafka’s Jewishness are thought to be reflected in his novels, stories, and sayings. Outstanding among his writings are the short story Metamorphosis and the novels The Trial and The Castle. These works have a strange poetic beauty and an eerie, dream-like quality. Yet they continually startle readers with the recognition of reality and the hero’s hopeless, tragic fate.


Also kehilla. Literally, community. During the Middle Ages, Jewish localities were organized into communities which had considerable power to govern themselves. The makeup of the Jewish community had developed over the ages in Palestine and in Babylonia and continued with some changes in the West. The community derived its power to manage all Jewish affairs and institutions of the Jewish community from several sources. First was the personal obligation and need for Jews to live according to Talmudic religious and civil law. Therefore, every member of the community had definite rights and duties that could not be taken away. Second, the Jewish community was granted power by the non-Jewish world to conduct its own affairs and enforce its rules.

The feudal barons, kings, and princes of the Church who “owned” the Jews living in their various domains held the kahal responsible for a tax placed on the entire Jewish community. Christian governments throughout the Middle Ages followed the same practice. Community officials, consequently, had the authority to decide how much individuals were to be taxed.

The term kahal came to be applied to the local governments of the Jewish communities in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia during the 16th century. The head of the kahal was called the rosh ha-kahal, or the parnas, and had considerable authority and prestige. He was assisted by gabbaim, or overseers, usually seven. The kahal had its own courts of law to which Jews reported all disputes. The community had the right to enforce its decision by means of imprisonment, flogging (no more than 39 lashes), or temporary or permanent excommunication, or herem, which was the most dreaded punishment because it meant being barred completely from contact with any other Jew, including members of one’s immediate family.

Life within the kahal proceeded according to age-old tradition. Public life revolved around the synagogue, since not only religious worship, but also meetings and weddings took place there. The community school, or Talmud Torah, open to the destitute, was housed in some part of the synagogue. Often, the hostel, or hekdesh, provided by the community for strangers, was located in a synagogue annex, as was the public bathhouse, or mikveh. Public charities in the community were well organized, and no Jew was ever left without help. Learning was highly valued, and illiteracy was rare. Most of the officials, usually chosen for their learning, served without salary. For a time, the rabbi also served without salary, and was the religious authority, the teacher, and the guide of the community. Between 1580 and 1764, the kahal reached a high form of development in the Council of the Four Lands. Delegates of the communities from Great Poland, Little Poland, Podolia, and Galicia met, at first once and later twice a year, to regulate the affairs of the people.

KAHANE, MEIR (1932-1990).

Rabbi, political leader.  Born in New York as Martin Kahane , he was a pulpit rabbi before he founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968 which promoted militant protection of Jewish lives and property. In 1971, he moved to Israel and his militancy became focused on the conflict with the Arabs. He was elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1984 under the banner of the Kach Party. Kach was banned from the parliament in 1984. He was shot to death in Manhattan by an Arab extremist.

KALISHER, Z'VI HIRSCH (1795-1874).

Rabbi, scholar, and early proponent of Zionism. Born in Poland, he was the first outstanding Orthodox rabbi to preach that Judaism permitted Jews to work actively for the Zionist cause and that they were not restricted to waiting and praying for the coming Messiah. In his Hebrew pamphlet, The Quest for Zion in 1862, he outlined methods for the settlement of Palestine. His pioneering effort actually resulted in the organization of the first Palestine colonization society. His pamphlet influenced the French Alliance Isra


(7th century). Early Hebrew poet in Palestine whose religious verse (piyutim) appears in the prayer book. He wrote more than 200 piyutim and introduced rhyme into Hebrew poetry.


With 1,300 Jews in Wichita and 500 in Topeka, Kansas’s Jewish population is one of the smallest in the U.S. Jewish merchants arrived in Kansas in the mid-19th century. In 1882, Jews tried but failed to establish agricultural settlements in several parts of the state. For years, there were small Jewish communities throughout the state, but most have disappeared.


See Sports.

KAPLAN, MORDECAI (1881-1983).

Born in Lithuania and raised in the U.S., Kaplan developed an originally American brand of Judaism, called Reconstructionism. In his book Judaism as a Civilization he argues that Judaism is not strictly a religion, but a civilization which encompasses people, land, religion, and culture. His movement has remained small in size, but he has exerted great influence on many Reform and Conservative rabbis. He also originated the Jewish Center (See Jewish Community Center).

KAPPAROT (or kapores).

An old Jewish custom of swinging a chicken over the head before Yom Kippur to transfer one’s sins to the fowl. It is only practiced today by the most strictly Orthodox.


Jewish sect founded in the late 8th century by Anan ben David. Karaism rejected the rabbinic tradition of Talmudic law and based its religious life on the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Anan ben David, nephew of the deceased Exilarch of the Bustanai dynasty, also aspired to this high position. The Geonim, the highest religious authorities in Babylonia, doubted Anan’s devotion to Talmudic law and appointed instead his younger brother, Hananiah. Angered by the rejection from the Geonim, Anan proclaimed openly his opposition to the Talmud. His followers rebelled against the Talmudic tradition. They were influenced by the controversy raging in Islam at that time between traditionalists and their opponents. When Anan’s supporters increased in numbers, he became head of the new religious sect that later came to be known as Karaism, from the Hebrew Karaim, or (strict) readers of the Scripture.

Anan recognized the authority of the Bible only. He urged his pupils to search in the Scriptures for the true or literal interpretation of the law. By their strict adherence to the biblical text the Karaites defeated their own purpose. As time went on, the Karaite teachers engaged in hair-splitting interpretations of the Bible no less than the rabbinical authorities whom they criticized. Much confusion resulted from the varied and often conflicting interpretation of Karaite scholars. In many instances the Karaite restrictions were more severe than those of the Talmud. They prohibited the use of light on the Sabbath day altogether, and were even more rigorous in observance of the laws of ritual cleanliness and fasting.

The debates between the Talmudists and Karaites stimulated Jewish scholarship. The defense of traditional Judaism required a thorough knowledge of the Bible and the Hebrew language. Jewish philosophic thought was also mobilized in defense of tradition.

Between the 9th and 12th centuries Karaite communities were established in Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, and Palestine. In the 13th century many Karaites settled in the Crimea in Russia, and spread from there to Lithuania and Galicia. During the last few centuries the Karaites have gradually separated from the Jewish community. For instance, in order to avoid the restrictive measures directed against Jews by the Tsarist regime in Russia, Karaites tried to prove that they were not Jews.

Before World War II, there were about 12,000 Karaites, most of them in the Crimea. The Karaites have at all times professed a love for Zion. Since the establishment of Israel, many Karaites from Egypt have settled in the Holy Land. They have founded several settlements, and have tended to draw nearer to other Jews.


Famous Talmudic scholar and author of the Shulhan Arukh, the core of Jewish law. Orthodox Jewish life for the last 400 years has been regulated by the Shulhan Arukh. Born in Toledo, Spain, Karo was forced to go into exile with his parents when only four years old. After much wandering, the family finally settled in Turkey where he received his education. Karo acquired his greatest fame in Safed, Palestine, at that time a center for the study of the Talmud and of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. In this city, high on the mountains of upper Galilee, Karo founded a yeshivah and wrote most of his books. Before compiling the Shulhan Arukh, he spent many years in the writing of Bet Joseph, a commentary on the Arbaah Turim, an earlier code of Jewish law composed by Jacob Ben Asher. Other works by Karo are Kesef Mishneh, a commentary on the famed Maimonides Code. Joseph Karo, himself steeped in the Kabbalah, greatly influenced his students, many of whom were famous Kabbalists.


See Dietary Laws.


See Sports.


Professor, biochemist, biophysicist, and fourth president of Israel. Born in Kiev, Russia, he was brought to Palestine by his parents at age nine. A graduate of the Hebrew University, in 1949 he was appointed Acting Head of Department of Biophysics in the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, and later its substantive director. From 1966 to 1968, he was Chief Scientist to the Ministry of Defense. He has written extensively on proteins and such natural products as nucleic acids and is a member of a number of national and international societies. In 1966, he was the first Israeli to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the State of Israel from 1973 to 1978.

KATZNELSON, BERL (1887-1944).

Writer, editor, and Israel labor leader. Honored for many years as the “conscience” of Israel labor, Katznelson came to Palestine from Russia in 1909. In 1920, after working for many years as an agricultural laborer and serving in the Jewish Legion during World War I, he was instrumental in founding the Histadrut, the Israel Federation of Labor. Five years later he established Davar, the Histadrut daily which he edited to the end of his life. A founding member of Mapai, the Israel labor party, he was active in public life as a member of the executive committee of the Histadrut, the Jewish Agency, and the World Zionist Organization. During the late 1930’s Katznelson was a strong partisan of “illegal” immigration. Recognizing the imminent danger to European and world Jewry, he was an active supporter of the underground which smuggled Jews out of Europe and into Palestine.


See Hebrew Literature.

KAUFMAN, GEORGE S. (1899-1961).

American playwright known for such comic plays as You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner.


Hebrew philosopher and scholar. He was born in Ukraine and educated in Talmudical academies and European universities. In his comprehensive sociological study Golah Ve-Nekhar (Exile and Dispersion), Kaufman points out that the problem of Jewish nationalism is unique in character and historical development and therefore requires its own solution. His eight-volume history of the Jewish religion, Toldot Ha-Emunah Ha-Yisraelit (A History of the Israelite Faith), is an exhaustive and analytical work on the development of Jewish religious thought and practices. Kaufman was professor of biblical research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


See Stage and Screen.


See Prayer (Eighteen Benedictions).

See Sports.


The two main Jewish communities are in Louisville (8,700) and Lexington (1,850). German Jews arrived in the state in the mid-18th century, East European Jews after 1880. Communities were established in many towns, but most have now disappeared. Distinguished Jews from the state include Joseph Jonas, a friend of Abraham Lincoln who helped found the Whig Party, and Louis Brandeis, one of America’s leading jurists.


See Israel, State of and Zionism.


See Jewish National Fund.

Jewish marriage contract listing the details of the marriage agreement with particular emphasis on the promise of the husband to provide for his wife both during marriage and in case of divorce. The oldest ketubah preserved dates from the 5th century, though the Aramaic form used today probably dates only to the 12th century. The margins of many ketubot were artistically ornamented with designs and biblical verses.


People of Turkish origin who lived in southern Russia and adopted Judaism in the 8th century. Originally, the Khazars were only a small nomadic tribe, but by alliance with stronger tribes of Arabs, Russians, and Byzantines and through constant warfare, they succeeded in establishing an empire that stretched from the steppes of Eastern Europe and from the Volga Basin to the Chinese frontier. In 960, Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, a Jewish scholar and physician to the Caliph of Cordova, received a letter from King Joseph of the Khazars, telling a remarkable story. Some centuries before, King Bulan of the Khazars had asked the religious leaders of the Jews, Christians, Mohammedans and Mohammedans to explain their religions to him. Most impressed by the description of the Jewish faith, Bulan adopted it for his entire kingdom and invited Jewish scholars to establish schools for the instruction of his people in the Bible, Talmud, and Jewish ritual. Bulan’s successors took Jewish names and encouraged the practice of Judaism within the country. Fascinated by the story, and grasping at the possibility of obtaining a land of refuge for persecuted Jews, Hasdai entered into correspondence with King Joseph and learned about the country of the Khazars. At a time when much of Europe was fanatically bigoted, the Khazars had established a rule of tolerance. The King’s palace was located on the Volga River near the site of modern Astrakhan. The Khazar capital conducted a flourishing trade in grains, hides, and fruit. Unfortunately, early in the 11th century, Russian attacks destroyed the Khazar kingdom completely. The people were scattered throughout Crimea, Hungary, and even Spain; most of them adopted Christianity and disappeared as a separate group. The story of the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism has been interpreted variously. Some scholars call it a fable; others claim that only the ruling class adopted Judaism. Fascinated by the story, the medieval poet Judah Ha-Levi described the philosophic discussion between King Bulan and the three religious leaders in his book Ha-Kuzari.


See Ingathering of The Exiles.


Literally, group or collective. Forms of communal settlement in Israel. The early halutzim, or pioneers, established the kibbutz on the principle of complete equality. The members of each settlement own the property in common. Every member has one vote in the assembly which manages the settlement. All members must work; hired labor is employed only in times of crisis. Women share fully in the life and work of the community. Children spend the day in daycare. Their parents come for them immediately after work and they spend their free time, evenings, and Sabbaths together.

The kibbutz and the kvutzah differ in several ways. The kvutzah has fewer members and was originally devoted solely to agriculture. Both types trace their origins to Degania, or the mother of kvutzot founded in 1909. The large kibbutz appeared many years later when the number of immigrants flowing into the country rose. It was felt that larger units would better serve the needs of the country. Industrial enterprises were introduced to increase employment opportunities, lessen the dependence of the settlements on the cities, and raise the standard of living. At present, virtually all kibbutzim and kvutzot belong to one of three national federations. These federations coordinate the activities of their members in such matters as marketing, education, culture, credit, and relations with the government and other outside groups.


See Prayer.


Literally, sanctification of God’s name. This term was applied to the act of martyrdom in Jewish history, especially during the Middle Ages at the time of the Inquisition and during the Cossack massacres led by Bogdan Chmielnicki in Ukraine in 1648. Kiddush Ha-Shem also defines an act that brings honor to the Jewish people. The opposite of Kiddush Ha-Shem is Hillul Ha-Shem, desecration of God’s Name.

KIMHI, DAVID (1160-1235).

Hebrew grammarian and biblical commentator. He provided biblical students with logical, grammatical explanations of difficult words and passages. His grammatical works, encyclopedia, and Book of Roots were translated into Latin and used extensively by Christian scholars. Kimhi ably defended his faith in debates with various Christian scholars.


In the Bible, the First and Second Books of Kings cover the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah from Solomon in 970 B.C.E. to the destruction of Judah by Babylonia in 586 B.C.E. Beginning with the last days of King David, one dramatic story follows another. After Solomon’s brilliant reign and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, war split the country into two separate kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

The story of the Kingdom of Israel spanning the years between 993-721 B.C.E. follows. Throughout his life the prophet Elijah battled against Israel’s idol worship; the prophet Elisha who followed him continued this struggle. In its nearly three centuries of existence, the northern kingdom never managed to rid itself of idol worship. After describing the fall of the northern kingdom, the Book of Kings continues with the southern Kingdom of Judah whose capital was Jerusalem and whose center of worship was the Temple. Great prophets came to Judah, taught its people, and prepared and strengthened them for the time of their defeat and exile in 586 B.C.E.

KINNERET (Sea of Galilee).

A harp-shaped fresh-water lake in Israel. It is thirteen miles long and seven and a half miles wide at its broadest point, surrounded by the hills of Galilee and Golan. A rich fishing ground, Kinneret is encircled by towns and villages, including Tiberias, Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), Migdal, Ginossar, and Ein Gev. The lake has always had a romantic appeal, and many songs and poems were written about it.


See Sports.

Third month of the Jewish civil calendar. Hanukkah falls on the 25th of this month.


American political scientist and statesman. Born in Fuerth, Germany to Orthodox Jewish parents, he came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1938. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he completed his studies at Harvard University, where he subsequently served as faculty member, working primarily in the fields of government and international affairs. He was consultant to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1961 to 1967 and to the U.S. Department of State from 1965 to 1969. From 1961 to 1962 he was an advisor on national security affairs to President John F. Kennedy. In 1969, he became National Security Advisor to President Richard M. Nixon, and from 1973 to 1977 served as Secretary of State, the first foreign-born person and the first Jew in U.S. history to hold that office. In 1973, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (together with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam) for his efforts to bring about peace in Vietnam. Following the Yom Kippur War of 1973, he initiated a ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbors and shuttled back and forth among Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan to effectuate troop disengagements on Israel’s frontiers with Egypt and Syria.

KLAUSNER, JOSEPH (1874-1958).

Hebrew scholar, writer, and historian. As a youth of 15 in Odessa, Russia, Klausner dedicated himself to the task of modernizing Hebrew. He published books in Hebrew on a variety of subjects: literature, philosophy, philology, history, and Asian studies. He was editor of Ha-Shiloah, one of the finest Hebrew publications for more than 20 years, and served as professor of modern Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem since its establishment in 1925. Klausner was chief editor of a Hebrew Encyclopedia. His two studies on the rise of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth and From Jesus to Paul, are available in English.


Literally, musical instruments or musicians. Small musical bands in Eastern Europe before World War II, with the fiddle being the main instrument. They entertained at weddings and other festive occasions. In the U.S. today there has been a revival of klezmer music, consisting mostly of traditional Yiddish melodies.

KLUTZNICK, PHILIP (1907-1999).

American communal leader. He held a position in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration and from 1979 to 1980 served as Secretary of Commerce. One of the leaders of B’nai B’rith, he played a major role in that organization for many years.


Parliament of Israel. See Israel, Government of.

KOESTLER, ARTHUR (1905-1983).

Writer. He was born in Hungary, lived briefly in Palestine, and settled in England. He wrote mainly about the political events of his time. His political novel Darkness at Noon was a major expose of communism. Thieves in the Night was about kibbutz life.


Nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, 100.


See Ecclesiastes.


Literally, priest. Aaron, the elder brother of Moses, was the first high priest and ancestor of all the priests and high priests who performed the sacrificial rites and conducted services in the Sanctuary. According to the Bible, the meeting tent, or Tabernacle, was built by the Israelites in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. It was the first sanctuary in which a kohen, or priest, served the Lord (Exod. 25:8). There, Aaron brought the offerings of the people in the desert. When he performed the services in the Tabernacle, Aaron wore priestly robes called the hoshen and ephod. On the shoulder-pieces of the ephod were two stones on which the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved. On his chest, Aaron wore a breastplate made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn set with precious stones (Exod. 28).

When the Children of Israel settled in the Land of Canaan, the priests, like the rest of the tribe of Levi, received no portion of land, because they were completely dedicated to the service of the Lord. Instead, biblical laws assigned to them a part of levitical taxes paid by the people and some of the voluntary offerings from the crops and produce. Certain portions from the sacrifices and first fruit offerings were also set aside for the priests.

The Tabernacle rested in Shiloh, almost in the center of the land. Eli, the priest, officiated there for 40 years and served as Judge of Israel. In the time of King David, the role of the priest assumed new importance in the life of the people. Worship became centralized in Jerusalem, the new capital of the nation. When King Solomon built the Temple, gleaming with gold and bronze, high on Mt. Moriah, Zadok served as high priest and his son Azariah after him. For a thousand years, this position passed from father to son in the family of Zadok. As the centuries passed, triumph and disaster followed in turn, changing the life of the nation. The First Temple was destroyed, then rebuilt by the people returned from exile. The priests were the teachers and leaders of the people at that time, and their power was great. As foreign empires came and went, they interfered with people’s lives and worship in the Temple. Corrupt Greek and Roman governors ignored the required religious qualifications for priests and allowed men to buy their way into the position with gold. Then the Second Temple was destroyed, and the people were scattered in the lands of the dispersion, where prayer took the place of sacrifices. The kohanim went into exile with their people, retaining their identity by the surname Kohen. The spelling of the name has varied at different times and in different countries: Cohen, Coen, Cahn, Cahen, Cohan, Cahan, Kagan, Kahn; or Cowen, Kohn, Kann, and Katz (from the initials of kohen tzedek, priest of justice). All these variations identify members of a family whose ancestors acted as priests in the Sanctuary. Descendants of the original kohanim still rise up in Orthodox synagogues during the holiday services, cover their faces with prayer shawls, and bless the people with the triple benediction of the ancient priests of Israel.

KOHLER, KAUFMAN (1843-1926).

Rabbi, educator, and leader of Reform Judaism. A descendant of a family of rabbis, Kohler was born in Fuerth, Bavaria. He studied in Frankfurt-am-Main under the Orthodox philosopher Samson Raphael Hirsch. Later, he came under the influence of the famous Reform leader Abraham Geiger, who urged him to go to America. He arrived in the U.S. in 1869 and held Reform pulpits in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Kohler convened the conference of 1885, which drew up the “Pittsburgh Platform,” a statement of Reform views which retained its influence until the late 1930’s. He introduced Sunday services into his temples. Kohler was President of Hebrew Union College and of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He also served as editor of the Jewish Publication Society‘s 1917 translation of the Bible.

KOHUT, ALEXANDER (1842-1894).

Rabbi and scholar. Ordained in Hungary, Kohut arrived in New York in 1885 and became one of the founding fathers of Conservative Judaism in the U.S. He is best known for his exhaustive Talmudic dictionary and his work in behalf of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with Sabbato Morais.


Educator and communal worker. Brought to America from Hungary as a child, Rebecca Bettelheim studied literature and history before her marriage to Alexander Kohut in 1887. After his death in 1894, she embarked on a long career as lecturer, author, educator, and communal worker. She founded the Kohut School for Girls, and served as president of the first World Congress of Jewish Women and of the National Council of Jewish Women. Her writings include My Portion, an autobiography.


See Yom Kippur.

KOLLEK, THEODOR (TEDDY) (1911-2007).

Israeli public figure. Born in Vienna, he came to Palestine in 1934. In the 1950’s he played a major role in building Israel’s tourist industry and founding the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He was mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, becoming well known as a developer of the city and a seeker of peace between its Jewish and Arab residents.


Religious thinker and famous Chief Rabbi of Palestine. Born in a small town in Latvia, he studied at famous yeshivot, or Talmudic academies, and became known as a brilliant Talmudic scholar when young. He served as rabbi in several important Jewish communities. He also gained renown for his knowledge of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, Hasidism, and religious philosophy. He was among the few religious leaders of his time who saw in the return to Zion the fulfillment of a basic doctrine of Judaism.

In 1904, he became Rabbi of Jaffa, thus realizing his wish to settle in the Holy Land. In 1922, he was chosen Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic Jews in Palestine. In Jerusalem, he founded his Yeshivah Merkaz-Harav. He wrote and published distinguished Talmudic works and philosophic-poetical essays. He identified with the pioneers and exerted great influence on younger generations. His devotion and tolerance endeared him to all the builders of Palestine, the freethinking as well as the Orthodox. Every pioneer was close to his heart. When criticized for his tolerance of the irreligious Halutzim, he gave this characteristic reply: “When the Holy Temple existed, it was forbidden for a stranger or even an ordinary priest to enter in the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter it, and that but once a year during the Day of Atonement

KORCZAK, JANUSZ (1878-1942).

Polish writer and educator. He developed a theory of education based on treating children with respect, and was well known for his children books. He ran a home for children in the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation, and chose to go to his death when his charges were sent to a Nazi concentration camp.


See Dietary Laws.


See Music.


See Hasidism.

See Sports.


See Music.

KOVNER, ABBA (1918-1987).

Hebrew poet. Born in Crimea, he led a group of young Jews who escaped from Vilna during the Nazi occupation, and became known as a partisan commander. After the war he settled in Palestine and became a leading Israeli poet.


See Lithuania.

KREBS, SIR HANS ADOLF (1900-1981).

Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford University from 1954 until his death. He was born in Hildesheim, Germany, and was educated in that country. He had to give up his post as lecturer in medicine at the University of Freiburg, Bavaria, and emigrate to England with the advent of the Nazis. He shared the 1953 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the citric acid cycle which describes the chemical stages of oxidation of foodstuffs in living organisms.

KROCHMAL, NACHMAN (1785-1840).

Hebrew philosopher and scholar. Born in Galicia, he shared his profound wisdom with students attracted by his philosophy of Jewish history. After his death his teachings were published in his Guide for the Perplexed of the Age. Like Maimonides, Krochmal sought to reconcile Jewish religious thought with modern ideas. He believed that the Jewish people had survived because they were endowed with an “absolute Spirit” that was universal and immortal. Krochmal stimulated the Jewish people to think of themselves, once again, as a nation.


The “Land of the Kurds” is not a separate country, but is divided among Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Kurdistan stretches along the south shore of the Caspian Sea. The land is mountainous, with few roads. The Kurds are Moslems ruled by semi-independent tribal chiefs. Many Christian Armenians and Assyrians lived there at one time, but their numbers were greatly reduced by Kurdish massacres. According to an old legend, Kurdish Jews came to Kurdistan from Palestine in the time of Ezra, several centuries before the common era. They still speak Aramaic a dialect closely related to the language of the Gemara (See Talmud). Once they were nomads like the local Moslems, but later they settled down like the Kurdish Christians. Kurdistan has always remained uninfluenced by Western civilization. Jewish occupations included farming and fruit growing, shopkeeping, peddling, and handicrafts. Thousands of Kurdish Jews have gone to Israel, where their tall, stalwart figures, beards, and turbans became a familiar sight.


See Kibbutz.


Jacob‘s uncle and later father-in-law. He promised to let his daughter Rachel marry Jacob. On the wedding night he substituted Leah, Rachel’s older sister. After Jacob worked for Laban for seven more years, Laban gave him Rachel as well. In Jewish tradition, Laban became known as a deceiver.


Socialist Zionism originated at the close of the 19th century and had to struggle for followers among Jewish socialists who rejected Zionism as a “reactionary movement.” Jewish socialists saw the solution of the Jewish problem in a Utopian world that socialism aimed to create for all people. The first Jewish leader to differ with the Marxist idea was Moses Hess, who held that Jewish people had the right to a place in humankind’s family of nations. As the Socialist Zionist movement grew, it had to make its way against socialist ridicule and opposition. Nachman Syrkin and Ber Borochov were the leaders in this struggle. Syrkin saw in Socialist Zionism a modern expression of the Hebrew prophets’ teachings of justice for all. He founded the first Poale Zion, or Workers of Zion, group in London in 1903. Borochov felt that the special problem of the Jewish masses could be solved only in a Jewish Socialist commonwealth in Palestine. At a conference in 1906, the various Russian Poale Zion groups reconciled their differences and formed the Jewish Social Democratic Party, Poale Zion of Russia. This body united with the Poale Zion groups of Austria and the United States in 1907 to form the Poale Zion Party as an autonomous body within the World Zionist Organization. The Labor Zionists came to Palestine as the famous pioneering Second Aliyah (1904-1914), which established agricultural cooperatives and organized the self-defense that guarded Jewish colonies from Arab attack. Before World War I, the Labor Zionists were divided into two parties: Poale Zion and the Hapoel Hatzair, or the Young Worker. The personality and “religion of labor” gospel of Aaron David Gordon exerted the greatest influence on both groups. The Poale Zion leaders in Palestine included David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and Berl Katznelson. In 1929, Poale Zion and Hapoel Hatzair merged to form Mifleget Poale Eretz Israel, the Party of the Workers of Israel. For decades, Mapai, the initials by which this party is known, was the largest political party in Israel. (See also Hashomer Ha-tzair.)


Canaanite city kingdom conquered by Joshua in 1230 B.C.E. and allotted to Judah. It was rice, corn, vine, and olive-growing area lying astride the main trade routes to Egypt and Mesopotamia. Lachish was coveted and fought for by Israel’s neighbors. Later, it was the scene of Samson‘s triumphs and David‘s victory over Goliath. Lachish was a link in the chain of fortresses which King Rehoboam built to guard the southern approaches to Jerusalem. It was attacked by Sennacherib and then by Nebuchadnezzar, as corroborated in the Lachish Letters discovered in 1935. After fourteen centuries of neglect, the 125,000 acres of the Lachish area on Israel’s southern border are now being rehabilitated through agricultural settlement. Three training camps have been set up to prepare future settlers, and eight villages have already been established.


(Judeo-Spanish). When the Jews left Spain in 1492, the Spanish language was on the verge of change. The old form is preserved today only in the Jewish dialect called Ladino. It is also called Spaniolish or Castiliano. It is spoken by Sephardic Jews in Turkey, the Balkans, part of North Africa, in Israel, and the Americas. More than 20,000 persons in New York City speak Ladino. From the beginning, Ladino included Hebrew words. Later, it picked up Arabic, Turkish, Greek, French, and Italian words. It is usually printed in Rashi script, but in Turkey and Israel a few newspapers print Ladino in Latin letters. Spanish scholars often visit the Sephardim to collect old Spanish songs and sayings. In the U.S. there has been a revival of Ladino culture, reflected mainly in songs and folktales.


See Omer.


See Hebrew Literature.


Twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, thirty.


Literally, 36 righteous men. The “secret saints” for whose sake the world survives. These secret saints are the center of many stories and mystic legends, all of them based on the saying in the Talmud by Abbaye that there are at least 36 righteous men in every generation. They are so pious and modest that they hide their learning and earn their bread by physical labor. According to this legend, before one of the Lamed Vav dies, another is born, and so the sinful world is saved from destruction.


Third of the five scrolls in the Writings section of the Bible. According to tradition, its author is the prophet Jeremiah. Lamentations consists of five beautiful elegies or poems of mourning lamenting the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the first Temple. The first four elegies are written in alphabetic acrostics, that is, each verse opens with a letter of the alphabet in consecutive order. Lamentations is chanted in the synagogue on the ninth day of the month of Ab, the day in 586 B.C.E. of the destruction of the Temple.


Religious Zionist leader and philosopher. Born to a Hasidic family in Poland, he rose at an early age to a high position of leadership in religious Zionism. He worked untiringly for Hapoel Ha­mizrachi, as well as for Hehalutz and Zionist fundraising, at first in Poland and later in 1925 in Palestine. Landau was the founder of the move­ment within religious Zionism that stressed Torah Ve-Avodah, or traditional Judaism and labor.


See Music.