In the Hebrew term yehudi, the term means the settlement area of the tribe of Judah and made its way via ioudaios (Greek) or iudaeus (Latin) to the German term Jude, Judaism.
Judaism, also Jewishness, refers to both the religion and the cultures and traditions that have been cultivated for thousands of years.
Like Christianity and Islam, the Jewish religion belongs to the monotheistic religions that go back to Abraham as the “one God doctrine”. It has its basis in the five books proclaimed by Moses on Mount Sinai, the Torah, and the rabbinical writings interpreting them.
In different interpretations of the Torah, the approximately 15 million Jews worldwide are essentially divided in their religious orientation between:
- Ashkenazi Jews with roots in Germany or France prior to their emigration to Eastern Europe and later to the United States,
- Sephardic Jews with ancestors in Spain and Portugal before they had to flee from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and settled in the Mediterranean region and the Ottoman Empire (here in Palestine) as well as in Central and Western Europe,
- Mizrachi Jews in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia,
- Yemenite Jews, who were isolated from the rest of the Jews for a long time and thus partly practiced their own customs, and
- Tzabar, the Jews born in the Land of Israel.
Further differentiation occurs according to interpretation of texts, traditions, and ways of life into Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism.
An important symbol for the Jewish religion and for today’s state of Israel is the “Star of David” named after David, King of Judah around 1000 BC.
Another religious as well as state symbol is the seven-branched candelabrum, the menorah, found in every Jewish home. The best known menorah is probably in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem.
Fig. 1: Jewish territories and dominions around 1000 BC (Source: Israel surrounding territories 830 B.C., Partynia, via Wikimedia Commons).
Fig. 2: Moses’ Annunciation was the subject of artistic debate in later centuries, here by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1659 (Gemäldegalerie Berlin). It shows Moses destroying the Tablets of the Law following the Israelites’ worship of the Golden Calf (Source: Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt (1606-1669), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
Fig. 3: Torah scroll from the synagogue from Groß-Umstadt in the Hessenpark (Source: Torah scroll from the synagogue from Groß-Umstadt in the Hessenpark, Bodow, via Wikipedia Commons)
Fig. 4: Star of David (Source: The Star of David, symbol of the Jewish faith and Jewish people, Zscout370, via Wikipedia Commons).