The Jewish religion was founded 3500 years ago in the Middle East. It is the oldest of the worlds three most common religions. The followers of Judaism are called Jews. The word Jew originated from the ancient Kingdom of Judea.
Judaism is the parent of both Christianity and Islam. The central belief of Judaism is that there is only one God named Yahweh. At the time Judaism was born, it was uncommon to believe in only one God but according to Judaism tradition, God revealed himself to Abraham. Abraham is believed to be the founder of the religion.
Judaism teaches that God takes special care of his Jewish followers and that God rescued them from slavery. Jews believe that God chose them to set an example of holiness and ethical behavior.
The Torah is the written scripture of Judaism. The Torah consist of the five Books of Moses. It is also known as the Old Testament for non Jews. Judaism does not follow the inspiration of the New Testament.
The laws of Judaism are called Halakhah. The Hebrew bible is called the Tanakh. The scriptures of Judaism consist of three groups of documents the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
The spiritual leaders of Judaism are called Rabbis and they worship in a synagogue.
A lot of the Jewish religious life is based on the family and home. One example of this is the Sabbath or holy day. Sabbath begins before sunset on Friday and ends an hour after sunset on Saturday. It is supposed to be a day of rest, no television, no telephone and no work.
There are several important Jewish holy days. Sukkot or the feast of Tabernacles celebrates the years the Jews spent in the desert on the way to the promised land and how God protected them on this journey.
Hanukkah or the Jewish Festival of Lights celebrates the victory of a group of Jews over the Syrian Greeks who was the most powerful army in the ancient world. Hanukkah is an eight day celebration where Jews light a candle each day. Candles are held in a menorah. After the candles are lit, Jews recite a prayer and sing a hymn. Gifts are also exchanged.
The Star of David is one of the symbols most commonly associated with the Jewish people. It doesn't have any religious significance but many Jews wear the symbol. Male Jews also wear a small cap called a Kipa. This cap signifies that God is present above oneself. Some wear it all day while others only during prayer.
The Jewish religion is important to the Holocaust because in the 2nd World War over 6 million Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis in an attempt to erase the religion from Europe. Hitler thought Jewish people were the country's enemy. He originally just wanted all the Jews to leave Germany. Hitler blamed the Jews for the economic crisis in Germany and also for losing World War 1.