Glossary

Show All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z

Torah portion. The five books of the Torah are divided into 54 parashiyot or portions. Each week, Jewish communities read one parashah (singular of parashiyot); in this way, Jewish communities read the entire Torah over the course of a year.  Depending on the calendar, some weeks will feature a “double-portion.” The name of each portion is taken from the first few significant words of the portion; plural: parashiyot

Food products that are made with neither meat nor milk products and therefore, according to customary kashrut practices, can be eaten with either. Produce, grains, fish, and eggs are considered pareve. The word also is used colloquially to mean “neutral” or “without strong opinions.”

The idea that one is Jewish if either parent is Jewish and one was raised with Judaism. This contrasts with the traditional idea of matrilineal descent, in which one is Jewish if one’s mother is/was Jewish. Reform Judaism has accepted Jews by patrilineal descent since a Central Conference of American Rabbis resolution in 1983. 

"Passover;" a major Jewish spring festival that commemorates the Israelites Exodus from Eqypt more than 3,000 years ago.

"Redemption of the first-born son/daughter;" traditional home ceremony on the 31st day of a child's life in which the parents "redeem" their first-born son from priestly service. Although this ritual is more commonly practiced within the Orthodox community, contemporary families use the opportunity to welcome both sons and daughters.

The concept that saving a life overrides all other biblical commandments.

Lit. "Opening of the Womb." As an alternative to pidyon haben, a creative way to celebrate the birth of a first child in which family and friends of the firstborn recite blessings, make pledges of tzedakah (righteous giving) in honor of the firstborn child, and celebrate with a s'udat mitzvah (celebratory meal). See kiddush peter rechem.

Organized attack on Jewish communities in Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th century.

The second section of the Hebrew Bible, found between the Torah, and the Writings; also refers to the many individuals recorded in that section of the Bible who received prophecies from God and shared them with the Jewish people. 

"Lots" (Hebrew). Holiday that commemorates Queen Esther's actions to save the Jews of Persia from death; marked by a festive reading of the story, contained in the Scroll of Esther.

Humorous play performed as part of the celebration of Purim.