Judaism (Hebrew: יַהֲדוּתYahăḏūṯ) is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion. It comprises the collective spiritual, cultural, and legal traditions of the Jewish people, having originated as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Contemporary Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the cultic religious movement of ancient Israel and Judah, around the 6th/5th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Religious Jews regard Judaism as their means of observing the Mosaic covenant, which was established between God and the Israelites, their ancestors. Jewish religious doctrine encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization.
Among Judaism's core texts is the Torah, the first five books of the Tanakh, a collection of ancient Hebrew scriptures. The Tanakh, known in English as the Hebrew Bible, is also referred to as the "Old Testament" in Christianity. In addition to the original written scripture, the supplemental Oral Torah is represented by later texts, such as the Midrash and the Talmud. The Hebrew-language word torah can mean "teaching", "law", or "instruction", although "Torah" can also be used as a general term that refers to any Jewish text that expands or elaborates on the original Five Books of Moses. Representing the core of the Jewish spiritual and religious tradition, the Torah is a term and a set of teachings that are explicitly self-positioned as encompassing at least seventy, and potentially infinite, facets and interpretations. Judaism's texts, traditions, and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. Hebraism, like Hellenism, played a seminal role in the formation of Western civilization through its impact as a core background element of Early Christianity. (Full article...)
Biblical Hebrew has been written with a number of different writing systems. The Hebrews adopted the Phoenician script around the 12th century BCE, which developed into the Paleo-Hebrew script. This was retained by the Samaritans, who use the descendent Samaritan script to this day. However the Aramaic script gradually displaced the Paleo-Hebrew script for the Jews, and it became the source for the modern Hebrew alphabet. All of these scripts were lacking letters to represent all of the sounds of Biblical Hebrew, though these sounds are reflected in Greek and Latin transcriptions of the time. (Read more...)
Congregation Beth Elohim is a Jewish Reform congregation located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 1861 as a more liberal breakaway from Congregation Baith Israel, in its first 65 years it attempted four mergers with other congregations, including three with Baith Israel, all of which failed. The congregation completed its current Classical Revivalsynagogue building in 1910 and its "Jewish Deco" (Romanesque Revival and Art Deco) Temple House in 1929. The congregation went through difficult times during the Great Depression, and the bank almost foreclosed on its buildings in 1946. Membership dropped significantly in the 1930s because of the Depression, and again in the 1970s as a result of demographic shifts. Programs for young children helped draw Jewish families back into the neighborhood and revitalize the membership. By 2006 Beth Elohim had over 1000 members, and, as of 2008, it was the largest Reform congregation in Brooklyn, the "oldest Brooklyn congregation that continues to function under its corporate name", and its pulpit was the oldest in continuous use in any Brooklyn synagogue. (Read more...)