Judaism is the way of life of an historic people founded by the biblical patriarch, Abraham about 4000 years ago. After a period of slavery in Egypt Moses led the people out of captivity and received Gods commands (the Torah) at Mount Sinai in about 1300 BCE. Joshua later led them to the Promised Land where they established the Israelite kingdom.
Their most famous king was David who established Jerusalem as the nations capital. His son Solomon built the Temple which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.The Second Temple, built about 70 years later, was destroyed by the Romans. The Jewish people were scattered throughout the world but maintained their religion and way of life, making many important contributions to culture and civilisation.
In 1948 the State of Israel was formed and is the central focus of the Jewish people, though millions of Jews live in other countries.The Torah, or first five books of the Hebrew scriptures, contains 613 mitzvot or commandments for a holy and righteous way of life. The 613 mitzvot include the Ten Commandments.The mitzvot applied by the spiritual leaders or rabbis make up the Halakhah or Jewish Law. The Halakhah encompasses all aspects of Jewish life including theology, ethics, worship, daily rituals, life-cycle events, marriage, food, clothing, education, work, S abbaths and holy days.
• The most widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is the thirteen principles compiled in the 12th century by Moses Maimonides. These principles are:• God exists• God is one and unique• God is incorporeal• God is eternal• Prayer is to God alone and to no other• The words of the prophets are true• Moses was the greatest of the prophets• The Torah was given to Moses• There will be no other Torah• God knows the thoughts and deeds of men• God rewards the good and punishes the wicked• The Messiah will come• The dead will be resurrected
A synagogue is the centre of a Jewish religious community used for prayer, study and education, social and charitable work and as a social centre. Judaisms most holy site is the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This is the retaining wall of the Second Temple. The most important Jewish festivals are Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and ten days later, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the world. The fast of Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year when Jews repent their sins. Other festivals include Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot) which commemorate events in Jewish history.
Pesach recalls the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and Sukkot remembers the journey of the Jews through the desert on the way to the Promised Land. Yom Hashoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a very sad time which recalls the six million Jews who perished because of Nazi anti-Semitism between 1933 and 1945. Of them, 1.5 million were children.
There are about 14 million Jewish people in the world today. About 6 million live in the United States of America, over 5 million in Israel, 1.3 million in the former Soviet Union, 1.2 million in other European countries and the remainder in smaller communities around the world.
In 1788 about sixteen Jewish convicts arrived in Australia with the First Fleet.Among them was Esther Abrahams who in 1808, as partner to Lieutenant George Johnston, became the colonys unofficial first lady. Jewish worship in Sydney began in about 1817 under the leadership of Joseph Marcus, a former convict. Phillip Joseph Cohen, a free settler, held services in his home from 1828.After using various temporary premises the congregation opened the first specifically built synagogue in Australia in 1844.Jewish congregations were formed in Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne and Adelaide during the 1840s, Brisbane in 1886 and Fremantle in 1887.
All together there were about 1000 Jews among the 157,000 convicts who arrived in Australia between 1788 and 1868. The majority came from England. They included tailors, watchmakers, sho emakers, grooms, ostrich- feather manufacturers, silk-glove makers and even orange sellers.
They were joined by settlers mostly from England but also from Germany, and later by refugees fleeing pogroms (organised massacres) in Russia and Poland.• During World War I, 11% of the community enlisted; 17% of these lost their lives. Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, the Australian Commander-in-chief, was born in Australia but came from a Polish Jewish family.• In 1917 the New South Wales Legislative Assembly had to close on Yom Kippur because both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker were Jewish. In 1931 Sir Isaac Isaacs, formerly a parliamentarian and then a member (later Chief Justice) of the High Court, became Australias first Australian born Governor-General.
The Australian Jewish community gradually increased with the arrival of more Polish refugees in the 1920s; Austrian and German refugees from Nazi persecution in the 1930s; migrants and refugees from Europe, Shanghai, Iraq, Egypt, India and Hungary in the 1940s and 50s; and more recently migrants from Russia, South Africa and Israel.Today there are almost 84,000 Jewish people in Australia, about 0.5% of the population.