Origins of the word “Jew”<br />The original name for people we call Jews was “Hebrews”. Hebrew is first used in the Torah to describe Abraham.<br />“Jew” or “Yehudi” in Hebrew, is derived from the name “Judah” who was one of Jacobs twelve sons. <br />Originally, “Yehudi” was a name given to the tribe of Judah to distinguish them from the other tribes of Israel.<br />Today, “Jew” is used to describe all descendents- whether physical or spiritual- of Jacob/Israel. Jew also encompasses Abraham, Isaac and their wives and their beliefs.<br />
Who is Jewish?<br />Any person born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. If the Jewish mother is an atheist and never practices Judaism they are still considered a Jew. <br />If a person has converted to Judaism through the formal process they are considered a Jew.<br />If a person practices according to Jewish law and was born to non-Jewish parents they are still considered a non-Jew until they follow the formal process of conversion.<br />Judaism is more of a nationality. <br />Jewish is more like citizenship. <br />
Who is Jewish?<br />Going back to non-Jewish parents…<br />Traditional Judaism maintains that if the mother is Jewish the children are Jewish. <br />Liberal Judaism considers a person to be Jewish if either parent is Jewish.<br />
Matrilineal Descent<br />Why does Judaism use matrilineal descent as a way to determine Jewishness? There is no specific mention in the Torah but there are several passages that suggest a child born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father is still a Jew while a child born to a non-Jewish mother and Jewish father is not a Jew.<br />In Deuteronomy, there is concern in regards to the non-Jewish father. <br />The concern is the non-Jewish father will turn the children from God and worship other Gods. <br />There is no such concern in regards to children from non-Jewish mothers .<br />Because of this verse traditional Jews infer that the child of a non-Jewish father is Jewish and can be turned away from Judaism while the child of a non-Jewish mother is not Jewish and cannot turn away from Judaism.<br />So, this is why traditional Jews believe you are Jewish if your mother is Jewish.<br />
Ruth<br />Many people question whether King David was a true Jewish man being that his ancestor Ruth was not Jewish.<br />Ruth was a Jew.<br />Ruth converted to Judaism before marrying Boaz and bearing his children. <br />Also, Ruth was an ancestor of King David’s father not his mother who determines his Jewish status.<br />
Women in Judaism<br />The role of women in traditional Judaism has been extremely misrepresented and misunderstood. <br />Jewish women are not as lowly as many modern people think. The position of women in halakhah (Jewish Law) -which dates back to the biblical period- is better than the position of women in American as recent as a century ago. <br />Many important feminist leaders of the 20th century, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan are Jewish women. <br />Some people suggest that this not a coincidence: the respect accorded to women in Jewish tradition is a part of their ethnic culture. <br />In traditional Judaism, women are seen as separate but equal. Women's obligations and responsibilities are different from a man but no less important and at times may be considered more important. <br />
Women in Judaism<br />Judaism does not view God as exclusively male or masculine. Judaism maintains that God is of masculine and feminine qualities. Man and woman were created in the image of God. <br />According to most Jewish scholars, in Genesis .1:27 man was created with dual gender and separated later into a male and female. <br />According to traditional Judaism, women were created with a greater degree of "binah" (intuition, understanding, intelligence) than men. <br />Rabbis suggest from the verse, Genesis 2:22 that women were "built" rather than "formed" as were men. <br />Traditional Judaism suggests that because a woman was built by God, they are closer to God's ideal than men.<br />
Women have held positions of respect in Judaism since biblical times. The Talmud and later rabbinical writings speak of the wisdom of Berurya, the wife of Rabbi Meir. In several instances, her opinions on halakhah (Jewish Law) were accepted over those of her male contemporaries. Many rabbis over the centuries have been known to consult their wives on matters of Jewish law relating to the woman's role, such as laws of kashrut and women's cycles. <br />The rights of women in traditional Judaism are much greater than they were in the rest of Western civilization until this century. Women had the right to buy, sell, and own property, and make their own contracts, rights which women in Western countries (including America) did not have until about 100 years ago. In fact, Proverbs 31:10-31, which is traditionally read at Jewish weddings, speaks repeatedly of business acumen as a trait to be prized in women (v. 11, 13, 16, and 18 especially). <br />
Women have the right to be consulted with regard to their marriage. Marital sex is regarded as the woman's right, and not the man's. Men do not have the right to beat or mistreat their wives, a right that was recognized by law in many Western countries until a few hundred years ago. In cases of rape, a woman is generally presumed not to have consented to the intercourse, even if she enjoyed it, even if she consented after the sexual act began and declined a rescue! This is in sharp contrast to American society, where even today rape victims often have to overcome public suspicion that they "asked for it" or "wanted it." Traditional Judaism recognizes that forced sexual relations within the context of marriage are rape and are not permitted; in many states in America, rape within marriage is still not a criminal act. <br />
There is no question that in traditional Judaism, the primary role of a woman is as wife and mother, keeper of the household. However, Judaism has great respect for the importance of that role and the spiritual influence that the woman has over her family. The Talmud says that when a pious man marries a wicked woman, the man becomes wicked, but when a wicked man marries a pious woman, the man becomes pious. Women are exempted from all positive commandments ("thou shalts" as opposed to "thou shaltnots") that are time-related (that is, commandments that must be performed at a specific time of the day or year), because the woman's duties as wife and mother are so important that they cannot be postponed to fulfill a commandment. After all, a woman cannot be expected to just drop a crying baby when the time comes to perform a commandment. because this exemption diminishes the role of women in the synagogue, many people perceive that women have no role in Jewish religious life. This misconception derives from the mistaken assumption that Jewish religious life revolves around the synagogue. It does not; it revolves around the home, where the woman's role is every bit as important as the man's. <br />
In Jewish tradition, there are three mitzvot (commandments) that are reserved for women: nerot (lighting candles), challah (separating a portion of dough), and niddah (ritual immersion after the end of a woman's menstrual period).<br />that is, the privilege of lighting candles to mark the beginning of the Shabbat or a holiday. The lighting of candles officially marks the beginning of sacred time for the home; once candles are lit, any restrictions or observances of the holiday are in effect.<br />The second woman's mitzvah is challah, that is, the privilege of separating a portion of dough from bread before baking it. This commandment comes from Num. 15:20, where we are commanded to set aside a portion of dough for the kohein.<br />The third woman's mitzvah is the obligation to immerse herself in a mikvah (ritual bath) after the end of her menstrual period. The Torah prohibits sexual intercourse during a woman's menstrual period. This ritual immersion marks the end of that period of separation and the resumption of the couple's sexual activities.<br />
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