Minority Culture --- Jewish
Theme 1 --- Holidays/Traditions
There is no way to define someone as “Jewish” in terms of race; there is no “Jewish race.” Judaism has a long history; Jewish identity is a combination of this history as well as religious and ethnic variables. There are also several different ways to practice Judaism such as Orthodox, Reformed, Liberal, and Masorti. The Orthodo Jews often follow most strictly the laws and observances of Judaism and will often times send their child to privates Jewish schools at synagogues, therefore it is most likely that I would encounter students that practice as less strict form of Judaism (Chinn, Gollnick p.254). According to 2009 religious affiliation information from the US Census, Pennsylvania’s Jewish population makes up 2.3% of the total population (Table 76. Religious bodies selected data) and according to the Jewish Virtual Library 88% of the Jewish population in Pennsylvania resides in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia (Pennsylvania).
One holiday that is uniform amongst all Jewish cultures is Hanukkah. Hanukkah is not considered to be a “high” festival because it is not regulated in the Torah; however Hanukkah is important to Jewish families because it signifies their refusal to integrate into mainstream culture. Hanukkah has very clear origins. It was first celebrated in 165 B.C.E. when a small group of Jews (The Maccabees) overcame the Syrian oppressors to preserve their culture and way of life and re-dedicate their temple which had previously been taken over by the Syrians. The Syrians sought to destroy the Jewish faith and convert all Jews over to Hellenism (Cardoza p. 83-84). One of the most recognized practices of Hanukkah is the lighting of the eight candles on the menorah; Arlene Rossen Cardozo, a Jewish American, describes the importance of the Hanukkah candles: “…we kindle the Hanukkah candles to recall the victory over assimilation and to recall the battle the Maccabees waged for Jews to remain separate from the dominant religion of the day” (Cardoza p. 85). The eight day Hanukkah festival also includes feasts, large family gatherings, and gift making and giving (traditionally coins), singing, dancing, saying of blessings, and games. Cardoza explains that the Jewish American Hanukkah tradition of giving gifts to children during Hanukkah probably comes from the Christian tradition of giving gifts and that is why she encourages making or buying thoughtful, small gifts for loved ones instead of arbitrarily running around and looking for “the perfect gift.” Cardoza’s family places the most importance on gifts that are made rather than purchased (Cardoza p. 90).
Shabbat is considered to be the most importance observance in Judaism as it is explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments, it is known as “the day of rest.” Shabbat means “cease or desist” in Hebrew which is exactly what Shabbat is all about; ceasing work to rest and rejuvenate. The Shabbat is always on the seventh day...