Religious beliefs and practices of the Jews.
One of the three great monotheistic world religions, Judaism began as the faith of the ancient Hebrews, and its sacred text is the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Torah. Fundamental to Judaism is the belief that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people, who must serve as a light for other nations. God made a covenant first with Abraham, then renewed it with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. The worship of Yahweh (God) was centered in Jerusalem from the time of David.
The destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 BC) and the subsequent exile of the Jews led to hopes for national restoration under the leadership of a messiah. The Jews were later allowed to return by the Persians, but an unsuccessful rebellion against Roman rule led to the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 and the Jews’ dispersal throughout the world in the Jewish Diaspora.
Rabbinic Judaism emerged to replace the temple cult at Jerusalem, as the Jews carried on their culture and religion through a tradition of scholarship and strict observance. The great body of oral law and commentaries were committed to writing in the Talmud and Mishna. The religion was maintained despite severe persecutions in many nations.
Two branches of Judaism emerged in the Middle Ages: the Sephardi, centered in Spain and culturally linked with the Babylonian Jews; and the Ashkenazi, centered in France and Germany and linked with the Jewish culture of Palestine and Rome. Elements of mysticism also appeared, notably the esoteric writings of the Kabbala and, in the 18th century, the movement known as Hasidism. The 18th century was also the time of the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskala. Conservative and Reform Judaism emerged in 19th-century Germany as an effort to modify the strictness of Orthodox Judaism.
By the end of the 19th century Zionism had appeared as an outgrowth of reform. European Judaism suffered terribly during the Holocaust, when millions were put to death by the Nazis, and the rising flow of Jewish emigrants to Palestine led to declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.
Taken from http://education.yahoo.com/search/be?p=judaism Important Persons:
Moses or Moshe (Standard Hebrew Mose, Latin Moyses, Tiberian Hebrew Moseh, Arabic Musa), son of Amram (Imran in Arabic) and his wife, Jochebed, a Levite. Legendary Hebrew liberator, leader, lawgiver, prophet, and historian.
According to scriptural account, Moses freed a group of nearly two million Hebrew slaves and organized them in the desert. In doing so, he presented societal and religious laws which form the foundation of many contemporary legal, religious, and governmental systems.
Moses promoted the doctrine of monotheism, which was not widely accepted at the time, codifying it in Jewish religion with the 1st Commandment, thereby limiting polytheism within the culture. He is revered as a prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses
Abraham (“Father/Leader of many”, Standard Hebrew Avraham, Latin Abrahamus, Tiberian Hebrew Abraham; Arabic Ibrahim) is the patriarch of Judaism, recognized by Christianity, and a very important prophet in Islam. The story of his life is told in the Book of Genesis and in the Quran.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes referred to as the “Abrahamic religions”, because of the role Abraham plays in their holy books and beliefs. In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, Abraham is described as a patriarch blessed by God (the Jewish people called him “Father Abraham”), and promised great things, father of the People of Israel through his son Isaac; the Qur’an further claims Ishmael as the father of the Arabs.
In Islam, Abraham is considered to be one of the most important of the many prophets sent by God. In Christian belief, Abraham is a model of faith, and his intention to obey God by offering up Isaac is seen as a foreshadowing of God’s offering of his son, Jesus.
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham
The Magen David (shield of David, or as it is more commonly known, the Star of David) is the symbol most commonly associated with Judaism today, but it is actually a relatively new Jewish symbol. It is supposed to represent the shape of King David’s shield (or perhaps the emblem on it), but there is really no support for that claim in any early rabbinic literature.
Scholars such as Franz Rosenzweig have attributed deep theological significance to the symbol. For example, some note that the top triangle strives upward, toward G-d, while the lower triangle strives downward, toward the real world. Some note that the intertwining makes the triangles inseparable, like the Jewish people.
Some say that the three sides represent the three types of Jews: Kohanim, Levites and Israel. Some note that there are actually 12 sides (3 exterior and 3 interior on each triangle), representing the 12 tribes. While these theories are theologically interesting, they have little basis in historical fact.
Taken from http://www.jewfaq.org/signs.htm