• Aramaic

    The spoken language of the Ancient Near East during the period of the Rabbis. The majority of the Talmud, as well as some prayers—including the Kaddish, are written in Aramaic.

  • Ashkenazi

    The ethnic designation of Jews whose ancestry comes from Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe.

  • Conservative

    The Jewish denomination, founded in Germany and developed in the United States, which attempts to preserve Jewish Tradition and the binding nature of Jewish law, while also adapting to change in the modern world.

  • Hasidim:

    A type of Orthodox Judaism that is particularly noted for its inclusion of singing, dance, ecstatic worship, and storytelling in its religious practice. The largest Hasidic group in America today is Chabad.

  • Ladino

    A mixture of Spanish and Hebrew, spoken by Jews throughout the Sephardic world.

  • Mizrahi

    While most older Jewish texts only make reference to Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, many Jews from the Arabian Peninsula and Iran refer to themselves as Mizrahi, meaning “Eastern.”

  • Orthodox

    Orthodox Judaism affirms the eternally binding and essentially unchanging nature of Jewish law, and thus resists making compromises with modernity. Orthodox Judaism is a diverse branch of the Jewish People, containing both Modern Orthodox Jews who obtain secular educations and keep traditional practice while pursuing professional careers, and ultra-Orthodox Jews who tend to reject all aspects of the contemporary world and insulate themselves against secular education and society which they perceive as a threat.

  • Reconstructionist

    The Reconstructionist Movement is based on the thought of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, who taught that Judaism should be seen as a civilization, rather than just as a religion— complete with its own language, culture, art, and folkways. Reconstructionist Judaism tends to de-emphasize both a supernatural God and idea of Jews as the “Chosen People.”

  • Reform

    The Reform Movement began in 19th century Germany as a response to the Enlightenment and the emancipation of the Jews from full citizenship in Western Europe. The early leaders of the Reform Movement sought to modernize Judaism by adopting many features of the Protestant Church, including services in the vernacular, long sermons, choral and instrumental music in services, even changing the day of Shabbat to Sunday. The Reform Movement maintains that while Judaism’s ethical commandments remain in force, the ritual mitzvot are no longer binding on contemporary Jews. In recent decades, the Reform Movement has begun to re-emphasize the importance of ritual and the use of Hebrew in services.

  • Sephardic

    Jews who trace their ancestry back to the countries of the Mediterranean region; including, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and North Africa.

  • Yiddish

    The primary spoken language of Ashkenazi Jewry, formed from a blend of German and Hebrew. Many common Yiddish words continue to pepper the speech of American Jews.