Background and Context

Judaism is a Middle Eastern religion, and in historical biblical terms, trace their origins to a prophet, Abraham. The oldest of the “Abrahamic faiths” Judaism traces its origins to some 3,500 years ago. In the UK, Jews are regarded as an ethnicity as well as a religion. Some Jews do not regard themselves as religious, though Jewish religion and cultural traditions are interwoven. The main festivals commemorate important landmarks in Jewish history, such as Yom Kippur and the Passover. In Britain, Jews who are religious are either Orthodox or Progressive. Orthodox Jews keep strict observation of the ancient rites, while Progressive Jews do not insist on strict conformity and are satisfied with allegiance to the Jewish faith. In Bristol, there are approximately 1,000 ethnic Jews, from which approximately 100 observe the religion. There are two synagogues in Bristol serving the Orthodox and Progressive Jews.

The Religion

As a religion, Judaism is monotheistic. Jewish religion is matrilineal (SACRE, 2003). The essence of Judaism is found in the Torah. It is a metanarrative of humanity and tells the story of a covenant made with God, a people persecuted, a people in exile and in slavery, and the colonization of their land by the Romans. It is a story of human hardship and suffering which led to their eventual dispersal throughout Europe and America as well as in other parts of the world. The covenant is a belief that the Jews are a “Chosen People” by God – giving them a special protection of Jehovah, or God. As a consequence, Jews feel a special sense of mission on earth and this is bolstered by their strong sense of history and ancestry. Perhaps it is the sense of pride and mission that has resulted in the accomplishments of Jewish groups in all professional fields, in culture and in entertainment. Some would say that the Ten Commandments given to the prophet, Moses, is a good guide to the Jewish mind though other documents and developments have also shaped Jewish thinking in the conduct of their personal life and life in the community. These are:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make any graven image.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  4. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covert they neighbours wife, property, etc

The Practice of Religion

Some of these observations are as follows:

  • The Sabbath is a rest day and a holy day for the Jews and this starts at sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Practising Jews go to the synagogue on the day.
  • The practise of male circumcision.
  • They are forbidden to eat pork.
  • They are forbidden to eat shell fish.
  • Strict observation of eating only Kosher food – purified food.
  • Separate use of utensils in cooking of fish and meat

Useful links

»» www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/Judaism/belief/beliefs_1

»» Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation, 43/47 Bannerman Road, Bristol, BS5 0RR. www.bwpjc.org