The religious name for the Jewish people is actually Israel, which literally means “Struggle with God.” Israel is the name bestowed upon Jacob after he wrestled with an angel of God all night long and reached a stalemate. “Israel” indicates the Jewish people’s constant struggle to find God and their faith. Read more.
There exists significant debate over whether core beliefs exist that all Jews must have. No major Jewish thinker formulated binding dogma until the 12th century, when Maimonides composed his thirteen principles of faith, which he felt were the foundations of Judaism. A Jew who did not accept these thirteen principles as a matter of faith effectively placed himself outside of the fold. Read more.
The most prominent values in Judaism that are shared with other faiths include the following:
Respect for the elderly
“You shall rise before the aged…” (Leviticus 19:12). Traditionally, elders were treated with great respect in Jewish communities. That is still the case, although advances in medical care and the increased physical distance between many elderly people and their adult children have created challenges in caring for elderly parents. Read more.
A fundamentally communal endeavor, Judaism promotes righteous behavior and community relationships. Life-cycle observances, from the welcoming of babies to coming-of-age ceremonies (bar and bat mitzvahs), to weddings, to traditions of mourning and remembrance, all build this communal bond. Mitzvah literally means “commandment.” There are mitzvot that govern every aspect of a person’s life, including food, business practices, worship, holidays, charity, acts of loving kindness, clothing, sexual relationships, civil law, criminal law, etc. Read more.
Separation of church and state
In America, Jews tend to feel strongly about the separation of church and state. Most Jews oppose prayer in public schools, vouchers for religious schools, the display of religious symbols in public spaces, and worship in the public sphere. As a minority culture, Jews are especially sensitive to being dominated and overwhelmed by other religious practices and symbols. Read more.