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 Judaism - Judaism has been defined, according to the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people." In practical use this term refers to branches or denominations of the Jewish religion as practiced in North America rather than Jewish ethnicity or nationality, and excludes the majority of Jews in Israel and the United states, who are not formally associated with any denomination.

The different branches of the Jewish religion differ widely in theology and practice, but usually have the beliefs and practices in common:

Belief in one indivisible god who has no form that can be pictured by man.

A national narrative based on the Old Testament.

"Salvation" is a national concept, involving return of the Jewish people to Israel.

There is no exact equivalent of "Judaism" in Hebrew. It is mistranslated as "Yehadut," but "Yahadut" is equivalent to "Jewry" and is not necessarily a religious term. The major branches of Judaism are all religious and almost all are most North American: Conservative JudaismOrthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and  Reform Judaism, Even Humanistic Judaism, which is declaredly atheist, is organized as a religion.

 The Jewish Renewal movement claims to be transdenominational, but it is probably a separate denomination in practice, Karaite Jews, originating in Iraq, are a separate branch of Judaism. Though they are Jews under the Israeli Law of Return, Ethiopian Jews are not considered to be a part of Judaism until they undergo an Orthodox conversion.  

Ami Isseroff

February 21, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: 

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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