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Judaism Fast Facts

By CNN Library
updated 11:53 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Girls open a gate for a woman in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur on Saturday, September 14. Yom Kippur is Judaism's day of atonement, when devout Jews ask God to forgive them for their transgressions and refrain from eating and drinking, attending intense prayer services in synagogues. Girls open a gate for a woman in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur on Saturday, September 14. Yom Kippur is Judaism's day of atonement, when devout Jews ask God to forgive them for their transgressions and refrain from eating and drinking, attending intense prayer services in synagogues.
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(CNN) -- Here's a look at Judaism, the monotheistic (belief in one God) religion of the Jewish people.

Jewish people are sometimes referred to as God's "chosen people."

About Judaism:
The first religion to teach monotheism, or the doctrine of one god.

The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, and is where the laws and teachings of Judaism can be found. The Torah is also called the "Tree of Life."

Denominations sorted by adherence to the Torah and Talmud include Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist.

Synagogues are the Jewish place of worship.

Rabbis are the Jewish spiritual authorities. Rabbis interpret the Bible and present the meaning of Jewish law.

The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Judaism.

Shabbat, the Sabbath or day of rest, begins Friday night and lasts until sundown Saturday.

Rosh Hashanah means "beginning of the year" in Hebrew. It is a time for reflection and repentance and is referred to as the "day of judgment" or the "day of repentance."

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, falls on the tenth day of the Jewish lunar month of Tishri.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the holiest days of the year, known as the High Holidays.

Passover, also called Pesach, is the Jewish festival celebrating the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in 1200 B.C. God's Hebrew name is never spoken out loud and is never to be erased or destroyed in print.

History:
Judaism was established circa 2000 B.C.E. as part of a covenant between God and Abraham. Uprisings against the Romans during the first and second centuries A.D. led to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora. Those practicing Judaism were kept marginalized from society and persecuted in many countries. The creation of a Jewish state was discussed at the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. Yet, it was not until May 18, 1948, that the state of Israel was formed, after World War II and the genocide of over six million Jewish people.

Judaism falls into four major periods:

-- Biblical Judaism or the Persian Period (approximately 20th-4th century BCE) - This era began with the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and was focused around the areas that were known as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Canaan or Palestine.

-- Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE-2nd century CE) - A time of Greek and Roman influence in many religions. Jewish people were given more freedoms and Hellenizing Jews controlled the high priesthood.

-- Rabbinic Judaism (2nd-18th century CE) - Based on the Talmud. The Talmud is composed of formerly unwritten, understood laws and practices of ancient Jewish people. The oral traditions were collected and put into writing at this point. In this era, generations of commentators and interpreters expound on the Talmud and orthodox adherence to the laws becomes popular (though not unanimous.) Orthodox Jews of today still adhere to the tenets developed in this era.

-- Modern Judaism (approximately 1750-present) - Persecution from most European and Middle Eastern nations. Many Jewish people move to the United States. Less focus on religious rituals and Judaism becomes more of an ethnicity. The rise of American Jewry occurs in this era, with the faith diverging into more liberal branches open to greater religious activity by women and gays, including rabbinical ordination. The branching also leads to less emphasis (rather than focus) on religious rituals.

Statistics:
"The core Jewish population includes people who identify as Jews by religion, as well as others who are not interested in religion but see themselves as Jews by ethnicity or by other cultural criteria," according to the American Jewish Year Book.

World - 13,854,800

Israel - 6,014,300 (43.4%)

United States - 5,425,000 (39.2%)

France - 478,000 (3.5%)

Canada - 380,000 (2.7%)

United Kingdom - 290,000 (2.1%)

Russian Federation - 190,000 (1.4%)

Argentina - 181,500 (1.3%)

Germany - 118,000 (0.9%)

Australia - 112,500 (0.8%)

Brazil - 95,200 (0.7%)

According to the Pew Research Center, only 4.2 million or 1.8% of the adult population in the United States are Jewish by religion.

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