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A Guide to Jewish Studies: Visual Glossary

A guide to Jewish Studies created by Allison James '22 and Abe Nemon.

A Visual Glossary of Jewish Objects and Customs

Traditional Jewish apparel, food, and religious objects are exemplified within this section.

On this Page

Under construction. 😊

Jewish Symbols

Star of David / Magen Dovid

Zscout370, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The Star of David, or Magen David, is a six-pointed star composed of two overlaid equilateral triangles.

Aleph Bet

א בּ ב ג ד ה ו
ז ח ט י כּ כ ך
ל מ ם נ ן ס
ע פּ פ ף צ ץ
ק ר שׁ שׂ ת

Definition: The aleph bet is the alphabet of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino. Here's a mellow song which teaches the aleph bet. The aleph bet are also used to represent Hebrew numerals.

Jewish Home

Mezuzah

WLANL - MicheleLovesArt - Joods Historisch Museum - Mezoeza - Ida Kleiterp (9555)
Mezzuza by Ida Kleiterp, photo by Michele Ahin, CC BY-SA 2.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A mezuzah is a sacred artifact found on the doorposts of many Jewish households. It consists of a case that contains a piece of parchment called a klaf, which has the Shema prayer scribed upon it. It is customary to kiss the mezuzah with one’s hand while passing through doors. The case is often decorated with the word שדי (Shaddai, "Almighty"; or just the letter ×© shin), one of the names used in the Torah to address Hashem.

Tzedakah Box / Pushke

WLANL - MicheleLovesArt - Joods Historisch Museum - Mezoeza - Ida Kleiterp (9555)
Wmpearl, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
 

Definition: The word ‘tzedakah’ itself translates most closely to the word ‘righteousness,’ however, it is commonly used to refer to the Jewish belief in charity. Thus, a tzedakah box (or pushke) is used to collect money for the less fortunate.

At the Synagogue

Synagogue / Shul / Temple

Velvet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: Different denominations of Jews use different words to describe a house of prayer. Orthodox Jews are more likely to describe this place as a synagogue or shul, whereas Conservative and Reform synagogues are more likely to be named "Temple ___". Whatever they call it, the synagogue is the center of Jewish religious life and the place where Jews gather for Shabbat and Yom Tov (holiday) services.

Eruv

Djampa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: An eruv is an artificial border to a Jewish community, usually created by hanging up ropes or wires, which allows community members to carry objects within the boundary during Shabbat, when it is normally prohibited by the laws of mukseh. This word is easily confused with the word erev, meaning "the eve of," as in the phrase "Erev Shabbat."

Lectern / Amud

Ladislav Luppa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The amud or lectern is usually located at the front of the synagogue and offers the chazzan (cantor) a location from which to lead the congregation in prayer.

Bimah

Czeva, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The bimah is a raised platform typically located at the center of the synagogue. During Shabbat services, the Sefer Torah (see below) is paraded up to the bimah, giving worshippers an opportunity to kiss its mantle as it passes by. The Sefer Torah is placed on a large plinth atop the bimah and unrolled as various members of the congregation are called up either to read or assist in the reading.

Sefer Torah

Kadumago, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The Torah is the amalgamation of the Chumash (the first five books, also known as the Pentateuch), the Nevi’im (the second major division of the Hebrew Bible after the Chumash), the Ketuvim (the third major division of the Hebrew Bible after the nevi’im), and the Talmud (the Oral Torah transcribed during the classical rabbinical period ca. 200 AD). During the Shabbat morning prayer, a hand-scribed scroll bearing the weekly Torah reading is brought out from the Aron Kodesh and unrolled to the relevant passages. This scroll is called a Sefer Torah or "book of Torah."

Aron Kodesh

CutOffTies, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The Aron Kodesh (or Holy Ark) is a room or cabinet where Sefer Torahs are stored, and forms the elaborate centerpiece of most synagogues. The Aron Kodesh will usually have a wooden door covered by an embroidered drape, and will anchor the eastern wall that the congregation faces -- towards Jerusalem -- in order to represent the centrality of the Kodesh HaKadoshim (Holy of Holies) of the ancient temple in Judaea.

Jewish Devotional Apparel

Yarmulke / Kippa

WLANL - MicheleLovesArt - Joods Historisch Museum - Mezoeza - Ida Kleiterp (9555)
David Berkowitz from New York, NY, USA,
CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A yarmulke, or kippah, is a small skullcap worn by Orthodox Jewish men. It can be worn under a hat, by itself, or attached with a hairpin. The kippah is typically worn during the synagogue service by Reform and Conservative Jews whereas among orthodox Jews it is customary to wear a kippah during all waking hours of the day.

Shabbos Hats

Picture of a mannequin wearing a streimel shabbos hat.
כיכר השבת, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A Shabbos hat is worn on Shabbat by adult Jewish men. They vary in shape and style among different Jewish denominations, from the wide-brimmed fedoras worn by Modern Orthodox and Lubavitch Jews to the flat-brimmed hats and shtreimels (a fur-covered, round hat) worn by Satmar and Bobover Hasidim.

Tallit

Mushki Brichta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A tallit is a prayer shawl, which has tassels or fringes (tzitzis) attached to it. The pictured tallis is worn primarily by adults during Shabbat and Yomim Tovim, while a lighter weight tallis (see tzitzit) is worn under the shirt for everyday use.

Tefillin

J.talia.harris, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: Tefillin, or phylacteries, are small leather boxes with leather straps attached to them, which are worn by adult Jews during prayer. They consist of the tefillin shel yad (the tefillin worn on the bicep) and the tefillin shel rosh (the tefillin worn on the head). The tefillin shel yad is wrapped around the left arm and tied around the hand. The tefillin shel rosh is placed on the forehead with the straps hanging down over the chest. Each tefillin contain scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.

Kapota

כיכר השבת, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A kapota is a long, black coat worn by Hasidic Jewish men on Shabbat and on holidays.

Gartel

Mushki Brichta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: The black girdle used to tie the kapota.

Tzitzit

Michal Patelle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: Tzitzit are knotted fringes or tassels attached to each of the four corners of a tallit. They act as a reminder of the commandments of Deuteronomy..

Sheitel

גלית איטליה, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A sheitel is a wig worn by Hasidic Jewish women, who shave their hair to follow the custom of tzneus (modesty).

The Shabbat Meal

Kiddush cup / Becher

LGLou, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Definition: A ceremony of prayer over wine, called a kiddush, is held during the evening and afternoon meals on Shabbat and on the high holidays. Wine is poured into a becher (Kiddush cup), the kiddush prayer is said, and then the wine is drunk and the becher is often passed around or poured from so all in attendance can take a sip. The cup can be either a stemmed silver chalice or a stemless cup according to varying tradition.

Challah

Challah bread by Kimberley Vardeman, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

Definition: A loaf of white, leavened, braided bread that is ritualistically consumed after the Shabbat kiddush. Before the bread can be cut, it is concealed under a challah dekel, a decorated cloth covering. Those present wash their hands following the kiddush and say the "netilat yadayim" prayer, after which it is customary to remain silent until eating the bread. The person leading the blessing then puts their hand on the bread and makes the "hamotzei" prayer. They cut the challah with a challah knife, a long bread knife serrated on one side. Everyone who said the "netilat yadayim" prayer is once again free to speak after taking a bite.

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