Judaism Essay, Research Paper


Judaism is intrinsically open to history. It looks forward to a future event -

the messianic redemption – that will dwarf the importance of Exodus. This paper

will discuss the important holidays of the Jewish year and a look into the

Holocaust from a Jewish standpoint. I talked to a friend of mine, Josh Cohen.

Josh practices Conservative Judaism. I also retrieved some information from a

book The Jewish Way; Living the Holidays. Rabbi Irving Greenburg wrote it. I

will first explain the holidays I discussed with Josh, and then discuss Josh

growing up in the Jewish culture.

They particularly exemplify the focus on developing human capacity in the

Sabbath and days of awe. The primary, Holy days that nurture personal life

along the way. The Sabbat, on a weekly basis, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippers,

annually, are the key periods of individual family renewal. These holidays

accomplish their goals primarily by lifting the individual out of a routine that

controls, too often, deadens daily life.” The Sabbat is their weekly ceremony,

held Friday evenings, to celebrate the end of a work week. Rosh Hashanah – Yom

Kipper is the core that of being on trial for ones life. During that trial one

moves from life through death to renewed life. Also discussed in this paper is

Hanukkah, the festival of lights. Hanukkah stands for the temple that burned to

the ground. The Jewish people only had an oil lamp to provide light for six

nights and seven days. Therefore that is why they celebrate Hanukkah for six

nights and seven days. Passover is also discussed. It is a time where Jewish

families are to be fasting, no bread or meat. This last one week. Similar to

the Christian Easter celebration. When a Jewish boy turns, age thirteen into an

adult Jew they know it as a Bar Mitzvah. In order for this to happen a young

teenage boy must attend Hebrew school. They usually take place a couple times a

week. There are three types of Judaism worship Orthodox, Conservative, and

Reform. Orthodox would be the most religious, Conservatism being middle of the

road, and Reform being the least practiced.

Josh grew up into the Orthodox beliefs because of his grandparents. Josh’s

grandparents, his father’s mother and father, were Orthodox. His mother’s,

mother and father were Conservative. Eventually his mother and father switched

over to the Conservative beliefs. The Orthodox beliefs would show the in the

center and the women on the outside. They viewed women as caretakers. There

are three temples in the city of Toledo. B’NAI Israel which is the conservative

temple. Josh attends this temple. JCC, Jewish Community Center, which is the

Reformer temple. And, Etz Chay, the Orthodox temple. As a child his parents

were not strict followers. They didn’t celebrate Sabbat every Friday but did

celebrate all the holidays of Judaism. Josh went Sunday to school every Sunday

to learn about the Jewish religion, and he went to Hebrew school every Tuesday

and Thursday. At the age of thirteen, Josh celebrated Bar Mitzvah.

The Worship procedures are conducted from the Torah, which is actually the Bible.

The only difference is they read the lessons in Hebrew. Since Josh is not full

practice of Judaism, he has a hard time following along. Since the Jewish

religion does not believe in Christ, they believe that Jesus was born a Jew.

They do not celebrate the birth of Christ, Christmas. I asked Josh did this

effect him growing up?, His peers mostly celebrating Christmas. As it turns out,

his peers were jealous of him. Being able to receive gifts seven days in a row

and being able to take off more school than the other children. Josh in turn

was very envious of his peers being able to receive their gifts all at once.

The questioned was asked what did your family do on December twenty fifth? “It

was a normal day for my family. We went to the movies as a family.” Josh

celebrated his very first Christmas this past year. He celebrated with his

girlfriend and her family. I asked which celebration was to his liking? “It was

weird for him. I’m not use to the huge family gathering and presents being

opened all at once. My family, during Hanukkah, says a prayer and lights a

candle every night. Hanukkah was more peaceful and subdued” He received a gift

every day though. I asked are the gifts you receive as outrageous as some

gifts kids receive nowadays, at Christmas? ” It depends on the family. They

spoiled my sister, brother and me. We would receive an encyclopedia the first

day and on the last day we could have received a car.” The other traditional

holidays the Cohens celebrate are Yom Kipper, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.

Passover is close to the Christian holiday Easter. During Passover they do not

allow that you ate bread or meat. Josh commented on how “His family didn’t go

all out on the fasting, only the true religious take part on the fasting,

Orthodox.” Nevertheless, he told me a story of one of his closet friends

growing up. ” My friend’s family had a separate kitchen called the Kosher

kitchen,meaning no meat. They stocked the kitchen with the normal utensils.

The only difference was, none of the utensils in the Kosher kitchen never

touched meat. All the dishes were prepared in a special way.”

Then I asked him if we could talk about the Holocaust. I didn’t know if this

was a touchy subject with Josh. I had recently viewed Schindler’s List. I had

allot of questions for him on this subject. I basically got Josh’s viewpoint.

In your mind why were the Germans wanting to abolish the Jewish people? “It was

all about money. The Jews had held of most of the assets. Meaning they owned

banks, were doctors and lawyers. The Germans didn’t want the Jews running their

lives. It is a big stereotype of all Jews being accountants, doctors, and

lawyers.” I asked Josh “you are studying to become a lawyer, you graduate this

spring, how can I not stereotype you? Is it in your upbringing to become a

doctor or lawyer?” “My upbringing was very good. My parents installed excellent

morals and work ethic in me. Not all Jews are rich, you have your middle class

and you have your poor Jews.” “We grew up being constantly reminded of the

Holocaust. My mother’s parents were in the concentration camps and survived.

They survived because my grandfather was an accountant. He agreed to work for

the Germans only if they kept him and his wife alive. His grandfather had no

idea they kept his wife alive until after the fact. He found her in a hospital.

Before his grandparents were taking into custody, the Germans went door to door

looking for children. His grandparents hid his aunt and uncle under the

floorboards of the kitchen. The Germans heard the children crying. The Nazi

soldiers shot both of the children in front of his grandparents.” This is the

story he has heard from his parents. His grandparents won’t talk about the

situation. All he sees is the picture of his aunt and uncle. He never met, on

the mantle. His grand father still has a concentration number tattooed on his

arm. “I think this helped us, instead of hurt us. We were like the typical

Jewish community, very closely knit. Everybody helped each other out, the

smartest Jews helped install strong morals and beliefs into the weaker Jews.”

In closing, I think everybody can look at the Jewish Culture and learn. If you

look back into history everybody at one point and time has tried to abolish the

Judaism religion, but they still prevail. It is the strong morals and beliefs

installed in them at an early age that makes them successful. Everything they

have been through, but yet they don’t hold a grudge. They keep moving forward.

Josh said “respect the past, live for today, and build a future.” Also in

closing I would like to thank Josh Cohen to take time out of his busy schedule

to sit and talk to me.

Josh Cohen




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