Judaism as a Religion
Israel and Middle East - Essential Documents
Israel and Middle East - Other Useful DocumentsJudaism as a Religion
Judaism is a diverse religion encompassing adherents with widely differing beliefs and interpretations of Jewish law and practice. Nevertheless, most Jews today are united by a sense of peoplehood and pride in their culture and heritage. The documents associated with the different movements are intended to give a snapshot of key ideas and philosophies and to illustrate the rich diversity of Judaism today. According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, among Jews who belong to a synagogue, affiliation rates are as follows: Reform 38%; Conservative 33%; Orthodox 22%; Reconstructionist 2%; and other 5%.
The Jewish Ten Commandments
There are different versions of the Ten Commandments for two reasons. First, different religious groups use different translations. Second, in the Bible, the Ten Commandments are not in list form and different religious groups divide the text differently and create different lists. When discussing Judaism or Jewish history, the Jewish version of the Ten Commandments should be used.
Maimonides' Eight Levels of Charity
The importance of giving charity is a highly emphasized principle in Judaism. Maimonides' Eight Levels of Charity is one of the most widely known pieces of rabbinic literature. It hierarchically lists different levels of charity from giving a gift when asked by someone in need to helping an individual achieve self-sufficiency.
Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith
Orthodox Judaism is a diverse movement that follows the legal system of traditional Rabbinic Judaism. These thirteen principles were written by the great medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides as his summary of the theological core of traditional Rabbinic Judaism. Though this is one of the most widely accepted statements of faith among Orthodox Jews, it is not an official creed. Traditional Judaism emphasizes deeds rather than articles of faith and it should not be assumed that all Orthodox Jews agree with this text.
Conservative Judaism: Covenant and Commitment
Conservative Judaism emerged as an attempt to find a middle ground between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. It seeks to preserve the structure and content of traditional Jewish observance while allowing for adaptations to fit modern circumstances. The name of the movement does not reflect its political ideology, but rather its orientation to tradition, namely that Jews should conserve Jewish tradition, rather than reforming or abandoning it. This pamphlet summarizes the philosophy of the movement, which may not reflect the personal views of all Conservative Jews.
Emet Ve'Emenuah - Conservative Judaism's Statement of Principles
The purpose of this statement is to unite Conservative Jews in reflection and debate, to offer a set of fundamental principles for public discourse throughout the movement. This document is the end-product of a commission with representatives from Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, Cantors' Assembly and Jewish Educators' Assembly. This document is posted with permission from JTS, RA, and USCJ.
A Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism was the first distinct denomination to emerge from traditional Rabbinic Judaism and is today the largest denomination of American Jews. Reform Judaism teaches that only Judaism's ethical laws are binding and that other laws and rituals can be adjusted for modern society. This document, also known as the Pittsburg Platform, lists the defining principles for Reform Judaism in North America.
Humanistic Judaism Mission Statement and Core Principles
Humanistic Judaism is a denomination that combines Judaism with the philosophy of Humanism. It teaches that Jewish culture and history, rather than religious belief, are the source of Jewish identity; its ceremonies do not include prayers to God. It is one of the smallest Jewish denominations, but some Jews who are not affiliated with a specific denomination have similar beliefs. Humanistic Judaism illustrates the diversity of the Jewish community.Jewish History
Jews in the Greco-Roman World
Jews and the Later Roman Law, 315-531 CE
This text is concerned with laws involving Jews in the Roman Empire. These laws illuminate a period in which Jews were legally made second-class citizens by the government.
Julian and the Jews, 361-363 CE
These two texts discuss the Roman Emperor Julian's treatment of the Jews. Julian was the only non-Christian emperor after Constantine. The first text is a translation of his letter to the Jewish community. The second comes from a text written by Sozomen, a church historian, between 443-450.
Jews in Medieval Europe
The Expulsion of the Jews from France, 1182 CE
Account by Rigord from the Gesta Philippi Augusti.
This is a Christian monk's account of the expulsion of the Jews and the history leading up to it. It reflects several of the antisemitic beliefs common at that time.
Two Cistercian Monks turn Jews, before 1200
This text illustrates medieval European antisemitism by equating Judaism and Satanism.
The Charter of the Jews of the Duchy of Austria, July 1, 1244 CE
This charter granted protections to Jews and was used as a model by other Eastern European rulers. In particular, it created favorable conditions for Jewish money lending which was important for economic development of the area. Charters such as this encouraged Jewish immigration to Eastern Europe.
St. Louis and the Jews of France, before 1270 CE
This document was written by a close friend of Louis IX, King of France; it sheds light on the king's hostile attitude towards Judaism and his approval of violence against Jews.
The Black Death and the Jews, 1348-1349
Seeking an explanation for the horrors of the Bubonic Plague, some European communities blamed the Jews. This text contains two accounts. The first is a forced confession of guilt by a Jew who was tortured by local authorities. The second is an account of the destruction of the Jewish community in Strasbourg by a mob.
An Oath Taken by Jews in Frankfort on the Main, about 1392
Jews were held to a different standard in courtrooms. As it was widely believed that Jews were willing to perjure themselves, Jews were required to swear unusually strong oaths.
The Expulsion from Spain, 1492
This text is an account from an Italian Jew written in 1495 detailing the expulsion of Jews from Spain.
Jews under Muslim Rule
The Pact of Umar, 7th Century?
This document was a foundational text for the legal status of religious minorities in Muslim ruled lands. It guarantees the safety of religious minorities but puts a number of restrictions on them. It is addressed to Christians in the province of Syria, but it was interpreted as setting a legal precedent for the treatment of all dhimminis or protected religious minorities including Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians.
Israel and Middle East - Essential Documents
July 14, 1915 - March 10, 1916
An exchange of letters during WWI between the British High Commissioner and Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca, an Arab leader, discussing the future political status of the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire.
November 2, 1917
A formal policy statement of the British government expressing support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
UN Partition Plan
In May 1947, the United Nations formed a special committee to make recommendations for the future of the British Mandate for Palestine after Great Britain decided to withdraw from the area. These recommendations were the basis for UN General Assembly Resolution 181, known as the UN Partition Plan, which passed by a vote of 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions on November 29, 1947. The plan proposed that the area be divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state with an international zone under UN administration around Jerusalem. The plan was scuttled when five Arab states invaded Israel after it declared independence as the Jewish state envisioned in the plan.
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
May 14, 1948
Also known as the Israeli Declaration of Independence, this was the official announcement by the Jewish People's Council, led by David Ben-Gurion, that the State of Israel had been formally established. It was issued on the day that the British Mandate for Palestine expired in keeping with the UN Partition Plan. Israel was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the U.S.S.R. Israelis celebrate their independence annually based on the date of the declaration according to the Jewish calendar.
"3 NOs" Arab League, The Khartoum Resolutions
September 1, 1967
Following the Six-Day War, heads of state from eight Arab countries attended a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Among other things the conference resolution called for the continued struggle against Israel and proclaimed: no peace, no recognition, and no negotiations with Israel.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 242
November 22, 1967
This Security Council resolution was adopted unanimously after the Six-Day War and served as a basis for later negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Several aspects of the document are debated. Notably, some argue that 242 requires Israel to withdraw completely to its 1967 boundaries. Others point out that initial drafts calling for a withdrawal from "all territories" or "the territories" were rejected and that 242 also calls for secure boundaries. There is also disagreement over what constitutes a "just settlement to the refugee problem." In addition, the resolution intentionally did not specify a particular refugee group, which has led to both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab states asserting their rights to a just settlement.
Palestinian National Charter
The constitution of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), expressing the goals of the organization. The first draft of the charter was written in 1963 and was revised after the Six-Day War. Article 7 of the first document was changed from "Jews of Palestinian origin are considered Palestinians ..." to being restricted only to those "who had resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion." After Oslo, Arafat committed himself to void "those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist." There is still debate over whether or not the PLO has really amended the charter. It appears the text is unchanged.
The Hamas Covenant, also called the Hamas Charter, describes the principles and goals of Hamas, the group that controls Gaza. The name "Hamas" is an acronym for the Arabic term meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement". The covenant calls for the complete destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in what is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. It states that the Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims hunt down Jews everywhere and kill them. It also propagates antisemitic canards such as the myth that Jews control secret organizations to achieve world domination.
Officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, the Oslo Accords were the first direct agreement between Israel and Palestinian representatives. The agreement was originally intended to last five years while a permanent agreement was negotiated. Though this goal was not met, the document is significant because it created the Palestinian Authority, which gave Palestinians direct control over land in the West Bank and Gaza, because the Palestinian Liberation Organization recognized Israel's right to exist, and because it was the first major step in Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.
Israel and Middle East - Other Useful DocumentsAdditional documents can be found through ICS external links page. The link to the Avalon Project on that page is a particularly useful source for primary source documents.
January 3, 1919
Agreement signed by Emir Faisal and Chaim Weizmann during the Paris Peace Conference, expressing support for the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration premised on the British fulfilling wartime promises of independence to Arabs. It was not carried out, but demonstrated that Arab nationalist and Zionist aspirations were not necessarily mutually exclusive.
July 24, 1922
The Palestine Mandate was a document approved by the League of Nations that formalized British rule of the area that is now Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. The term also refers to the area itself, officially called the British Mandate for Palestine, which was created out of portions of several Ottoman districts; it was part of the Mandate system instituted by the League after WWI, to administer parts of the defeated Ottoman Empire as temporary trusts. The document incorporated language from the Balfour Declaration and affirmed the agreements made at the San Remo Conference of 1920.
U.S. Congress Endorsement of the Balfour Declaration
September 21, 1922
One of two unanimous congressional resolutions endorsing the Balfour Declaration.
Report of Committee Set up to Consider McMahon Hussein Correspondence
Arab and United Kingdom Delegations to the Conferences on Palestine February 1, 1939, established a committee to consider the McMahon-Huseein Correspondence from 1915 and 1916. The two sides did not come to agreement on the interpretation of the correspondence, but the report expresses the understandings of both sides.
Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
The first peace treaty between an Arab country and Israel. Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize Israel. The treaty normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes between them.
The Washington Declaration, Key Excerpts
July 25, 1994
Declaration between Israel, Jordan, and the U.S., formally ending the 46-year state of war between Jordan and Israel. The signing of this document paved the way for Jordan and Israel to reach agreement on their Treaty of Peace.
House Resolution 185
April 1, 2008
House Resolution recognizing Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
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