15 Sep 2022


Judaism: Beliefs, Practices, and History

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Religion is an important aspect of the life of most people. Religion on its own encompasses laws, practices and unites people under a common belief. Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions that exist to date. They believe in the existence of one God a novelty during the onset of Judaism. It is thought that Judaism was started by Moses roughly around 3 500 years ago. In the Hebrew Bible, nonetheless, teachings from the 8 th century BC and beyond are present. Furthermore, members of Judaism trace their ancestry back to Abraham. On that note it is the earliest of the Abrahamic faiths; Islam and Christianity being other religions in this category (Robinson, 2016). By 2007, it was estimated that there were around 13.1 million of the Jews globally, and the majority either resided in the US and Israel. 

Judaism and Jewish people have influenced a lot of other religions; more so Christianity and Islam. It is similar to Christianity, yet different altogether. This is because both religions share the belief of one God. Furthermore, they all credit Abraham as being their ancestor. However vast differences that define the two come into play. For example, Jews originate from the Hebrew tribe, whereas Christianity was for all other tribes of Israel when it was begun . For members of the religion, Judaism is very distinct regarding its beliefs, practices, and institutions. The most known or highly practiced ritual among the Jews is the Passover festival. 

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In the course of my research, I happened to visit a synagogue (the primary religious institution among the Jews). To understand the Jewish people and their religion effectively, it would be vital to ask a few questions. What is the state of Judaism at the moment? What are the advantages and limitations of aligning with Jewish customs and beliefs? What is the future of this old faith? These and many other questions will be discussed holistically in this paper. 

The Present State of Judaism 

A single word can not describe the present state of Judaism. . Ever since the occurrences of World War II Jews have been dispersed and divided by both boundaries and beliefs. Demographically, there are over 13 million individuals who affiliate themselves with the religion. 90 % of these Jews are limited only to six countries: Israel, USA, France, Canada, UK, and Russia (Robinson, 2016). Furthermore, only eight countries have a Jewish population of 100 000 or more. It is rather ironical that one of the world’s oldest religions possesses very few followers. I asked Abramo, a Rabbi (teacher) at the synagogue, why Judaism has a small number of affiliates. He replied, “Judaism, unlike other faiths, is meant for a particular chosen people (Hebrews), thereby most people acquire Jewry through birth. It takes exceptional circumstances and reason for one to be assimilated into Judaism.” 

Judaism today is divided into three main sections; reform, conservative and orthodox Judaism. There is the exception of Zionists and secular Judaism. Robinson (2016) suggests that these differences were not in existence before the 18 th century as Jews were one standard front. Jews that associate themselves with Reform Judaism are those that believe in the concept of change. They attempt to do away with old Jewish customs and introduce their own. Many modern Jews in America lie in this category. Conservative Judaism aims at allowing its members to embrace modernity and change while clinging to Jewish customs, beliefs, and practices. It is similar to Reform Judaism; however, conservatives follow most of the rules set according to the Hebrew Bible. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, represents what it is believed to be the purest form of Judaism, i.e. a belief which was practiced in the beginning. Orthodox members follow the teachings, customs and practices of Judaism very strictly. They are mainly found in Israel the motherland of Judaism (Robinson, 2016). 

Zionists is not necessarily a faction of Judaism, but people who associate themselves with the rebuilding of Jewry following the tragedy of the Holocaust. Secular Jews are those who associate themselves with the Jewish religion in surveys yet practice very few customs and beliefs (Robinson, 2016). Aside from that, most Jews put their religion’s beliefs first as opposed to members of other faiths . This is according to Pascal, a worshipper at the synagogue. Pascal laments, “even though Jews are divided most of us still follow our ways and live holy lives.” 

The Main Benefits and Problems of a Religious Life 

Living a religious life based on Judaic teachings has both its perks and limitations. These were well illustrated among the few interviewees I made contact with . For Abramo, the main advantage of being a Jew is the tight social connection amongst Judaism affiliates that has existed for millions of years. True to Abramo’s words, Jews maintain adamant ties among themselves that stem from hundreds of years of correlation. Schorsch (2006) suggests that Jews cannot be holy independently as such; it is their obligation to interact with other worshippers through religious activities. Furthermore, Judaism provides a competitive nature among its members. Most Jews, especially the ones that reside in North America are well skilled in various fields: engineering, medicine, and law. Jewry teachings advocate for self-improvement and achievement of whatever one sets their mind to achieve. 

On the other hand, Judaism has disadvantages, especially if one follows all the customs keenly. Jews are the victims of the worst persecution in modern history (The Holocaust). According to Yisroel (2013) even though it has been a long time since the occurrences of World War II many Jews are mistreated and discriminated in some societies. Absalom echoes the hate in his statement, “In certain parts , individuals are so concerned with hating us (The Jewish community) with no simple reason. Some have a notion that Jews are incredibly wealthy, yet we are just like everyone else.” Anti-Semitism is a critical issue in the lives of Jews, especially in radical areas such as the Arab world where their religious status may lead them into peril. 

Furthermore, Jews are expected to observe numerous religious practices and maintain a high moral standard without any extrinsic reward. Such actions may be difficult to maintain more so among the younger generation in which the world is changing every day (Scorch, 2006). Judaism is filled with dietary laws, daily prayers, learning and also one has to observe the weekly Sabbath. All these I found during a short visit to the synagogue. Pascal articulates that, “such obligations may be challenging to maintain for one whose heart is not in the religion.” 

The Future of Judaism 

As stated earlier Judaism has existed for a very long time, but the big question remains how long will it co-last? And if so, what is the future of Judaism? Demographically the future of Judaism looks somehow bright as there is an expected increase in the number of Jews in the coming years or at the very least an improvement in growth rate. However, one study predicts that the American Jewish population would drop by a third over the next century. The intended decrease is credited to lower fertility rates, migration patterns and the trend of having smaller families which are present in America. The study goes on further to suggest that the Jewish population is likely to double in Israel within the same period. However, such predictions remain speculations as who in the 19 th century could have anticipated the Holocaust and its devastating effects on the Jewish community (Robinson, 2016). 

Judging on current issues, Judaism seems to head in the wrong direction. Surveys carried out suggest that non-orthodox Jews have intermarried, and only 43% of children in such marriages associate themselves as Jews. If the current trend there will be petite non-orthodox Jews shortly . This has opted religious leaders to seek solutions on how to tackle the calamity. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews seem to have it all planned as there is an almost 0% intermarriage rate among them. Also, the majority of Orthodox youth (80%) remains orthodox, despite interactions with other people and more so other religions (Robinson, 2016). Another critical issue illustrated by Marisha another interviewee is that there is petite cooperation between orthodox Jews and their non- orthodox counterparts. Sociologically, this lack of cooperation will inhibit the spread of ideas. This may result in greater complications down the line. The future of Judaism may not be optimistic at the moment, but Yisroel (2013) quotes that “turn back the clock seventy years. Imagine this question being asked then, six million Jews had just been massacred: who would have thought Israel would rise again that the Jewish community would be where it is today.” 


In conclusion, just by observing and talking to a few believers here and there I learnt much about Judaism. Judaism is a religion that values high standards both in morality, work and even relationships. Even though the happenings of the Holocaust tormented the Jewish community to a point where it seemingly looked like there was no hope, Judaism remains high . There are many positive things to borrow from Judaism and the way the Jewish people lead their lives. Just assimilating the proper aspects of Judaism and not necessarily converting would make the world a better place. 


Robinson, G. (2016). Essential Judaism: A complete guide to beliefs, customs, and rituals . New York: Atria Books. 

Scorch, I. (2006). You can't be holy alone. Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought. 55(3-4), 73-83. Retrieved from http://www.globethics.net/gel/9787927. 

Yisroel, C. (2013). What’s the Future of Judaism? Retrieved from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/585955/jewish/Whats-the-Future-of-Judaism.htm. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Judaism: Beliefs, Practices, and History.


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