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(abb. Sturm Abteilungen). The storm troopers or “brownshirts” of the early Nazi party, organized in 1922.
Saadia Gaon
(882-942) Saadia ben Joseph; philosopher; halakhist, poet, and Bible commentator; head of the Sura academy in Babylon.
(abb. Sicherheitsdienst). Security service of the S.S. formed in 1932 as the sole intelligence organization of the Nazi party.
(abb. Schutzstaffel). Nazi apparatus established in 1925, which later became the "elite" organization of the Nazi party and carried out central tasks in the "Final Solution.'' Headed by Heinrich Himmler, it became the most powerful organization of the Nazi party, virtually a state within a state.
The seventh day of the week (Shabbat), recalling the completion of the creation and the Exodus from Egypt. It is a day symbolic of new beginnings and one dedicated to God, a most holy day of rest. The commandment of rest is found in the Bible and has been elaborated by the rabbis. It is a special duty to study Torah on the Sabbath and to be joyful. Sabbaths near major festivals (see calendar) are known by special names.
A messianic movement begun in the 17th century by Sabbatai Zvi/Zebi (1626-1676), who ultimately converted to Islam.
Sabbatical Year
See Shemittah.
(Heb.) Native-born Israeli(s). The word comes from the name of a cactus plant that is prickly on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. The Israeli character is often said to resemble this fruit.
Sabra and Shatilah
Refugee camps in southern Lebanon, the inhabitants of which were massacred by the Phalagneists during the Lebanon Civil War.
Especially in classical Christianity, a formal religious rite (e.g., baptism, Eucharist) regarded as sacred for its perfect ability to convey divine blessing; in some traditions (especially Protestant), it is regarded as not effective in itself but as a sign or symbol of spiritual reality or truth.
(Latin, perform a sacred act) A general term for the giving up of things of value for religious purposes, such as (1) liturgical sacrifices of animal life or of other valuables (grain, wine, etc.), and (2) personal sacrifices of time or money or talents or potential (e.g., taking holy orders). In classical Christianity, the death of Jesus is interpreted as a sacrifice for sin on behalf of humankind. Islam retains a liturgical use of animal sacrifice especially in connection with the hajj (see also calendar).
A general term for violation of that which is considered sacred. See blasphemy.
Tzedukim: An early Jewish sub-group whose origins and ideas are uncertain. It probably arose early in the 2nd century B.C.E. and ceased to exist when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. Sadducees supported priestly authority and rejected traditions not directly grounded in the Pentateuch, such as the concept of personal, individual life after death. They are often depicted as in conflict with the Pharisees.
Mystical city in northern Israel, protected from most invasions by its height in the hills.
See hakam.
A section of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, founded in 1968, that was funded by Syria and supported Palestinian liberation alongside pan-Arab ideology that placed the Ba’athist Syrian party in power.
Samarian (originally Shomron)
The northern half of the West Bank; a densely populated Arab area; main city, Nablus.
Salanter, Israel ben Zeev Wolf
(1810-1883) Leading figure of the Musar (ethical-pietist) movement; Lithuania.
Another of the numerous sub-groups in early Judaism (see also Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes) and residents of the district of Samaria north of Jerusalem and Judah in what is now Israel. They are said to have recognized only the Pentateuch as scripture and Mt. Gerizim as the sacred center rather than Jerusalem. There was ongoing hostility between Samaritans and Judahites. Samaritan communities exist to the present.
Samed (Palestinian Martyrs Works Society)
Established in 1970 to give vocational training to the children of Palestinian suicide bombers and others who have died for the Palestinian cause.
Penalties levied by an authority for not complying with an order or law
As-Saiqa (Storm, Lightning Blot)
Established in February 1968. Considered the second largest PLO guerrilla organization, it has almost no presence outside of Syria/Lebanon. The group is based in Damascus. The group is backed by Syria and opposes peace with Israel.
(from Greek for “assembly” [of persons seated together]; see also synagogue). A legislative and judicial body from the period of early Judaism and into rabbinic times. Traditionally composed of 71 members.
San Remo Conference
The conference where Turkey gave the territories of Syria and Lebanon to France. And gave Palestine, Transjordan and Mesopotamia to Britain. Took place in April 1920.
Sharm Esh-Sheikh Agreement
Agreement signed by Israeli Prime Minister Barak and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat on September 4, 1999. Laid out a time frame for different transfers of land and for the implementation of the Wye River Memorandum. The final agreement was never signed.
A sash or belt is used to tie the Sefer Torah scroll together when it is not being read because otherwise it would come unrolled.
Sauckel, Fritz
(1894-1946) Sauckel joined the Nazi party in 1921 and held senior honorary ranking in both the SA and the SS before World War II. In 1942 he was appointed plenipotentiary-general for labor mobilization in which he oversaw the seizure of millions of workers for the armaments and munitions production program. His harsh treatment of slave laborers caused the deaths of thousands of Jews in Poland. Sauckel was tried and convicted of his crimes at Nuremberg and was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Sayeret Matkal
An elite reconnaissance unit controlled by Israel’s General Staff that has carried out several special operations.
The covering of a Sukkah. This covering must consist of natural growth that does not provide a complete cover — such as bamboo or tree branches.
Schindler, Oskar
(1908-1974) Sudeten businessman and protector of Jews during the Holocaust. Oskar Shindler was the subject of an acclaimed film by Steven Spielberg and book by Thomas Kneally. In 1939, Oskar Schindler in the wake of the German invasion went to Poland looking for business opportunities. In Cracow he took over a Jewish firm which manufactured enamel kitchenware products. Schindler employed mainly Jewish workers at his factory protecting them from deportations.
Scissors Operation
The code name of the operation to capture Haifa during the War of Independence. It occurred immediately after British withdrawal from the city.
von Schlabrendorff, Lieutenant Fabian
Served as General Tresckow's adjutant. He was the chief contact between the resistance in Army Group Center and Beck's people in Berlin. Survived the War and enjoyed a long legal career in Germany. He died in 1980.
von Schleicher, Major-General Kurt
Chancellor and political foe who preceded Hitler, Schleicher was murdered (along with his wife) in his apartment during the "night of the Long Knives"
A foolish, clumsy person; a misfit.
A sub-camp of Mauthausen created in October 1943. It held a maximum of 1,488 prisoners.
National Police
Protection or guard detachment. Formed in 1925 as Hitler's praetorian guard. Heinrich Himmler became its leader, Reichsführer-SS in 1929. 
General designation for canonical or biblical writings.
Second Temple Period (520 B.C.-70 A.D.)
A time of crucial development for monotheistic religions; ended with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied.
A general designation for a definable sub-group, often with negative overtones. See also cult.
Characteristic of a sect, a religious group adhering to a distinctive doctrine.
(Latin, of this world) A general term for non-religious, or the opposite of religious.
Security Zone
The territory in southern Lebanon with Israeli military presence from 1983-2000.
(Heb. order; pl. sedarim) The traditional Jewish evening service and opening of the celebration of Passover, which includes special food symbols and narratives. The order of the service is highly regulated, and the traditional narrative is known as the Passover Haggadah. Also one of the six divisions of the Mishnah; or one of the 154 sections into which the Torah/Pentateuch is divided for a three year cycle of liturgical readings in the synagogue. See also siddur.
The weekly Torah portion.
(Heb. book) As in "Book" of the Torah.
Sefer Chayim
The Book of Life. Jewish tradition says that during these Days of Awe, our names are written down by God in one of several books, and our fate for the coming year is sealed. This image shakes the soul even if it is seen as a metaphor. All of us hope that the book in which our names are written is the Book of Life.
Sefer Ha-Yashar
A 13th-century anonymous work on popular ethics.
Sefer K'ritut
(Lit. scroll of cutting off). A writ of divorce. Also called a get.
Sefer Torah
Torah scroll used for public reading in the synagogue.
Seikhel Tov
Early 12th-century midrashic collection by Menachem ben Solomon.
(Lit. covering). Material used for the roof of a sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot.
Selection (Selektionen)
Euphemism for the process of choosing victims for the gas chambers in the Nazi camps by separating them from those considered fit to work (see Mengele, Josef).
Seleucid Empire
Created out of part of Macedonian Empire after death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.E.) and, at its height, extended from southern coast of modern Turkey south through Palestine and east to India's border; spanned period 312 - 64 B.C.
(Heb. forgiveness) Reference to the prayers for forgiveness and the special service of penitence held at midnight on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbinic ordination.
Powerful Assyrian emperor who waged war against Judah during King Hezekiah’s reign at the end of the 8th century B.C.E.
Sennesh, Hannah
(1921-1944) A Palestinian Jew of Hungarian descent who fought as a partisan against the Nazis. She was captured at the close of the war and assassinated in Budapest by the Nazis.
Hebrew word for Spain; refers to Jews of Iberian nd Oriental background.
Sephardi, Sephardim (pl.)
(adj. Sephardic) The designation Sepharad in biblical times refers to a colony of exiles from Jerusalem (Obadiah 20), possibly in or near Sardis{??}; in the medieval period, Sephardic(c) Jews are those descended from those who lived in Spain and Portugal (the Iberian peninsula) before the expulsion of 1492. As a cultural designation, the term refers to the complex associated with Jews of this region and its related diaspora in the Balkans and Middle East (especially in Islamic countries). The term is used in contradistinction to Ashkenazi, but it does not refer, thereby, to all Jews of non-Ashkenazi origin.
Sephira(h) or Sefira
(Heb. counting, number; pl. sefirot). In Jewish kabala, the sefirot are the primary emanations or manifestations of deity that together make up the fullness (Greek, pleroma) of the godhead. See also omer.
Sephirat HaOmer
Positive commandment to count the Omer: the 50 days between Pesach and Shavuot.
Strictly speaking, refers to the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch, probably made during the reign of Ptolemy II, Greek ruler of Egypt around 250 B.C.E. Subsequently, Greek translations of other portions of the Jewish scriptures came to be added to the corpus, and the term Septuagint was applied to the entire collection. Such collections served as the "scriptures" for Greek speaking Jews and Christians.
Se'udat Havra'ah
(Lit. the meal of condolence). The first meal that a family eats after the burial of a relative, prepared by a neighbor.
Seven Point Israeli Plan
On October 21, 1985, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres outlined a peace plan calling for non-conditional negotiations toward peace treaties based on Resolutions 242 and 194.
Sevres Conference
Meeting between Great Britain, France, and Israel in Sevres, a Parisian suburb, after Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, at which the three nations agreed to a military attack on Egypt.
S’fat Emet
A 19th-century Torah commentary by Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger (“the Gerer Rebbe”).
Sforno, Obidiah ben Jacod
(c. 1470-c. 1550) Bible commentator; Italy.
Mixture of wool and linen, a combination prohibited by the Torah in a Chukim (decrees).
Acronym for Shirut Bitahon Klalit; General Security Service, Israel's internal security service. Also known as Shin Bet.
The Sabbath, day of rest.
Shabbat Shalom
A greeting given on Shabbat meaning, [may you have] the peace of the Sabbath.
Shabbatai Zvi
See Sabbatianism.
Morning; the morning prayer service.
Shalach Manos
(Lit. sending out portions). The custom of sending gifts of food or candy to friends during Purim.
Emissary, appointed agent (male pl. sh'lichim, sh'lichei; fem. sing. sh'lichah; fem. pl. sh'lichot).
Shaliach Tzibur
The person leading services.
(Heb.) Peace; hello/goodbye.
Shalom Akhshav
Peace Now; Israeli pro-peace group.
Shalom Bayit
Peace in the home.
Shamir Plan
A four point plan created by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, US President George HW Bush, and Secretary of State James A. Baker that called for the Camp David Accords to be the foundation of the peace process, end of Arab hostility, resolution of Arab refugee problem, election of Palestinian delegates to negotiate an interim period of self-governing administration. Arafat rejected the plan. The Israeli cabinet approved a modified version on May 14, 1989 that called for Camp David Accords but no Palestinian state and the Knesset approved this plan several days later.
See Hillel.
(Lit. servant) 1) The candle that is used to light other Channukah candles; 2) the janitor or caretaker of a synagogue.
Shapiro, Rabbi Meir
Famed Rabbi in Lublin who founded the Yeshivah D'Chochmei Lublin and came up with the concept of the Daf Yomi, the study of a page of Talmud each day, to complete the cycle of learning in 7 1/2 years.
A hot, dry wind (hamsin in Arabic).
The moral and legal code of Islam. The word sharia derives from an Arabic word meaning path or way. In its strictest definition, sharia refers to divine principles and laws as set down explicitly in the Quran and the hadith and sunna. to some Muslims, sharia also may broadly include Islamic jurisprudence and interpretation (see: fiqh). Sharia offers moral and legal guidance for nearly all aspects of life, including contracts and transactions; politics and crime; civil and family relations; worship; and personal conduct such as diet, attire, and hygiene.
Sharm al-Sheikh Memorandum
An agreement reached between Barak and Arafat on September 4, 1999 that resolved to institute the interim agreement in stages of Israeli redeployment from the West Bank and Gaza by dividing the territories into areas. It also called for permanent status negotiations.
Sharon Plan
Proposed by Ariel Sharon in 1992 as a member of the Israeli Knesset Israel would annex about 50% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Palestinians would have autonomy in the rest. This was in contrast to the Allon Plan.
Acronym for Sephardim Shomre Torah; Sephardic Torah Guardians; also an acronym for shisha sidrei Mishnah, the six books of the Mishnah.
Comet; Israeli ballistic missile.
Shavuah Tov
(Heb.) Have a good week.
(Pentecost; Heb. weeks) Observed 50 days from the day the first sheaf of grain was offered to the priests; also known as the Festival of First Fruits. See calendar.
Shaw Commission
British commission set out in 1929 to investigate Jewish-Arab riots in Palestine. The commission led to the issuing of a White Paper by the government that called for restrictions on Jewish immigration.
An orthodox Jewish woman's wig.
She'ar Yashuv Crash
Helicopter crash over She'ar Yashuv settlement that killed 73 Israeli soldiers heading to Lebanon on February 4, 1997.
Sheba'ah Farms
Disputed area on the border with Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in 2000, the Lebanese insisted the Israelis withdraw from Sheba’a Farms. The Israelis and later the United Nations maintained that the area was won during the Six Day War from Syria.
Sheba Operation
When news of Operation Moses leaked, it was abruptly halted by the Sudanese. Almost immediately plans were made to resume the rescue, but the Sudanese president would agree only to a quick, one-shot operation carried out secretly by the United States. The CIA then planned the operation code named “Sheba” (also called Joshua), which began on March 28, 1985, with Ethiopian Jews from Israel working for the Mossad identifying the Ethiopian Jews in the camps and taking them by truck to an airstrip. Planes designed to hold ninety passengers each were prepared at the American base near Frankfurt, West Germany. These camouflaged U.S. Hercules transports landed at twenty-minute intervals to pick up their passengers. Instead of going to an intermediate destination, the planes flew directly to an Israeli air force base outside Eilat. The organizers had prepared to airlift as many as two thousand Ethiopian Jews from the camps, but they found only 494, so three planes returned from Sudan empty.
Divine Presence.
Ritual animal slaughter.
Shekel (Sheqel)
Weight, Israeli monetary unit.
Falsehood, untruth.
Jewish term for the divine presence; the Holy Spirit. In Kabbalism it sometimes took on the aspect of the feminine element in the deity.
Shelemut ha-moledet
The entirety of the homeland; Revisionist Zionist concept or demand.
(Heb. hear) Title of the fundamental, monotheistic statement of Judaism, found in Deut. 6:4 (“Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is One”; shema Yisrael YHWH elohenu YHWH ehad). This statement avers the unity of God, and is recited daily in the liturgy (along with Deut. 6:5-9, 11.13-21; Num. 15.37- 41 and other passages), and customarily before sleep at night. This proclamation also climaxes special liturgies (like Yom Kippur), and is central to the confession before death and the ritual of martyrdom. The Shema is inscribed on the mezuzah and the tefillin. In public services, it is recited in unison.
Shemini Atzeret
(the Eighth Day of Assembly). An eight-day festival that immediately follows the seven-day festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). See also calendar.
Sabbatical year: the land is laid to rest every seventh year and the Torah commands that it shall not be agriculturally worked or harvested.
Shemoneh Esreh
(Heb.eighteen) The main section of Jewish prayers recited in a standing position (see amida) and containing 19 (yes!) "benedictions": praise to (1) God of the fathers/patriarchs, (2) God's power and (3) holiness; prayers for (4) knowledge, (5) repentance, (6) forgiveness, (7) redemption, (8) healing sick persons, (9) agricultural prosperity, (10) ingathering the diaspora, (11) righteous judgment, (12) punishment of the wicked and heretics (birkat haminim, (13) reward of the pious, (14) rebuilding Jerusalem, (15) restoration of the royal house of David, (16) acceptance of prayers, (17) thanks to God, (18) restoration of Temple worship, and (19) peace.
(Heb. names) The second book of the Torah (Exodus).
Place of departed dead in (some) ancient Israel thought, without reference to punishments and rewards. See also hell, heaven.
Shepherdstown Talks
On January 3, 2000Israeli and Syrian leaders met in Shepherdstown, West Virginia met to discuss negotiations.
Sheva Brochos(t)
Seven blessings recited at a wedding.
One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram's horn). See also Rosh Hashanah.
Adherents of Islam's heterodoxy, the Shi'ah (lit. "faction"). The Shi'ah originated among the supporters of Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, and his descendants. Eventually, important doctrinal differences developed between the Shi'ah and the Sunna. Shi'ites are divided into Zaydis, Twelvers, and Isma'ilis. The Alawis and the Druzes are offshoots of the Isma'iliyya.
Shibbolei Ha-Leket
(Lit. The Gleaned Ear (of Grain)) 13th-century halakhic work by Zedekiah ben Abraham Anav; Italy.
An arranged marriage.
To be drunk.
Derogatory Yiddish slang word for non-Jewish woman.
Shin Bet
Short for Shirut Bitahon; security service; Israel's internal intelligence service. (See Shabak).
Change. Political party now part of Meretz..
Shir Ha Shirim
Song of Songs.
A lesson, generally refers to a lesson on the Bible, Mishnah, or Talmud.
(Heb. seven) Seven days of mourning after the burial of a close relative (as in, “to sit shiva”). See also abelut, shloshim.
(Heb. thirty) An intermediate stage of 30 days of less severe mourning, including shiva.
Shma Yisrael
(Heb. Hear, O Israel) Traditional prayer which declares the Oneness of God.
Shmini Atzeret
The eight day of Sukkot; in Israel, Simchat Torah is combined with Shmini Atzeret.
A Yiddish/English cultural term for chatting on relatively unimportant matters.
Sh'nei Luchot Ha-B'rit
Ethical work combining halakha, midrash, and mysticism, by Isaiah ben Abraham he-Levi Horowitz (c. 1565-1630); Central Europe, land of Israel.
Shneur Zalman (of Lyady)
(1745-1813) Founder of Chabad Hasidism; Belorussia, Lithuania, and Russia.
(Heb. catastrophe) Denotes the catastrophic destruction of European Jewry during World War II. The term is used in Israel, and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) has designated an official day, called Yom ha-Shoah, as a day of commemorating the Shoah or Holocaust.
In Jewish worship, a ram's horn sounded at Rosh Hashanah morning worship and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, as well as other times in that period during the fall.
A ritual slaughterer.
(pl. shomrim). Watchman, guardian.
Shomer Mitzvot
One who observes the commandments.
Shomer Shabbat
Observant of the laws of Shabbat.
(Lit. guards, keepers) People who sit with a body between the time of death and burial.
Samaria; northern part of the West Bank.
(Heb. Roots) Group founded to relieve tensions between religious and non-religious communities through educational weekends.
Root of a word (all Hebrew verbs have a 3-4 letter root that is the basis of conjugation. many other parts of speech (adj., nouns) are also derived from this same shoresh).
The escorts for the bride and groom.
A little Jewish village, especially of Ashkenazi Jews of eastern Europe prior to World War II.
Yiddish term for a small synagogue.
Yiddish slang term for synagogue.
Shulhan Aruch
(Heb. prepared table) A code of Jewish law attributed to Joseph Karo in 1565 CE, which became authoritative for classical Judaism.
Shultz Initiative
Peace initiative proposed by United States Secretary of State George Shultz to Israel and a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation. The initiative was based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. It was rejected by the Palestinians.
The capital city of Persia and the setting of the Purim story.
Sicherheitsdienst des RFSS
The security service of the SS [RfSS refers to Reichsführer-SS], established in 1932. Its head was Reinhard Heydrich. It was the intelligence agency of the NSDAP. In 1944 it absorbed the Abwehr, the intelligence agency of the OKW, the Armed Forces High Command.
The Security Police, which included the Kripo and the Gestapo
(from Heb. to order) Jewish prayer book used for all days except special holidays (see seder, machzor). See also liturgy.
(Lit. order) A weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.
Siege of Bethlehem
During Operation Defensive Shield, 100 Palestinian terrorists took refuge in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. Israeli troops laid siege the building from April 2 to May 10, 2002. Eventually, 39 Palestinian militants gave up and were exiled in Europe.
Siegel, Seymour
(1927-1988) Conservative rabbinic leader, Jewish Theological Seminary faculty member, halakhist and ethicist; United States.
Also called Torat Kohanim; 4th-century anonymous midrashic commentary on the book of Leviticus; land of Israel.
A 4th-century halakhic midrash on Numbers and Deuteronomy.
A small, anti-leftist conspiracy group that, since 1988, has conducted several sabotage acts against Israelis supportive of talks with the PLO; named after a Jewish messianic terrorist group that operated in the time of the destruction of the Second Temple.
Happy occasion.
Simhat Torah
(Heb. rejoicing with the Torah) A festival that celebrates the conclusion of the annual reading cycle of the Torah. See calendar.
(Heb.) Hate
Sinai Campaign
War fought from October-November 1956 when Israel reacted to Egyptian terrorist attacks and the blockade of the Straits of Tiran by occupying the Sinai peninsula.
Sinai Peninsula
Desert region located to Israel's southwest. Israel captured the Sinai in the Six-Day War but returned it to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.
Sinai I Agreement
On January 18, 1974, Israel and Egypt signed the Sinai I Agreement via shuttle diplomacy utilized by US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Egypt restricted its military presence east of the Suez Canal while Israel retained control of the Mitla and Gidi passes. The Arab states also agreed to end their oil embargo on Western nations allied with Israel.
Sinai II Agreement
Signed on September 4, 1975 by Israel and Egypt and mediated by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Egypt and Israel widened their buffer zone in the Sinai. Egypt renounced violence against Israel, and the US promised to construct a warning station on Sinai Peninsula and to neither recognize nor negotiate with the PLO.
Sinat Chinam
(Heb.) Gratuitous hatred.
(Ger. Sicherheitspolizei) The Security Police composed of the Gestapo and the Kripo.
Six-Day War
War fought in June 1967 when Israel reacted to Arab threats and the blockade of the Straits of Tiran. Stunning victory over the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies.
Completion of a text or a course of study; a graduation.
(Heb.) Forgiveness; also used in Israel for "excuse me."
Extermination camp in the Lublin district in Eastern Poland (see Belzec; Extermination Camp). Sobibor opened in May 1942 and closed one day after a rebellion of the Jewish prisoners on October 14, 1943. At least 250,000 Jews were killed there.
Solel Boneh
Originally a Histadrut concern for building public works and industry, founded in 1924.
Solomon, King
(965-930 BCE) son of King David; further strengthened the kingdom; built many new towns and erected the Temple in Jerusalem.
Soloveitchik, Joseph Dov
(1903-1992) Orthodox rabbinic leader and philosopher; United States.
"Special Treatment," a euphemism for rounding up Jews and deporting them to the extermination camps.
Sonderkommando (Special Squad)
SS or Einsatzgruppe detachment; also refers to the Jewish slave labor units in extermination camps that removed the bodies of those gassed for cremation or burial.
Sonderweg Thesis
Notion that Germany developed along a singular path, setting it apart from other European countries. This notion has often been used to explain events leading to the rise of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and German anti Semitism, etc.
Sopher or Sofer
(pl. sopherim, “scribe”). Used as a general designation for scholars and copyists in both talmudic and later literature; a “scholastic,” a learned researcher whose vocation was the study and teaching of the tradition. In early times the sopher was the scholar. By the 1st century he was no longer a real scholar but a functionary and teacher of children.
The real spiritual substance created by God which, united to the body, constitutes a person.
South Lebanese Army
After Israeli withdrawal in 1978 from Southern Lebanon, Israel supplied the newly formed South Lebanese Christian right-wing militia with arms.
Spanish Exile
In 1492 the Spanish King Ferdinand ordered by a special edict to expel all the Jews from his country (except those choosing to accept Christianity). Approximately 300,000 Spanish Jews left the country in three months, many going to Portugal, only to be expelled from there four years later. Others went to North Africa, Turkey and the land of Israel.
Special Blessing
Rebbes are often asked to give blessings, and the wording of this blessing may have been unusually lengthy or different in some other way from the usual or familiar wording.
“Special Treatment”
The Nazi euphemism meaning that Jewish men, women, and children were to be methodically killed with poisonous gas. In the exacting records kept at Auschwitz, the cause of death of Jews who had been gassed was indicated by "SB," the first letters of the two words that form Sonderbehandlung, the German term for “Special Treatment.”
Special Municiple Commissioner for Jerusalem
On May 6, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly voted to appoint a Palestine Mandate commissioner that would be acceptable to both Jews and Arabs. Great Britain appointed Harold Evans but he never had a chance to take office because the War of Independence had broken out.
Speer, Albert
Hitler's architect and the German minister of armaments from 1942-45. Speer was appointed minister of armaments after Fritz Todt was killed in 1942. In this position, Speer dramatically increased armaments production through the use of millions of slave laborers. After the war, Speer was tried at Nuremberg, found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to twenty years in prison. At his trial Speer admitted his guilt and took responsibility for the actions of the Nazi regime.
Spice Route
Ancient route for trade caravans bringing spices from Arabia to the Mediterranean shore, led mainly by Nabatean traders.
Spiegel, Shalom
(1899-1984) Scholar of medieval Hebrew literature; Jewish Theological Seminary faculty member; United States.
(Schutzstaffel, Protection Squad), originally Adolf Hitler's bodyguard, it became the elite guard of the Nazi state and its main tool of terror. The SS maintained control over the concentration camp system and was instrumental in the mass shootings conducted by the Einsatzgruppen. Led by Heinrich Himmler, its members had to submit with complete obedience to the authority of the supreme master, Hitler and himself. SS officers had to prove their own and their wives' racial purity back to the year 1700, and membership was conditional on Aryan appearance.
St. James Conference
Great Britain called a round table conference on February 7, 1939 in which it delayed publishing the White Paper.
St. Louis
The steamship St. Louis was a refugee ship that left Hamburg in the spring of 1939, bound for Cuba. When the ship arrived, only 22 of the 1128 refugees were allowed to disembark. Initially no country, including the United States, was willing to accept the others. The ship finally returned to Europe where most of the refugees were finally granted entry into England, Holland, France and Belgium.
German prisoner of war camp for Allied captives.
The State Police.
Star of David
The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism. During the Holocaust, Jews throughout Europe were required to wear Stars of David on their sleeves or fronts and backs of their shirts and jackets.
Steinberg, Milton
(1903-1950) Conservative rabbinic leader and author; United States.
Stern Gain
Also known as the Lehi, the Stern Gain was a militant group during the British Mandate in Palestine that broke away from the Irgun and held violent anti-British incidents for which it received criticism from the rest of the Yishuv leaders. Following the formation of the State of Israel, the group was disbanded and its fights absorbed into the Israel Defense Forces.
Stockade and Watchtower
Type of settlement established in Palestine between 1936 and 1947 to provide greater security against Arab attacks.
Stockholm Declaration
Five American Jewish leaders and Yassir Arafat met in Stockholm, Sweden and agreed on a four point statement on December 7, 1988. The four points included recognition by the PLO of Resolutions 242 and 338, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, renunciation of terrorism, and resolution of the refugee problem in accordance with law. This paved the way for the US to negotiate with the PLO.
Strategic Cooperation
Formal agreement between the United States and Israel, initiated in 1983 by Ronald Reagan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, to assist each other in areas of mutual security concern. This strategic relationship has included joint military exercises, repositioning of stockpiles, the use of Haifa port by U.S. naval vessels, intelligence-sharing, Israeli support for U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War, and bilateral research and development programs like the Arrow missile.
von Stauffenberg, Count Claus Schenk
Career officer, after being seriously wounded in Africa, Stauffenberg found himself disillusioned by Hitler's war objectives. He joined up with the resistance in Berlin and volunteered to plant a bomb in the Wolf's lair. Stauffenberg was executed on the evening of the failed July 20 coup.
A round fur hat worn by Chassidic Jews.
Name of a ship carrying 769 Jewish refugees, which left Rumania late in 1941, was refused entry to Palestine or Turkey, and sank in the Black Sea in Feb. 1942, with the loss of all on board except one.
Sturmabteilungen - Storm Troopers
Founded in 1921, these were the political soldiers of the NSDAP, its most active supporters and those who marched in demonstrations, kept control at political meetings, and were quite prepared to engage in active combat with supporters of opposing political parties.  Most of the more serious conflicts were with members of the socialist and communist parties.  From 1939 they became responsible for pre-military training of able-bodied males.
Auxiliary forced labor camp linked administratively to one of the major concentration camps. There were thousands of sub-camps in the concentration camp system, which numbered nearly 3,000 camps.
A section of Bohemia and Moravia in which the German population of Czechoslovakia (Volksdeutsche) was concentrated. In 1938 it was transferred to Germany as a result of agreements reached at the Munich Conference. "Munich" became a symbol of "Appeasement" which meant in this context the pursuit of a short-range policy of conciliation to an aggressive tyrant.
(Lit. booth) The temporary dwellings the Jews use during the holiday of Sukkot. One is supposed to eat meals there and some Jews have the custom of sleeping in the sukkah.
(Tabernacles) (Heb. booths, tabernacles) Seven-day Jewish fall festival beginning on Tishri 15 commemorating the Sukkot where the Israelites lived in the wilderness after the Exodus; also known as hag haasiph, the Festival of Ingathering (of the harvest). See also calendar.
An ancient language and urban civilization of Mesopotamia.
Adherents of Islamic orthodoxy, the largest group in Islam. Sunnis accept the Islamic tradition (sunna) and the legitimate authority of the caliphs as the Prophet's successors.
The Christian teaching throughout almost two millennia that the church has replaced or superseded Israel in God's plan of salvation, and that after the destruction of the Temple Judaism has no theological or religious significance other than demonstrating God's wrath, while the church was seen as a demonstration of God's grace.
Sutzkever, Abraham
(1913- ) A Yiddish poet, born in a small town near Vilna in 1913. He became a leader in the "Yung Vilne" literary movement before WWII. When the Nazis established the Vilna ghetto he joined the "Paper Brigade," a group who were hiding documents from the archives of YIVO, the Yiddish Scientific Institute.
Supreme Arab Council
Arab leaders in Palestine, established during the Arab rebellion, led by Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini 1936-1939.
Sanskrit name for a hooked cross (Hakenkreuz in German) used by ancient civilizations as a symbol of fertility and good fortune. It has been found in the ruins of Troy, Egypt, China and India. It was adopted by the Nazis and transformed into a symbol of Aryan supremacy.
A small town in eastern Lithuania north-east of Vilna. A small ghetto was located there. The ghetto was liquidated April 4, 1943. The people were told that they were being resettled in either the Vilna or the Kovno ghettos.
Sykes-Picot Agreement
Secret agreement named after Britain's Sir Mark Sykes and France's Charles Georges Picot. Signed by Britain and France in May 1916, the agreement divided the Ottoman Empire among them. Lebanon and Syria were to to be French spheres of influence while Jordan and Iraq were to be controlled by Britain. Palestine was supposed to be internationalized but wound up coming under British rule.
(Greek for “gathering”) The central institution of Jewish communal worship and study since antiquity (see also bet midrash), and by extension, a term used for the place of gathering. The structure of such buildings has changed, though in all cases the ark containing the Torah scrolls faces the ancient Temple site in Jerusalem.
(Greek for “draw together, combine”) Synthesis of variegated religious beliefs derived from more than one religion.
Synoptic Gospels
Name given to the first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) in the Christian “New Testament,” which view the story of Jesus from the same general perspective.


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