(Heb., “father [of]”). Used in numerous phrases and constructions, such as ab bet din (lit. “father of/in the house of judgment”) for one of the presiders in the Jewish sanhedrin (see also bet/beit).
(Heb., “mourning”). See shiva.
(adj. Abrahamic). The patriarch who is acknowledged as a special early figure in the histories and folklore of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 B.C.E.; father of Ishmael by Hagar and of Isaac by Sarah. See Bible Genesis 12-25; New Testament Galatians 3-4; Quran 37.83=113, 2.124-140.
Acacia Tortilis
A tree prevalent in the southern wadis (valleys) of Israel.
anno domini (“year of the Lord”). See CE.
Adam (and Eve)
(Hebrew for “t;human, man”). Name given to the first created male (with Eve as female) in the creation story in the Jewish scriptures (Genesis 1). Has been interpreted over the centuries both literally (as an actual historical person) and symbolically (as generic humankind; see allegory).
(adj. aggadic; Heb., “telling, narration”). Jewish term for non-halakic (nonlegal) matter, especially in Talmud and Midrash; includes folklore, legend, theology/theosophy, scriptural interpretations, biography, etc.; also spelled haggada(h), not to be confused, however, with the Passover manual called “the Haggada(h).”
Agnostic, Agnosticism
(from Greek, “not knowing”). A general term to indicate suspension of judgment regarding the existence of God/deity (compare atheism, theism).
(lit. “t;chained”) A woman who cannot remarry; usually because her husband refuses to give her a get (divorce), because there is no way to verify whether or not he is dead, or because he is incompetent to give a divorce (i.e., mentally ill).
Ahdut ha-Avodah
Zionist Socialist Labor Party founded in Palestine in 1919; in 1930 merged with Ha-Po'el ha-Za'ir and formed Mapai; seceded from Mapai in 1944 and was reunited in 1968 as part of the Israeli Labor Party.
(Ger., ancestral heritage), The Institute for the Scientific Study of Ends and Purposes, located in Berlin.
Ahuzat Bayit
In 1907, Jewish residents of Jaffa formed a society by the name of Ahuzat Bayit, with a view towards establishing a neighborhood outside the congested city. With funds lent by the Jewish National Fund, land was purchased near Jaffa. The parcels were drawn by lot, and the foundations of the first building were laid in 1909. Ahuzat Bayit merged with two other new neighborhoods, Nahalat Binyamin and Geula, and they were together named "Tel Aviv," the title of Nahum Sokolow's Hebrew translation of Herzl's utopian novel, Altneuland.
Akiba (Aqiba, Akiva) ben Joseph
Famous Jewish rabbi (c. 50-135 CE) in ancient Palestine; a major legal scholar, who established an academy in B'nai Brak, and was also a legendary mystic and martyr. He was tortured and killed by the Romans in 135 CE.
(Ger.). The code name of the operation that had as its goal the annihilation of the entire Jewish population of the Generalgouvernement, the portion of Poland occupied by Germany. The operation was dubbed "Aktion Reinhard" by SS men in honor of Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect of the Final Solution, who was assassinated by members of the Czech underground in June 1942. Three death camps were built to accomplish the mass murder: Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Aktion Reinhard began in mid-March 1942 and ended in November 1943, during which more than two million Jews were killed.
Aktion Erntefest
(Ger.). “Operation Harvest Festival” (German)—Code name for the liquidation and mass killings of the remaining Jews in the Lublin area that occurred on November 3, 1943. An estimated 42,000 people were shot while loud music was played to drown out the shootings. Last Aktion of Aktion Reinhard.
Aktion Reinhard
(Ger.). Code name for the annihilation of European Jewry. Named after Reinhard Heydrich.
Aktion T-4 (Tiergarten Strasse 4)
(Ger.). Code name for the Euthanasia program. Name taken from the Reich Chancellery building's address.
(“Hope”). A Shi'ah political movement cum-militia. It developed originally as the military arm of the Movement of the Disinherited, the radical organization formed by Imam Musa al-Sadr, the religious leader who transformed Lebanon's Shi'ah politics in the 1970s. After his disappearance, he was replaced by Nabih al-Beri and the movement was taken over by al-Amal.
Alawis (or Nusayris)
A Muslim sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Most of the Alawis live in Syria, where they form some 12 percent of the population. Once a marginal, rural, underprivileged community, Syrian Alawis have undergone a dramatic transformation in the past twenty years as members of the community advanced through the army and the Ba'thi party to positions of dominance (including the current President Hafez Assad).
The Hebrew alphabet.
A term used in modern Judaism especially for migration (Heb., "going up") to the land of Israel. Aliya can also be used for "going up" to the altar (bema) to read from Torah.
Aliya Bet
"Illegal immigration" (Heb.)—Jewish immigration into Palestine (later, Israel) without the official immigration certificate nor with British approval - most often by ship. During the Third Reich, Zionist movements set up organizations to plan and implement these flights from Europe.
(Greek, adj. allegorical, vb. allegorize). Usually used in reference to symbolic interpretation of scriptures or other authoritative materials, in Judaism and Islam as well as in Christianity. See midrash, tafsir.
Alliance Israelite Universelle
International Jewish organization, founded in Paris, 1860, to protect Jewish rights as citizens and to promote education and professional development among Jews around the world.
The nations, including the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, as well as the Free French of Charles De Gaulle, that joined in the war against Germany and the other Axis nations. The Soviet Union was an ally of the Nazis between August 23, 1939, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed, and June 22, 1941, when Hitler attacked Russia. Britain became an ally of the Soviet Union only after Stalin and Hitler went to war. The United States became an ally of the Soviet Union only after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Hitler, allied to Japan, declared war on the United States.
Ship carrying immigrants and ammunition from France to Israel in June, 1948 under the command of Etzel and in direct challenge to authority of Tzahal. Destroyed by the IDF, Tzahal, killing 21 on board.
Historically, it usually refers to a raised surface (like a table) or platform on which sacrifices were performed. Thus it came to designate the central location for liturgical functions such as reading Torah (Jewish; see bima) or administering the Eucharist (Christian). Compare minbar.
The Cracow synagogue was built in the 1500s. It is the oldest synagogue in Poland and second oldest in Europe. It was rebuilt so many times, it became known as the “Old-New Shul.” The Gestapo used it for headquarters during the War. It is now a museum.
Am Haaretz
(pl. ammeyhaaretz, “people of the land”). A term used in Jewish scriptures for citizens, or some particular class of citizens; in rabbinic literature, for persons or groups that dissented from or were uninstructed in rabbinic halaka and rigorous purity and tithing norms. It sometimes signifies the unlearned, sometimes is used condescendingly (boor). It was also used to describe the broad mass of Jewish people of the 1st century CE, who cannot be categorized into any of the sub-groups of the time. See also Pharisees.
Am Yisrael
The people of Israel.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
(popularly known as the JDC or the “Joint”). American Jewry's overseas relief and rehabilitation agency founded in 1914.
(Heb., “standing”; pl. amidot). The main section of rabbinic Jewish prayers, recited in a standing posture; also known as tefillah or shemoneh esreh (“eighteen benedictions”).
(pl. amoraim; “speaker”). Rabbinic Jewish teachers of the 3rd and 4th centuries CE who produced the gemara for the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds.
(Greek, lit. “messenger”). Came to be used specifically for a class of extrahuman (“spiritual”) beings, both good (usually) and bad (“demons”) who become involved in human affairs; common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A leader or special functionary among the angels is sometimes called an "archangel" (e.g., Michael, Gabriel).
Anglo-American Committee
Committe formed shortly after World War II, following disclosure of the horrors of the Holocaust and the problem of refugees and displaced persons. It concluded that no country other than Palestine was ready or willing to help find homes for Jews wishing to leave Europe, but Palestine alone could not solve their emigration needs.
Anielewicz, Mordecai (1919-1943)
Major leader of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto; killed May 8, 1943.
The period of mourning between the time of death and the time of burial.
(Ger. “annexation”). Annexation of Austria to Germany on March 13, 1938.
Greek term for the attribution of human behavior or characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, natural phenomena or deity. With regard to deity, anthropomorphism became a point of theological discussion in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
(from Greek, “opposing law”). A general term for persons or positions that consciously take a stand against the established rules and laws. In Christian tradition, a name given to those who felt that salvation by grace excused them from obeying temporal law(s).
Anti-Semitism (antisemitism)
Literally means opposed to Semites (which would include Arabic and other semitic peoples as well), but usually applied specifically to opposition to Jews (anti-Judaism).
Unbeliever, heathen.
(adj. apocalyptic). From the Greek, meaning “revelation.” A genre of literature (attested in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions) in which the author claims to have received revelation(s), usually about the end-time, and expresses them in vivid symbolism. The intertestamental Jewish and the early Christian apocalypses are often pseudepigraphical. The final book of the Christian New Testament is sometimes called (in accord with its Greek title) “the Apocalypse” (it is also known as “the book of Revelation”).
(adj. apocryphal). From the Greek, meaning “to hide” or “to uncover.” It is used in a technical sense to refer to certain Jewish books written in the Hellenistic-Roman period that came to be included in the Old Greek Jewish scriptures (and thus in the Eastern Christian biblical canon) and in the Latin Vulgate Roman Catholic canon, but not in the Jewish or Protestant biblical canons. See also Bible, Septuagint.
(Ger., “Roll call”) Within the camps, inmates were forced to stand at attention for hours at least twice a day while they were counted. This was always carried out no matter what the weather and often lasted for hours. Often accompanied by beatings and punishments.
(Ger., “Place for roll call”). Location within the camps where the Appell was carried out.
(Heb., “binding” [of Isaac]). The Jewish biblical account of God's command to Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22).
Arab Boycott
Formally declared by the newly formed Arab League Council on December 2, 1945. The boycott consists of the primary boycott, which prohibits direct trade between Israel and the Arab nations, the secondary boycott, which is directed at companies that do business with Israel and the tertiary boycott, which involves the blacklisting of firms that trade with other companies that do business with Israel.
Arab Higher Committee
Radical group established in 1945 by Arab League that represented Palestinian Arab interests, rejecting all compromise on rights of Jews to Eretz Yisrael.
Arab League
Organization of Arab states, founded 1945, works for common political and economic goals, often as pan-Arab opposition to Israel.
A Semitic language known since the ninth century B.C.; official language of the Persian empire; used extensively in southwest Asia and by the Jews after the Babylonian exile; the cursive script replaced the ancient paleo-Hebrew script for secular writing as well as for holy scriptures.
(“steppe," “desert”). a stretch of depressed ground between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Eilat.
Arbah Minim
Lit. four species. Fruit and branches used to fulfill the commandment to “rejoice before the L-rd” during Sukkot.
Arbeit Macht Frei
(Ger. “Work Brings Freedom”). The sign over the gates of Auschwitz. It was placed there by Major Rudolf Hoss, commandant of the camp.
Forced labor detachment of prisoners of war.
Aristotle, Aristotelianism
Aristotle was a famous Greek thinker (died in 322 B.C.E.), a student of Plato, whose interpretation of what constitutes reality (metaphysics, ontology) and of how reality is organized was widely influential both in ancient times and in the “medieval” period of Judaism and Christianity, influenced by the “classical” period of Islamic learning. See e.g., scholasticism.
An acronym of aron kodesh, lit., holy chest. The cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept. The word has no connection with Noah's Ark, which is “teyvat” in Hebrew.
Aron Hakodesh
The Hebrew term for the Holy Ark.
“Aryan” was a 19th-century linguistics term used to describe the Indo-European languages. The term was subsequently perverted to refer to the people who spoke those languages, which the Nazis deemed superior to those people who spoke Semitic languages. Thus, Aryan came to describe people of "proven" non-Jewish and purely Teutonic "racial" background.
The expropriation of Jewish businesses, enterprises and property, by German authorities and their transfer to “aryan” ownership or control.
Ascetic (asceticism)
(from Greek, to hold oneself under control). A general term for one who follows rigorous bodily and spiritual discipline to enhance spiritual experiences and rewards. Often connected with mysticism.
Asefat ha-Nivharim
Representative assembly elected by Jews in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate (1920-48)
(adj. Ashkenazic). The term now used for Jews who derive from northern Europe and who generally follow the customs originating in medieval German Judaism, in contradistinction to Sephardic Judaism, which has its distinctive roots in Spain and the Mediterranean (see Sephardim). Originally the designation Ashkenaz referred to a people and country bordering on Armenia and the upper Euphrates; in medieval times, it came to refer to the Jewish area of settlement in northwest Europe (northern France and western Germany). By extension, it now refers to Jews of northern and eastern European background (including Russia) with their distinctive liturgical practices or religious and social customs.
One of several categories of people targeted by the Nazi regime. People in this category included homosexuals, prostitutes, Gypsies (Roma), and thieves.
The process of becoming incorporated into mainstream society. Strict observance of Jewish laws and customs pertaining to dress, food, and religious holidays tends to keep Jewish people separate and distinct from the culture of the country within which they are living. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), a German Jew, was one of the key people working for the assimilation of the Jews in the German cultural community.
Something prohibited.
(from Greek, “no deity“). A general term for the position that there is no God/deity (compare agnosticism, theism).
Detention camp on the Mediterranean shore established by the British to house “illegal Jewish immigrants” from Europe after WWII..
(Heb., kaparah). In Judaism, atonement or reconciliation between God and humanity is achieved by the process of repentance (teshuvah), seeking forgiveness and making amends with our fellow human beings.
The ceremony in which a couple is called up to the Torah on the Shabbat before their wedding.
Concentration and extermination camp in upper Silesia, Poland, 37 miles west of Krakow. Established in 1940 as a concentration camp, it became an extermination camp in early 1942. Eventually, it consisted of three sections: Auschwitz I, the main camp; Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp; Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the I.G. Farben labor camp, also known as Buna. In addition, Auschwitz had numerous sub-camps.
Believing in or characterized by unquestioning obedience to authority, as that of a dictator, rather than individual freedom of judgment and action.
An essay by Dr. Judah Leib (Leon) Pinsker, Autoemancipation was published in the aftermath of the pogroms that swept Russia in 1881-82. Published in 1882, it dealt with the causes of antisemitism and offered a possible solution for the Jews. Pinsker argued that the Jews were foreigners everywhere, and that even if they managed to assimilate, antisemitism would remain an incurable illness, fueled by the peculiar condition of the Jewish people, which has no language, no country and no government. The emancipation given to Jews by Gentiles was, to Pinsker, a coup de grâce. The Jews, Pinsker argued, must regain their national dignity and security and establish for themselves a land of refuge. Even more urgently needed, he argued, was a national awakening and self-liberation ("autoemancipation"), the components of the process of national renaissance. Pinsker's work became one of the basic writings on the Jews and Zionism.
Av or Ab
A month in the Jewish calendar; the 9th of Av is a day of mourning for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 B.C.E. and again in 70 CE.
The year of mourning after the burial of a parent.
Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations
A tree-lined path (and forest> at Yad VaShem (Jerusalem, Israel) memorializing those non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Averah (aveira)
Sin, transgression of God's will.
Avoda Ivrit
Jewish labour: slogan adopted during pioneering days in the Land of Israel, i.e., to do physical work, not to hire others to do it.
Worship, service.
The Axis powers originally included Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan who signed a pact in Berlin on September 27, 1940. They were later joined by Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia.
Back to top


Firstborn status.
The ritual veiling of the bride by the groom. This custom developed from the biblical story of Jacob, who married Leah by mistake, instead of Rachel, the woman he loved.
B’nai B'rith
World's oldest and largest Jewish organization, founded in 1843 in New York, concerned with protecting Jewish interests around the world.
B’nai Noach
Sons of Noah; refers to non-Jews who strive to live by the basic laws for humanity derived from the Torah.
B'nai Yisrael
The children of Israel.
B’nei Akiva
Religious Zionist youth movement, founded 1929, emphasizing the religious importance of life and work in Israel.
B’shaah Tova
Congratulations to an expectant mother (lit. “in a good hour,” means “at an auspicious time,” i.e., “may whatever time your child is born be a good time.”) Also the correct response to the announcement of a marriage engagement. In both cases, it is in anticipation of a “mazel tov” for something hoped for, that has not yet occurred.
In peace.
In song.
Ba’al Shem Tov
(BeSHT; lit. “Master of the Good Name”). Founder of mid-18th century Jewish Hasidism (proper name was Israel).
Ba’al Teshuvah
(lit. “master of return”) A penitent; a Jew who returns to a traditional observant Jewish lifestyle (also known by the acronym BT).
(“renaissance”). A Pan-Arab socialist party with branches in several Arab countries, most notably Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. The party emerged during World War II, was formally established in 1947 and has been influential in Arab politics since the early 1950s.
Baal Tefillah
Prayer leader.
Babi Yar
A ravine in Kiev, where tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews were systematically massacred.
Symbols worn by Jews and others targeted by the Nazi regime for easy identification. Jews were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David; political prisoners a red triangle; criminals a green triangle; "Asocials" a black triangle; Gypsies a brown triangle; Jehovah's Witnesses a purple triangle and Homosexuals a pink triangle.
Baeck, Leo (1873-1956)
Rabbi, philosopher, and community leader in Berlin. In 1933, he became president of the Reich Representation of German Jews, an organization responsible to the Nazi regime concerning Jewish matters. Despite opportunities to emigrate, Baeck refused to leave Germany. In 1943, he was deported to the ghetto of Terezin (Theresienstadt), where he became a member of the Council of Elders and spiritual leader of the Jews imprisoned there. After the liberation of the ghetto he emigrated to England.
A religious youth organization founded in Germany in 1928.
The man of the house.
The lady of the house, and usually an especially praiseworthy one.
Balfour Declaration
Statement issued by the British Government, 1917 recognizing the - Jewish people's right to a national home in the land of Israel, named for Lord Balfour who signed it on Britain’s behalf.
(Heb., “in the desert”). From Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah.
Bank Ha-Poalim
The central financial institute of the Histadrut founded 1921.
The headwaters of the Dan and Jordan Rivers. A major archeological site and picnic grounds.
In earliest Christianity, the rite of ritual immersion in water that initiated a person (usually as an “adult”) into the Christian church. Very soon, pouring or sprinkling with water came into use in some churches, and the practice of baptizing infants. See also initiation, circumcision.
Bar Kokhba
(Aramaic: “Son of a Star”). Simeon ben Kosiba, the leader of the last and most successful Jewish rebellion against Rome in 132-135 CE. He died in battle when the rebellion was defeated. Rabbi Akiba believed he was the Moshiach (Messiah).
Bar (Bat) Mitzvah
(Heb., “son (daughter)-of-the-commandment(s)”). The phrase originally referred to a person responsible for performing the divine commandments of Judaism; it now refers to the occasion when a boy or girl reaches the age of religious majority and responsibility (thirteen years for a boy; twelve years and a day for a girl). In Christianity, compare confirmation.
Baruch Habah
(masc.) Welcome.
(Heb., “daughter,” “daughter of”). Used frequently in “matronymics” (naming by identity of mother); see also ben.
Baum Gruppe (Herbert Baum Group)
Small, clandestine anti-Nazi organization founded in Berlin at the beginning of the Nazi regime by Herbert and Marianne Baum. It was composed of young people, primarily Jewish members of the Communist party, as well as a number of Zionists. Its activities centered around increasing education, political, and cultural awareness, but it also engaged in one act of spectacular sabotage: The bombing of an anti-Soviet exhibit in Berlin. Most of the members were denounced, tried, and executed between July 1942 and June 1943.
Jewish shorthand term for the Babylonian Talmud.
B.C.E. or b.c.e.
(“before the common era”). An attempt to use a neutral term for the period traditionally labeled “BC” (before Christ) by Christians. Thus 586 B.C.E. is identical to 586 BC.
Beit Hillel
(Lit. “House of Hillel”). A school of thought during the Talmudic period, generally contrasted with the stricter, more legalistic views of Beit Shammai.
Beit Knesset
(Lit. “house of assembly”). A Hebrew term for a synagogue.
Beit Midrash
(Lit. “house of study”). A place set aside for study of sacred texts such as the Torah and the Talmud, generally a part of the synagogue or attached to it.
Beit Shammai
(Lit. “House of Shammai”). A school of thought during the Talmudic period, generally contrasted with the more lenient, humanistic views of Beit Hillel.
One of the six extermination camps in Poland. Originally established in 1940 as a camp for Jewish forced labor, the Germans began construction of an extermination camp at Belzec on November 1, 1941, as part of Aktion Reinhard. By the time the camp ceased operations in January 1943, more than 600,000 persons had been murdered there.
(Heb., “son,” “son of”; Aramaic bar). Used frequently in “patronymics” (naming by identity of father); Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph means Akiba son of Joseph. See also bat, bint.
To bless, say a blessing. Usually refers to the birkat ha-mazon (Grace after Meals).
(Heb., “blessing,” pl. berakot). In Judaism, an offering of thankfulness that praises God for a benefit conferred or a great event experienced. See also shemonah esreh.
(Heb. “in the beginning”). Genesis, the first book of the Torah.
Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. Erected in 1943. Thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and POWs were killed there. Liberated by British troops in April 1945, although many of the remaining prisoners died of typhus after liberation.
(“flight”). Name of organized underground operation moving Jews out of Eastern Europe, USSR, Balkan, and Baltic countries, into central and Southern Europe between 1944 and 1948, as a step toward their—mostly “illegal”—immigration to Palestine: also name of spontaneous mass movement of Jewish survivors from Europe toward Eretz Israel.
Berit or Brit
(Heb., “covenant”). Used in Judaism especially for the special relationship believed to exist between God and the Jewish people.
Bermuda Conference
Anglo-American Conference on refugees held in Bermuda April 19-30, 1943.
Bernheim Petition
Petition against Nazi anti-Jewish legislation in German Upper Silesia, signed by Franz Bernheim, a warehouse employee in Upper Silesia and submitted to the League of Nations on May 17, 1933.
Bet Din
Court of Jewish law.
Bet Lohamei Haghettaot
Israeli museum established by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Bet/Beit Midrash
(Hebrew; bayt); see also midrash, synagogue. In Judaism, a place ( beit = “house”) of study, discussion, and prayer; in ancient times a school of higher learning (see, for example, “house of Hillel”). Similarly, bet am ("house of people”), bet knesset (“house of assembly”) and bet tefillah (“house of prayer”) are designations for locations/functions that came to be included in the general term synagogue; bet din (“house of judgment”) refers to a halakic law court (see also sanhedrin).
Youth movement of the Zionist Revisionist party (now of the Herut movement).
(adj. biblical; from Greek biblos meaning “book”). Designation normally used for Jewish scriptures (TaNaK = Protestant Christian “Old Testament”; plus the Apocrypha in classical Christianity) or Christian scriptures (“Old Testament” plus the Christian “New Testament”). See also Septuagint.
Bikkur Cholim
Visiting the ill or hospitalized.
(1882) Student organization for aliya. Name consists of initials of the words (1883) in verse in Isaiah II:5, “House of Jacob, come, let us go up.”
(from beema, “altar”). Location in a synagogue from which worship (see liturgy) is led. See also minbar.
Intuition, understanding, intelligence. A quality that women supposedly have in greater degree than men. Also, in kabbalistic thought, one of the Ten Sephirot.
Birkat Haminim
(Heb., “(bene)diction concerning heretics”). A prayer that invoked divine wrath upon Christian Jews and other heterodox Jewish groups. Twelfth section of the shemoneh esreh.
Birkat Hamazon
Grace after meals.
The death camp of Auschwitz II and III. Auschwitz II is mostly destroyed; Auschwitz III is destroyed except for a few barracks.
(Greek, “speak ill, defame”). A general term for speaking against the deity or things associated with the deity. See sacrilege.
Blood Libel
An allegation, recurring during the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, that Jews were killing Christian children to use their blood for the ritual of making unleavened bread (matzah). A red mold which occasionally appeared on the bread started this myth.
Blut und Boden
(Ger., “Blood and soil”). Phrase used by Hitler to mean that all people of German blood have the right and duty to live on German soil (i.e. in the German Fatherland).
Bormann, Martin (June 17, 1900 - 1945?)
Adolf Hitler's personal secretary. One of the most powerful men in the Third Reich since he controlled access to Hitler. Known as “the Brown Eminence” and “the man in the shadows.” Helped the Führer with his personal finances. Hitler viewed him as an absolute devotee, but he had high ambitions and kept his rivals from having access to Hitler. Was in the bunker during Hitler's last days. Left the bunker on May 1, 1945, and is believed to have died shortly thereafter either by a Soviet shell or by suicide. He was sentenced to death in absentia by the Nuremberg tribunal. The West German government officially declared him dead in 1973.
A reward, premium or subsidy, especially when offered or given by a government. A payment for the capture of an “outlaw.” The Gestapo offered a bounty to those who turned in Jews in hiding.
Boycott (anti-Jewish)
Organized activity in Nazi Germany directed against the Jews to exclude them from social. economic and political life.
(pl. brachot). Blessing.
Brit Ha-Hayim
Ritual developed by Reform Judaism to celebrate the birth of girls.
Brit (or Berit) Milah
(Heb., “covenant of circumcision”).
Brunnlitz was the industrial town in German-occupied Czechoslovakia where Oskar Schindler relocated his Krakow factory in late 1944 as the Soviet Red Army advanced towards Krakow from the east. The weapons factory that Schindler established in Brunnlitz was a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Labor camps exploiting Jewish and foreign labor like Brunnlitz were located throughout the Greater German Reich. Brunnlitz, under Schindler, was one of the few camps where Jews were not treated brutally.
Dear, sweetheart, etc.
Jewish socialist party founded in Russia (1897), devoted to Yiddish, autonomism, secular Jewish nationalism, and sharply opposed to Zionism.
Ghetto slang word for Jews' hiding places within the ghettos.
German for mayor.
Individuals, or governments, who were indifferent to the plight of the Jews, and other victims of the Nazis. Bystanders did not come to the aid of Jews and other persecuted groups. The great majority of the European populace were bystanders to the destruction of Jews.
Back to top


Cairo Agreement
An agreement reached in November 1969 between the Supreme Commander of the Lebanese Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in an effort to regulate the relationship between the Lebanese government and the PLO, and the latter's activity in and from Lebanon.
In general, Christianity operates on a "solar" calendar based on the relationship between the sun and the earth (365.25 days per year). The main Christian observances are Easter, Pentacost, and Christmas. The Islamic calendar is "lunar," based on the relationship of earth and moon (354 days in a year). Thus, every 100 solar years are equal to about 103 lunar years. Muslim calendric observances include fasting during the month of Ramadan, followed by the feast of fast breaking (id al-fitr), and the time for pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) and associated practices such as the Feast of Sacrifice. Judaism follows a lunar calendar adjusted every three years or so to the solar cycle (by adding a second 12th month)—thus “lunisolar.” The oldest Jewish annual observances are Passover/Pesach, Shavuot, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth; other ancient celebrations include Rosh Ha-Shana, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah and Purim. See also B.C.E., CE.
Camp David Accords
Peace agreement reached between Israel and Egypt, the first between Israel and an Arab neighbor, signed March, 1979. Called for normalization of relations and return of the Sinai to Egypt.
A Nazi euphemism for the storage areas as such camps as Auschwitz.
Candle Shul
Rabbi Nathan Shapiro's Cracow “shtibl” is a three-story white renovated building, built in the 17th century. Legend says that Rabbi Nathan Shapiro, author of “Megalleh Amukot,” a Kabbalistic work, would sit every night, all night by the window, with a candle burning bright. All night he would study. The people in the neighborhood would walk by the shtibl and feel confident, seeing the candle burning brightly. The shtibl became known as the Candle Shul. One night the candle was not burning. The next day, Rabbi Nathan Shapiro was found dead at his study table.
Canon, Canonical Scripture
The collection of books of the Bible recognized as authoritative.
(from Latin, “one who sings”). In Judaism, a reciter and chanter/singer of liturgical materials in the synagogue; also used similarly in Christian contexts (choir leader, etc.). Compare hazzan (Islam).
C.E. or c.e.
“common era”; an attempt to use a neutral term for the period traditionally labeled “AD” (Latin anno domini or “year of the Lord”) by Christians. Thus, 1992 CE is identical to AD 1992.
The practice of refraining from sexual relationships in the interest of religious purity, known in Judaism among the Essenes and developed extensively in Christianity (see, priest).
Center for Jewish Culture, Jaegollonlan University
Inside the University, in Cracow, on the site of the oldest synagogue in Poland, this center was established to document the history of the Jews in Poland.
Immigration certificates allocated by the British Mandate Government each year under the quota system.
(pl. chachamim) A wise person.
Chag Sameach
A happy holiday (used as a greeting).
Hebrew word for life. Numerically it represents the number 18.
Chamberlain, Neville (1869-1940)
British Prime Minister, 1937-1940. He concluded the Munich Agreement in 1938 with Adolf Hitler, which he mistakenly believed would bring "peace in our time."
(Heb., “dedication”) A Jewish festival ("of lights") that commemorates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple to more traditional modes of Jewish worship by Judah the Maccabee around 164 B.C.E. See also calendar.
Menorah used on Chanukah, a nine branched candelabra.
A mixture of fruit, wine and nuts eaten at the Passover seder to symbolize mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
Teachings that involve Hasidim.
One who is obligated (chiyuv=obligation).
Chazzan (hazzan)
See cantor.
A room or school where Hebrew is taught.
The fat surrounding organs, as distinguished from the fat surrounding muscles. Forbidden to be eaten under the laws of Kashrut.
A make-believe town of happy, foolish people.
An extermination camp established in late 1941 in the Warthegau region of Western Poland, 47 miles west of Lodz. It was the first camp where mass executions were carried out by means of gas. A total of 320,000 people were exterminated at Chelmno.
Excommunication (from cessation of aid, boycott).
Cheshbon Hanefesh
("accounting of the soul") self-examination of your actions' merit, or accounting of your soul's good and bad aspects.
Friends; comrades.
Chevra Kadisha
(“holy society”) The group that prepares a body for burial.
From the Greek for “1000.” Pertaining to the (Christian) belief that Christ will reign for a thousand years in the end-times; also called millenarian (from the Latin).
Chillul Hashem
Desecration of the divine name.
(pl. chukim). Law from the Torah deemed to be without a humanly-discernable rationale, e.g., the red heifer.
Chol HaMoed
(the Intermediate Days; the "work days" of Passover and Sukkoth). The Festivals of Passover and Sukk both have holidays at the beginning and end (though technically the holiday at the end of Sukk is a separate holiday), and “intermediate days” in the middle. During these days, much work is permitted, but many holiday laws remain in effect.
Chometz (chametz, hametz)
Leavened food, which is forbidden during Pesach.
Chosen People
According to the Torah, Jews were chosen by God to receive the Torah and given the special responsibility (or duty) to be “A Light Unto The Nations,” thereby, spreading the word of God.
From Greek christos, “anointed.” The Christian study of the Christ concept in its various associations and applications (e.g. as historical Jesus, Christ of faith, in his relation to God and to other humans, in his passion and redemptive work, as royal or priestly or prophetic figure, as eschatological agent, etc.).
The five books of the Torah, bound in one volume (not a scroll).
Stringency—custom of a community to observe more strictly.
See huppah.
Churchill, Winston (1875-1965)
British Prime Minister, 1940-1945. He succeeded Chamberlain on May 10, 1940, at the height of Hitler's conquest of Western Europe. Churchill was one of the very few Western politicians who recognized the threat that Hitler posed to Europe. He strongly opposed Chamberlain's appeasement policies.
Something outrageous.
(from Latin, “to cut around”). The minor surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis. In Judaism, it is ritually performed when a boy is eight days old in a ceremony called brit milah, which indicates that the ritual establishes a covenant between God and the individual. In Islam, it is performed at any time up to the age of puberty, depending on the cultural tradition (e.g., birth, 7 years, puberty, etc.). See also baptism.
Classical Judaism, Christianity, Islam
The forms of the religions that have survived as traditional throughout the centuries. See rabbinic, orthodox, sunni.
Clauberg, Dr. Carl
SS Physician infamous for his experiments in sterilizating Jewish women at Auschwitz, in Barracks 11.
In Christian contexts, the body of ordained men (and in some churches women) in a church, permitted to perform the priestly and/or pastoral duties, as distinct from the laity to whom they minister. In Judaism, the rabbinate (see rabbi). Islam has no formal clergy in this sense.
See kohen. Priest (Judaism).
Cooperation between citizens of a country and its occupiers.
Collective Responsibility
The doctrine which asserts that a group is responsible for the actions of its individuals, and can therefore be punished for those actions.
(mitzvot; sing., mitzvah). According to rabbinic Jewish tradition, there are 613 religious commandments referred to in the Torah (and elaborated upon by the rabbinic sages). Of these, 248 are positive commandments and 365 are negative. The numbers respectively symbolize the fact that divine service must be expressed through all one's bodily parts during all the days of the year. In general, a mitzvah refers to any act of religious duty or obligation; more colloquially, a mitzvah refers to a “good deed.”
Comite de Defense des Juifs
"Jewish Defense Committee"—An underground movement in Belgium established in 1942.
Concentration Camps
Immediately upon their assumption of power on January 30, 1933, the Nazis established concentration camps for the imprisonment of all “enemies” of their regime: actual and potential political opponents (e.g., communists, socialists, monarchists), Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, homosexuals, and other “asocials.” Beginning in 1938, Jews were targeted for internment solely because they were Jews. Before then, only Jews who fit one of the earlier categories were interned in camps. The first three concentration camps established were Dachau (near Munich), Buchenwald (near Weimar) and Sachsenhausen (near Berlin).
A ceremony found in both the Christian religion and in some branches of the Jewish religion. A sacrament of the Catholic Church, it marks the admission of the person to full membership in the church (takes place between ages 7-14). A rite of passage in Judaism, confirmation usually marks the end of formal religious school training (age 15-16), and traditionally occurs around the time of Shavuot.
Conservative Judaism
A modern development in Judaism, reacting to early Jewish Reform movements in an attempt to retain clearer links to classical Jewish law while at the same time adapting it to modern situations. Its scholarly center in the U.S. is the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Contra fact
A musical technique that places new lyrics into melodies of old songs. This technique was used during the Holocaust, when lyrics were being written faster than composers could generate the music.
Conversion, Convert
(from Latin, “to turn around”). In general religious usage, the act of changing allegiance from one group to another. In (especially evangelical) Christian usage, it can also mean to accept a particular interpretation of the Christian faith.
A pact between two parties. The major covenants in Jewish scriptures are God's covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15), and the Sinai/Moses covenant (Exodus 19-24) between God and Israel. In Judaism, the covenant (Heb., brit) is a major theological concept referring to the eternal bond between God and the people of Israel grounded in God's gracious and steadfast concern (hesed) that calls for the nation's obedience to the divine commandments (mitzvot) and instruction (torah). For Christianity (e.g., Paul), God has made a “new covenant” (rendered as “new testament” in older English) with the followers of Jesus/Joshua in the last times, superseding the “old covenant” (thus, “old testament”) with Moses at Sinai (see Jeremiah 31.31-34).
City in southern Poland, one of the most important for Jews from the 14th century. In 1495, Kazimierz was created, later becoming a part of Cracow. In 1939, 60,000 Jews lived in Cracow in 1939, but only about 4,000 survived the Holocaust.
A general term (from Latin) for “belief” declarations or summaries such as the Christian apostles' or Nicene creeds, or in Judaism the shema affirmation, or in Islam the shahada kalima).
A building which housed ovens used for the burning of bodies to be made into ashes, mostly found in the extermination camps.
(sometimes “cultus,” from Latin). A general term for formal aspects and interrelationships of religious observance, often as focused on a particular phenomenon (e.g., the “temple cult,” the “cult of saints”).
British-occupied island in the Mediterranean that served as a detention center for Jews attempting to enter Palestine “illegally”.
Czerniakow, Adam (1880-1942)
Head of the Warsaw Judenrat. He committed suicide on July 23, 1942, to protest the killing of Jewish children. His diary consisted of 1,009 pages in 8 notebooks, from Sept. 6,1939, until the day of his death.
Back to top


D'var torah
(pl. divrei torah, “word of Torah”). A Torah discourse, homily or sermon.
Nazi concentration camp in southern Germany. Erected in 1933, this was the first Nazi concentration camp. Used mainly to incarcerate German political prisoners until late 1938, whereupon large numbers of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other supposed enemies of the state and anti-social elements were sent as well. Nazi doctors and scientists used many prisoners at Dachau as guinea pigs for experiments. During the war, construction began on a gas chamber, but it never became operational. Dachau was liberated by American troops in April 1945.
Dati/Lo Dati
Dati = religious, lo dati=not religious, as used in current Hebrew in Israel, but it is a black and white distinction, meaning Orthodox and not Orthodox.
Pray (from Yiddish, with a particular emotional sense).
Jewish folk hero around 1000 B.C.E., to whom many biblical psalms are attributed and who is credited with politically and militarily uniting the ancient Israelite amphictyony into a centralized kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. David is said to have planned for the Temple that his son and successor Solomon built.
Days of Awe
Ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, a time for introspection and considering the sins of the previous year.
Dead Sea Scrolls
See Qumran.
Death Camp
Nazi extermination centers where Jews and non-Jews were brought to be put to death as part of Hitler's Final Solution.
Death Marches
Forced marches of prisoners over long distances and under intolerable conditions was another way victims of the Third Reich were killed. The prisoners, guarded heavily, were treated brutally and many died from mistreatment or were shot. Prisoners were transferred from one ghetto or concentration camp to another ghetto or concentration camp or to a death camp.
A Greek term referring to the ten commandments (aseret hadibrot) received by Moses on Mount Sinai according to Jewish scriptures (Exodus 20.1-17; Deuteronomy 5.1- 21).
Declaration Of Independence
Proclamation read in Tel Aviv by David Ben Gurion on May 14, 1948, declaring Eretz Yisrael, the historical and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people, an independent state, to be known as the State of Israel.
Declaration Of Principles (DOP)
Agreement signed September 13, 1993, between Israel and the P.L.O., affirming mutual recognition and legitimacy. The P.L.O. agreed to end the intifada and terrorist activity and to amend its charter calling for the destruction of Israel. Israel agreed to grant the P.L.O. civil autonomy over the majority of Gaza and the West Bank.
DEF (Deutsche Email Fabrik)
This is the name of the factory Oskar Schindler established in Krakow. The building still stands and houses yet another factory. When Schindler arrived in Krakow in September 1939, he purchased, at a very low price, and by the process of “Aryanization,” the old Jewish Rekord factory in a suburb of Krakow. With the benefit of Jewish capital, Jewish labor, and Jewish expertise, he reorganized the factory and began producing enamel bowls and other kitchenware for the German army. Schindler named his new business Deutsche Email Fabrik, or German Enamel Factory (DEF). It became the “haven” for an estimated 1,100 Krakow Jews. Schindler repeated a fortune from his factory, but later spent much of it bribing Nazi officials on behalf of the Jews.
The first collective settlement in Palestine, the kvutza Degania, is located south of Lake Kinneret, where the Jordan River emerges from the lake. It was established in 1909 by a group of pioneers on land acquired by the Jewish National Fund, and named Degania for the Hebrew “dagan,” meaning grain. In 1911, a second group, which based itself on the principles of collectivism, made Degania the “mother of the collective settlements.” A.D. Gordon, an early member, played an important role in laying the ideological foundations for collective living. Hundreds of kibbutzim and kvutzot were later founded on this model, and together they created a singular enterprise of modern Jewish rural settlement in Eretz Israel - the kibbutz.
The killing of God, an accusation hurled against Jews throughout the centuries, blaming them for having killed the divine son of God and thereby God.
From Latin deus, God.
(from Greek, “maker” [lit. “one who works in the context of the community/people”]). A philosophical concept found in Platonism to designate the divine agency by which the physical world came into existence. The idea was taken over in Christian gnosticism to distinguish the creator of the physical world (often seen as evil) from the superior/good God who is completely unconnected with matter.
Roman Republican coins, originally cast in silver and worth 10 asses; known as a “penny” in the New Testament.
The forced transport of people outside of the area where they live.
Zionist-socialist pioneering youth movement.
Der Judenstaat
“The Jewish State”—the book by Theodor Herzl (founder of the Zionist Movement) in which he expressed his ideas about the form a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael should take.
Der Stürmer
(“the assailant”). Anti-Semitic German weekly, founded and edited by Julius Streicher, appeared in Nuremberg between 1923 and 1945.
Desecrating the Host
Jews were accused of defiling the Host, the sacred bread used in the Eucharist ritual, with blood. The red substance that can grow on bread which has a blood-like appearance is now known to be a mold. This allegation was used as the reason for a series of antisemitic attacks.
Deutero Isaiah
From Greek, in scholarly usage Second Isaiah (chapters 49 - 55) and Third Isaiah (chapters 56 - 65).
(“words,” “things”). The fifth book of the Torah (Deuteronomy).
Development Towns
New towns established to provide for urban growth, but essentially to house immigrants since 1950's, succeeding the ma'abarah, transitional camp, which had been widely used since 1948. Its goal was to offer communities both homes and employment opportunities, although it often did not succeed in raising initial lower economic status; used primarily for immigrants of Sephardi and eastern origin.
Greek “scattering.” Often used to refer to the Jewish communities living among the gentiles outside the “holy land” of Canaan/Israel/Palestine.
Die Juden sind under Ungluck
“The Jews are our misfortune.” A Nazi slogan.
Dietary laws
For Judaism, see kosher. Islam also has certain prohibitions regarding foods.
Law, judgment.
A modern conservative Protestant position that divides history into various periods of divine activity (dispensations or households), each of which is identified by a specific characterization.
Displaced Persons (DPs)
Term used to describe people who had been driven out of their homes as a result of Nazi decrees and WW II.
A general term for a formally defined belief (e.g., the doctrine of the resurrection in Christianity), or for the total system of beliefs ("Christian doctrine").
In Christianity, an authoritative statement of belief; official doctrine; can also be used as a general term.
(Ger., "Stab in the back,"). Myth that the German military had not been defeated in World War I, but that the Germans had been "stabbed in the back" by Jews, socialists and liberals who forced them to surrender.
Dor De'ah
("generation of wisdom"). Religious movement in Yemen opposed to mystical trends.
Interpretation of a Torah passage (often a creative interpretation, from a root meaning "search").
Four-sided, top-like toy used during Chanukah.
A religio-political sect deriving from Islam with communities in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Perform the kohen's blessing before the congregation.
Abbreviation for German word Durchgangslager; a German transit camp for prisoners of war.
Abbreviation for German word Durchgangsluftwaffelager; a German transit camp for captured Allied airmen.
Unit of land area used in Israel (1,000 sq. meters., approximately 1/4 acre).
An evil spirit.
Back to top


Early Judaism
Also sometimes called “formative,” “proto-,” “middle,” and even “late” Judaism. Refers to Judaism in the intertestamental period (and slightly later) as a development from the religion of ancient Israel, but prior to the emergence of its classical, rabbinic form in the early centuries CE.
Ebionites, Ebionism
A Judeo-Christian sect (or category) in the 2nd-4th centuries CE; accepted much of Mosaic Torah (circumcision, sabbath, etc.) but rejected sacrifices; accepted Jesus/Joshua as messiah but not his divinity; some Ebionites opposed the doctrines of Paul.
The name of paradise in the Jewish biblical account in Genesis 1, where Adam and Eve were created.
Eichmann, Adolf (1906-1962)
SS Lieutenant-colonel and head of the “Jewish Section” of the Gestapo. Eichmann participated in the Wannsee Conference (January 20, 1942). He was instrumental in implementing the “Final Solution” by organizing the transportation of Jews to death camps from all over Europe. He was arrested at the end of World War II in the American zone, but escaped, went underground, and disappeared. On May 11, 1960, members of the Israeli Secret Service uncovered his whereabouts and smuggled him from Argentina to Israel. Eichmann was tried in Jerusalem (April-December 1961), convicted, and sentenced to death. He was executed on May 31, 1962.
Eicke, Theodor (1928-1943)
Eicke joined the Nazi party and the SA in 1928. He transferred to the SS in 1930. Appointed commandant of Dachau in 1933, Eicke later became the inspector of concentration camps. He was known for his cruel treatment of prisoners, which became the norm in concentration camps. In 1939 Eicke was given command of the Death's Head division of the Waffen-SS. He was killed on the eastern front on February 16, 1943.
Ein Sof
(Heb., “without limit”). In Jewish kabbalism, a designation for the divine—“the unlimited one.” In early Judaism and Christianity, refers to those considered to be chosen by God for a specific purpose; in some Christian predestinarian schemes (e.g., Calvinistic), “the elect” are those whom God has chosen (in advance) to have eternal life.
The four (A, B, C, D) mobile units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German armies into the Soviet Union in June 1941. Their charge was to kill all Jews, as well as Soviet commissars and "mental defectives." They were supported by units of the uniformed German Order Police and used local Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian volunteers for the killings. The victims were shot and buried in mass graves. At least 1.3 million Jews were killed in this manner.
Company-sized component of the Einsatzgruppen.
Eisenhower, Dwight D.
American general and 34th president of the United States between 1953-61. In 1942 he was name U.S. Commander of the European Theater of Operations. He commanded the American landings in North Africa and in February 1943 became chief of all the Allied forces in North Africa. After successfully directing the invasions of Sicily and Italy, he was called to England to become chief commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He was largely responsible for the cooperation of the Allied armies in the battle for the liberation of the European continent.
A term used theologically in Judaism to indicate God's choice of Israel to receive the covenant—a choice not based on the superiority or previous accomplishments of the people, but on God's graciousness (see covenant). In Christianity, the concept of election was applied to the “new Israel” of Jesus' followers in the last times.
Eliyahu Hanavi
Elijah the Prophet.
Elohim, El
Hebrew general term for deity. See also YHWH.
(Heb., “Truth”).
(Heb., “faith”). See faith.
The “final solution” to the Jewish problem, the campaign of extermination against the Jews of Europe.
Eretz Yisrael/Israel
(Heb., “land of Israel”). In Jewish thought, the special term for the Palestinian area believed to have been promised to the Jewish people by God in the ancient covenant.
(“evening”). Usually the evening before a holiday.
“The Enabling Law” passed March 24, 1933.
“Harvest Festival.” The Erntefest massacre was the single largest killing operation against the Jews in the entire war--42,000 total, surpassing the 33,000 who were killed in the Babi Yar massacre outside of Kiev.
(adj. eschatological; from Greek eschaton, “last” or “the end-time”). Refers in general to what is expected to take place in the “last times” (from the inquirer's perspective); thus the study of the ultimate destiny or purpose of humankind and the world, how and when the end will occur, what the end or last period of history or existence will be like. See also chiliastic/millenarian, apocalypse/apocalyptic.
The name of a Jewish sub-group in the 1st century CE according to Josephus, Philo and other sources. See also Qumran.
One of the heroes of the story of Purim. Also, the book in the Bible that tells her story.
(also aetiology), from the Greek for "cause or origin." A term used to describe or label stories that claim to explain the reason for something being (or being called) what it is. For example, in the old Jewish creation story (Genesis 2.23), woman (Heb., ishshah) is given that name because she has been “taken out of (the side or rib of) man” (Heb., ish).
A citron; “the fruit of goodly trees” (Leviticus 23.40) carried in procession in the synagogue with the lulab during the festival of Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles).
The social Darwinist principle of strengthening the qualities of a race by controlling inherited characteristics. Term coined by Francis Galton in 1883.
Europa Plan
Scheme for the ransom of about 1,000,000 Jews remaining in Europe to save them from extermination initiated by the "Working Group'' of Bratislava in the autumn of 1942.
The original meaning of this term was an easy and painless death for the terminally ill. However, the Nazi euthanasia program took on quite a different meaning: the taking of eugenic measures to improve the quality of the German “race.” This program culminated in enforced “mercy” deaths for the incurably insane, permanently disabled, deformed and “superfluous.” Three major classifications were developed: 1) euthanasia for incurables; 2) direct extermination by “special treatment”; and 3) experiments in mass sterilization.
Euthanasia Program
The program under which the Nazis murdered the people they deemed socially and genetically inferior. It was carried out under the code name "T4" (from the address "4 Tiergartenstrasse" of the Euthanasia Program’s headquarters).
Evian Conference
Conference on refugee problems attended by representatives of 31 countries held at Evian les-Bains in France in July 1938.
(Aramaic, resh galuta, "head of the exile"). A term used in early rabbinic Judaism for the head of the Jewish community in exile in Babylonia. The exilarch was depicted as an imperial dignitary, a member of the council of state, living in semi-royal fashion, who appointed communal officers and judges and was a descendant of the house of David.
See galut.
A modern philosophical position that has influenced Jewish and Christian thought significantly, with emphasis on the idea that meaningfulness must be created by people, to whom only existence is given.
(from Greek “to exit or go out”). Refers to the event of the Israelites leaving Egypt (see also Passover) and to the biblical book (see Pentateuch) that tells of that event. Also name given to ship that left France July 11, 1947, carrying 4,500 immigrants. Challenged and boarded by the British Navy—three Jews were killed. Immigrants were forcibly transported back to Germany in British transport ships. Subject of film and novel of same name by Leon Uris.
Extermination Camps
The six major extermination camps were established as part of the Final Solution, in Poland. They were Cheimno, Belzec, Sobibor, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek.
Name of a person in the Hebrew Bible with whom the reestablishment of Judaism in Jerusalem in the 5th century B.C.E. is associated. The events are recorded in a biblical book known by his name, and he is also associated with apocryphal books and traditions.
Back to top


A general term for religious belief used both of an attitude (to have faith) and of a collection of doctrines (the faith). See also emuna.
A social and political ideology with the primary guiding principle that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedoms.
The largest and most important of the organizations that make up the PLO. Fatah, which means "conquest" in Arabic, was founded in secret in the late 1950s and appeared publicly on the scene in 1965. In 1968 it took over the PLO, and its leader, Yasir Arafat became the organization's chairman.
Fifth Of Iyar
Date State of Israel was founded—May 15, 1948.
Final Solution
(Ger. Endloesung). In Nazi terminology, the Nazi planned mass murder and total annihilation of the Jews.
First Temple Period (ca. 850 - 586 B.C.)
Ended with destruction of the First Temple and exile of the Hebrews.
(Yiddish: meat). Used to describe kosher foods that contain meat and therefore cannot be eaten with dairy. See Kashrut.
Four Species
Fruit and branches used to fulfill the commandment to “rejoice before the L-rd” during Sukkot.
Frank, Hans (1900-1946)
Governor-General of occupied Poland from 1939 to 1945. A member of the Nazi Party from its earliest days and Hitler's personal lawyer, he announced, “Poland will be treated like a colony; the Poles will become slaves of the Greater German Reich.” By 1942, more than 85% of the Jews in Poland had been transported to extermination camps. Frank was tried at Nuremberg, convicted, and executed in 1946.
Frick, Wilhelm (1877-1946)
A dedicated Nazi bureaucrat who was appointed Minister of the Interior in 1933 where he was responsible for enacting Nazi racial laws. In 1946, he was tried at Nuremberg, convicted, and executed.
Observant (often with a right-wing Orthodox implication).
Leader. Adolf Hitler's title in Nazi Germany.
The “leader state”, Germany after 1933.
A term originally applied to conservative, Bible-centered Protestant Christians (many of whom now prefer to call themselves "evangelicals"), but more recently extended to apply to the religiously authoritarian of all sorts (including classical Christians, Jews, and Muslims) who interpret their scriptures literally and in general favor a strict adherence to certain traditional doctrines and practices.
Back to top


G'milut Chasadim
Acts of loving kindness.
An angel or archangel from Jewish tradition who is closely associated with the virgin birth in Christianity, and with the revelation of the Quran in Islam.
Gedudei Noar—Israeli youth corps run by Ministry of Defense for pre-military training of teenagers.
Huge, large, great, a leading Torah personality.
Israeli political party established in 1965 by two opposition parties--Herut and the Liberal Party.
(Heb., “exile”). The term refers to the various expulsions of Jews from the ancestral homeland. Over time, it came to express the broader notion of Jewish homelessness and the state of being aliens. Thus, colloquially, “to be in galut” means to live in the diaspora and also to be in a state of physical and even spiritual alienation.
Gamar Chatimah Tovah
“May you be sealed (in the Book of Life) for (a) good (year).”
Gan Eden
The Garden of Eden.
Ganzenmüller, Albert
The state secretary of the Reich Transportation Ministry from 1942-45, Ganzenmüller was responsible for overseeing the German railway system during the period in which approximately three million Jews were transported to the death camps by rail. After the war, he escaped to Argentina, but returned to Germany in 1955. In 1973 Ganzenmüller was brought to trial, but died of a heart attack during the proceedings.
(pl. Geonim; adj. geonic; Heb., “eminence, excellence”). A title given to the Jewish head of the Babylonian academy and then to distinguished talmudic scholars in the 6th to 12th centuries.
Gas Chamber
Method used by the Nazis for “efficient” mass murder. The Nazis developed both mobile and stationary versions. Originated in December 1939.
Supreme territorial or regional party authority(-ies). The Nazi Party divided Germany and some annexed territories into geographical units called Gaue, headed by a Gauleiter.
Gaza-Jericho Accord (Cairo Agreement)
May 4, 1994, agreement implementing Israel's withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip and Jericho. The agreement detailed various aspects of Palestinian self-rule, including the respective roles of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian police force, as well as border arrangements. The Cairo Agreement was superseded by the Interim Agreement (“Oslo II”) of September 28, 1995.
Gaza Strip
Narrow, 25-mile long strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea that Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 War. A hotbed of anti-Israeli terrorism for many years, the region is home to 750,000-800,000 Palestinian Arabs, in addition to about 4,000 Jews. The Cairo Agreement of May 4, 1994, has led to autonomy for the Gaza Strip's Palestinian residents within the framework of an Israeli military withdrawal from the region.
Gedud Ha-Avodah
First country-wide commune of Jewish workers in Palestine, founded in 1920.
German word for imprisonment.
Geiger, Abraham (1810-1874)
Early Jewish reform advocate in Germany, noted for his scholarship, his modern prayer book, and his advocacy for Judaism as a “world religion.”
(Heb., “completion”). Popularly applied to the Jewish Talmud as a whole, to discussions by rabbinic teachers on Mishnah, and to decisions reached in these discussions. In a more restricted sense, the work of the generations of the amoraim in “completing” Mishnah to produce the Talmuds.
An interpretative device in rabbinic Judaism that focuses on the numerical value of each word.
General Government (Generalgouvernement)
Territory in Poland administered by a German civilian governor-general with headquarters in Cracow after the German occupation in World War II.
(Heb., “hiding”). A hiding place or storeroom, usually connected with a Jewish synagogue, for worn-out holy books. The most famous is the Cairo Genizah, which contained books and documents that provide source material for Jewish communities living under Islamic rule from about the 9th through the 12th centuries. It was discovered at the end of the 19th century.
The partial or entire destruction of religious, racial or national groups.
(Latin for people, nation). In pre-Christian times, used to refer to non-Jewish peoples; thereafter, for non-Jewish and non-Christian (roughly synonymous with "pagan").
See Gaon.
Gerstein, Kurt (1905-1945)
Head of the Waffen SS Institute of Hygiene in Berlin. While maintaining ties with the resistance, Gerstein purchased the gas needed in Auschwitz, officially for fumigation purposes, but actually used for the killing of Jews. He passed on information about the killings to Swedish representatives and Vatican papal nuncios. Overwhelmed with remorse he hanged himself in a French jail after the war.
Gesia Cemetery
The largest Jewish cemetery in Warsaw—with more than 300,000 graves—just outside the location of the Warsaw Ghetto. More than 100,000 tombstones are in various states of disrepair.
(Geheime Stastspolizei). The Nazi Secret State Police. The name was created from the first letter of the German name Geheime Staats Polizei. Established in Prussia in 1933, its power spread throughout Germany after 1936. The Gestapo’s chief purpose was the persecution of Jews and dissident political parties. Under Himmler’s direction, the Gestapo was a prime force in the murder of the six million Jews.
(pl. gittin). Jewish practice related to divorce. A get is a Jewish divorce.
A law instituted by the rabbis to prevent people from unintentionally violating commandments.
The Nazis revived the medieval ghetto in creating their compulsory “Jewish Quarter” (Wohnbezirk). The ghetto was a section of a city where all Jews from the surrounding areas were forced to reside. Surrounded by barbed wire or walls, the ghettos were often sealed so that people were prevented from leaving or entering. Established mostly in Eastern Europe (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, starvation and forced labor. All were eventually destroyed as the Jews were deported to death camps.
(Ger., “Coordination”). In Germany, everything was coordinated into the Nazi Ideals.
Glücks, Richard
In 1936 Glücks became chief aide to Theodor Eicke and eventually succeeded Eicke as the inspector of concentration camps. Glücks was responsible for the construction of Auschwitz and the creation of the gas chambers. In 1942 he was made head of an SS Wirtschafts-Verwaltunghauptamt unit. He died in May 1945, presumably a suicide.
Gnostic, Gnosticism
Derived from Greek, gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” Refers to various systems of belief characterized by a dualistic view of reality—the God who created the material, phenomenal world (see demiurge), is different from (often antithetical to) the ultimate (hidden) God of pure spirit. Possession of secret gnosis frees a person from the evil material world and gives access to the spiritual world. Gnostic thought had a great impact on the eastern Mediterranean world in the 2nd to 4th century CE, often in a Christian form. See also mystic, and hikma in Islam.
Judaism teaches that there is one universal God, and that humans have a direct relationship with God.
Goebbels, Joseph
Goebbels joined the Nazi party in 1924 and became the party's chief of propaganda in 1930. He was responsible for garnering support for the Nazis among the general population. After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Goebbels became the minister of propaganda and public information. He controlled the media and oversaw the “Nazification” of public discourse and written materials. He supervised the publication of Der Stürmer and conducted the propaganda campaign against the Jews. He was responsible for the book burning of May 10, 1933. On the day following Hitler's death, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide in Hitler's bunker, after first ordering the murder of their six children, all under the age of thirteen.
Göring, Hermann (1893-1946)
An early member of the Nazi party, G"ring participated in Hitler's “Beer Hall Putsch” in Munich in 1923. After its failure, he went to Sweden, where he lived (for a time in a mental institution) until 1927. In 1928, he was elected to the Reichstag and became its president in 1932. When Hitler came into power in 1933, he made Göring Air Minister of Germany and Prime Minister of Prussia. He was responsible for the rearmament program and especially for the creation of the German Air Force. In 1939, Hitler designated him his successor. During World War II, he was virtual dictator of the German economy and was responsible for the total air war waged by Germany. Convicted at Nuremberg in 1946, Göring committed suicide by taking poison just two hours before his scheduled execution.
The Exile (Diaspora) — lands of the dispersion outside of Israel. Also, galut.
Golan Heights
Militarily and strategically important region that Israel captured from Syria in the Six-Day War. Prior to 1967, Syria terrorized Israeli farmers in the Galilee by shelling them from the Heights. The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin indicated his willingness to give up parts of the Golan as part of a peace treaty with Syria.
An unintelligent, subhuman creature, which, according to Jewish legend, was created as a protector and servant of the Jews.
A thief, a dishonest person.
Pioneering Zionist youth movement.
Hebrew word for nation or people; Yiddish word for non-Jew that is sometimes used pejoratively.
A noisemaker used to blot out the name of Haman during the reading of the Megillah on Purim.
Great Synagogue
The main “seat” of the Warsaw rabbinate, destroyed by the Nazis. A curse was placed on the razed site.
Greater German Reich
Designation of an expanded Germany that was intended to include all German speaking peoples. It was one of Hitler's most important aims. After the conquest of most of Western Europe during World War II, it became a reality for a short time.
Green Line
The “border” separating pre-1967 Israel from the West Bank.
Grynszpan, Herschel (1921-1943)
A Polish Jewish youth who had emigrated to Paris. He agonized over the fate of his parents who, in the course of a pre-war roundup of Polish Jews living in Germany, were deported to the Polish frontier. On November 7, 1938, he went to the German Embassy where he shot and mortally wounded Third Secretary Ernst vom Rath. The Nazis used this incident as an excuse for the kristallnacht pogrom.
Guide for the Perplexed
Maimonides masterpiece of Jewish philosophy and theology, written from the perspective of an Aristotelian philosopher. See also Maimonides.
Gush Emunim
(Bloc of the Faithful). Israeli religious group that believes the “Greater Land of Israel” is the fulfillment of the Zionist dream and a step in the redemption process and, therefore, opposes the return of territory conquered by Israel in Six Day War.
A nomadic people, believed to have come originally from northwest India, from where they immigrated to Persia by the fourteenth century. Gypsies first appeared in Western Europe in the 15th century. By the 16th century, they had spread throughout Europe, where they were persecuted almost as relentlessly as the Jews. The gypsies occupied a special place in Nazi racist theories. It is believed that approximately 500,000 perished during the Holocaust.
Back to top


Aliya Bet—illegal immigration to Israel in ships attempting to break through the British blockade around Palestine before and after World War II. Ma'apilim—illegal immigrants.
Ha-Olam Ha-Zeh-Koah Hadash
Political party in Eretz Israel founded in 1965.
Ha-Oved Ha-Dali
A religious workers faction in the Histadrut founded in 1943.
Ha-Oved Ha-Ziyyoni
(''The Zionist Worker"). Israeli labor movement founded as a Histadrut faction in 1935.
Ha-Po'el Ha-Mizrachi
Religious pioneering and labor movement in Eretz Israel, founded in 1922.
Ha-Po'el Ha-Zair
Labor party founded in Palestine in 1905, merged in 1929 with Ahdut ha-Avodah and, in 1930, created Mapai.
Ha-Shomer Ha-Za'ir
Zionist socialist pioneering youth movement founded in 1916 in Vienna, which eventually spread around the world.
A company for the transfer of Jewish property from Nazi Germany to Palestine, established in Tel Aviv in August 1933.
(Heb., "separation"). The Jewish ceremony using wine, spices and candles at the conclusion of the Sabbath. Smelling the spices signifies the hope for a fragrant week; the light signifies the hope for a week of brightness and joy.
International youth movement stressing Hebrew language, culture, and settlement in Eretz Yisrael, and with strong ties to kibbutz movement.
Jewish women's Zionist organization headquartered in the United States.
In Jewish liturgy, designates a specific section of the biblical prophets read in synagogue services immediately after the corresponding Torah (Pentateuch) section called the parasha(h).
Prisoner registration forms at the camps.
Clandestine Jewish organization for armed self-defense in Palestine under the British Mandate, that eventually became the nucleus of the Israel Defense Forces.
(Heb., “narration”; see also aggada[h]). In a general sense, in classical Jewish literature and discussion, what is not halaka (legal subject matter) is (h)aggada (pl. haggadot). Technically, "the Haggada(h)" is a liturgical manual used in the Jewish Passover Seder.
(pl. hakamim or hakmim; "the wise"). A Jewish title given to pre-70 CE proto-rabbinic sages/scholars and post-70 CE rabbinic scholars.
Comfortable, informal, cozy.
(adj. halakic). Any normative Jewish law, custom, practice, or rite--or the entire complex. Halaka is law established or custom ratified by authoritative rabbinic jurists and teachers. Colloquially, if something is deemed halakic, it is considered proper and normative behavior.
Halbanat Panim
(Heb., “whitening the face”). Causing someone to blanch by public embarrassment.
If only; I hope.
A ceremony related to the Jewish Levirate law of marriage, which frees the widow to marry someone other than her husband's brother. In this ceremony the widow removes a shoe from her brother-in-law's foot, which is symbolic of removing his possessive right over her. See also levirate marriage (see Deut. 25:9-10).
(pl. halutzim). Pioneer, especially in agriculture, in Palestine.
The villain of the story of Purim.
Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, a fundamentalist group that rejects all discussion of peace with Israel, including the current Israeli-PLO negotiations. Responsible for many terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and Palestinian so-called “collaborators” with Israel, Hamas states in its covenant that “[t]he Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.” Recent evidence has indicated that Hamas carries out substantial fundraising and organizational work in the United States.
Hamashbir Hamerkazi
The main wholesale supplier for consumers' cooperatives and labor settlements in Israel, founded (as Hamashbir) in 1916.
(Lit. Haman's pockets). Triangular, fruit-filled cookies traditionally served or given as gifts during Purim.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.
("the name"). Commonly used to refer to God, while avoiding casual use of His name in conversation.
Ritual supervision, most often used in terms of kashrut/dietary laws, although it can also refer to spiritual or moral supervision as in a yeshiva or dormitory.
Hasidim, Hasidism
(Heb., “pious ones”). The term may refer to Jews in various periods: (1) a group that resisted the policies of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C.E. at the start of the Maccabean revolt; (2) pietists in the 13th century; (3) followers of the movement of Hasidism founded in the first half of the 18th century by Israel Baal Shem Tov.
Jewish rationalistic “enlightenment” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe. See maskilim, Mendelson, reform.
Descendants of Hashmon, a Jewish family that included the Maccabees and the high priests and kings who ruled Judea from 142 to 63 B.C.E.
National anthem of Israel. The words were written by Naftali Herz Imber (about 1870). The melody is a folk song based on a tune which is known in many European countries in various forms.
See cantor.
An association of Jewish youth whose aim was to train its members to settle on the land in Eretz Israel.
A term used variously to designate such locations as the abode of a deity, or the place where those favored by God will ultimately arrive, or an area of (spiritual) activity above the material earth or the place where spiritual/ideal realities abide. See also paradise.
(from Heb., “to pass over,” “cross over”). An old name given to the people of Israel, and also to their language.
German home defense force during World War II.
Kosher certification.
(also Hades). Place of punishment for the departed dead who do not attain to heaven, especially in Christian eschatology. See also sheol.
(adj. hellenistic; Greek word for "Greekish"). The civilization that spread from Greece through much of the ancient world from 333 (Alexander the Great) to 63 (dominance of Rome) B.C.E. As a result, many elements of Greek culture (names, language, philosophy, athletics, architecture, etc.) penetrated the Near East.
(from Greek for “sub-group, sect”). See minim, heterodox, also orthodoxy.
Heretic, Heretical
See heterodox, orthodox.
Principles of interpretation (from the Greek, “to interpret, translate”). The term is often used with reference to the study of Jewish and Christian scriptures.
The Second Testament of the Christian Bible mentions four (“kings” through the grace of Rome) by that name: 1) Herod the Great, a Judaized (or proselytized) Idumaen, ruled Judea tyrannically with Roman backing. He died 4 BCE, around the time Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1 ff.). He is said to have ordered the murder of the infants in Bethlehem. 2) Herod Antipas was the second son of Herod the Great (Matthew 14:1; Luke 3:1). He killed John the Baptist (Mark 6:14 ff.). 3) Herod Agrippa I, was a grandson of Herod the Great. He is mentioned in Acts 12:1ff. 4) Herod Agrippa II was a son of Agrippa I. He is mentioned in the passage Acts 25:13 - 26:32 (Paul defending himself against accusations of some fellow Jews).
Associated especially with Herod “The Great’s” reign 37-4 B.C.; a period of Jewish history from 30 B.C.-70 A.D.
“Master Race,” Nazi term for the Aryan Germans who were destined to rule the world.
Political movement in Eretz Israel established in 1948 by the Irgun-Zevai Le'ummi to continue as a parliamentary party with the ideals of Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Herzl, Theodor
German Jewish author of Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in 1896, which served as a catalyst to the development of modern Zionism.
Hess, Rudolf (1894-1987)
Deputy and close associate of Hitler from the earliest days of the Nazi movement. On May 10, 1941, he flew alone from Augsburg and parachuted, landing in Scotland where he was promptly arrested. The purpose of his flight has never become clear. He probably wanted to persuade the British to make peace with Hitler as soon as he attacked the Soviet Union. Hitler promptly declared him insane. Hess was tried at Nuremberg, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was the only prisoner in Spandau Prison until he apparently committed suicide in 1987.
Permission (usually a rabbinic ruling that permits something).
Greek for “other opinioned.” Refers to opinions or positions that differ from what is considered “orthodox” or “traditional” at the time. A less judgmental term than “heretical,” but with similar import.
Hevrat ha-Ovdim
Umbrella organization of all the cooperative and independent economic enterprises of the Histadrut founded in 1928.
Heydrich, Reinhard (1904-1942)
the SS Security Service (SD), a Nazi party intelligence agency. In 1933-1934, he became head of the political police (Gestapo) and later of the criminal police (Kripo). He combined Gestapo and Kripo into the Security Police (SIPO). In 1939, Heydrich combined the SD and SIPO into the Reich Security Main Office. He organized the Einsatzgruppen which systematically murdered Jews in occupied Russia during 1941-1942. In 1941, he was asked by G"ring to implement a “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” During the same year he was appointed protector of Bohemia and Moravia. In January 1942, he presided over the Wannsee conference, an meeting to coordinate the “Final Solution.” On May 29, 1942, he was assassinated by Czech partisans who parachuted in from England. (For consequences of this assassination, see Lidice).
Hezbollah (Party of God)
Iranian-backed Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization, based in predominantly Shi'ite areas of southern Lebanon, that has launched numerous attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Hibbat Tzion (Zion)
(Heb., “Love of Zion.”). A popular movement for the redemption and rebuilding of Israel which sprang up among the Jews in Russia and spread to other countries at the end of the 19th century. Hovevei Tzion—its members.
Hiddur Mitzvah
Beautifying physical objects involved in a mitzvah, or otherwise adding to a mitzvah an esthetic sense.
Often called by the title "the Elder." Probably a Babylonian, Hillel was an important sage of the early Jewish period in Palestine around the turn of the era. His teachings convey the Pharisaic ideal through many epigrams on humility and peace (found in Sayings of the Fathers, 1-2); and were fundamental in shaping the Pharisaic traditions and modes of interpretation. In rabbinic lore, Hillel is famous for a negative formulation of the “golden rule” (recited to a non-Jew): “What is hateful to you do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” His style of legal reasoning is continued by his disciples, known as Beit Hillel (“House/School of Hillel”), and is typically contrasted with that of Shammai (a contemporary) and his school.
Secular Jews in Israel.
Himmler, Heinrich (1900-1945)
As head of the SS and the secret police, Himmler had control over the vast network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps, the Einsatzgruppen, and the Gestapo. Himmler committed suicide in 1945, after his arrest.
(abbr. for Heb. Ha-Histadrut ha-Kelalit shel ha-Ovedim ha-Ivriyyim be- Eretz Israel) Jewish Labor Federation founded in 1920 in Palestine, subsequently renamed Histadrut ha-Ovedim be-Eretz Israel.
Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945)
Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor). Although born in Austria, he settled in Germany in 1913. At the outbreak of World War I, Hitler enlisted in the Bavarian Army, became a corporal and received the Iron Cross First Class for bravery. Returning to Munich after the war, he joined the newly formed German Workers Party which was soon reorganized, under his leadership, as the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). In November 1923, he unsuccessfully attempted to forcibly bring Germany under nationalist control. When his coup, known as the “Beer-Hall Putsch,” failed, Hitler was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison. It was during this time that he wrote Mein Kampf. Serving only 9 months of his sentence, Hitler quickly reentered German politics and soon outpolled his political rivals in national elections. In January 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor of a coalition cabinet. Hitler, who took office on January 30, 1933, immediately set up a dictatorship. In 1934, the chancellorship and presidency were united in the person of the Führer. Soon, all other parties were outlawed and opposition was brutally suppressed. By 1938, Hitler implemented his dream of a "Greater Germany," first annexing Austria; then, (with the acquiescence of the western democracies), the Sudetenland (Czech province with ethnic German concentration); and, finally, Czechoslovakia itself. On September 1, 1939, Hitler's armies invaded Poland. By this time the western democracies realized that no agreement with Hitler could be honored and World War II had begun. Although initially victorious on all fronts, Hitler's armies began suffering setbacks shortly after the United States joined the war in December 1941. Although the war was obviously lost by early 1945, Hitler insisted that Germany fight to the death. On April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide rather than be captured alive.
(Lit., settlement). Refers to agricultural settlement founded on collective or cooperative ideas and principles based on self labor.
Hok Hashvut
Law of Return (1950) grants right of immigration to Israel to every Jew.
(from Greek, entire burnt offering). A term used in recent times to refer to the Nazi German policy to exterminate the Jewish people during World War II.
Holocaust Revisionists
Those who deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
Holy Spirit
(“holy ghost” [archaic]). In Judaism, the presence of God as evidenced in the speech of the prophets and other divine manifestations; in Christianity, understood more generally as the active, guiding presence of God in the church and its members.
Homa Umigdal
Tower and stockade. Type of collective settlement built as a stronghold to withstand Arab attacks during the British Mandate period and strategically defending the Jewish people settling in the land.
Hoshanah Rabba
(Lit. great hosanna). The seventh day of Sukkot, on which seven circuits are made around the synagogue reciting a prayer with the refrain, “Hosha na!” (please save us!).
The knights of the “Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem,” commonly known as the Hospitallers, devoted themselves to caring for pilgrims, and set up a hospital and a hostel near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Höss, Rudolf
A member of the SS, Höss held various positions in Dachau under Theodor Eicke before he was assigned to Auschwitz in May 1940. He became the camp's first commandant. At Auschwitz Höss oversaw the operation that murdered more than one million people. At the end of the war, he adopted the name Franz Lang and escaped detection by the Allies. In March 1946, however, he was recognized and arrested. He was tried in Poland and sentenced to death. Höss was hanged in Auschwitz on April 16, 1947.
A modern term used (sometimes pejoratively) for the position that focuses on human values and needs without special concern for arbitrary religious traditions or values. Also applied more traditionally to the embracing of classical Greek and Latin values, rediscovered through classical learning (as contrasted to late Medieval scholasticism; see also renaissance).
Huppah or Chuppah
In Judaism, the special canopy under which a marriage ceremony is conducted.
(from Greek, "to sing praise"). A general term for poetic chants or songs of praise (usually to God); see piyyutim, yigdol, liturgy, prayer.
Back to top


Acronym for Israeli Defense Forces.
A Greek term for the worship of what are perceived to be “idols” or false “gods,” forbidden in the biblical traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
I.G. Farben
A German conglomerate of eight chemical companies, including BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst, that made extensive use of slave labor. In close partnership with Hitler, I. G. Farben established factories near concentration camps to take advantage of the large pools of forced laborers. Its Buna works near Auschwitz manufactured synthetic rubber from coal or gasoline. I. G. Farben was an important contributor to Hitler's rearming of Germany and the actual war effort.
(Ger. Inspektor der Konzentrationslager) Inspector of concentration camps.
Abbreviation for German word Interniertenlager — a civilian internment camp in World War II.
Illegal Immigration
Immigration to Eretz Yisrael 1940-1948, where most entered British-controlled country through clandestine operations or forged documents. Associated with Ha'apalah or Aliyah Bet.
Imitatio Dei
From Latin, the imitation of God. The Jewish scriptures (the Bibel as well as the Talmud) contain numerous passages which descibe God in human terms (see anthropomorphism). They are not only meant to show that God is personal and accessable to God's people, but that Godself acts according to the commandments given to Israel and sets the example to be followed. Fulfilling the commandments of Torah is an imitation of God and can therefore never be viewed as “legalism” (as Christians have tended to portray it). The imitatio Dei lies at the root of rabbinic Judaism. It has to be understood to appreciate the Christian teaching about the imitation of Christ, who imitated God by living the Torah.
Interim Agreement (“Oslo II”)
Agreement signed between Israel and the PLO on September 28, 1995, which stipulated the redeployment of Israeli forces out of Palestinian cities in the West Bank and handing over to the Palestinian Authority civilian control in the West Bank's Palestinian villages in conjunction with Palestinian commitments to Israeli security.
(Arabic, lit. “shaking off.”). Palestinian civil uprising in Gaza and the West Bank, December 1987-September 1993, to protest Israeli occupation.
Intertestamental Period
The period in which early Judaism develops, between about 400 B.C.E. (the traditional end date for the Jewish Bible = Christian “Old Testament”) and the 1st century CE (composition of the Christian “New Testament”). The Jewish intertestamental literature includes the Apocrypha (mostly preserved in Greek) and the Pseudepigrapha (works from this period ascribed to ancient authors like Enoch, the patriarchs and Moses). This literature provides important background for understanding the period of Christian origins.
Cycle of violence coinciding with the intifada in which nearly 1,000 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians on suspicion of “collaborating” with Israel.
See I.Z.L.
One of the Israelite patriarchs, the son of Abraham and father of Jacob in the accounts in the book of Genesis.
A name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob according to the etiology of Genesis 32.38. In Jewish biblical times, this name refers to the northern tribes, but also to the entire nation. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the true continuation of the ancient Israelite national-religious community. The term thus has a strong cultural sense. In modern times, it also refers to the political state of Israel. Christians came to consider themselves to be the "true" Israel, thus, also a continuation of the ancient traditions.
(Initials of Heb. Irgun Zevai Le'ummi; also Etzel, National Military Organization). Underground Jewish organization in Palestine founded in 1931.
Back to top


One of the Israelite patriarchs, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham in the accounts in the book of Genesis.
From the religious viewpoints of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the main city in ancient Palestine (= modern Israel), where the Temple of David/Solomon had been located, Jesus/Joshua had been crucified/resurrected, Muhammad had journeyed to heaven among other significant things. Thus, for all three religions, in some senses, Jerusalem is a or the “holy city.”
Mechanical attempt to represent the special Jewish name for deity, YHWH.
Jehovah's Witnesses
A religious sect, originating in the United States, organized by Charles Taze Russell. The Witnesses base their beliefs on the Bible and have no official ministers. Recognizing only the kingdom of God, the Witnesses refuse to salute the flag, to bear arms in war, and to participate in the affairs of government. This doctrine brought them into conflict with National Socialism. They were considered enemies of the state and were relentlessly persecuted.
See Judaism.
Jewish Agency
Organization formed in 1929 as the formal representative of the Jewish community vis-a-vis the British mandatory government. It gradually acquired the attributes of a proto-government for the Jewish community. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency shifted its focus to issues common to the State and to Jewish communities abroad.
Jewish Brigade Group
Military unit formed in September 1944, which served in World War II in the British army.
Jewish Colonization Association
Organization, founded 1891, to assist Jewish emigration from countries of persecution or depressed economies to countries of opportunity.
Jewish Ghetto Police (OD)
In Poland, as in other occupied territories, the Nazis established Jewish police forces to control the Jewish population in the ghettos. In Krakow, the Jewish police, armed with truncheons, assisted the Nazis in the liquidation of the ghetto.
Jewish Historical Institute
Originally founded by Jews in Cracow as the Jewish historical Commission, it moved to Warsaw after 1951 and is now the main repository of Gestapo records, archives and Jewish ceremonial art. It is located across the street from the site of the Great Synagogue. Its warehouse has a huge collection, hidden from public view.
Jewish Legion
Jewish units in the British army during World War I.
Jewish National Fund
The land purchase and development fund of the World Zionist Organization, founded in 1920.
Jewish Star
The six-pointed star emblem commonly associated with Judaism, also known as the Magen David, the Shield of David or the Star of David.
Centuries-old Arabic term translated literally as “holy war” or “endeavor.” In recent years, Muslim fighters, especially in the Arab-Israeli conflict, have used the term almost solely to mean “holy war,” often waged through terrorist attacks on civilians. PLO chairman Yasir Arafat caused a stir when he called for a “jihad to liberate Jerusalem,” even after renouncing the use of violence against Israel. Arafat later said he was using the term to refer to a peaceful religious campaign for Israel's capital.
Personal name (Heb. Yohanan; Greek Yohannes) found frequently in Judaism in the Greco-Roman period and in early Christianity. For example, John Hyrkan/Hyrcanus (Jewish king, died 104 B.C.E.), John the Baptizer/Baptist (contemporary of Jesus), John son of Zebedee (one of Jesus' apostles), John “the theologian” (author of the New Testament book of Revelation/Apocalypse), John Chrysostom (4th century church father), John of Damascus (8th century church father). Also the name given to one of the New Testament gospels and to three letters in the New Testament.
Josephus or Flavius Josephus
Jewish general and author in the latter part of the 1st century CE who wrote a massive history (“Antiquities”) of the Jews and a detailed treatment of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 CE (and his involvement in it).
Judah the Prince
( HaNasi). Head of the rabbinic Jewish community in Palestine around 200 CE. Credited with publication of the Mishnah.
Judaism, Jew
From the Hebrew name of the patriarch Judah, whose name also came to designate the tribe and tribal district in which Jerusalem was located. Thus, the inhabitants of Judah and members of the tribe of Judah come to be called “Judahites” or, in short form, “Jews.” The religious outlook associated with these people after about the 6th century B.C.E. comes to be called “Judaism,” and has varying characteristics at different times and places: see especially early Judaism, rabbinic Judaism. See also Hebrew(s), Israel.
(Ger.) Jew.
Southern region of ancient Palestine; the Qumran region was a barren area within the Judean desert which yielded the Dead Sea scrolls treasure.
“Jew-free”; one of Hitler's and the Nazi's war-aims was a “Judenfrei” Europe.
(Ger., “Jewish yellow”). Term for the yellow Star of David badge that Jews were ordered to wear.
(Ger., “Jew Hunt”). The process of searching for any Jews who were in hiding after a massacre had occurred.
Council of Jewish representatives set up in communities and ghettos under the Nazis to execute their instructions.
A locality from which all Jews had been eliminated.
Back to top


K'vod Hatzibur
The honor of the community.
Kabala(h) or Kabbala(h)
(Kabalism) (Heb., qabbala, "receiving, tradition"). A system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism. See also kavanah, Zohar.
Kabbalat ol Mitzvot
(Heb., “acceptance of the yoke of the commandments”). Acceptance of commandments as binding.
Kabbalat Panim
A reception for the groom before the wedding ceremony.
Kabbalat Shabbat
Service welcoming the Sabbath.
Kach/Kahane Chai
Two ultra right-wing organizations that have called for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. Kach was formed by the late Meir Kahane; Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”) was formed after Kahane's 1990 assassination. On the grounds that the Kach party was racist, the Israeli government banned its members from serving in the Knesset. In March, 1994, the government outlawed both Kach and Kahane Chai altogether after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslims praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
A classical Jewish prayer (mostly in Aramaic) with eschatological focus extolling God's majesty and kingdom recited at the conclusion of each major section of each liturgical service; a long version (called rabbinic kaddish) follows an act of study; also a prayer by mourners during the first year of bereavement (see shiva, sheloshim) and on the anniversary of the death of next-of-kin.
Kaf-Tet Benovember 1947 (November 29, 1947)
The day on which the General Assembly of the United Nations voted in favor of the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Kahal (Qahal)
(Heb., “congregation, gathering”). Used to refer to the corporate Jewish community of medieval Europe. See also synagogue.
Kaltenbrunner, Ernst
An Austrian, Kaltenbrunner was the head of the SS in Austria from 1935-38, when Germany formally annexed the country. After the takeover he became undersecretary of state for public security. After Reinhard Heydrich's death, Kaltenbrunner became chief of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police, Sipo) and the SD (Sicherheitsdienst, Security Service). He, along with Heinrich Himmler, was responsible for Aktion Reinhard. After the war, Kaltenbrunner was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Prisoner in charge of a group of inmates in Nazi concentration camps.
Karaism, Karaites
Derived from Heb., qara, “scripture.” A Middle Eastern heterodox Jewish group that arose in opposition to Rabbinism in the 8th century CE and emphasized the written scriptures while criticizing the rabbinic use of &quo#147;oral law.”
Kasher, Kashrut
See kosher.
(Heb., “intention”). A mystical instrument of the Jewish kabalists; a meditation that accompanies a ritual act, devotion, inner concentration during prayer.
Kavod Ha-Met
(Lit. respect for the dead). One of the purposes of Jewish practices relating to death and mourning.
(Heb., “community”). Jewish sense of community, in a particular sense, within the larger keneset Israel.
Refers to mixtures of species prohibited by Torah Law, such as wool and linen.
Keneset Israel
(Heb., “Assembly of Israel” or the Jewish people as a whole). See kehilla.
Keren Hayesod
(Palestine Foundation Fund). The financial arm of the World Zionist Organization founded in 1920.
(Lit. tearing). The tearing of one's clothes upon hearing of the death of a close relative.
(Greek, "proclamation"). Term used technically for the content of early Christian preaching as reconstructed by modern scholars.
Ketuva(h) or Ketuba(h)
The classical Jewish religious marriage certificate. See also get.
Ketuvim or Ketubim
(Heb., “writings”). The third and last division of the classical Jewish Bible (TaNaK), including large poetic and epigrammatic works such as Psalms and Proverbs and Job as well as a miscellany of other writings (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Kohelet, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles).
Fixed; a fixed time; fixed words or prayer (often contrasted with kavanah).
Small commune of pioneers constituting an agricultural settlement in Eretz Israel (evolved later into kibbutz).
To talk, comment and advise someone while they are doing something else.
Honors given to guests at a wedding.
Kibbush Hashmama
The conquest of the desert. The rehabilitation and settlement of desert regions (the southern part of Israel) through projects of reclamation, settlements, etc.
(pl. kibbutzim). A communal settlement in modern Israel.
Kibbutz Galuyot
Ingathering of Exiles. Israel is realizing the vision of the Biblical prophets and the ideals of the Zionist movement in serving as the gathering place for Jews from all parts of the world.
(Heb., “sanctification”; derived from kadosh (qadosh), “holy”). A ritual of Jewish sabbath and other holy days, usually accompanied by a cup of wine, which proclaims the holiness of the day.
Kiddush Hashem
Sanctification of the divine name; martyrdom.
Kiddushin (Kedushin)
(Heb., “consecration”). Denotes Jewish betrothal for marriage, signifying the sanctity of the relationship.
City in southeast Poland. Jews first settled there in 1868, and numbered 24,000 by the year 1939. Most known for its anti-Jewish pogrom on July 4, 1946, when an angry mob, incited by the rumor that Jews (recently returned to their home town) had killed Polish children for their blood, killed 42 Jews and wounded 50 others. The cemetery has a monument to the 42 Jews, another one to 45 very young children murdered in 1944 and a monument made of gravestones.
A Jewish headcovering worn for worship, religious study, meals, or at any other time; also called yarmulke.
Kingdom of God
The state of the world in which God's will is fulfilled; expected to be brought into being at the end of time when Christ returns.
The white robes in which the dead are buried, worn by some during Yom Kippur services.
(Ger. Konzentrationslager) Concentration camp.
A general principle.
Klal Yisrael
The Jewish community as a whole.
The musical style that developed in Eastern Europe, which created songs in which the music needed no words to explain the thoughts of the Jewish heart and soul.
Absorption; social and economic integration of immigrants.
The parliament of the State of Israel. Its name and the number of its members are based on the “Knesset Hagdola” of the early Second Temple period. It is composed of 120 representatives of different political parties, elected for a four-year term.
Kofer Hayishuv
A fund intended to finance the yishuv's security needs. It was founded in 1938 by the Va'ad Leumi, which levied direct and indirect taxes on the Jews of Palestine. In 1940, it began to collect an emergency tax, and in 1942 — a mobilization and rescue fund.
The book of Ecclesiastes.
Kohen or Cohen
(pl. kohanim). An Israelite priest, generally descended from the tribe of Levi.
Kol Hakavod
(Heb., “all honor”). Used idiomatically to express praise or congratulations for an achievement.
Kol Isha
The voice of a woman (considered by the Rabbis of the Talmud to be distracting to men and thus lewd).
Kol Nidre
The Yom Kippur Eve service is referred to as Kol Nidre. That hymn is sung during the service.
Kol Tuv
Everything good (may you be blessed with everything good).
Labor squads made up of camp prisoners.
Konzentrations-Lager (KZ-Lager)
Concentration Camp, such as Dachau, used for political prisoners.
Korczak, Dr. Janusz (1878-1942)
Educator, author, physician and director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. Despite the possibility of personal freedom, he refused to abandon his orphans and went with them to the gas chamber in Treblinka.
(kasher). "Proper" or "ritually correct"; kashrut refers to ritually correct Jewish dietary practices. Traditional Jewish dietary laws are based on biblical legislation. Only land animals that chew the cud and have split hooves (sheep, beef; not pigs, camels) are permitted and must be slaughtered in a special way. Further, meat products may not be eaten with milk products or immediately thereafter. Of sea creatures, only those (fish) having fins and scales are permitted. Fowl is considered a meat food and also has to be slaughtered in a special manner.
See Western Wall.
Krakow (or Cracow)
This is the architectural gem of a city in southern Poland. The ancient seat of Polish kings, Krakow was designated the capital of Nazi-occupied Poland, the so-called "Generalgouvernement" which was the administrative unit comprising those parts of Poland not incorporated into the German Reich. When German troops attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, 56,000 Jews lived in Krakow, equivalent to the entire Jewish population of Italy. This number swelled as refugees from the countryside sought safety in Krakow. The Jews of Krakow were deported to the death camps in a serious of brutal Aktionen. They had lived in Krakow for seven centuries, and many had become leaders in industry, the arts and science.
German for soldiers or warriors, also reference to prisoners of war in World War II.
(Kriminalpolizei). The Criminal Police in Nazi Germany.
(Ger. “crystal night,” meaning "night of broken glass''). Organized destruction of synagogues, Jewish houses and shops, accompanied by arrests of individual Jews, which took place in Germany and Austria under the Nazis on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938.
A German family firm that manufactured armaments for the Nazis. Krupp extensively used slave labor in its factories and operated a facility at Auschwitz.
Kuppat Holim
The medical insurance fund of the Histadrut, founded in 1912.
Back to top


(“To Life”). Used as a toast.
(Lit. “the difference”). Used to contrast, as a form of modesty, something great to something far less significant.
Good-bye, see you later.
L'shanah Tovah Tikateivu
“May you be written (in the Book of Life) for a good year.”
L'shon Hara
(Heb., “evil tongue”). Defaming or badmouthing.
Labor Party
Israeli political party formed by the union of three parties: Mapai, Achdut Ha'avoda, and Rafi. It is aligned with a fourth party, Mapam, in the Labor Alignment. Until the 1977 electrons, the Labor party (under different names) had held power since independence and had dominated Jewish public and political life in mandatory Palestine.
The “international language” of Sephardic Jews, based primarily on Spanish, with words taken from Hebrew, Arabic and other languages, and written in the Hebrew Alphabet.
Lag ba-Omer
Thirty-third day of the Omer period, falling on the 18th of Iyyar.
The system of camps that supported the death camps.
Land Day
Land Day marks the anniversary of the 1976 fatal shooting of six Arabs during protests against government land expropriations and is traditionally observed by a general strike, processions, public rallies and tree-planting ceremonies.
Lebanon War (Operation Peace for Galilee)
June 1982 conflict in which the Israel Defense Forces conducted a military operation in Lebanon to drive out the PLO, which had been shelling northern Israeli towns. The majority of Israel's forces withdrew in 1985. Israel still holds an eight-mile-wide security zone in southern Lebanon in order to protect Israeli towns from the continuing terrorist attacks launched from Lebanon.
Meaning “living space,” it was a basic principle of Nazi foreign policy. Hitler believed that eastern Europe had to be conquered to create a vast German empire for more physical space, a greater population, and new territory to supply food and raw materials.
(abbr. for Heb. Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also L.H.Y.). Anti-British armed underground organization in Palestine, founded in 1940 by dissidents from I.Z.L.
Levarite Marriage
From Latin, levir for Heb., yabam, brother-in-law; a biblical system of marriage in which the levir marries his brother's widow (Deuteronomy 25.5-10).
To read (usually to read Torah).
(from Latin, “free [thinker]”). A general term used in religion discussions to indicate a person or view that breaks significantly from the conservative traditional position(s). See also modernist.
Czech mining village (pop. 700). In reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazis “liquidated” the village in 1942. They shot the men, deported the women and children to concentration camps, razed the village to the ground, and struck its name from the maps. After World War II, a new village was built near the site of the old Lidice, which is now a national park and memorial. (see Heydrich, Reinhard).
Israeli political alignment, including the nationalist populist Herut party and the centrist Liberal party, plus several smaller parties.
A general term used in religion discussions to indicate a person or view that attempts to interpret the scriptures and other recognized classical religious authorities in a straightforward, literal manner. See also fundamentalism, allegory.
(adj. liturgical). Rites of public worship, usually institutionalized in relation to temple, synagogue, church, kaba, or mosque locations and traditions, but also in other formalized observances (see, e.g., calendar). See also hymn, Passover, prayer, Shema, Sukkot, siddur.
Loan Guarantees
Program in which the U.S. agreed to cosign $10 billion in loans for Israel over five years so that Israel could obtain better financing from private banks. The loan guarantees would only cost American taxpayers if Israel defaulted on its loans—something that Israel has never done. The loan guarantees were secured to help Israel absorb over half a million refugees fleeing from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and other troubled areas.
City in western Poland (renamed Litzmannstadt by the Nazis), where the first major ghetto was created in April 1940. By September 1941, the population of the ghetto was 144,000 in an area of 1.6 square miles (statistically, 5.8 people per room). In October 1941, 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were sent to the Lodz Ghetto. Those deported from Lodz during 1942 and June-July 1944 were sent to the Chelmno extermination camp. In August-September 1944, the ghetto was liquidated and the remaining 60,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
City in eastern Poland that was the center of Jewish learning in Poland. In 1939, the Jewish population was 40,000, 33 percent of the city total. In the spring of 1941 the ghetto was created. On March 17, 1942, deportations began to Belzec, and then to Majdanek, walking distance from the center of town. Only a few Jews live there today.
Abbreviation for German word Luftwaffelager — a prisoner of war camp for Allied airmen.
The German air force.
The palm branch used with other plants in the Jewish Sukkot (Tabernacles) celebration.
Back to top


Transition camp; temporary settlement for newcomers in Israel during the period of mass immigration following 1948.
(from Heb., “evening”). Jewish synagogue evening prayer or service. See also liturgy.
See Hasmoneans, hasidim, Hanukka.
Maccabi World Union
International Jewish sports organization, founded in eastern Europe, at a time when Jews were barred from other sports organizations, with the mission to further physical fitness among Jewish youth as a prerequisite for building a national homeland.
Stringent; one who observes a chumrah (stringency).
The High Holy Day prayer book (as distinct from the Siddur, the Shabbat and daily prayer book).
Madagascar Plan
Nazi plan to evacuate 4,000,000 Jews to Madagascar over a period of four years. It was taken up in the summer of 1940, but shelved February 10, 1942, after the Nazis decided to carry out the “Final Solution.”
Madrid Peace Conference
Conference sponsored and organized in 1991 by the U.S. and Russia in the aftermath of the Gulf War, in which Israel and its Arab neighbors commenced bilateral and multilateral negotiations on a wide variety of matters, ranging from peace to economic issues to water. This was the first time that Arab countries other than Egypt met Israel before the world. Today's ongoing peace process between Israel and the PLO, Jordan, and Syria has origins in the Madrid Peace Conference.
The aliyah consisting of the last few lines of the Torah reading, or the person assigned that aliyah. The person assigned the maftir aliyah also chants the Haftorah.
(Heb., “a speaker”). A kabalistic notion of how the holy spirit is mediated to the mystic; later meant a preacher among the eighteenth-century Hasidim.
Magen David
(Heb., “shield of David”). The distinctive six-pointed Jewish star, used especially since the 17th century.
Maimonides, or Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204)
A major medieval rabbi, physician, scientist, and philosopher, known by the acronym RaMBaM (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon). Born in Spain, Maimonides fled from persecution to Morocco and finally settled in Egypt. His Major works include a legal commentary on the Mishnah, a law code called Mishnah Torah, and the preeminent work of medieval Jewish rational philosophy, The Guide of the Perplexed.
Majdanek (also Maidanek)
Mass murder camp in eastern Poland. At first a labor camp for Poles and a POW camp for Russians, it was turned into a gassing center for Jews. Majdanek was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944, but not before 250,000 men, women, and children had lost their lives there.
A person born from a prohibited union (i.e., from an incestuous or adulterous union).
Mandate, Palestine
Responsibility for the administration of Palestine conferred on Britain by the League of Nations in 1922.
A labor party in Eretz Israel founded in 1930 by the union of Ahdut ha-Avodah and Ha-Poel ha-Za'ir
A pioneering. left-wing labor-Zionist Israel party, founded in 1948 when Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir merged with Ahdut ha-Avodah-Po'alei Zion.
Mara D'atra
(“master of the place”). The local rabbi, whose decision carries the force of law in that locality.
A 2nd century Christian (and his followers) who was considered the first heretic by his opponents because of certain dualistic and gnostic ideas and his call for a severing of Christianity from its Jewish and First Testament roots.
A German prisoner of war camp for sailors.
Members of the largest Uniate church in the Arab world. The Uniate churches at various periods accepted the Vatican's authority but retained a measure of autonomy. The Maronites who migrated to northern Lebanon from inland Syria drew closer to Latin Europe and to Catholicism after the Crusades. By the eighteenth century the Maronites' growing numbers, early modernization, and effective church organization and leadership made them the leading community in Mount Lebanon. The same century saw the community's southward expansion and the emergence of a proto-national consciousness in its ranks.
An old Spanish term meaning "swine," used to execrate medieval Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity but secretly kept their Judaism.
(Greek, “witness”). A general term for persons who endure persecution, usually leading to death, for the sake of their religious "witness" (profession, position).
Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine situated on a butte west of the Dead Sea; the last stronghold of the Zealots who committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.
“Masada Complex”
The conviction that it is preferable to fight to the end rather than to surrender and acquiesce to the loss of independent statehood.
Ritual supervisors of kashrut who watch/supervise on the premises for dietary supervision of ingredients, food preparation, serving, dishes and cutlery, etc..
See messiah.
(Heb., "the enlightened ones"). Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jews who engaged in secular rationalistic studies and facilitated the acculturation of Jews to Western society; members of the haskalah.
Masoretes, Masoretic text
Derived from masorah, meaning "tradition"; the Masoretes were the rabbis in ninth-century Palestine who sought to preserve the traditional text of the Bible (hence called the Masoretic text), which is still used in contemporary synagogues. The Masoretes were scholars who encouraged Bible study and attempted to achieve uniformity by establishing rules for correcting the text in matters of spelling, grammar and pronunciation.
Jews in Israel who are traditionally observant but not Orthodox.
Jewish unleavened bread used at Passover.
A camp for men, opened in August 1938, near Linz in northern Austria, Mauthausen was classified by the SS as a camp of utmost severity. Conditions there were brutal, even by concentration camp standards. Nearly 125,000 prisoners of various nationalities were either worked or tortured to death at the camp before liberating American troops arrived in May 1945.
Mazel Tov
Congratulations and good luck.
Division; a barrier separating men from women in the synagogue.
(Heb., “scroll”). Usually refers to the biblical scroll of Esther read on the festival of Purim.
Megillat Ha'atzmaut
Scroll on which the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel is inscribed, proclaimed in Tel Aviv on the 5th of Iyar 5708 (May 15, 1948).
Mein Kampf
This autobiographical book (My Struggle) by Hitler was written while he was imprisoned in the Landsberg fortress after the "Beer-Hall Putsch" in 1923. In this book, Hitler propounds his ideas, beliefs, and plans for the future of Germany. Everything, including his foreign policy, is permeated by his "racial ideology." The Germans, belonging to the "superior" Aryan race, have a right to "living space" (Lebensraum) in the East, which is inhabited by the "inferior" Slavs. Throughout, he accuses Jews of being the source of all evil, equating them with Bolshevism and, at the same time, with international capitalism. Unfortunately, those people who read the book (except for his admirers) did not take it seriously but considered it the ravings of a maniac. (see Hitler, Adolf).
(Heb., “work”).
A teacher, especially of elementary Hebrew.
Mendelssohn, Moses (1729-86)
Important German Jewish thinker whose ideas helped lay the base for reform Judaism (see haskalah).
Mengele, Josef (1911-1978?)
SS physician at Auschwitz, notorious for pseudo-medical experiments, especially on twins and Gypsies. He “selected” new arrivals by simply pointing to the right or the left, thus separating those considered able to work from those who were not. Those too weak or too old to work were sent straight to the gas chambers, after all their possessions, including their clothes, were taken for resale in Germany. After the war, he spent some time in a British internment hospital but disappeared, went underground, escaped to Argentina, and later to Paraguay, where he became a citizen in 1959. He was hunted by Interpol, Israeli agents, and Simon Wiesenthal. In 1986, his body was found in Embu, Brazil.
Jewish candelabrum with special religious significance; a nine-branched menorah is used at Hanukkah, while the seven- branched was used in the ancient Temple.
A special person with worth and dignity. One who can be respected.
“Human Horror.” When the Miedzyrzec tansit ghetto was liquidated, the German police gave it this nickname.
Left of center Israeli party, whose leaders include Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, that has called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The party was part of the Labor-led coalition government and is now in the opposition.
(Heb., “chariot”). The "chariot vision" was an integral element of mysticism signifying a vision of divinity.
("anointed one"). Ancient priests and kings (and sometimes prophets) of Israel were anointed with oil. In early Judaism, the term came to mean a royal descendant of the dynasty of David who would restore the united kingdom of Israel and Judah and usher in an age of peace, justice and plenty; the redeemer figure. The concept developed in many directions over the centuries. The messianic age was believed by some Jews to be a time of perfection of human institutions; others believed it to be a time of radical new beginnings, a new heaven and earth, after divine judgment and destruction. The title came to be applied to Jesus/Joshua of Nazareth by his followers, who were soon called "Christians" in Greek and Latin usage. Jesus is also “Messiah” in Islam (e.g., Quran 3.45).
Metzada (Massada)
Massada (from the Greek name) - a mountain fortress overlooking the shores of the Dead Sea where Jewish insurgents held out for three years against the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and then took their own lives. Metzada has remained a symbol of Jewish heroism.
Mezinke Tanz
Dance by the bride and groom in honor of the occasion of the parents marrying off the last child in the family.
(pl. mezuzot; "doorpost"). A parchment scroll with selected Torah verses (Deuteronomy 6.4-9; 11.13-21) placed in a container and affixed to the exterior doorposts (at the right side of the entrance) of observant Jewish homes (see Deuteronomy 6.1-4), and sometimes also to interior doorposts of rooms. The word shaddai (almighty) usually is inscribed on the back of the container.
(pl. midrashim). From darash, "to inquire," whence it comes to mean “exposition” (of scripture). Refers to the “commentary” literature developed in classical Judaism that attempts to interpret Jewish scriptures in a thorough manner. Literary Midrash may focus either on halaka, directing the Jew to specific patterns of religious practice, or on (h)aggada, dealing with theological ideas, ethical teachings, popular philosophy, imaginative exposition, legend, allegory, animal fables—that is, whatever is not halaka.
Mila 18
The underground bunker from which the battle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was launched, and in which Mordecal Anielewicz was killed. A monument stands today on top of a pile of rubble.
(Yiddish: dairy). Used to describe kosher foods that contain dairy products and therefore cannot be eaten with meat. See also Kashrut.
Milhemet Hahatasha
War of Attrition. In 1968 Egypt declared a war of attrition against Israel, which came to an end with the renewal of the cease-fire in August, 1970.
From the Latin for "1000" (see also chiliastic). Having to do with the expected millennium, or thousand-year reign of Christ prophesied in the New Testament book of Revelation (“the Apocalypse”), a time in which the world would be brought to perfection. Millenarian movements often grow up around predictions that this perfect time is about to begin. See eschatology.
(pl. minim). A heretic, sectarian, or schismatic, according to classical Judaism. The term was applied both to Christians, especially Christian Jews, and to people of "gnostic" tendencies, among others.
(from Heb. for afternoon sacrifice). Afternoon prayers in Jewish synagogue.
Minhag Ha-Makom
Local custom.
A quorum of ten Jews (for Orthodox Jews, ten males) above age thirteen necessary for public services and certain other religious ceremonies to be considered valid.
Miqvah or Mikveh
A Jewish communal bath for washing away ritual impurity by immersion.
A general term for special events that seem inexplicable by normal (rational) means. Miracle reports are frequent in Jewish and Christian scriptures and early traditions, while in Islam, the only “miracle” associated with Muhammad is said to be the reception and transmission of the Quran.
(Heb., “teaching”). The digest of the recommended Jewish oral halaka as it existed at the end of the 2nd century and was collated, edited and revised by Rabbi Judah the Prince. The code is divided into six major units and sixty-three minor ones. The work is the authoritative legal tradition of the early sages and is the basis of the legal discussions of the Talmud. See also pilpul.
(pl. mishpatim). Law from the Torah that can be rationalized.
(pl. mitnagaim, “opposer(s)”). Traditionalist and rationalistic Jewish opponents of eighteenth-century Jewish Hasidism.
(pl. mitzvot, "commandment, obligation"). A ritual or ethical duty or act of obedience to God's will. See also commandments.
Mitzvah Tanz
A chasidic custom in which the relatives dance with the bride.
Religious Zionist movement founded in 1902 to encourage Zionism among Orthodox Jews and promote religious and cultural ideas among its constituents. Its motto was: “The Land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.”
Mizug Galuyot
The integration of different Jewish communities into Israeli society.
A general term used in discussions of religion to indicate the perspective that focuses on modern applicability of religious principles. See also liberal, conservative.
The person who performs a circumcision at a Brit.
Molotov Cocktail
A homemade grenade consisting of a flammable liquid encased in a bottle. First used by Finnish soldiers to resist the Soviet invasion in 1940 and were named in honor of the Soviet foreign minister.
One of the heroes of the story of Purim.
The great biblical personality (c. thirteenth century B.C.E.) who is credited with leading the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and teaching them the divine laws at Sinai. He is also described as first of the Jewish prophets. Throughout Jewish history he is the exalted man of faith and leadership without peer.
Cooperative agricultural settlement in Israel. See moshav ovedim.
Moshav Ovedim
("workers' moshav"). Agricultural village in Israel whose inhabitants possess individual homes and holdings but cooperate in the purchase of equipment, the sale of produce, mutual aid, etc.
Moshav Shittufi
(“collective moshav”). Agricultural village in Israel whose members possess individual homesteads but where the agriculture and economy are conducted as a collective unit.
Earliest type of Jewish village in modern Israel in which farming is conducted on individual farms, mostly on privately owned land.
(Heb. Hamossad Le’mode’in U’le’tafkidim Meyuchadim) The Israeli government's intelligence agency. Like the CIA, it uses agents to collect intelligence, conduct covert operations and counterterrorism. Its primary focus is on terrorist organizations and the Arab nations.
The blessing recited before eating bread.
Mt, Herzl
(Heb., Har Herzl). Israel's National Military Cemetery, site of the graves of Theodore Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin and other famous Jews as well as Israeli soldiers.
Munich Agreement
Agreement made at Munich between Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, and Daladier on Sept. 10, 1938, providing for the cession of the Sudetenland by Czechoslovakia to Germany.
An additional prayer service for Sabbaths and holidays.
(Ger.). Nazi camp slang word for prisoner on the brink of death.
Arab-speaking, old established Jewish communities and residents in the Middle East.
Mother's cross—Promoted Aryan mothers to produce more children. For every 4 kids, a mother received a bronze cross, every 6 she received a silver, and for 8 kids, she got a gold.
Mystery Religions
Designation used for a group of ancient Greco-Roman religions characterized by an emphasis on a central "mystery" (often concerning fertility and immortality). In many ways, both early Judaism and early Christianity include characteristics of such "mysteries."
Mystic, Mysticism
(adj. mystical; from Greek for “initiant” into religious “mysteries”). A vaguely used term to indicate certain types of behavior or perspective that goes beyond the rational in the quest of what is considered to be the ultimate in religious experience (often described as union or direct communion with deity). See also kabalah, gnostic.
Back to top


Nabi or Navi
(pl. nebiim). A “prophet” in ancient Israel; also in Islam. Muhammad is the Muslim nabi par excellence (see also rasul). “Nevi'im” (or Nebiim) became a designation for a section of the Jewish scriptures; see TaNaK.
Pride and joy; pleasure that parents receive from their children.
Nacht und Nebel
(Ger.) “Night and Fog,” the code name given to the decree of December 12, 1941, by the German High Command of the Armed Forces which directed that persons in occupied territories guilty of activities against Germany's armed forces were to be deported to Germany for trial by special courts and held in concentration camps.
A regular unit of the Israel Defense Forces training cadres for agricultural settlements.
A fool.
(Heb., “prince, leader”). See Judah the Prince.
National Water Carrier
Israel&146;s central freshwater artery,completed in 1964, brings water from the north and central regions, through a network of giant pipes, aqueducts, open canals, reservoirs, tunnels, dams and pumping stations, to the semi-arid south.
Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers' Party or NASDAP)
Founded in Germany on January 5, 1919, it was characterized by a centralist and authoritarian structure. Its platform was based on militaristic, racial, antisemitic and nationalistic policies. The Nazi Party membership and political power grew dramatically in the 1930s, partly based on political propaganda, mass rallies and demonstrations.
See nabi.
(Lit. closing). The closing service of Yom Kippur.
The southern, mostly arid region of Israel.
A line of development from the philosophy of Plato that emphasized the mystical dimensions of its dualistic view of reality, so that union with the ultimate One was a major goal. Influenced the development of mysticism in each of the three religious traditions.
Ner Tamid
Eternal light.
New Testament
The collection of Christian canonical writings that together with “the Old Testament” (see also Apocrypha) constitute the Christian Bible.
Night And Fog Decree
Secret order issued by Hitler on December 7, 1941, to seize “persons endangering German security” who were to vanish without a trace into night and fog.
(pl. nigunim). Wordless prayer melody, usually repeated many times over to create a spiritual mood.
Nihum Avelim
(Lit. comforting mourners). One of the purposes of Jewish practices relating to death and mourning.
(Heb., Netzah Yisrael Lo Yishaker: Israel Will Survive Forever). This was the name of a small Jewish underground organization in Palestine during the First World War which helped the British Army liberate Palestine from the Turks.
Wedding ceremony
Noachide Covenant
The covenant God made with Noah and his sons, that is, with all the people that survived the flood (Gen. 9:8-17). In rabbinic literature it is interpreted as seven commandments that God gave the whole of humanity. The most widely accepted version of the commandments includes the following: to abstain from 1) idolatry (also from polytheism = worshipping multiple gods); 2) murder; 3) sexual immorality, especially adultery and incest; 4) blasphemy; 5) robbery; 6) brutality against animals; and 7) to establish courts of justice (the only positive commandment). Non-Jews who keep these laws will, according to rabbinic teaching, have part in the world to come. These laws obviously played a role in the considerations of the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), where the Jewish apostles decided, not to expect gentile folowers of Jesus (Christians) to keep the full extent of the Torah.
(Ger. National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei)The National Socialist German Workers Party, the party led by Adolf Hitler.
Nuremberg Laws
Two anti-Jewish statutes enacted September 1935 during the Nazi party's national convention in Nuremberg. The first, the Reich Citizenship Law, deprived German Jews of their citizenship and all pertinent, related rights. The second, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, outlawed marriages of Jews and non-Jews, forbade Jews from employing German females of childbearing age, and prohibited Jews from displaying the German flag. Many additional regulations were attached to the two main statutes, which provided the basis for removing Jews from all spheres of German political, social, and economic life. The Nuremberg Laws carefully established definitions of Jewishness based on bloodlines. Thus, many Germans of mixed ancestry, called "Mischlinge," faced antisemitic discrimination if they had a Jewish grandparent.
Nuremberg Trial
Trial of twenty-two major Nazi figures in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945 and 1946 before the International Military Tribunal.
Back to top


A German prisoner of war camp for officers.
Olam Ha-ba
The world to come.
Old Testament
The name traditionally given by Christians to the Jewish biblical writings that together with “the New Testament” constitute the Christian Bible. For most Protestant Christians, the Old Testament is identical to the classical Jewish Bible, while for classical (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, etc.) Christianity, the Old Testament also includes “the Apocrypha.” omer (Heb., “sheaf”). In Judaism, the sheaf of grain offering brought to the temple during Passover, on Nisan 16; thus also the name of the seven-week period between Passover/Pesach and Shavuot also known as the Sephirah. See also calendar.
Immigrant to Israel. See also, Aliyah.
The sheaf of grain offering brought to the temple during Passover, on Nisan 16; also the name of the seven-week period between Passover/Pesach and Shavuot.
Operation Barbarossa
The code name for the German invasion of the Soviet Union which began on June 22, 1941.
Operation Reinhard (or Aktion Reinhard)
The code name for the plan to destroy the millions of Jews in the General Government, within the framework of the Final Solution. It began in October 1941, with the deportation of Jews from ghettos to extermination camps. The three extermination camps established under Operation Reinhard were Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka.
Oral Law
In traditional Jewish pharisaic/rabbinic thought, God reveals instructions for living through both the written scriptures and through a parallel process of orally transmitted traditions. Critics of this approach within Judaism include Sadducees and Karaites.
(Ger., “Order service,”). The ghetto police who were made up of Jewish ghetto residents.
Orient House
Eastern Jerusalem building, owned by the prominent Husseini family, that has served as an informal center for Palestinian activities over the years. Members of the Palestinian Authority, which seeks to establish its capital in Jerusalem, have received foreign dignitaries at Orient House in an apparent attempt to create a symbol of Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem. Since the May 4, 1994, signing of the Cairo Agreement, which stipulated that the Palestinian Authority locate its offices in the Gaza Strip and Jericho, Israel has expressed strong opposition to the Palestinian Authority's operating out of Orient House or receiving dignitaries there. The U.S. Senate, too, has voiced its opposition to American officials' meeting with Palestinian officials “for the purpose of conducting official U.S. business” in any part of Jerusalem, including Orient House.
From the Greek for “correct opinion/outlook,” as opposed to heterodox or heretical. The judgment that a position is “orthodox” depends on what are accepted as the operative “rules” or authorities at the time. Over the course of history, the term “orthodox” has come to denote the dominant surviving forms that have proved themselves to be “traditional” or “classical” or “mainstream” (e.g., rabbinic Judaism, the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christian churches, sunni Islam), although new, relative “orthodoxies” constantly emerge (and often disappear).
(Greek, “correct action/activity”). In contrast to orthodoxy (right belief), the emphasis in this term concerns conduct, both ethical and liturgical. Historically, Judaism and Islam have tended to emphasize orthopraxy relatively more than orthodoxy, while classical Christianity tended to shift the balance in the other direction.
One of the two major administrative units of the German civil administration in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, headed by Alfred Rosenberg, as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories; the other was Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Ostland included the three Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- as well as western Belorussia and the western Minsk district in Soviet Belorussia.
City in southern Poland that translates to Auschwitz in German. It was 80 percent Jewish in 1939, with 11 synagogues. Also refers to the forced-labor camp that became a concentration camp in the suburbs of Cracow. Established in 1942, it was destroyed by departing Nazis on January 14, 1944, when the last of its prisoners went to Auschwitz.
Capital of Norway, site of secret talks in 1993 between Israel and the PLO that led to mutual recognition and the signing of the Declaration of Principles. Refers generally to the multi-stage agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
A series of anti-Semitic pamphlets published by Lanz von Liebenfels between 1907 and 1910. Hitler bought these regularly and in 1909, Hitler sought out Lanz and asked for back copies.
Oz V'Shalom/Netivot Shalom
(Heb., Strength and Peace/Paths of Peace). Israeli religious peace movement that supports territorial compromise as a means to peace with the Palestinians.
Back to top


(from Latin for village peasant). In a general sense, neither Jewish nor Christian (nor Muslim), traditionally with negative connotations (an irreligious person, heathen); see gentile. The term also has come to be adopted by some modern persons or movements that dissociate themselves from the "Judeo-Christian" tradition.
Pale of Settlement
The area in the western part of the Russian Empire in which Russian Jews were allowed to live from 1835-1917.
Relating to the study of ancient writings and inscriptions or to an ancient manner of writing.
Ancient Hebrew script; one of the offshoots of the Phoenician script; used exclusively in the First Temple period and in priestly circles and as a symbol of nationalistic revival in the Second Temple Period. A version of this script is still used today by the Samaritans.
(Greek form representing "Philistines," for the seacoast population encountered by early geographers). An ancient designation for the area between Syria (to the north) and Egypt (to the south), between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan; roughly, modern Israel.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
Umbrella organization, a coalition of groups including the Fatah, the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and several others. The PLO was formed in 1964 by the first Arab summit conference as the embodiment of the notion of a Palestinian entity. It was originally controlled by the Arab states but after the 1967 war was taken over by genuine Palestinian nationalist groups and became autonomous.
Palestine National Council (PNC)
The PLO's highest decision-making body. Composed of nearly 600 members from all PLO factions, it meets once every few years to set the organization's long-term goals and policies.
Palestinian Authority (PA)
The Palestinian autonomous government in the West Bank and Gaza areas from which the Israeli Defense Forces have redeployed since the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement and the 1995 Interim Agreement (“Oslo II”).
Palestinian Refugees
About 600,000 Palestinian (other estimates range form 500,000 to 800,0000) fled Israel between 1947 and 1949, fundamentally because of the Arab states' rejection of the United Nation partition plan and invasion of Israel. The refugees fled out of fear of war and in response to Arab leaders' calls for Arabs to evacuate the areas allocated to the Jews until Israel had been eliminated. Many of the refugees and their descendants now live in the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank. About 360,000 Palestinians fled eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights during and after Israel's defensive 1967 War. Palestinian who fled in 1967 are technically considered displaced persons and do not have official refugee status. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency estimated that 175,000 of these 360,000 Palestinians were refugees from the 1948 War. The May 4, 1994, Gaza-Jericho Accord calls for Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt to form a Continuing Committee to discuss the 1967 displaced persons. The problem of the 1947-1949 refugees, on the other hand, is to be left for the “final status” negotiations under the terms of the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles of September 13, 1993.
Although anyone with roots in the land that is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is technically a Palestinian, the term is now more commonly used to refer to Arabs with such roots. Palestinian nationalism, as distinguished from Arab nationalism, did not emerge until after World War I. Most of the world's Palestinian population is concentrated in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan, although many Palestinians live in Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries.
(abbr. for Heb. peluggot mahaz; "shock companies"). Strike force within the Haganah.
(Greek, “park, garden”; possibly derived from Heb., pardes). Term used to describe the location of the creation of humankind as well as the destination where those favored by God will ultimately arrive (especially in Islam). Also used in apocalyptic texts for one of the heavens or levels above the inhabited earth, near God.
(Heb., “section”). Prescribed weekly section of biblical Torah (Pentateuch) read in Jewish synagogue liturgy (ordinarily on an annual cycle). See haftarah.
Prepared animal skin on which text is written.
An adjective that qualifies a food, according to the Jewish laws of kashrut, that has neither dairy nor animal products in it and can be eaten with either.
The curtain in front of the Aron HaKodesh.
Irregular troops engaged in guerrilla warfare, often behind enemy lines. During World War II, this term was applied to resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied countries.
Partition Plan(s)
Proposals for dividing Palestine into autonomous areas controlled by Jews and Arabs.
Passive Resistance
Opposition to oppression by means other than force, such as spiritual, religious, or cultural resistance.
(Pesach). The major Jewish spring holiday (with agricultural aspects) also known as hag hamatzot (festival of unleavened bread) commemorating the Exodus or deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt (see Exodus 12-13). The festival lasts eight days, during which Jews refrain from eating all leavened foods and products. A special ritual meal called the Seder is prepared, and a traditional narrative called the Haggadah, supplemented by hymns and songs, marks the event. See calendar, liturgy.
1. A common designation for the early founding figures of ancient Semitic tradition (before Moses) such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve tribal figureheads of Israel (Judah, Benjamin, etc.). 2. One of the bishops of the four major early Christian centers--Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, or Alexandria, with Constantinople later added as a fifth. After the break with Rome, the term may refer to the head of any of the national divisions of the Eastern church.
Something or someone who is exempt (from an obligation or a law).
Peel Commission
British Royal Commission appointed in 1936 to inquire into the Palestine problem and make recommendations for its solution. The Commission recommended partitioning the country into Arab and Jewish states.
(Greek for “50th [day]”). See Shavuot/Shavuot, calendar.
(from Greek for “five books/scrolls”). The five books attributed to Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; known in Jewish tradition as Torat Mosheh (the teaching of Moses), or simply the Torah.
Those that do something that is morally wrong or criminal.
A community of Ashkenazim, opponents of the Hasidim, organized in Jerusalem in 1816.
A small copper coin, sufficient to acquire a wife by money.
see Passover, calendar.
Phalanges Libanaises (al-Kataib al-Lubnaniyya)
The largest and most important Christian-Maronite party in Lebanon. Founded in 1936 by Pierre Gemayel as a vigilante youth movement dedicated to the preservation of a Christian Lebanon, it later developed into a political party with a sophisticated and elaborate organization and a quite complex concept of the Lebanese entity and its problems.
(Heb., perushim, lit. “separatists” (?); adj. pharisaic). The name given to a group or movement in early Judaism, the origin and nature of which is unclear. Many scholars identify them with the later sages and rabbis who taught the oral and written law; others see them as a complex of pietistic and zealous separatists, distinct from the proto-rabbis. According to Josephus, the Pharisees believed in the immortality of souls and resurrection of the dead, in a balance between predestination and free will, in angels as active divine agents and in authoritative oral law. In the early Christian materials, Pharisees are often depicted as leading opponents of Jesus/Joshua and his followers, and are often linked with “scribes” but distinguished from the Sadducees.
Philo Judeus
(“the Jew”) of Alexandria. Greek speaking (and writing) prolific Jewish author in the 1st century CE. Provides extensive evidence for Jewish thought in the Greco-Roman (“hellenistic”) world outside of Palestine.
(Greek for “protectors”). See tefillin.
Pidyon Haben
(Heb., "redemption of the [firstborn] son."). The rite of relieving the first male child born to parents not descended from Aaron or Levi of certain religious obligations by redeeming him from a member of the priestly class. It is celebrated 30 days after the child's birth. The father pays five silver shekels (today, typically five dollars in coins) to have the child released from his obligations.
A general term for religious devotion.
Pikuah Nefesh
To save a life (usually in context of breaking Shabbat, etc.).
Dialectical rational method of studying Jewish oral law as codified in the Talmud(s).
Pirke Avot
A Tractate of Mishna that deals with ethical and moral behavior.
Pittsburgh Platform
Early statement of American Reform Jewish principles.
Medieval Jewish synagogue hymns and poems added to standard prayers of the talmudic liturgy.
Ancient Greek philosopher (4th century B.C.E.), student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, whose identification of reality with the non-material world of ideas (“the ideal world”) played an enormous role in subsequent philosophy and religion (see neo-Platonism). Father of “Platonism” and the Platonic Academy as a philosophical institution in Athens.
See Plato.
Pliny the Elder (ca. 23-79 A.D.)
Upper class Roman historian who wrote about the Essenes and identified their location as the Dead Sea area.
A general term for situations in which a variety of perspectives are accommodated, or at least tolerated, within the recognized system; e.g., America as a pluralistic society.
Po'alei Agudat Israel (P.A.I.)
Religious labor movement, affiliate of Agudat Israel, founded in Poland in 1922, active in Eretz Israel from 1925.
Poalei Zion
Movement whose ideology combines Zionism and socialism.
From the Russian word for "devastation"; an unprovoked attack or series of attacks upon a Jewish community.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
Leftist, Syrian-based PLO faction, led by George Habash, that rejects the current Israeli-PLO peace process. The PFLP is responsible for many terrorist acts, including airline hijackings and attacks on foreign airports.
(“The Devouring,” Romani). Term used by the Roma (Gypsies) for the Holocaust.
(pl. poskim): The rabbi one consults for halachic decisions; an authority on Jewish Law.
To render a halachic ruling, usually one that clarifies the law in a specific case.
A general term used for addressing petitions (or praise) to the deity. See amida, birkat, kaddish, maariv, mincha, salat, shemoneh esreh. See also hymn, liturgy, siddur.
The idea that one's eternal destiny is determined beforehand, from the beginning of time, by the will and plan of the deity.
A functionary usually associated, in antiquity, with temples and their rites (including sacrifice). In classical Christianity, the office of priest was developed (see ordination, clergy) in connection with the celebration of the mass and Eucharist, and with celibacy as an important qualification (especially in Roman Catholicism). See also kohen.
(from Greek, to “speak for” or “speak forth”). Name given to accepted spokespersons of God (or their opposites, “false prophets”). Became a designation for a section of the Jewish scriptures; see nabi, TaNaK.
The Hebrew term ger (stranger, non-Israelite, who lived among Israel) was translated in the Septuagint into the Greek proselytos, which meant a convert to Judaism. Since the 4th century Jews have not engaged in organized missionary activities. Though individual proselytes are still welcomed into the community after intense study and baptism and (in the case of males) circumcision. There are considerable differences between the branches of Judaism. Today most conversions happen because of mixed marriages, where one partner converts in order to avoid potential conflicts in family life.
Early Judaism.
Pre-70 CE sages who set the foundations of post-70 CE rabbinic Judaism before the ordination of rabbis became formalized in its classical sense.
Protocols of the Elders of Zion
A major piece of antisemitic propaganda, compiled at the turn of the century by members of the Russian Secret Police. Essentially adapted from a nineteenth century French polemical satire directed against Emperor Napoleon III, substituting Jewish leaders, the Protocols maintained that Jews were plotting world dominion by setting Christian against Christian, corrupting Christian morals and attempting to destroy the economic and political viability of the West. It gained great popularity after World War I and was translated into many languages, encouraging antisemitism in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Long repudiated as an absurd and hateful lie, the book currently has been reprinted and is widely distributed by Neo-Nazis and others who are committed to the destruction of the State of Israel.
Decision, verdict.
(Heb., tehillim). Collection of Biblical hymns, i.e. sacred songs or poems used in worship and non-canonical passages.
(adj. pseudepigraphical), from Greek, pseudos, “deceit, untruth,” and Greek, epigraphe, "writing, inscription." A name given to a number of intertestamental apocryphal writings that are implausibly attributed to an ancient worthy such as Adam/Eve, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezra.
A Jewish festival commemorating the deliverance of Jews in Persia as described in the biblical book of Esther. Held in late winter (between Hanukkah and Passover), on the 14th of Adar. See calendar, megilah.
A box in the home or the synagogue used to collect money for donation to charity.
Back to top


See kabala.
See karaite.
Qualitative Military Edge
The military-technological advantage that Israel Defense Forces try to maintain in order to offset the numerical superiority of Arab armed forces it may face in future wars. This edge has eroded in recent years, as Arab states purchased more sophisticated arms. The United States has pledged to support Israel's qualitative military edge through security assistance and technological transfers.
Qumran or Khirbet Qumran
The site near the northwest corner of the Dead Sea in modern Israel where the main bulk of the Jewish “Dead Sea Scrolls” were discovered around 1946. The “Qumran community” that apparently produced the scrolls seems to have flourished from the 3rd century B.C.E. to the 1st century CE, and is usually identified with the Jewish Essenes, or a group like them.
Qur’an (Koran)
Arabic Al Qur'an, “The Recitation.” The sacred scriptures of Islam, the religion of the Muslims dictated to Muhammed by the Archangel Gabriel.
Back to top


(Arabic, “Lord”). In Islam, a frequent title for God (Allah). From the same Semitic root as Hebrew rabbi.
Adherent of rabbinic Judaism.
(adj. rabbinic, Heb., “my master”). An authorized teacher of the classical Jewish tradition (see oral law) after the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE. The role of the rabbi has changed considerably throughout the centuries. Traditionally, rabbis serve as the legal and spiritual guides of their congregations and communities. The title is conferred after considerable study of traditional Jewish sources. This conferral and its responsibilities is central to the chain of tradition in Judaism.
Rabbinical Judaism
A general term encompassing all movements of Judaism descended from Pharisaic Judaism; that is, all movements in existence today.
Race Violators
Anyone committing an act that is contrary to the anti-Semitic edicts of the Nuremberg Laws, or of other anti-Semitic or racial orders by the German government.
Racien hygiene
"Racial hygiene." This word relates to the eugenics side of the Holocaust which the Nazis used to give a "scientific" backbone to their final solution.
A socialist political party founded in 1965 by David Ben-Gurion and members of Mapai as a result of a split in Mapai. Became part of the Labor Party in 1968.
Ramban (1194-1270)
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, also known as Nachmanides.
Rashi (1040-1105)
Acronym for Rabbi Solomon (Sholomo) ben Isaac, a great medieval sage of Troyes, France. He is the author of fundamental commentaries on the Talmud, and one of the most beloved and influential commentaries on the Bible. Characterized by great lucidity and pedagogy, his comments emphasized the plain, straightforward sense of a text.
“Race Treason.” Product of Nuremburg Laws (this dealt w/intermarriages).
Rath, Ernst Vom (1909-1938)
Third secretary at the German Embassy in Paris who was assassinated on November 7, 1938 by Herschel Grynszpan (see Grynszpan, Herschel).
A general term for the perspective that holds that everything is actually or potentially understandable by human reason. See also agnosticism, atheism, mysticism.
The title of the spiritual leader of the Hasidim. See zaddik.
Rabbi's wife.
A dissenting movement in ancient Israel generally devoted to certain ascetic practices and a simple lifestyle (see Jeremiah 35.1-19).
Reconstructionist Judaism
Founded by Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1982), this represents a recent development in American Judaism, and attempts to focus on Judaism as a civilization and culture constantly adapting to insure survival in a natural social process. The central academic institution is the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in the Philadelphia suburbs. See also Reform and Conservative Judaism.
Red Magen David
This Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross is the Hebrew name of the six-pointed Jewish star.
An editor, especially with reference to ancient books such as the Jewish and Christian scriptures.
A term from ancient economic vocabulary concerning the freeing by purchasing (manumission) of slaves, applied to the religious concept (especially in Christianity) of salvation from slavery to sin (being “redeemed”).
Reform Judaism
Modern movement originating in 18th century Europe that attempts to see Judaism as a rational religion adaptable to modern needs and sensitivities. The ancient traditions and laws are historical relics that need have no binding power over modern Jews. The central academic institution of American Reform Judaism is the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and it is represented also by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Compare Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism. See Pittsburgh Platform, Geiger.
Name given to the protestant Christian movements (and the period itself) in the 16th century in which Roman Catholicism was opposed in the interest of "reforming" Christianity to what was considered its earliest known form (found in the New Testament).
(“Empire”). Also meaning Federal or National.
Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA)
The National Central Security Department formed in 1939 combining the existing Security Police (Gestapo and Kripo) and the SD. It was the central office of the Supreme Command of the SS and the National Ministry of the Interior.
The German Parliament. On February 27, 1933, a staged fire burned the Reichstag building. A month later, on March 23, 1933, the Reichstag approved the Enabling Act which gave Hitler unlimited dictatorial power. After that the Reichstag became a rubber stamp for Hitler's policies.
Reichszentrale fuer Juedische Auswanderung
Nazi central agency for Jewish emigration matters set up in the German Ministry of' Interior on Jan. 14, 1939.
The modern position that affirms that everything (except this statement!) is relative to the particularities of the given situation.
(Latin). Name usually given to the "rebirth" of classical knowledge that erupted in the 15th century and provided background for the protestant reformation and associated events in Europe.
A term used especially in protestant Christianity to indicate the subjective state of sorrow and concern over sin, on the way to salvation.
Those who helped rescue Jews without regard to the personal consequences.
German euphemism for the deportation of prisoners to killing centers in Poland.
The word commonly used to describe how Jews fought against the Nazis.
Also called teshubot, from sheelot uteshubot (questions and answers); answers to questions on halaka and observances, given by Jewish scholars on topics addressed to them. They originated during the geonic period, and are still used as a means of modern updating and revising of halaka.
The idea that dead persons who have found favor with the deity will ultimately (in eschatological times) be raised from the dead, with restored bodily form.
A general term for self-disclosure of the divine (God reveals to humans), which is often considered to be focused in the revealed scriptures. Also the name of a specific Christian biblical book, the “Apocalypse” (Greek, “uncovered”) or “Revelation” (Latin).
Party of maximalist political Zionists founded in 1925 and led by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Holocaust revisionists deny that the Holocaust ever happened.
Ribono shel Olam
(“Master of the Universe”). Reference to God.
Righteous of the Nations (Righteous Gentiles)
Term applied to those non-Jews who saved Jews from their Nazi persecutors at the risk of their own lives.
Ringelblum, Emanuel (1900-1944)
Famed historian and public leader, best known for his clandestine archive called the “Oneg Shabbat,“ hidden in milk cans in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Riots
Disturbances with heavy bloodshed, high death-toll, perpetrated by Arabs to sabotage Yishuv development, stop immigration & land purchases—1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39.
Rishon Le-Zion
Title given to the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.
Rosh Hashanah
(Heb., “beginning of the year”). Jewish New Year celebration in the fall of the year, the month of Tishri. See also calendar.
Rosh Hodesh/Chodesh
(Heb., “beginning of a lunar month”). The New Moon Festival. See also calendar.
(initials of Ger. Reichssicherheitshauptamt), the central security department of the German Reich, formed in 1939, and combining the security police and the S.D.
Spirit, wind.
Back to top


(abb. Sturm Abteilungen). The storm troopers or “brownshirts” of the early Nazi party, organized in 1922.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
Penalties levied by an authority for not complying with an order or law
(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.
Sauckel, Fritz
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.
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.
A foolish, clumsy person; a misfit.
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.
(Heb., for “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 Mishna; 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.
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 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.
(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.
(“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.
Sennesh, Hannah
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.
(adj. Sephardic; 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.
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.
(Heb., “rest”). The Sabbath.
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.
Shalom Bayit
Peace in the home.
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.
Shavuah Tov
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.
An orthodox Jewish woman's wig.
Ritual animal slaughter.
Jewish term for the divine presence; the Holy Spirit. In Kabalism it sometimes took on the aspect of the feminine element in the deity.
(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.
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.
(“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.
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.
An arranged marriage.
To be drunk.
Derogatory Yiddish slang word for non-Jewish woman.
Shir Ha Shirim
Song of Songs.
(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.
(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 Shabbat
Observant of the laws of Shabbat.
(Lit. guards, keepers. People who sit with a body between the time of death and burial.
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 Ashkenazic Jews of eastern Europe prior to World War II.
Yiddish term for a small synagogue.
Yiddish word 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.
(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.
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.
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.
Sinat Chinam
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.
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.
"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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
Stockade and Watchtower
Type of settlement established in Palestine between 1936 and 1947 to provide greater security against Arab attacks.
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, prepositioning 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.
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.
(Lit. booth). The temporary dwellings we live in during the holiday of Sukkot.
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
Back to top


Tabernacles, Festival/Feast of
See Sukkot.
(pl. taharot). Ritual purity.
(pl. takkanot).
Correction; a rabbinic edict that supersedes the existing halacha.
A large, four-cornered shawl with fringes and special knots at the extremities, worn during Jewish morning prayers. The fringes, according to the Bible (Numbers 15.38-39), remind the worshiper of God's commandments. It is traditional for the male to be buried in his tallit, but without its fringes.
Tallis(t) Katan
(“small garment”). Refers to a small four-cornered garment, with tzitzis attached, customarily worn throughout the day.
(Heb., “study” or “learning”). Rabbinic Judaism produced two Talmuds: the one known as the “Babylonian” is the most famous in the western world, and was completed around the fifth century CE; the other, known as the “Palestinian” or “Jerusalem” Talmud, was edited perhaps in the early fourth century CE. Both have as their common core the Mishnah collection of the tannaim, to which are added commentary and discussion (gemara) by the amoraim (teachers) of the respective locales. Gemara thus has also become a colloquial, generic term for the Talmud and its study.
Talmud Torah
Term generally applied to Jewish religious (and ultimately to talmudic) study, also used to refer to traditional Jewish religious public schools.
The fourth month of the Jewish religious year, corresponding approximating to June-July.
TaNaK (Tanakh)
A relatively modern acronym for the Jewish Bible, made up of the names of the three parts of the Torah (Pentateuch or Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings)—thus TNK pronounced TaNaK.
(Heb., “repeater, reciter”; adj. tannaitic, pl. tannaim). A Jewish sage from the period of Hillel (around the turn of the era) to the compilation of the Mishnah (200 CE), distinguished from later amoraim. Tannaim were primarily scholars and teachers. The Mishnah, Tosefta, and halakic Midrashim were among their literary achievements.
(Heb., “translation, interpretation”). Generally used to designate Aramaic translations of the Jewish scriptures. See also Septuagint (in a sense, Greek Targums).
(Heb., “to send, to cast out”). This is the special ceremony on Rosh Hashanah afternoon in which Jews symbolically cast their sins (in the form of bread crumbs) into a body of flowing water.
(“Blue-Green”). A color required for threads of tzitzis by the Torah. Today we do not know how to make this color, so the Biblical requirement remains to make tzitzis, but all eight threads of our tzitzis are white.
Usually translated as “phylacteries.” Box-like appurtenances that accompany prayer, worn by Jewish adult males at the weekday morning services. The boxes have leather thongs attached and contain scriptural excerpts. One box (with four sections) is placed on the head, the other (with one section) is placed (customarily) on the left arm, near the heart. The biblical passages emphasize the unity of God and the duty to love God and be mindful of him with "all one's heart and mind" (e.g., Exod. 13.1-10, 11-16; Deut. 6.4-9; 11.13-21). See also Shema.
Tefillin Shel Rosh
(“Tefillin of the head”). Of the two tefillin, the one worn on the head.
Tefillin Shel Yad
(“Tefillin of the hand&quo#148;). Of the two tefillin, the one worn on the arm.
One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram's horn). See also Rosh Hashanah.
Tel Aviv
Israel's largest and most cosmopolitan city, located along the Mediterranean coast.
In the ancient world, temples were the centers of outward religious life, places at which public religious observances were normally conducted by the priestly professionals. In traditional Judaism, the only legitimate Temple was the one in Jerusalem, built first by King Solomon around 950 B.C.E., destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar around 587/6 B.C.E., and rebuilt about 70 years later. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The site of the ancient Jewish Temple is now occupied, in part, by the “Dome of the Rock” Mosque. In recent times, “temple” has come to be used synonymously with synagogue in some Jewish usage.
German sect that founded settlements in Palestine in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Terezin (Czech), Theresienstadt (German)
Established in early 1942 outside Prague as a "model" ghetto, Terezin was not a sealed section of town, but rather an eighteenth-century Austrian garrison. It became a Jewish town, governed and guarded by the SS. When the deportations from central Europe to the extermination camps began in the spring of 1942, certain groups were initially excluded: invalids; partners in a mixed marriage, and their children; and prominent Jews with special connections. These were sent to the ghetto in Terezin. They were joined by old and young Jews from the Protectorate, and, later, by small numbers of prominent Jews from Denmark and Holland. Its large barracks served as dormitories for communal living; they also contained offices, workshops, infirmaries, and communal kitchens. The Nazis used Terezin to deceive public opinion. They tolerated a lively cultural life of theater, music, lectures, and art. Thus, it could be shown to officials of the International Red Cross. Terezin, however, was only a station on the road to the extermination camps; about 88,000 were deported to their deaths in the East. In April 1945, only 17,000 Jews remained in Terezin, where they were joined by 14,000 Jewish concentration camp prisoners, evacuated from camps threatened by the Allied armies. On May 8, 1945, Terezin was liberated by the Red Army. (see Baeck, Leo).
One of four characteristic blasts of the shofar (ram's horn). See also Rosh Hashanah.
Return, repentance. The objective during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Term for an agreement between two (or more) parties, such as a “last will and testament.” In Jewish tradition, the covenant concept played an important role, and was translated as “testament,” especially in Christian references to the scriptures of the “old covenant” (Old Testament) and the “new” (New Testament).
(Greek, “four lettered [name]”). See YHWH.
The science of producing death; description given during the Nuremberg trials to the medical experiments performed during the Holocaust.
The position that affirms the existence of a deity. See also atheism, agnosticism.
From Greek, “divine rule”; the idea that God should be the ultimate ruler, over or instead of human rulers. See zealots.
From Greek, “study of deity”; a general term for discussions and investigations of things pertaining to God(s), and by extension, to religious matters. One who engages formally in theological studies is called a “theologian.”
See Terezin.
Third Reich
Meaning “third regime or empire,” the Nazi designation of Germany and its regime from 1933-45. Historically, the First Reich was the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806. The Second Reich included the German Empire from 1871-1918.
Thirteen Principles
Statement of classical Jewish outlook by Maimonides.
One of the famed ancient "walled cities"of Israel, in central Israel, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Tikkun Olam
Correcting [perfecting] the world, repairing the world; an action promoting social justice.
The groom's table where the Chatan, his groomsmen, and male family members gather for song and dance before the b'deken. There is a tradition in which the groom tries to give a speech about the current week's Torah portion. The friends and family do everything possible to make sure that the groom's speech does not get delivered.
Tisha be-Av, Ninth of Av
Fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
Todah Rabah
Thank you.
(Heb., “teaching, instruction”). In general, torah refers to study of the whole gamut of Jewish tradition or to some aspect thereof. In its special sense, "the Torah" refers to the "five books of Moses" in the Hebrew scriptures (see Pentateuch). In the Quran, "Torah" is the main term by which Jewish scripture is identified.
Torah Misinai
(“Torah from Mount Sinai”) refers to the doctrine that the entire Torah, including the Oral Law, was given to Moses at Sinai..
(pl. Tosafot) (Heb., “supplement”). Tannaitic supplements to the Mishnah. Called beraita (extraneous material) in the Talmud.
Extermination camp in northeast Poland (see Extermination Camp ). Established in May 1942 along with the Warsaw-Bialystok railway line, 870,000 people were murdered there. The camp operated until the fall of 1943 when the Nazis destroyed the entire camp in an attempt to conceal all traces of their crimes.
Trei Asar
(Heb., “twelve”). The twelve minor prophets in the Tanakh.
Not kosher.
Tu B'Av
The fifteenth of the Hebrew month Av. A day that is traditionally associated with the engagements of young men and women.
Tu B'Shevat
(Lit. 15th of Shevat). The new year for the purpose of counting the age of trees for purposes of tithing.
See zaddik.
Tzahal (Tzva Haganah Leyisrael)
Israel's Defense Forces. See also IDF.
(Heb., "righteousness"; see tzedakah). Term in Judaism usually applied to deeds of charity and philanthropy.
Tzelem Elokim
In the image of God.
Fringes, (see Numbers 15:38) "...they shall make fringes for themselves on the corners of their garments."
Trouble, woe, suffering.
Back to top


Class or school for intensive study of Hebrew language.
(Ger.). Collection point. It was a square in the Warsaw Ghetto where Jews were rounded up for deportation to Treblinka.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242
Resolution adopted in 1967 that established the principle of land for peace. The resolution calls for the “[w]ithdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” as well as calling for the Arab states to recognize that “every State in the area” has the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” UNSC Resolution 242 also stresses the importance of freedom of navigation through Middle East waterways and “a just settlement of the refugee problem.”
United Nations Security Council Resolution 338
Resolution adopted in 1973 calling for a cease-fire in the Yom Kippur War, the implementation of UNSC Resolution 242 and negotiations between the parties involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
A secret network which is organized to resist authority.
“Subhumans,” Nazi categorization for the lesser races of Eastern Europe.
Back to top


Va'ad Ha-Hazalah
Jewish rescue committees that functioned in different countries in Europe during the Holocaust
Va'ad Le'ummi
The national council of the Jewish community in Palestine during the British Mandate.
(“and He called”). The third book of the Torah (Leviticus).
Death (or extermination) camp, used for murdering Jews and other “racial undesirables.”
“People”—In Nazi times, took on a more defined meaning: People joined by blood.
People's car—Hitler wanted to make a cheap car for the lower class Germans.
People's community—A community united by common German blood--no more social groups (communists, Jews, political parties, Catholics, Homosexuals, Jehovah witnesses).
Explanation, discourse, opinion.
From Latin, common, popular. The official Roman Catholic Latin version of the Bible, prepared or edited by Jerome (Hieronymus) around the year 400 C.E. See also Septuagint.
Back to top


Militarized units of the SS.
Wagner-Rogers Legislation
Legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1939 by Rep. Robert Wagner to admit a total of 20,000 Jewish children over a two-year period above the refugee quota applicable at the time.
Wallenberg, Raoul (1912-19??)
Swedish diplomat who, in 1944, went to Hungary on a mission to save as many Jews as possible by handing out Swedish papers, passports and visas. He is credited with saving the lives of at least 30,000 people. After the liberation of Budapest, he was mysteriously taken into custody by the Russians and his fate remains unknown.
Wannsee Conference
Meeting held at a villa in Wannsee, Germany, on January 20, 1942, to coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Chaired by Reinhard Heydrich and attended by Adolf Eichmann and many other civilian and military leaders, the meeting established the administrative apparatus for accomplishing Hitler's dream of a Europe free of Jews.
(Ar.). 1. a Muslim Charitable pious foundation. 2. State lands and other property passed to the Muslim community for public welfare.
War of Independence
War of 1947-49 when the Jews of Israel fought off invading Arab armies and established an independent state.
War Refugee Board
A U.S. government agency for rescue of and aid to WW II victims, established on Jan. 22, 1944, by President Franklin Roosevelt after receiving a report by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, providing details about the “Final Solution.” The Board, which was headed by Morgenthau, was to take whatever steps were necessary to rescue the civilian victims of the Holocaust.
City in central Poland, capital of Poland since 1596, with a Jewish population of 375,000 in 1939, representing 29 percent of the total city population. All Jewish institutions were destroyed by the Nazis and Allied bombing. Site of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto.
Warsaw Ghetto
Established in November 1940, the ghetto, surrounded by a wall, confined nearly 500,000 Jews. Almost 45,000 Jews died there in 1941 alone, due to overcrowding, forced labor, lack of sanitation, starvation, and disease. From April 19 to May 16, 1943, a revolt took place in the ghetto when the Germans, commanded by General Jürgen Stroop, attempted to raze the ghetto and deport the remaining inhabitants to Treblinka . The uprising, led by Mordecai Anielewicz, was the first instance in occupied Europe of an uprising by an urban population. (See Anielewicz, Mordecai).
Washington Declaration
Document signed July 25, 1994, by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jordanian King Hussein, and U.S. President Bill Clinton on the occasion of the first public meeting between Israeli and Jordanian leaders. Paving the way to the formal peace treaty between the two countries signed on October 26, 1994, the document formally ended the 46-year-old state of war between Israel and Jordan and emphasized that both countries would negotiate “vigorously” to reach an agreement on a full peace treaty. The document also outlined economic and other forms of cooperation between the two countries.
German armed forces.
Weimar Republic
Germany's political structure following World War I. The Constitution called for an elected President, a Chancellor (Prime Minister) appointed by the President, a Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the Chancellor, and an elected house of representatives, i.e. Parliament, called the Reichstag. The governing powers rested with the Chancellor through the ministry, with the President retaining veto powers and performing ceremonial duties. The Reichstag provided more of an advisory role than an actual legislative one.
West Bank
Territory west of the Jordan River that Israel captured from Jordan in its defensive 1967 war. Often referred to by its Biblical name, Judea and Samaria, this land is home to a Palestinian population of over one million, as well as about 140,000 Jewish residents. Under the terms of the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles, Palestinian autonomy has been extended from the Gaza Strip and Jericho to other areas of the West Bank.
Western Wall
(Heb., kotel). The only remaining structure from the second temple left standing after the Roman destruction. Since the Jews are considered to be in a state of “ritual impurity” until certain special sacrifices can be brought (notably the ashes of the red heifer), religious Jews are forbidden to set foot on the actual site of the temple and this is the closest they can come to praying at the temple site.
White Paper 1939
A British government statement of Palestine policy, which restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine and prohibited the purchase of land by Jews there.
Wiesel, Elie (1928- )
Survivor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, sent to Auschwitz liberated from Buchenwald. Starting with his first novel “Night,” his writings have inspired the world to understand the plight of the victims of the Holocaust.
Wiesenthal, Simon (1908- )
Famed Holocaust survivor who has dedicated his life since the war to gathering evidence for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
Women's International Zionist Organization founded in 1920, involved in rescuing Jewish children and young people and giving them care and education in Eretz Israel.
World Jewish Congress
A voluntary association of representative Jewish bodies, communities and organizations throughout the world, established in 1936.
Back to top


(Lit. hand). Hand-shaped pointer used while reading from Torah scrolls.
Yad Vashem
Israeli authority and museum for commemorating the Holocaust in the Nazi era and Jewish resistance and heroism at that time.
(Yiddish, “year-time”) Anniversary of a death; a 24-hour candle lit to commemorate the death anniversary of a close relative, also lit on holy days when Yizkor (prayer of remembrance) is recited.
Yamim Nor'aim
Days of Awe. The Hebrew name for the High Holy Days.
See kippah.
Yasher Koach
Used idiomatically to express praise or thanks for serving in a religious or ceremonial role. Implies “may your stength continue, go on straight,” i.e., “You done good! Do it many times more!”
Yellow Badge
Distinctive sign which, by Nazi order, was compulsorily worn by Jews.
(pl. yeshivot). A Jewish rabbinic academy of higher learning. See also beit midrash.
A technical Hebrew term for human "inclination" to do good (yetzer ha-tov) or to do evil (yetzer ha-ra).
YHWH (Yahweh)
The sacred name of God in Jewish scriptures and tradition; also known as the tetragrammaton. Since Hebrew was written without vowels in ancient times, the four consonants YHWH contain no clue to their original pronunciation. They are generally rendered “Yahweh” in contemporary scholarship. In traditional Judaism, the name is not pronounced, but Adonai (“Lord”) or something similar is substituted. In most English versions of the Bible the tetragrammaton is represented by "LORD" (or less frequently, “Jehovah”). Yiddish (from German “Juedisch” or Jewish). The vernacular of Ashkenazic Jews; it is a combination of several languages, especially Hebrew and German, written in Hebrew script.
Family status or prestige.
A short time of seclusion immediately following the marriage ceremony that the bride and groom spend alone together.
(pl. Yidden). A Jew, usually considered a derogatory term when used by non-Jews.
Uses the same alphabet as Hebrew but is a blend of Hebrew and several European languages, primarily German. Yiddish was the vernacular of East European and Russian Jews.
(from Heb., to be great; thence “Great is he”). A hymn/chant/poem from the 11th century or earlier, frequently found at the beginning or end of the Jewish prayer book (siddur). Also found as an adopted Christian hymn.
The Jewish community of Palestine. The pre-Zionist community is generally designated the “old yishuv,” and the community evolving from 1880 the “new yishuv.”
(“Remembrance”). It is the name of the Memorial Service on Yom Kippur, and a prayer in that service in which Jews specify those whom they are remembering.
Yom Ha-Atzmut
Israeli Independence Day.
Yom Ha-Shoah
Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yom Ha-Zikkaron
Israeli Memorial Day.
Yom Kippur
(Heb., “Day of Atonement”). Annual day of fasting and atonement, occurring in the fall on Tishri 10 (just after Rosh Hashanah); the most solemn and important occasion of the Jewish religious year. See also calendar.
Yom Kippur War
In October 1973, Syrian and Egyptian forces, assisted by other Arab nations, launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. Although placed on the defensive for the first two days, Israel eventually was able to counter-attack and repulse the Arab invaders. An internationally-brokered cease-fire was established after three weeks of fighting.
Yom Yerushalayim
Holiday celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem in the hands of the modern state of Israel.
Jewish holiday.
(“gone out”). One who has properly fulfilled an obligation.
Youth Aliyah
Organization founded in 1932 by Henrietta Szold to rescue Jewish children and young people and give them care and education in Eretz Israel.
Back to top


(pl. zaddikim, Heb., “righteous one”). A general term for a righteous person in Jewish tradition. More specifically, the spiritual leader of the modern Hasidim, popularly known as rebbe.
A small, unique organization clandestinely established in Nazi-occupied Poland for the purpose of rescuing Jews. The director of Zegota was Zofia Kossack, a devout Catholic and a prewar novelist whose writings were not without anti-Semitic overtones. Indeed, in a leaflet she published in September 1942 titled "Protest," Kossack wrote that the Jews were the enemies of the Polish people but that Poles could not stand by and watch the Jews murdered by the Germans. It is estimated that 2,500 Jewish children were saved as a result of Zegota's efforts. The children were smuggled out of the ghettos and transferred to Catholic orphanages and convents where they pretended to be Christians. Zegota, which had a branch in Krakow (headed by Stanislaw Dobrowolski), also smuggled food into the Plaszow labor camp and, later, into Oskar Schindler's factory in Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia.
Ze’irei Zion
Moderate Zionist socialist labor movement established in 1903, active mainly in Russia.
(from Greek, to be enthusiastic). A general term for one who exhibits great enthusiasm and dedication to a cause. Specifically, a member of an early Jewish group or perspective that advocated Jewish independence (see theocracy) from Rome.
See tzedakah.
Zentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung
"Central Office for Jewish Emigration"—Set up in Vienna on August 26, 1938, under Adolf Eichmann.
Zion, Zionism
(Mount) Zion is an ancient Hebrew designation for Jerusalem, but already in biblical times it began to symbolize the national homeland (see e.g., Psalm 137.1-6). In this latter sense it served as a focus for Jewish national-religious hopes of renewal over the centuries. Ancient hopes and attachments to Zion gave rise to Zionist longings and movements since antiquity, culminating in the modern national liberation movement of that name. The Zionist cause helped the Jews return to Palestine in this century and found the state of Israel in 1948. The goal of Zionism is the political and spiritual renewal of the Jewish people in its ancestral homeland. See also Herzl.
Zizit (tzitzit)
(Heb., “fringes”). See tallit.
“Book of Splendor”; the chief literary work of the kabalists. The author of the main part of the Zohar was Moses de Leon (12th century) in Spain, but it is pseudepigraphically ascribed to the Palestinian tanna Simeon bar Yohai (2nd century CE), sometimes called RaShBaY (Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai).
Zyklon B
The commercial name for hydrogen cyanide, a poisonous gas used in the Euthanasia Program and at Auschwitz. The poison was produced by the firm DEGESCH, which was controlled by I. G. Farben. Zyklon B was delivered to the camps in the form of pellets in air-tight containers. When the pellets were exposed to the air they turned into a deadly gas that would asphyxiate victims within minutes.
Back to top