Passover: A holiday commemorating the Jewish people's redemption from slavery and exodus from Egypt. The Passover story, recorded in the haggadah, is retold during the seder.

Pidyon Haben: When the parents of a first-born son redeem their child on the thirty-first day of his life through a ceremony that is meant to fulfill a Biblical command.

Prayer Book: Contains the text for daily as well as Shabbat and holiday prayers.

Purim: A joyous holiday that commemorates the victory of the Jews over the evil Persian minister Haman, who plotted to kill all of the Jews of Persia in the fifth century B.C.E. Queen Esther is the heroine of the story. The Megillat Esther (Book of Esther) recounts the story of Purim, and is read during the holiday.


Rabbi: A religious teacher who is authorized to make decision concerning Jewish law. Rabbis lead and counsel synagogue congregations. Rabbinic tradition refers to traditions established by the teachings of rabbis.

Reconstructionist: One of the four major denominations in Judaism (the others being Conservative, Orthodox and Reform). Reconstructionist Jews believe that Jewish law was created by men and women. They observe Jewish law because it is a valuable part of their culture.

Reform: One of the four major denominations in Judaism (the others being Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist). The Reform movement began in nineteenth-century Germany as a way to reconcile modern life with Jewish identity and practice.

Rosh Chodesh: First day(s) of the Jewish month.

Rosh Hashanah: Literally means "the head of the year," or New Year. The holiday of Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Penitence, when Jews ask for forgiveness for their sins. Blowing the shofar announces the beginning of the ten-day period.


Seder: The Passover meal. Families gather at the seder to read the haggadah, which recounts the story of Passover, and to eat certain ceremonial foods.

Seder Plate: A decorative plate placed on the table during the Passover seder. Foods that are symbolic of Passover are placed on the plate and eaten at specific times during the seder, as directed in the haggadah.

Sephardic Jews: Jews from Portugal, Spain, North Africa or the Middle East, and their descendants.

Shabbat: The seventh day of the week, from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown, recalling the day when God completed the creation of the world. It is customary to attend synagogue services during the holiday and hear the weekly Torah portion. The day is often marked by prayer, spiritual reflection, relaxation, and time with family and friends.

Shabbat Candles: Two candles which are lit on Friday evening to mark the beginning of Shabbat.

Shavuot: Holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah.

Shofar: A horn, usually taken from a ram, which is sounded during the High Holidays.

Simchat Torah: A joyous holiday which marks the day when the final weekly portion of the Torah is read and a new annual cycle begins. Literally translates as "joy with the Torah."

Sukkah: A temporary booth or hut that is built outdoors to commemorate the holiday of Sukkot.

Sukkot: Also known as the Harvest Festival, it is a time to give thanks to God and pray for a fruitful harvest for the coming year. The holiday also commemorates the forty years that the Jewish people wandered in the desert after being released from slavery in Egypt. It is customary to spend time in a Sukkah (outdoor booth or hut) in order to remember the temporary housing of the desert.

Synagogue: Jewish place of worship.


Tallit: A shawl worn during prayer services. Special fringes, known as "tzitzit," are attached to each of its four corners.

Temple: Refers to the central place of worship in ancient Jerusalem. Within the Reform movement, the term is used to describe the Jewish place of worship, also known as a synagogue.

Torah: Made up of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, it is the holiest and most important scripture in Judaism. It typically appears in the form of a scroll, and is inscribed on parchment. The Torah is divided into weekly portions that are read over the course of a year.

Torah Ark: The cabinet in which the Torah scroll is stored.


Yom Kippur: Jewish Day of Atonement that falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah (New Year), when Jews pray for forgiveness from God and ask to be forgiven by fellow men and women. It is the most solemn day of the Jewish year, and is characterized by fasting and prayer.