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Whether you were born Jewish and are looking for more information, aren’t Jewish and trying to find out what to expect at your friend’s wedding, or just looking for the perfect kreplach recipe, you may have wondered where to begin learning more about the Jewish religious and cultural experience. Jewish culture is quite a broad area of study, including more than just holidays and dietary habits. Sometimes, the best way to learn about it is through wandering. Thus, this Pathfinder is not an exhaustive compilation of everything Jewish religious and cultural source available on the web and in print. It is, though, meant to give direction to that wandering. Keep in mind that the best way to learn about a culture is often to get involved with it firsthand, and use the information in this pathfinder as a resource for finding ways you can do that.
Please note: there are more topics on Jewish culture and history than there is space to cover it all, even in cyberspace. Due to this vast scope, this pathfinder centers on Jewish Culture in the United States and in Israel. Information about other geographic areas can be found in the general resources, under the Yahoo categories, or by searching other search engines or your local library catalog, combining words like Eastern Europe, Russia, Soviet Union, Australia, Germany, France, England, Canada, with words like dance, music, art, history, folktales, literature, food, or culture.
Jewish Culture Resources
This section contains information about both print and electronic/Web-based resources about Jewish culture. The general resources are included to help you discover what is available; the subject-based resources (Art, Music and Dance, History and Literature, and Language) will contain more specific information.
Judaism 101 (http://www.jewfaq.org) is a really great place to begin. This site is arranged into a table of contents. Each subject heading is labeled as Basic,Intermediate,,or Advanced. The topics in the table of contents range from explaining what a Jew is, the dietary laws of Kashrut, the Hebrew alphabet or aleph bet, to explanations of the holidays, and the different meanings of Jewish law. This site is very easy to use, has a simple lay-out and has enough information for both the beginner and more advanced researcher.
The Judaism and Jewish Resources site, which is located at http://shamash.org/trb/judaism.html, is extraordinarily comprehensive, with informative links to sites in Israel and the United States. It contains information on libraries, museums, art, archaeology, and the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, as well as Israeli culture and government, (with a link to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs), U.S. agencies in Israel, and several mailing lists. If you want to learn more on the dynamics of the relationship between the United States and Israel, culturally and governmentally, the site offers many links for a guide. It also serves rather well at leading the user to sites that run from Jewish history and the Holocaust, to holidays, observances, and weddings. And should you be inclined, there are even directions for how to read hebrew documents on the web.
Judaism at a glance, found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/ataglance/glance.shtml and from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s Religion &Ethics website, provides a great overview of Judaism, covering rituals, important texts, holy days, and more.
H-Judaic-The Jewish Studies Network, found at http://h-net2.msu.edu/~judaic/, is a site centering on Jewish studies in the Humanities. It has discussion groups and a newsletter available for information, along with a useful search engine.
Don’t forget to check your local library catalog for print resources. You may wish to look under the following Dewey Decimal numbers: 296 (Judaism); 296.09 (Historical, Geographical,Persons Treatment in Judaism ); 296.1 (Judaism: Sources); 296.3 (Jewish Doctrinal, Moral, Social Theology); 296.4 (Jewish Traditions, Rites, Public Services); 930.1 (Archaeology); 933 (History of Palestine to 70 A.D./C.E.); and 956.94 (History of Palestine and Israel. If your library is organized using the Library of Congress classification system, check the following subject headings: Arts, Jewish; Judaism and Culture; Jewish dance; Jewish learning and scholarship; Jewish literature; Jewish law; Jewish Sects; Jewish-eduation; Jewish-emancipation; Jewish-directories; Jewish-genealogy; Jewish-dictionaries, Jewish-folklore; Jewish-civilization; Jewish-languages, and Jewish-music.
The Israel Bible Museum located in the mystical city of Tzfat, Israel, has around 300 visual images from the Bible. The site, found at http://www.israelbiblemuseum.com/, has images of Biblical heroes and heroines, and scenes as well. For information and explanations on the sacred Jewish scribal arts, Sifrei Torah, (the scrolls containing the five books of Moses), Tefilin, (phylacteries), and Mezuzot, (“a parchment on which portions of the Shema Yisrael and which Jews are commanded to place on their door posts”), STaM On Line is definitely worth a look. It can be found at http://www.geocites.com/Heartland/4792/. It gives clear definitions of what exactly this art encompasses, with traditions, practices, and uses.
Another good museum site The Jewish Museum in New York, deals with over 4,000 years of Jewish History. Take a look at it http://www.jewishmuseum.org/ for those interested in traditional and contemporary Jewish and Israeli art. The best feature of this page is its archives, which feature both images and text from their exhibitions. Currently, it features the new art of Israelis and Paris Expressionists.
History and Literature
The Echoes of the Ancients site from PBS Online, found at http://www.pbs.org/echoes/frmdx.html includes information on an archaeological dig in the city of Yodefat, Israel. This city, in the Northern Galilean region of Israel, was an farming community that mounted a six-year rebellion against the Roman army nearly 2,000 years ago. This site gives the background to the dig, the history of the war and the kinds of artifacts found and how they shed light on the kinds of lives these ancient Jews led.
The American Jewish Historical Society site (http://www.ajhs.org/) has a great reading list for those interested in studying more about American Jewish history, lists of papers in their archives, and they accept reference questions online.
The Cybrary of the Holocaust site at http://remember.org/ is an incredible source of information on this dark period of Jewish history. It includes a valuable search engine which can help narrow down research questions, forums for discussions, exhibits, links for teachers and a book store for further research. Doing any kind of work on the Holocaust is by no means an easy task, but this site can help make it less daunting.
If you are interested in picking up any good books dealing with Judaism and Jewish Culture, a good place for the curious is The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism: The Intelligent Skeptics Guide by Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Teluskin. Also, The Book of Jewish Practice and The Book of Jewish Belief, both by Louis Jacobs, are both interesting reads. For those wanting quick reference, there is The Encyclopedia Judaica, which your public library probably should have a copy of. It includes descriptions of people, places, and observances in the Jewish faith. And for those looking to do further research into Jewish history and culture, there is Why the Jews? The Reasons for Antisemitism, which will give more of a background and attempt to answer its own question.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (http://www.huji.ac.il/) has the Rothberg International School for Overseas Students. The school is located on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, Israel, and specializes in Hebrew language studies, and Israeli archaeology. There are programs for undergraduate and graduate students.
The Livnot U’Lehbanot, To Build and To be Built program “offers 3-month or 3 week work/study/hike programs for English speaking Jewish 20-30 year-olds.” Located at http://www.livnot.org.il/, this program helps participants explore their Jewish heritage in Jerusalem and in Tzfat.
Fun, Food, and Facts
Jewish Celebrations located at http://www.mazornet.com/jewishcl/, deals with all kinds of parties, especially weddings. There are links to help plan your party and find the needed resources.
If you are trying to find that perfect kreplachrecipe or just want to know what in the heck it is, than Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan will guide you into the world of Jewish cooking. Found at http://www.pbs.org/mpt/jewishcooking/, Jewish Cooking in America is run by PBS Online and hosted by Joan Nathan, a well respected chef in the Jewish community. There are recipes, definitions, and a way to order her books. Another good site to find recipes is the About.com Guide to Jewish/Kosher Cuisine, located at http://jewishfood.about.com/. It is filled with recipes and links to other Jewish recipe collections.
This pathfinder was created by Jessica Hope Tam.
You may also wish to see IPL – Judaism Resources.